Mar 23, 2020 10:37 AM

Exploring Outdoors Kansas: Fishing memories

Posted Mar 23, 2020 10:37 AM
Steve Gilliland
Steve Gilliland

I love the new “Whatever’s Biting” category that Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has embraced this year. Each year, lakes and reservoirs around the state are rated per there populations of each individual sport fish, and this year a new list has been added for the fishermen that are happy to catch “whatever’s biting.” 

For as poor a fisherman as I became in adulthood, I have a whole library of fishing memories from childhood; from fishing in the overgrown lake at the city park near my grandparent’s house with doughballs from the town bakery, to annual fishing trips to Canada with my high school FFA chapter. 

The first week after school was out each spring, our FFA chapter loaded a couple dozen of us farm boys onto an old, tired FFA bus and headed from northcentral Ohio to Canada where we rented a small group of cabins on a lake. The prerequisite for going on the trip was collecting fallen apples and helping sell apple cider in the fall, selling oranges and grapefruit all winter, and not burning the FFA shop to the ground during the school year. As I remember it, the lake sporting the cabins was as tired and worn-out as the FFA bus, and very few fish were ever caught. We found out over the years that a short boat trip across the lake and through a tiny, narrow creek took us into another lake that teemed with bullheads about the length of hotdogs. The road leading to the cabins crossed a wide stream that connected two lakes. One morning, in an attempt to catch anything resembling a fish, a few of us got up early and walked to the bridge that crossed that stream. An hour or so later a boat came up the stream heading for the second lake. As the boat neared the bridge, one of the passengers held up a stringer full of 12 or 14-inch northern pike and asked if we wanted them. When we got back to camp, the cabins literally emptied as the rest of the group headed for our honey-hole at the bridge.  

Though I was not involved, another favorite fishing story involves the salvage of fish from Inman Lake in the mid 1950’s when it went dry for the first time ever. Although not a fishing hotspot in recent times, Inman Lake once held a decent population of both channel and flathead catfish. The bottom of the lake is black, oozy, sticky mire that remains nearly unnavigable for days and possibly weeks, even after being fully exposed to the sun. As the lake dried-up back then, all fish were forced into a few remaining pools of water in the middle of the lake.                       

Norman Schmidt remembers helping his dad and several other guys harvest many of those remaining fish. They collected enough planks to make a plank sidewalk across the oozy mire by placing planks in front of them and slowly working their way to the remaining pool of water that teemed with fish. Norman says one poor fellow fell off the planks into the muck and became nearly hysterical before being rescued. Two flat bottom boats were also pulled along with them, and once they reached the middle, just enough water was poured into each boat to keep fish alive. “Gunny sacks” were filled with fish caught from the puddle and dumped into the boats, then the loaded boats were arduously dragged back toward the lakes edge and the plank sidewalk collected on the way. Norman remembers 75 or so people showing up to get some of the rescued fish.

Despite all the business closures and other interruptions to life as we knew it, the Kansas outdoors is not closing down, so this is an opportune time to gather the grandkids, the neighbor kids, the guy or gal living on the corner that you’ve never met, and heck, anybody that will fit in your pickup and take them fishing. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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Mar 23, 2020 10:37 AM
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