Surveys in 2003 showed that 51 percent of all fishermen on Clinton Lake were seeking crappie.
"It's no secret that Clinton is thought of as a crappie lake," said Richard Sanders, area fisheries biologist for Wildlife and Parks, "but samples taken in 2004 indicate the crappie fishery is down."
In fact, the number of adult crappie was lower than in any year since 1996.
Where did all the crappie go?
"Certainly drought played a role," Sanders said. "Lack of runoff in 2002 and 2003 limited nutrient replenishing inflows, and resulted in less food production. Less food equaled less crappie."
Sanders predicts Clinton's crappie population will rebound quickly if spawning, survival and growth conditions are favorable.
For example, gizzard shad was abundant in 2004 and shad is a crappie food staple. Another factor could be the 10-inch minimum length and 20-fish daily creel limits that went into effect Jan. 1.
"Even though Clinton's crappie characteristics were lower than normal," Sanders said, "it still is one of the better reservoirs in the state for crappie."
According to data, Clinton ranks ninth among the state's 24 reservoirs for crappie.
Meanwhile, Clinton remains a hotbed for channel catfish. Numbers for that species have leveled off after climbing for four straight years, but catfish are still abundant.
Sanders sampled more catfish longer than 16 inches in 2004, and figures that may relate to fewer small catfish in the lake competing for food.
However, walleye fishing should be only fair, said Sanders, who noted the reservoir was stocked with 3.5 to 7 million fry every year.
"Stockings are required because the survival of young walleye is too low to provide a self-sustaining fishery," he said.
One of the major factors limiting walleye at Clinton is reservoir discharge. During periods of high discharge, walleye frequently go with the flow through the dam and out of the lake. Heavy runoff in 2004 produced high discharge conditions.
"Fortunately, most high discharges occurred later than the peak spawning period when walleye are particularly vulnerable," Sanders said. "Sampling actually showed walleye numbers improved slightly over 2003 levels, although sample catch was still low."
Largemouth bass number haven't improved. They've declined. In fact, Sanders' sampling found few young or juvenile bass.
"That's been a problem at Clinton for the past 20 years, due to habitat limitations," Sanders said.
The existing bass population has generally been stable, but at a low level. According to data collected in 2004, Clinton ranked 12th for largemouth bass among Kansas reservoirs.
"Anglers will be challenged by the low-density fishery, and most will find largemouth bass fishing to be poor," Sanders said.
Clinton ranked No. 2 in the state for white bass in 2001, then the population declined in 2002 and 2003.
However, that species is on the rise again. Sanders' sampling found the most white bass since 1997.
"Although large white bass are present, almost two-thirds of fish sampled were less than nine inches long," Sanders said, adding that 2006 could be a great year for white bass fishing. "Just like crappie, good shad production is a key."
Fishing forecasts for Clinton and other state lakes are available at Wildlife and Parks offices or on the Web at www.kdwp.state.ks.us.