By MIKE CORN
KIRWIN -- For the second time in as many years, April showers are bringing much higher water levels to northwest Kansas reservoirs.
That's good news for anglers who are taking to the water at Webster and Kirwin reservoirs. The rising water levels haven't vastly improved fishing conditions at either lake just yet, but there's a promise that will happen in future years as fish populations expand.
That's not to say there aren't fish to be caught.
Fishing for wipers and white bass are both reported to be good at Kirwin Reservoir, while other species are just now starting to catch up. At Webster, walleye, white bass, wipers and channel catfish all are considered good.
Heavy rains last week in Graham and Sheridan counties sent water levels in Bow Creek and both branches of the Solomon River sharply higher. That pushed a lot of water into both Webster and Kirwin reservoirs. Lake Wilson also received a big gulp of water.
Kirwin, for example, rose almost overnight by nearly half a foot. At its peak, 1,650 cubic feet of water per second was rushing into the lake.
That's equal to 142 million gallons of water a day.
Webster received its big dose of water Sunday, receiving about 107 million gallons of water from the heavy rainfall.
Both Kirwin and Webster water levels jumped more than a foot, according to Andy Wilson, manager of the Kirwin and Webster irrigation districts.
"When you've got full lakes, that's a lot of water," he said. Water from both lakes likely will be released for irrigation sometime in June.
The lake elevation at Wilson, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park manager Nolan Fisher, jumped about 6 inches over the weekend when heavy rain to the west sent water cascading down the Saline River.
Fisher said the Corps closed the water-release gate on the dam to help take pressure off downstream areas that were already facing higher water levels. The gate was closed for 36 hours and has since reopened.
"We're trying to lower it down to stay 6 inches above conservation pool," Fisher said.
Currently, they are releasing 480 cubic feet per second -- 41 million gallons a day.
To a lesser extent, Cedar Buff Reservoir received some water, but still remains almost 15 feet below normal operating levels. Keith Sebelius Reservoir near Norton rose slightly, but remains more than 8 feet below conservation pool.
With the rains, Bow Creek feeding Kirwin was out of its banks, according to Craig Mowry, manager of the refuge surrounding the lake. The North Fork of the Solomon River was nearly bank-full, he said.
Bow Creek is a relatively narrow river basin, but it stretches to the west almost to Hoxie. South of Hoxie, nearly 3 inches of rainfall was reported.
Nearly 5 inches of rainfall was reported about 13 miles north of Hill City, right in the heart of the Bow Creek drainage area.
"It had to have been a pretty narrow band and pretty much a cloudburst," Mowry said of the rainfall that worked its way into the reservoir.
There had also been some reports of 5 to 6 inches of rainfall in the Prairie View area west of Phillipsburg.
"It was kind of local," Mowry said.
Water from the Prairie View rains would have drained into Deer Creek, missing Kirwin and flowing into Glen Elder Reservoir.
"It can be pretty hit or miss some days whether it comes in here or goes to Webster or Glen Elder," he said.
Either way, Kirwin is nearly a foot above its normal operating level, and releasing water to prevent the lake from rising too high into flood stage.
Webster is 21βΡ2 feet above its normal operating level and releasing 30 million gallons of water daily.
"We filled up last spring about this time," Mowry said.