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Hook'Em Guide Fishing Articles

Here is an article I wrote
Electronics for Winter Crappie Patterns
articles/Winter Crappie Patterns in Kansas1.pdf


All clear for better fishing

BY MICHAEL PEARCE

The Wichita Eagle

EL DORADO LAKE — Shane Eustice is getting reacquainted with an old friend that's looking better this summer.

"You can see rocks two feet into the water," Eustice said as he looked into El Dorado Lake from a boat ramp last week. "Used to be you could hardly see anything and what you could see was covered with zebra mussels."

His old friend has been generous this summer, too.

Over the past few weeks, Eustice has experienced some of the best walleye fishing in several years at El Dorado. The wiper fishing has been the best he's seen.

"You almost can't believe how fat these fish are," said Eustice, an avid tournament angler and occasional fishing guide from El Dorado. "We're catching 21- to 23-inch fish you can hardly get your hand around to grab. If you catch a 20-inch walleye, you may be releasing a three- or four-pound fish."

El Dorado Lake has had its ups and downs over the past decade.

Invasive villains zebra mussels and white perch showed up in 2003 and 2009. The presence of white perch, which wrecked fish reproduction at Cheney Lake for many years, caused biologists to saddle El Dorado with restrictive length and creel limits.

It's hoped more and bigger black bass, wipers and walleye will help keep the perch population down.

In recent years, the lake has dealt with extreme water fluctuations from 6 feet high to 6 feet low. At least low-water times drastically lowered zebra mussel populations.

Some years also had poor hatches of baitfish.

Eustice said this time last year, fish were hard to find in murky water. What he caught was generally thin.

Craig Johnson, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist, said things started improving when El Dorado's water began clearing last fall. This year the lake has continued to clear.

In May 2010, Johnson used a secchi disk, a metal disk with black and white sections, and measured El Dorado's clarity at about 7 inches. Recently the disk showed about 42 inches of clarity.

And clear water has meant sight-feeding fish are gorging themselves on shad and attacking lures.

Eustice began catching good numbers of wipers and walleye about two weeks ago. Johnson and several other veteran El Dorado anglers have found increased success, too.

Early one morning last weekend, Eustice hosted two guests at the lake. The night before, he and Jerry Howard easily filled limits of two walleye and two wipers more than 21 inches while releasing dozens of other fish.

That morning, Eustice and guests trolled crankbaits in about 18 feet of water over old road beds and the edges of creek and river channels.

Eagle editor Sherry Chisenhall landed the first fish — a small walleye. Minutes later her second was about 18 inches.

Her next walleye put a serious bow in the rod, staying below the surface until Eustice scooped it up in a net. That walleye was 22 inches and as fat as most fish five inches longer. Later she caught one an inch bigger.

A third keeping-sized walleye was later added to the livewell.

Eustice and crew spent an hour casting plastic swimbaits for wipers but failed to land a fish. About noon, building heat forced the anglers from the lake.

Later that evening, Eustice returned with his wife, Shawna. Two keeper walleye quickly hit trolled baits. Three wipers made simultaneous strikes minutes later.

Monday evening, he and a guest returned and fished the same patterns. About a dozen fish, including several sub-legal walleye and white bass, fell for the trolled crankbaits.

No wipers or keeper walleye made it to the boat.

Until dark, Eustice trolled and cast lures in areas his electronics showed were holding plenty of shad and sizable fish.

"All the conditions looked like we should have caught fish," he said. "I guess it's just one of those nights."

He headed home disappointed but not discouraged. There should be plenty of trips where his old friend is generous again this year.


Change of direction

BY MICHAEL PEARCE

The Wichita Eagle

EL DORADO LAKE — While laughing, Shane Eustice fought the fish loudly from the time the hook was set until in the net.

You'd have thought it a fish worthy of a trip to the taxidermist or a Master Angler award.

Nope. It was just an average-sized wiper of about 17 inches.

Anytime such a so-so fish gets an experienced angler excited, you know the fishing's been tough.

"Most of this year's been a real struggle," said Eustice, one of the top anglers on El Dorado Lake. "One trip you're on fish and the next few times it's like there's not a fish in the lake."

Craig Johnson, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist for the lake, said he's heard few glowing reports this summer.

That's a far cry from last year.

"Last year was fantastic. It was probably the best summertime bite I've ever had," said Eustice, who's fished El Dorado an average of three times a week for 16 years. "The (Kansas Walleye Association) tournament last year was one of the best they've ever had. This year it was such a bust people were asking me where the fish had gone."

Johnson and Eustice are confident El Dorado still holds plenty of fish. They had great pre-spawn catches of crappie. They caught limits of walleye during the spawn.

But that was then.

"I really think it's had a lot to do with all the rain, all the inflows and outflows," Eustice said. "The gates were open for about three months straight. I think all the water going up and down made it impossible to get a pattern on the fish."

At least misery loves company.

Johnson said most biologists are reporting slower than normal fishing at central Kansas lakes.

"They've been catching wipers at Milford but Cheney, Marion and El Dorado have all been too much up and down," he said. "You always need stable water for the fish to get into a pattern."

Such is often the case during the dog days of summer. Most years Eustice does well even when water temperatures are about 90 degrees.

This time last year the weather was similar, but the fishing was not.

Night after night, Eustice and Johnson enjoyed great action on white bass and wipers where many wouldn't have expected to find them.

"We caught fish in water from five to a half-foot deep all summer," Eustice said. "We could go out some nights and catch 50 to 70 fish. I think we got skunked one time."

In the past few weeks, the anglers have had a few fair outings. Sometimes it was much worse.

Twice within the past two weeks, Eustice spent tough evenings casting along a submerged old roadbed in shallow water.

The first evening produced one small channel catfish. Three anglers caught two small white bass and the much-appreciated wiper on the second try.

If there is a silver lining, its that the fish Eustice is catching are plump, not the rail-thin wipers and white bass El Dorado was known for over the past few years.

Johnson said he's pleased with the size and numbers of shad he's seeing.

Both anglers are still working hard to salvage this year's remaining trips. After the rods were stowed Monday evening, Eustice and Johnson sat and talked as the boat drifted across the dark lake.

Eustice stopped mid-sentence when he noticed his fish locator was showing the marks of fish near the bottom in about 20 feet of water.

He made plans to try trolling crankbaits over such deep spots soon and vertically fishing slab spoons if he finds concentrations of fish.

"Maybe they're just deeper this year," Eustice said. "You have to just keep going fishing. You never know when you're going to have that trip when you catch 60."
 


Me + fishing = Long John Silvers for dinner

They again call me the Fishin’ Magician – because it seems I can sure make them disappear.

For several years friends teased me about my abilities to just show up and stop a hot bite. Some teased I deserved  Fisheries biologists fishes for white bass with no luck Monday evening. Was it just tough fishing or was their a jinx in the boat?an award from an animal rights group. Others joked that when I showed up the great blue herons all headed to another lake.

Fisheries biologist Craig Johnson fishes for white bass with no luck Monday evening. Was it just tough fishing or was their a jinx in the boat?

For awhile it looked like the curse was over. I had some great crappie fishing last winter and spring. Some local bass trips were memorable. I was mean to the northern pike on a fly-fishing trip to Canada.

But two recent trips to El Dorado Lake with two of the areas top anglers and we totalled four fish on what was thought to be a “can’t-miss” pattern.

You can read more about it on Sunday’s outdoors page. Who knows, maybe I wasn’t the problem? Maybe it’s just been an unusually tough year at the lake.

By Michael Pearce


Take Advantage of Fall Fishing Good fishing throughout state in Indian summer, but techniques may need modifying.

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