By Connor J. Ossowski, District Fisheries Biologist
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism
It was the first day of what felt like summer without the consistency of the forecast showing a chance of rain. It was 5:30 in the morning, and I was heading out to fish one of my favorite strip pits on the Mined Land Wildlife Area. Steam rising off a previously dug strip pit by a steam shovel, the humming of hummingbirds in search for nectar along the steep-sided banks covered in pin oak and bur oak trees, and the distant vocalization of a male turkey gobbling thundering an awakening to the woods. It was a beautiful morning to have a hand on a paddle and be sitting inside of a kayak to chase largemouth bass in the mecca of all areas for those who enjoy spending time in solitude, or with family and friends, fishing in the outdoors.
As the fisherman’s tale goes, 22 largemouth bass were caught that morning, ranging in size of 15-21 inches (i.e., 2-5 pounds), along with black crappie, hybrid sunfish, bluegill and channel catfish, all while targeting largemouth bass with lures. The strip pits are unlike any other water body where you can spend time fishing, as the water clarity can be over six feet, giving the appearance of crystal-clear water. Different fishing tactics are warranted to fish the clear water in hopes of not scaring all the fish away! It’s a sight to see for all anglers, and there is no better place to grab the kayaks, grab the friends and family, and enjoy fishing and nature; and don’t forget to purchase that fishing license, as the funds go directly toward the management of the fish population in Kansas.
The Mined Land Wildlife Area is located in Crawford, Cherokee and Labette counties in Southeast Kansas. The area is dotted with over 1,000 previously mined strip pits that range in size from large to small (i.e., 0.5 acres-58 acres), 1,500 acres of water and 14,500 acres in total of terrestrial and aquatic habitat for wildlife. There are 88 concrete boat ramps that make it easily accessible for boats and kayaks. The strip pits have been stocked and are managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism with bluegill, redear sunfish, white crappie, black crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish, warmouth, hybrid striped bass and walleye.
Southeast Kansas is known for many other lakes in the area, such as Bone Creek Lake, Bourbon State Fishing Lake, Crawford State Fishing Lake (i.e., Farlington Lake) and Lake Fort Scott, to name just a few. Other lakes can be found at www.fishks.org. The diversity of fish species in Shoal Creek consisting of many threatened and endangered species is another quality that makes the natural resources in Southeast Kansas important to enjoy and conserve for future generations.
I hope you take the time to spend some time enjoying the fishing opportunities Southeast Kansas provides. Perhaps you’ll make a memory that will last a lifetime. Good luck and keep it reel (pun intended)!