Leavenworth State Fishing Lake near Tonganoxie should be excellent for bass; good for walleye, wiper and channel catfish; fair to good for crappie; fair for redear, but poor for bluegill this year.
Those are the assessments of Richard Sanders, district fisheries biologist for Wildlife and Parks, based on samplings with electrofishing and netting gear last year.
Sanders caught 183 bass, a very high number, per hour during electrofishing at the lake.
"Anything over 75 bass per hour is considered high," he said. "Although many fish were less than 15 inches long, the numbers of 15-20 inch fish increased for the second consecutive year."
The largest bass, Sanders said, weighed just over 4.5 pounds.
"Catch-and-release angling for largemouth bass should be excellent," Sanders said. "It will be a good place to introduce youngsters to the art of bass fishing."
Sanders noted that black bass are protected with an 18-inch minimum length limit and two-fish daily limit.
Wiper fingerlings have been stocked into the lake annually since 2000 and the sample catch of wiper increased in 2003.
"Hopefully, consistent annual stockings will maintain the good wiper population," Sanders said, adding that wipers are protected by the same length and daily catch limits as bass.
Fishing for walleye and channel cats should be good, too. Sanders sampled large numbers of catfish, most in the 11-16 inch category. A feeder program helps promote the rapid growth, he said. Catfish are protected by a 15-inch length limit and a two-per-day catch limit.
High numbers of walleye were caught with gill nets in 2003 with a good mix of sizes, Sanders said. Approximately half with 15-20 inches long. Walleye have the same protection guidelines as catfish.
Crappie fishing won't be quite as good, Sanders said. The black crappie sample catch rate declined greatly, but the number of 10- to 12-inch fish increased.
"The condition of the black crappie was below optimum levels," Sanders said, "and that probably relates to low shad production."
White crappie also declined after three straight years of increases. Most fish sampled were in the 8- to 10-inch range.
Bluegill and redear numbers were also down, Sanders said, particularly bluegill. Redear, a sunfish similar to bluegill, declined in abundance for the second consecutive year, although it remained good.
"Redears' ability to maintain fishable numbers at Leavenworth is related to the presence of expansive aquatic vegetation which provides refuge from predators and substrate for snails, a preferred food item," Sanders said.
Sanders rates redear fishing as fair and bluegill as poor.
"Feeders should be operational around the first of May," Sanders said. "The feed will enhance growth and catch of channel catfish and bluegill."
Sanders also noted that Leavenworth SFL has an aeration system designed to mix the water from the bottom and the surface, and that fishermen shouldn't be alarmed if they notice air bubbles.
"The aeration system expands the available summer fish habitat, which should increase number of fish the lake can support," Sanders said.
Finally, Sanders had a word of warning for spring anglers -- come prepared to deal with abundant aquatic vegetation. The prime offender is curlyleaf pondweed, an exotic form of vegetation that dies out, usually in early June.
"It's an aggressive plant that fills the water column from top to bottom," Sanders said. "It's impressive growth leads to very clear water and to excellent temporary fish habitat."