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A fishy release
Young bass take up residence at Vets
new deh bass coming to vets main pic web
City of Great Bend Public Lands Director Scott Keeler releases a bucket full of large-mouth bass into Veterans Memorial Lake Thursday morning. The fish were purchased with the help of the Great Bend Rotary Club. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 Veterans Memorial Lake had 180 new, slimy, squirmy residents as of Thursday morning as a truck load of large-mouth bass were released into the popular City of Great Bend-owned body of water.

The fish measure about nine to 11 inches and weigh from a quarter to a half pound. They were raised by Harbin Fish Farm of Anthony at a facility in Harper.

“It’s kind of nice having this back after all these years,” said Chad Steffan. A member of the Great Bend Rotary Club that donated funds for the project, he was on hand as Great Bend Public Lands Director Scott Keeler gently dumped bucket loads of bass into the lake.

Steffan was referring to Vet’s long bout with a choking case of toxic blue-green algae that forced health warnings and limited use of the lake. But, now, it is recovering nicely and all warnings have been lifted.

He said he has three small children and appreciates the simple pleasures and relaxation fishing and being outdoors provides.

A delicate balance

At a September City Council meeting, club President Pat Stang presented Mayor Mike Allison with a check for $1,250 from the organization. The funds were originally intended to purchase 1,500 fingerling and slightly larger fish, but it was determined that fewer larger fish would be better for the lake. 

Keeler said a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fish survey two weeks ago found plenty of large channel cat and thousands of shad. Shad in these numbers are bad for the lake’s ecosystem and there were not predators to curb this population.

Well, there are now. The bass love shad, Keeler said.

State size and creel limits apply to Vets, Keeler said. The minimum “keeper” length for a large-mouth bass is 15 inches.

Keeler said the city would appreciate anglers observing a “catch and release” policy.

It was Mark Harbin of Harbin Fish Farm who brought the tanker truck filled with fish to Great Bend. Since bass are more delicate than catfish, he couldn’t just back up to the water’s edge and dump them all in at once. 

Instead, he scooped them out of the truck with a net and poured them into the bucket that Keeler hauled to the shore.

The lake is a good home for the bass, Harbin said. He anticipated that nearly all of them would survive and thrive.

An on-going tradition

Fishing is not a new cause for the Rotary club.

“We’ve been looking for projects,” Stang said at the September meeting. Since the service organization has helped with youth fishing programs in the past and Vets Lake has recovered, this seemed like a logical move.

“This will help provide a more productive and enjoyable experience for area fishermen for months to come,” Stang said.

Stang said the Rotarians are reviving the Fishing and Wishing program through the Great Bend Recreation Commission where the club provides fishing poles and tackle boxes for use by young people. The idea is encourage kids to discover the sport of angling and this works hand-in-hand with the stocking.

“Something we’ve been striving to do is keep our lakes stocked,” Keeler said. He appreciated the donation, noting it will make a difference.