Topeka Kansas wildlife and parks officials are looking to spend about $1 million to lease access to private ponds, rivers and streams in hopes of boosting outdoor recreational opportunities.
The offer is through the Fishing Impoundments and Stream Habitat program with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The leases give sportsmen access to the land from March 1 through Oct. 1. Landowners can get as much as $150 per acre for each pond and up to $2,250 for each mile of stream or river access.
Tom Lang, a fisheries program specialist, said the state funds for the program come from fees collected on licenses, excise taxes on sporting goods sales and $750,000 included in the latest version Farm Bill. The goal is to provide more recreational opportunities for residents while maintaining high-quality fish populations.
The program began in 1998 and seeks to increase the number of ponds available for public fishing. There are more than 150,000 private ponds in Kansas. Lang said as part of the lease the agency agrees to help manage the property, including stocking it with fish to keep the population stable and healthy.
“If they ever have an issue about people leaving trash all they have to do is call, and we will clean it up,” Lang said. “You have a lot of good people out there who take care of the land.”
There’s an economic benefit, as well, Lang said. More opportunities for fishing, boating or other activities helps attract visitors to rural areas, bringing increased spending on bait, supplies, food or fuel that stimulates local economies.
With recent drought conditions many farm ponds are down, increasing the chances of fish kills caused by heat and oxygen depletion. Lang said one incentive for landowners is they can get those fish replaced by participating in the lease program.
“Buying fish is expensive,” he said.
Lang said the state is also seeking to increase access points along the Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri rivers. While the rivers are public and navigable, the public needs locations to put in their boats, canoes or kayaks to go downstream.
Other streams, such as the Neosho River, aren’t navigable and are part of the 9,800 miles of streams that require more access. Lang said the agency has to lease the entire length of the stream to allow public access for fishing or boating.
A map is published annually with the public access points and participating ponds.