Crappies in the rain

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

Grandpa always said some of the best fishing can be when its raining. Its sometimes tough to test that theory here in Kansas because if seems that more often than not, our rain comes with abundant thunder-and-lightning, or it comes as literal downpours, neither conducive to fishing.

We just spent two days fishing Waconda Lake (aka Glen Elder Lake) with Leon Sievert, co-owner of Solomon Valley Outfitters, much of the time in the rain, and had an absolute blast, plus brought home many meals of fish for the freezer.

Like most lakes in Kansas, Waconda Lake and the surrounding area are rich with history. The north fork and the south fork of the Solomon River converge in Waconda Lake, situated in the northwest corner of Mitchell County, to create a reservoir of more than 12, 500 acres of water. The name “Wakonda” spelled with a “K” was a word used by the Kanza Indians to mean “Great Spirit.”

Later as white men settled the area, the standard spelling became “Waconda” with a “C.” In the 1800’s, well before the lake was formed, a natural mineral spring existed there which became a gathering spot for all the different plains Indians who believed the water possessed healing powers, which in fact was partially true, as water from the spring won a medal at the 1904 World’s Fair in the category “mineral waters of superior medicinal qualities.”

A sanitarium was later built near the spring, and water from the spring was piped into the bathtubs of all 60 rooms and used in a program of internal and external healing.

The dam to form Waconda lake was completed in 1968, and the sanitarium was demolished and piled in the spring as the lake began to fill.

We met Leon at his pontoon boat the first evening, and after catching only one keeper walleye of over 18 inches at one of his favorite walleye haunts, we settled over a brush pile of discarded Christmas trees Leon described as being “At least the size of a house,” and rigged our rods to fish for crappies.

A bright colored jig-head tipped with a minnow was the ticket, and we fished it lowered over the brush pile at a specific height to avoid getting hung-up in the brush.

Crappie had to be ten inches to keep, and we soon began putting “keepers” in the cooler. When we quit for the evening, Leon told us we’d probably need raingear for the next morning as rain and storms appeared to be on the menu for the next couple days. Sure enough, we awoke Friday morning to a steady drizzle.

Rain stung our face as we headed out of the marina and toward the dam to again attempt to put a few walleyes in the cooler. After little luck there, we headed across the lake toward another favorite walleye spot.

The rain was still a slow off-and-on drizzle, but the nearer we got to our destination, the harder it rained until we rode in a steady, soaking rain. We turned back but the rain chased us across the lake, threatening the morning’s outing.

We voted to stop over the brush pile again for a short while, and as lines were dropped, all three of us had big, slab crappie hooked almost instantly. We sat there in a cold, drenching rain and caught big crappie, one-after-another for over an hour before finally crying “uncle” and giving-in to the rain’s perseverance.

Back at our room, warm, dry clothes felt good, but what a great morning of fishing, even in the rain.

After experiencing how dry Kansas summers can be, I’ve learned not to complain much about the rain, and I think grandpa was right that some of the best fishing can be when its raining.

Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at