By STEVEN HAUSLER
It's only taken a few warm days in an otherwise cold and snowy winter to get anglers excited about fishing.
Tuesday's warm, sunny day was all it took to light a fire beneath more than 70 anglers who attended the annual Fishing Information Night presented by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at the Fort Hays State University campus.
Tommie Berger, district fisheries biologist for KDWP, led off the presentations with a fishing forecast for Wilson Lake that was hard to match.
Berger's bragging board highlighted the lake's potential to be one of the top fishing destinations in the state this year.
Striped bass are still the prize at Wilson -- the top-ranked striped bass lake in the state.
"The lake produced a new state record last year and they (anglers) caught a ton of quality fish through the ice this winter, Berger said.
Wilson Lake ranks No. 1 in the state for its density rating on walleye.
Berger also is predicting good fishing success for the lake's abundant populations of smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish and white perch.
The sleeper for Wilson is really channel catfish.
"Our numbers on channel catfish looked good and the harvest was good last year, but honestly we ranked better among the other lakes than I expected, so it was kind of a surprise to me," he said.
Berger, a veteran fisheries biologist who has been at Wilson for 17 of his 38 years with KDWP, explained some of the highlights for the area's top fishing destination this year.
But he cautioned anglers to be aware of their responsibility to help reduce the spread of two aquatic nuisance species that are found in the lake -- white perch and zebra mussels.
"Clean, drain and dry" is the phrase he stressed most to help prevent the spread of these aquatic nuisance species.
Although Berger enjoyed the notoriety from his good report, he said the weather is the reason that the populations of fish are there.
"It's not the fisheries biologists that do this, it's the weather conditions that have turned things around for us," he said. "I was just lucky to be here when it happened."
Wilson filled up in August of 2008 after being down as much as 3 feet. According to Berger, that triggered an explosion in the population of largemouth bass, a fish that is pursued by many sport fishermen.
Wilson has a good rating for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
"When it filled in 2008, the largemouth bass really took off," he said
Keith Sebelius Reservoir got high marks for its population density of largemouth bass also. The majority of fish are in the 8- to 12-inch range, which will be a plus for the lake's future.
Among the other lakes, Keith Sebelius shows promise with good ratings for several other species, including wipers, black crappie, saugeye and channel catfish.
Webster Reservoir also will be a choice destination for anglers pursuing black crappie, walleye, white bass and wipers. These four species have a rating of good.
The stilling basin below Webster gets the highest marks for the seasonal rainbow trout fisheries, which is rated as excellent.
Kirwin Reservoir is expected to be a good destination as well as a result of higher water levels over the past few years. The lake level still is being maintained above conservation pool.
Fishing at Kirwin is expected to be good for black and white crappie, walleye, white bass and wipers.
Although Cedar Bluff Reservoir has seen better days in terms of fishing success, it still ranks as a good destinations for anglers pursuing walleye, wipers and white bass.
For a complete report of the fishing forecast for 2011, go to www.outdoorkansas.net.