The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism District Fisheries Biologist Nick Kramer, Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Specialist Neil Bass, and Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club President Larry Noell documented the fish caught in 10 nets Nov. 5 as a survey of Smith and Merritt Lakes’ fish population continues on Fort Leavenworth.
As Kramer, Bass and Noell retrieved the nets, the caught fish were identified, measured and weighed.
This is the first survey of its kind since both lakes were dredged and renovated between late 2014 and early 2016.
On Nov. 4, Kramer and Bass set five nets in each lake — three gill nets and two fyke nets — leaving them overnight.
“The gill nets are set mainly to catch channel catfish in our lakes and the fyke nets are to catch sunfish,” Bass said.
The survey was done at the request of Bass and the Rod and Gun Club.
“We wanted to better arm (ourselves) with facts when it comes to making recommendations for changing the lakes’ creel limits and to better define the health of the lake in general,” said Larry Stoafer, Rod and Gun Club fishing coordinator.
Currently, post daily creel limits include two catfish no matter the species, 10 bluegill and one large-mouth bass at least 15 inches long. This is currently less than Kansas state regulations, which designates 10 channel catfish, five blue catfish, five flathead catfish, no limit on bluegill, and five large-mouth bass at least 15 inches long, according to KDWPT’s official website.
“We think that the fishery now is at that point where we can relieve some of those limits and get them back up to state standards. That’s our goal,” Noell said. “Our goal all along is to keep these lakes in a manner where a family can come out and kids can catch fish.
“(The Rod and Gun Club) is all about the outdoors and conservation,” he said. “That’s what this is all about, managing the renewable resources, making sure people are educated in what they’re doing. And we have some fun along the way.”
Each month from April to October, about 200 pounds of channel catfish are put into each lake by the KDWPT. They are also populated with largemouth bass, bluegill, green sunfish and minnows.
“The state has a pretty good idea of the condition of the fish when they stock it,” Noell said. “Therefore, if the fish are not gaining weight or are losing weight, we’ve got too many fish.
“(KDWPT) go by species and taking a sampling of the weight,” he said. “They know that doesn’t represent everything that’s out here, but, because of the size of the water, they’ve got an idea of what the model estimates are.”
Survey results will be determined within the next two months. The lakes are supplied with fish as part of the Community Lakes Program at no cost to the Army.
“The state has the responsibility to manage these fisheries resources in the best ecological and economic way that it can,” Bass said. “The survey results will allow the state to do that and the Army to help them.”