Crappie days are here again

If someone wishes you a “crappie day” this time of year and you’re an angler, you accept that wish with a smile. It’s a good thing. Crappie anglers wait all year for late April and early May when water temperatures in Kansas lakes warm to the high 50s and low 60s. That brings one of our most popular sport fish to shallow water to spawn, making them available to anglers of all ages and skill levels. And crappie are popular because they may be the tastiest fish in our waters.


Spring is the only time of year when anglers fishing from shore or wading might have an advantage over boat anglers. When the spawn gets going, crappie can be caught in water as shallow as 2 feet, depending on the clarity. And since the fish will be concentrated in shallow areas with specific habitat, anglers often catch good numbers of fish on a single outing.

What’s good crappie habitat? Crappie like cover such as brush, cattails, flooded weeds or rocky areas. Rip-rap dams and jetties are perfect places to start fishing.

Crappie anglers prefer light tackle – spinning or spincast outfits rigged with 6- or 8-pound test line. A long, light-action rod is perfect for detecting soft strikes and working hooked crappie out of cover. Often called “paper mouths,” crappie have thin skin along their top jaw and can’t be “horsed” out of the cover without the hook pulling out.

Small white or chartreuse jigs or minnows are effective baits. The trick is getting your lure or bait in or close to the cover without spooking the fish or snagging up. One tried and true method is referred to as “doodlesocking,” which is simply dipping your bait vertically into the cover. The jig or minnow is worked slowly or held suspended 6 inches or a foot off the bottom before it is lifted straight up and repositioned. An 8-foot fly rod rigged with a spinning reel allows added reach and can be perfect for doodlesocking. Strikes are usually a “tap,” felt as the jig is held suspended. The angler must set the hook quickly and lift the fish straight up out of the cover.

Another popular method is to rig a small float 2 feet above the jig or minnow. The float can be cast along the brush or rocks and allowed to bob and drift with the breeze. Strikes can be subtle, often just moving the float or pulling it just below the surface.

The crappie spawn usually starts in the upper ends of reservoirs, with fish congregating in small coves and inlet creeks. The spawn will continue down the lake as water warms in the lower reaches. This can extend the spawn through the end of May.

According to the 2015 Fishing Forecast, the top three reservoirs for crappie fishing this spring are John Redmond, Perry and Hillsdale. But don’t avoid your favorite fishing spot if it’s not high on the forecast’s list. Remember that the spawn season concentrates crappie in specific areas, so good fishing can still be found in lakes with only fair crappie populations.

You’ll find great fishing information on the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) website, www.ksoutdoors.com, including a full-length how-to video “Kansas Crappie Bonanza.” You can also keep track of lake temperatures and conditions, as well as angler success through the Weekly Fishing Reports.

The statewide creel limit for crappie is 50 fish per day. However, local creel and length regulations may vary, so be sure to consult of the2015 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary where you’ll find a complete listing of Kansas lakes with special regulations. The regulation pamphlet is available at all KDWPT offices, license vendors and online.

Kansas duck zone boundaries to be discussed during information nights

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) staff will be hosting a series of informational meetings to hear public input on duck hunting zone boundaries in the Kansas Low Plains Early, Late and Southeast Zones. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend one of the informational nights listed below.

Potential changes to the current Kansas duck zone boundaries would go into effect beginning with the 2016-17 season and remain in place through the 2021-22 season.

For more information, contact Tom Bidrowski at [email protected] or by phone at (620) 566-1456.

Dates and times for the public meetings are as follows:


May 13, 6:30 p.m.

Dodge City Family YMCA

240 San Jose

Dodge City, KS 67801


May 14, 6:30 p.m.

KS Wetland Education Center

592 NE K-156 Hwy

Great Bend, KS 67530


May 18, 6:30 p.m.

Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge

530 West Maple Avenue

Hartford, KS 66854


May 19, 6:30 p.m.

The McPherson Public Library

214 W Marlin St

McPherson, KS 67460


May 20, 6:30 p.m.

Museum at Prairiefire

5801 W. 135th Street

Overland Park, KS 66223


May 21, 6:30 p.m.

Great Plains Nature Center

6232 E.29th St. N

Wichita, KS 67220


May 22, 6:30 p.m.

Tony’s Function Junction

10300 Highway 59

Erie, KS 66733

Shooting skills for women event May 30


If you’re a female age 18 or older and are interested in learning the ins-and-outs of shooting firearms in a fun, low-pressure atmosphere, consider joining other like-minded women at the Shooting Skills for Women event May 30 at Lil’ Toledo Lodge, 10600 170th Rd, Chanute.

Hosted by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Lil’ Toledo Lodge, Kansas Bow Hunters Association, and the Kansas Wildlife Officers Association, this annual shooting event will provide women with the opportunity to handle and fire a variety of firearms. Participants will gain confidence and experience with shooting shotguns, revolvers, semiautomatic hand guns, small caliber rifles, big bore rifles, and black powder rifles. A variety of archery equipment will also be available for use, including long bows, recurve bows, and compound bows. No experience is required, and all guns and equipment will be provided.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided courtesy of the Kansas Bowhunters Association and prizes will be drawn for.

The cost to attend is $50.00 and pre-registration is required. The event will be open to the first 40 women who register and pay.

For more information, or to sign up for this event, contact Stacy Hageman at (620) 672-5911.

Trophy turkey program recognizes big gobblers


Big game and turkey hunters love to compare the animals they take. Most trophy-class animals are older and more difficult to hunt, presenting a unique challenge many hunters enjoy. Deer hunters, for example, use well-known scoring formulas to compare antlers based on size and symmetry. Turkey hunters are no different, and those who take an extraordinary specimen may qualify for a Trophy Turkey Award from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT).

The scoring system published by the National Wild Turkey Federation in the early 1980s is used for the KDWPT awards program. A score sheet and certificate application can be downloaded at www.ksoutdoors.com. Hunters score their own birds using the following formula, taking measurements to the nearest eighth of an inch: First, weigh your bird on accurate scales with witnesses. Next, measure the beard (or beards) from the point it protrudes from the skin to the longest bristle. Then, measure each spur from the point where it protrudes from the scaled leg skin. Now you have the necessary measurements and are ready to calculate the score.

Multiply the length of the beard (or sum of the beard lengths if there is more than one) times two. Then add the length of the spurs together and multiply the sum by 10. Add the weight to these two figures for a total score. For example, a bird that weighed 21 pounds, with a 10-inch beard and spurs that measured 1 1/4 inches each would score 66. (21 + 20 [10 x 2] + 25 [1 ¼ + 1 ¼ x 10] = 66)

The minimum score for a Trophy Turkey Award is 65. KDWPT keeps Top 20 lists in two categories: typical and nontypical. Birds with multiple beards would fall under the nontypical category. The largest typical bird on record scored 88 4/8 and was taken in 2007 in Franklin County by Bobby Robinson of Eupora, Miss. That bird weighed 26 4/8 pounds, had a beard that measured 17 ¼ inches and spurs that measured 1 3/8 inches each. The largest nontypical ever awarded was taken in 2008 by Rick Pritchard of Little Rock, Ark. Pritchard’s bird, also taken in Franklin County, weighed 27 pounds, and had spurs that measured 1 1/8 inches each. However, the bird sported eight beards that measured 54 5/8 inches in total. The official score was 158 6/8.

The spring turkey seasons runs through the end of May, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy an exciting spring hunt. If you’re lucky enough too take a big ole gobbler, weigh it and take some measurements. You might qualify for a Trophy Turkey Award.