Wilson Reservoir, about an hour north of Great Bend, attracts ‘staycationers’ for miles in every direction to camp and play along the shores of its clear water, and to enjoy boating, water skiing, and fishing. But ongoing drought has led to lower water levels which have some residents and visitors concerned.
The Kansas Wetlands Education Center hosted a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting and public hearing Thursday. Residents of Lake Wilson addressed the commissioners about fishing conditions at the lake.
Tom Walsh is an avid fisherman, as are several of his neighbors, many who take to their boats on an almost daily basis to troll the waters for stripers, white perch, and walleye, all popular game fish. In year’s past, they enjoyed fishing their daily limits. It’s been a while since any of them have done that.
“The Walleye population has been going down over the past few years, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife hasn’t been restocking it,” Walsh said. “We fishermen would like to know why other lakes are getting thousands of them, and we’ve gotten none.”
Layne Parker, another Lake Wilson resident, echoed Walsh, adding that the lake seems to be running low on white perch also. Just two years ago, he could bring in 20 to 30 in just a few hours, but most recently, he caught eight in six hours, along with a few stripers.
White perch is now considered a nuisance species. Now it is against regulations to be in possession of a live fish, so if fishermen want to keep it, it has to be dead in a cooler or live well. They have been used as live bait for larger fish like bass. Parker suggested restocking with increased numbers of other species to replace them.
Doug Nygren, KDWPT Fisheries Section chief, said Wilson Reservoir has traditionally had a good natural fish population, though it is slower growing than others. Currently, the lake is down 6.7 feet and is experiencing lower levels of minerals and oxygen may be a factor, he said.
“We’re a clean lake, with no blue green algae like others where stocking is going on,” parker said. Anything you can do to help improve fishing conditions at Wilson, we would appreciate.”
Nygren thanked the two men for sharing their concerns and promised to look into the matter further.