This year’s annual church men’s group fishing trip is now in the books, and as far as fishing goes, it was not our best outing. The fishing was fantastic, but the catching was poor. The weather was hot all 3 days, and the fish seemed to be in limbo land, not yet knowing exactly what they should be doing right now because of the screwy cold weather we had earlier. It was also a trip that was hard on trolling motors. The boat I was in Friday afternoon had one of those high-dollar trolling motors that syncs with GPS and can guide you around the lake blindfolded, and can also hold you over a particular spot in rough water like an anchor. As the boat’s owner sped us across the lake at full throttle, the motor came unlatched from its folded-up position, suddenly dipping the motor part into the lake as we skimmed over the water at 35 MPH. The motor itself survived with only a broken propeller blade, and the top control portion was fine, but needless-to-say the center shaft between the motor and controls was instantly history. Another boats trolling motor got crunched against the dock, making it unusable also.  

If you’ve read Exploring Kansas Outdoors for any length of time you know my reputation as a disgruntled fisherman. Joyce and I can fish side-by-side someone using bait and lures they themselves give us and still catch only a fish or two to their dozen. My style of fishing is to put bait into the water, set the rod against the boat or on a forked stick on the bank and wait for a bite. I want to offer some tried-and-true strategies for when the fish won’t bite, so I say all this so you will “do as I say and not as I do.”

First of all, when the fish won’t bite you can just go home and fertilize the tomatoes, mow the lawn or take a nap. There is after all a point at which you throw in the towel and concede to the fish. But until then, try a few of these suggestions. Do some reading or find an experienced Kansas fisherman to take you under their wing to learn about the fish you pursue. This will help you to understand the life cycles of each species and predict where they will be and what they will be doing when you are fishing. Frequently updated fishing reports on the Kansas Dept of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) website, www.ksoutdoors.com are also very useful.  So if they’re not biting, try different spots on the lake or even a different lake. Different spots on a lake have different water temperatures, different depths and different bottom structures. Also maybe try fishing at different times of the day, or for a different species of fish for that matter. Our men’s group trip is always the first weekend of May, and we usually fish for walleye then. But this year, because of the screwy spring, the walleye were not yet easily found, so we concentrated on catching crappie.

Try different baits and ways of using those baits. Figuring out how to entice fish to bite is a science in itself, as there are limitless numbers of baits, sizes, colors and ways of presenting each to the fish. For walleyes we tried different colors of jigs, some with night crawlers and some with minnows fished at different depths on different parts of the lake, sometimes anchored and sometimes allowing the boat to drift. For crappies, we tried different colors and sizes of jigs, some with night crawlers, some with minnows and some with rubber bodies on them. We tried casting and retrieving them, fishing them on the bottom and fishing them under a small bobber. Also tried was the old-school method of using just a worm on a hook. Each day, the crappies seemed to bite at different times and at different locations, so to be successful, you have to be persistent

Just like successful hunting or trapping, successful fishing can be easy at times, but can also be frustrating and hard work. The two keys to being successful in any sport are knowledge of your quarry and persistence. Luckily we have enough good fishermen in our men’s group that are very knowledgeable about our local lakes that no matter how tough the fishing, someone, somehow always catches enough fish for us all to take home a meal. I just finished a cold fried crappie and Swiss cheese sandwich that was as tasty a lunch as I’ve ever eaten. So arm yourself with some knowledge of Kansas fishing and Kansas lakes, grab a neighbor or a friend and go fishing as you continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.