This has been a bountiful spring for Kansas anglers, who've toppled four state records--one of them twice--on the way to the best spring fishing season in recent memory. We've got four great stories from the Sunflower State, one each for its best ever striped bass, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and brown trout.
New Kansas State Record Striped Bass
Paul Bahr of Ellsworth caught this 44-lb. striped bass May, 14, on Wilson Reservoir. Bahr was trolling planer boards baited with shad along the shoreline at 7:15 p.m. when he hooked the big striper, a 44-inch female. He boated the fish after a tough 15-minute fight.
Bahr knew all about the standing state-record striper, a 43.5-pounder caught in 1988 by Chester Nily: A newspaper clipping about that catch hangs in his computer room at home. So when Bahr’s digital scale registered the striper at 45.2 lbs., “I was shocked,” he says. “It was hard to believe that maybe we had finally done it.”
What followed next was a three-hour odyssey to verify the weight. The local bait shop scales weren’t certified. Bahr tried two different stores, but the scales at each topped out at 30 lbs. Finally he found a meat packing plant 25 miles away with a certified scale. By then it was after 10 p.m., and Bahr’s own scale showed the fish had dropped nearly a pound of weight during its three-hour journey. The official scale wavered at 44.5 before settling at 44 lbs. even.
After a 30-day waiting period (standard procedure for all Kansas record fish applications) Bahr will have the state record he’s been chasing since 1996, when he began concentrating almost all his angling time on striped bass. “It’s the fight, the amount of line they can take, that really makes it exciting,” he says. “As far as Kansas fishing, stripers are top of the heap.”
While Bahr’s record was a long time coming, he thinks it could be short-lived. The reason? His 11-year-old daughter, Whitney, caught a 40.5-lb. striper at Wilson in April. That fish was a longer, lean male that could easily top 44 pounds after a season feeding up on shad.
His 15-year-old son, Josh, wrangled a 34-pound Wilson striper last spring. Clearly, the kids have benefited from their dad’s singular focus on striped bass over the last 14 years.
New Kansas State Record Rainbow Trout
Chasing big fish is also a family affair for Eric Chia, who took this state record 10.29-lb. rainbow trout March 28 at Shawnee Mission Park Lake.
Chia’s wife, Michelle Kee, fishes more than he does, and she talked him into joining her that day on the Johnson County lake. “She said, ‘I know where the big trout are.’ After I hooked mine, she said, ‘See, I told you!'”
Chia caught the trout on a Bass Pro Shops Wally Marshall medium-light action rod spooled with 6-lb. test line and baited with orange Berkley PowerBait. It took him about 15 minutes to get the trout in the boat.
“After that, my wife told me to stop fishing, she was going to catch one bigger than mine,” Chia says. “About 20 minutes later she caught a 7.2-lb. trout. She goes back almost every day, trying to top my catch, but she hasn’t done it yet.”
Neither of them knew they had a record until they began e-mailing photos to friends, who advised them to check online. By the time they figured out that the current state-record rainbow was a 9.33-lb. fish caught in the same lake in 2009, it was too late in the evening to find a certified scale. They finally weighed the fish the next day, and it was officially declared the new Kansas record in April.
Frank Evans Jr. of Salina can thank a bored cousin for his new state record, a 6.88-lb. smallmouth boated April 4 at Milford Lake.
Evans and his cousin hit the lake Easter Sunday to kill time while other family members went shopping. “I was telling him about the walleye and smallmouth bass I catch, and he said he’d never caught a smallmouth,” Evans says. “And then 15 minutes later here he is netting a record.”
Evans hooked the smallie in 20 feet of water with a Zoom Fluke Albino Junior, a soft plastic jerkbait. “At first I didn’t know what I had, but when she rolled I could see it was a smallmouth,” he recalls. “I told my cousin, ‘It’s a good fish; grab the net.’ He grabbed my littlest net and she almost didn’t fit.”
Evans wanted to continue fishing, but his cousin urged him to weigh his catch. “I didn’t even know if the batteries in the scale were good,” Evans says. After his scale posted a weight of 6.875 lbs., he called home and discovered the state record was 6.68 lbs. That fish, it turns out, also was caught by an angler from Salina, in 2004. Evans’ fish measured 21.5 inches long and 16.5 inches in girth.
“I wanted to fish some more, but my cousin said, ‘No, get it done now.'” A certified scale confirmed a weight of 6.88 lbs. “If it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have weighed it,” Evans says.
An avid angler since he was 6 years old and “used to skip school to fish,” Evans says the record means a lot to him. “I’ve killed some bucks in my time, but I never shook like I shook when I put this fish on the scale and saw I had the record. I’ve never had buck fever, but I guess I’ve had bass fever.” He believes it’s no coincidence that Kansas has seen a record year for records. “The water is good right now and the feed is there for the fish. The shad population in every one of these lakes is phenomenal, and the fishing in Kansas is only going to get better and better.”
On March 18, Daniel Schrag of McPherson blew away the state record for brown trout when he hooked this 4.18-lb. heavyweight at Kanapolis Seep Stream below the Kanapolis Reservoir. The stocked fish measured 20.25 inches long. Schrag had targeted the brown trout record as one ripe to be broken, and he says he actually caught a glimpse of this fish while it was being stocked. “I set a goal in my mind that I was going to set the record the day the stream was stocked,” he says. “I even had my application in my pocket.”
“It was quite a rush. I kept thinking, ‘Hey this is your chance of a lifetime, don’t blow it.’ I calmed myself, took my time and tried not to horse it. I usually stay pretty cool, but I was shaking with this one.” Schrag’s catch was the second new trout record in two months, eclipsing this 2.32-lb. brown caught by Arlyn Lindquist of Windom on Jan. 15. That brown also came out of the Kanapolis Stream. It measured 17.5 inches long.