By MIKE CORN
STOCKTON -- Blaine Baxter didn't even flinch when Scott Hamel asked for 10 dozen worms.
With water all around -- at Kirwin and Webster reservoirs and at Rooks State Fishing Lake -- Baxter's Bait Shop in Stockton is well prepared for the rising demand.
"I haven't been this happy for years," Baxter said of the water conditions at area lakes.
No one, however, could have been any happier than Maurice King and Alyssa Phillips, both of Aurora, Colo.
Phillips hooked into a really nice wiper, but had to hand off the hard-fighting fish to King, who reeled it in. King was only too happy to show off the fish.
King, Phillips and their daughter, Maurqaya King, were fishing Tuesday on the leeward side of the lake, as winds whipped up white caps on the water.
Webster is a lake full of water. Too full, in fact.
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation started releasing water from Webster.
The releases are less than half the amount of water still flowing into the lake, but it's significant because it has been several years since any releases have been made.
Currently, Webster is more than 2 feet into flood stage. More than 124 million gallons of water continue to flow into the lake each day, while only 52 million gallons are being released.
The goal is to keep the lake as full as possible so that after releases are made for downstream irrigators, Webster will remain nearly full. Kirwin Reservoir, incidentally, is also full, about a quarter of a foot into flood stage.
Phillips didn't let the wind-whipped waters at Webster bother her at all.
She said they are on a camping trip, one that was inspired by her parents, who visit Webster every year.
"They turned us on to it last year," she said as she watched bobbers bouncing on the windswept water. "We're going to make this a regular vacation."
Phillips said they've been at Webster since Sunday, and on Thursday were heading over to Cedar Bluff Reservoir -- not such a pretty site, as the lake remains 16.5 feet low.
"It's nice," Baxter said of the ability to look around at area lakes and see water everywhere. "We were landlocked for several years."
It's been a boon to his business, located on Stockton's Main Street.
"I've sold more boat props in the last two weeks than I did in 10 years," he said.
That's because as the water levels started climbing, it covered trees and other debris that had grown up over the dry years.
"It's been a long time coming," he said of the increased business. "A long time coming."
And the fill, he said, was a good as could be asked for -- slow and steady, allowing the water to remain clear.
"Business has been good," he said. "It's been good all spring. We should have three years of this. We're just tickled to death."
And the word has spread, he said, noting that everyday someone calls from somewhere about fishing success.
"Once the reports get out that the walleye are hitting," he said of word spreading fast. "There's no secrets anymore."
And the walleye are biting.
As for bait, Baxter has increased his refrigeration capacity so that he can keep extra worms on hand. Once, he said, he had to catch the worm truck in Osborne and divert its track, otherwise he would have run out.
"Two years ago, I thought about getting rid of the minnow tank and putting in hunting stuff," he said. "I thought I'd never see the lake back up. I'm glad I didn't.
"Everybody is happy with the lake full."
That happiness, he said, could translate into more stay-at-home vacations, thanks in part to the national economy.
And yes, Baxter thinks he's probably something of an anomaly up and down Main Street.
"I'm probably the only one doing good," he said.