BEST BET: Like Northwest Missouri State’s football Bearcats in nearby Maryville, Mozingo Lake has cemented its reputation as one of the state’s best. In last year’s sampling, a little over 40 percent of the bass were more than 15 inches in length. And several of the 455 largemouths in the sample weighed over 10 pounds. Casual anglers will quickly learn what tournament fishermen already know: The lake’s wonderful mix of habitat perfectly suits ol’ bucketmouth.
BEST OF THE REST: Two area lakes deserve mention. Surveys at Smithville Lake showed 42 percent of the bass exceeded the 15-inch mark. High reproductive success means that the fishing should be good for years. … The Department of Conservation calls Lake Jacomo’s largemouth population “one of the best in the Kansas City area.” … Others to try: Clearwater, Pomme de Terre, Table Rock, Taneycomo and Watkins Mill.
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BEST BET: Sebelius Reservoir shows no sign of giving up its lofty perch atop the state ratings. The northwest Kansas lake continues to have the highest density of largemouths 12 inches and longer in the state. Its three-year average is simply off the charts. And it gets a rating of excellent from biologists. The downside is that recent surveys didn’t turn up any lunkers. If you’re willing to settle for a road trip to a place where you can simply land a lot fish, go west young (and old) angler.
BEST OF THE REST: Here’s another lake in a familiar position: La Cygne again leads the state in big bass. It’s at the top of the list in the number of number of fish surveyed that were 15 inches and longer, and it has the highest lunker rating (fish 20 inches or longer). … Surveys at Big Hill rank the southeast Kansas lake with the third-highest bass density in the state and the third-highest number of fish over 15 inches. … Others to try: El Dorado, Garnett - Crystal Lake, Hillsdale, Pottawatomie No. 1 and Milford.
BEST BET: The Smallmouth Bass Management Area on the Big Piney River is being expanded this year from the Slabtown Access in Texas County to the confluence with the Gasconade River. While most fish are in the 8- to 12-inch range, large numbers of 12- to 15-inch fish were caught last year and a few lunkers over 20 inches were landed.
BEST OF THE REST: The Gasconade River in Laclede Couty is treated separately in the Department of Conservation’s surveys from the the stretch in Phelps and Pulaski counties. That said, both should provide good to excellent fishing this year. But here’s something to file away for later: The Phelps/Pulaski stretch fished particularly well in the winter months of 2016. … Others to try: The middle stretch of the Current, Big River, the Jacks Fork and the North Fork of the White.
BEST BET: Coffey County Lake, the cooling lake for the Wolf Creek Generating Station, can supply any angler with a bronzeback fix. The lake tops the ratings in density ratings of fish over 11 inches and 14 inches. Its lunker rating is easily the highest in the state, too. One note of caution, though. This lake can catch a lot of wind, and when it does the county takes no chances. Make sure the lake is open before hitching up your boat and heading out
BEST OF THE REST: El Dorado is rated again second in the state by Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in densities of smaller fish, and its lunker rating is a solid No. 2. … Glen Elder, Milford and Melvern all have good numbers of fish, and they get a good rating by the biologists. …Others to try: Jeffrey Energy Center, Wilson and Big Hill.
BEST BET: This should be another great year at Pomme de Terre Lake. Samples over the past few years show that black and white crappie densities have increased dramatically. A large percentage of the fish exceed the 9-inch minimum size limit, and good numbers exceed 10 inches. Anglers should expect an extremely high number of fish between 8 and 9 inches and continued good prospects for at least three or four years.
BEST OF THE REST: There are some tantalizing numbers that came out of the fall sampling at Truman Lake. The 1 1/2 -year-old fish were at record numbers. And the average size in the sample — about 7 1/2 inches — suggests those fish will be legal-sized this year. The one sobering number is that the number of large crappies may be slightly down. … Others to try: Smithville, Thomas Hill, Mark Twain, Jacomo and Watkins Mill.
BEST BET: John Redmond doesn’t roll off the tongue when fisherman rattle off their favorite crappie lakes. But it should. It easily holds the state’s highest three-year average and it has the highest lunker rating. Sadly, the lake may be best known for its siltation problem, which saw 40 percent of the water capacity displaced. A dredging project was completed last fall, with 3 million cubic yards of sediment was removed. More work remains to keep the lake a viable water supply source.
BEST OF THE REST: Even though it’s slightly outpaced by Clinton Lake in density ratings of fish over 8 inches, Hillsdale tops the state ratings for fish over 10 inches. … Fisherman who can be satisfied on smaller bodies of water should consider the Eureka City Lake, with lots of fish of all sizes. Others to try: Carbondale City Lake East, Marion, Toronto, La Cygne and Perry
BEST BET: The yearly stocking regimen at Stockton Lake continues to pay dividends. Walleye densities are excellent and fish longer than 15 inches are common. Walleyes have been stocked every year since 2012 and typically grow to 15 inches in two years, which means fish from the 2015 stocking should be in the 14- to 16-inch range this spring.
BEST OF THE REST: Mozingo Lake isn’t just for bass fishermen. Last year’s electrofishing produced the highest catch rates ever recorded. Seventy-five percent of the fish sampled were over 18 inches. … The 2016 walleye sampling at Smithville Lake showed that 35 percent of the fish exceeded 20 inches in length. Impressive as that figure is, it’s down a bit from last year. Still, anglers should find plenty of keeper fish. … Others to try: Longview, Jacomo and Bull Shoals.
BEST BET: Like last year, Cedar Bluff and Wilson reservoirs stand atop the ratings. Cedar Bluff has the highest density of walleyes over 15 inches. Wilson is not far behind. Both lakes are among the state’s most scenic, but for years Cedar Bluff has not been able to really strut its stuff because of reduced inflows from the Smoky Hill River. The lake is currently filled to little more than 30 percent of its capacity.
BEST OF THE REST: El Dorado continues to produce good fishing, and its rating of fish over 20 inches is the best of the big lakes. (For the record, Pratt County Lake has edged it out overall.) … Cheney, outside Wichita, has fully recovered from drought to claim the No. 3 spot in the ratings. … Others to try: El Dorado, Glen Elder, Gridley City Lake, Kirwin and Milford.
BEST BET: Not only are there increasing numbers of white bass at Truman Lake, anglers have plenty of places to fish during the spawning run without getting too jammed up. If the major tributaries — the Pomme de Terre, Osage, Sac, South Grand and Tebo — are teeming with boats, the minor tributaries to the Osage — Weaubleau and Bear creeks, among others — should hold plenty of fish, too.
BEST OF THE REST: The Department of Conservation calls Lake Jacomo’s white bass fishery “excellent and underutilized.” Fish from 12 to 15 inches are fairly common. Although the fish can be hard to find throughout much of the year, they concentrate along the dam in the spring, typically in mid-April. … Anglers at Smithville Lake can expect to go from a good year in 2016 to a great year in 2017, based on sampling. … A few other places worthy of your casts: Clearwater, Longview, Pomme de Terre and Stockton.
BEST BET: Melvern Lake has run away with the state’s top rating, scoring highest in density of fish over 9 inches and 12 inches while just getting edged in the lunker rating. … Cedar Bluff, last year’s best bet, once again ranks No. 1 in lunker fish (15 inches and longer) but fell to No. 3 overall. … Clinton, meanwhile, got the benefit of some solid numbers to squeeze into the second spot.
BEST OF THE REST: Kanopolis, the oldest reservoir in Kansas, may have slipped in the rankings, but its three-year average is still tops. … Two Kansas City-area reservoirs —Perry and Hillsdale — should be worth a look, according to their numbers. … Others to try: Big Hill, Cheney, Glen Elder and Webster.
BEST BET: Hybrid numbers at Truman Lake continue to increase. Fish from the stockings in 2013 and 2014 are ready to be boated this year. And over 100,000 fish were stocked last year, an indicator that the good times should continue. The Department of Conservation says large numbers of hybrids in the 5-pound range were caught last year and 10-pounders and larger were reported.
BEST OF THE REST: “One of the best kept secrets in the Kansas City area.” That’s how the Department of Conservation refers to the hybrid fishing at Blue Springs Lake. Lake veterans know to check the blow hole in early morning after moderate rains. … Others to try: Long Branch and Thomas Hill.
BEST BET: Milford has wrested the top spot in the state for wipers away from Sebelius with some excellent density numbers of fish over 12 inches. … No one is tolling the bell for Sebelius though. It easily has the highest number of fish 15 inches and longer. And the lake outside the town of Norton topped Milford with its three-year average.
BEST OF THE REST: Marion Lake, the only big reservoir to get an excellent rating from the biologists, climbed into the No. 3 spot with good densities of fish over 12 inches. … Others to try: El Dorado, Cheney, Glen Elder, Cedar Bluff and the new Herington City Lake.
BEST BET: The Missouri River not only remains the place to go, it might be getting better. In the Kansas City area, numbers are increasing, as are your chances of landing a fish over 50 pounds. In the upper reaches of the river, fish numbers remain at record high levels. If you’re fishing the middle and lower stretches of the river, don’t despair. Last year, a 73-pound fish was pulled in between Glasgow and Boonville.
BEST OF THE REST: The Platte River blue cat fishery appears to be expanding. As in past years, the lower 10 miles of the river are where the fish are more frequent (the lower three miles in late spring). Fish exceeding 40 pounds are fairly common. … The Mississippi River, particularly the middle stretch, holds good numbers of fish, including some lunkers. Others to try: Little Dixie, Long Branch and Truman.
BEST BET: The Missouri River — and happily some of the best reaches for blue cats — is obviously accessible from Kansas, too. … The Kansas River every year produces some fish over 50 pounds. And take it from those old fishermen you see on the river: Stay off the water when the flow is high. They got to be old by being safe.
BEST OF THE REST: Coffey County tops the reservoir rankings with good numbers of fish over 20 inches and 30 inches. … Milford continues to be a top-performing lake, too. During its sampling, Wildlife, Parks & Tourism shocked up a 28.66-pound fish in Milford. … Others to try: Clinton, El Dorado and Wilson.
Bruce Janssen: firstname.lastname@example.org