Trout Fishing in Kansas, Seriously?

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

Catching rainbow trout in Kansas seems like an oxymoron; sort of like polar bear hunting in West Virginia or whale watching at Yellowstone Lake. Kansas is known for its walleye, crappie and catfish, but trout?

Wildlife and fisheries programs here in KS are funded largely by revenue from license sales that comes back to the state from the federal government. That money is reallocated back to Kansas according to the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold each year, so the more licenses sold, the more money we get back. In the 1990’s, Kansas began a trout stocking program as a way to generate more fishing license sales in the off-season, and as a way to create more fishing opportunities during the fall and winter.

I spoke with Jeff Conley, Fisheries Program Specialist with the Kansas Deptartment of Wildlife Parks and Tourism KDWPT) who oversees the trout stocking program. This year there will be 32 lakes and water impoundments across Kansas stocked with trout. Fifteen of those are private lakes owned by towns or cities that are enrolled in the Community Fisheries Assistance Program (CFAP), meaning they purchase their own fish, but allow the KDWPT to manage the lakes. The rest of the lakes and reservoirs stocked with trout are state owned and operated.

Although KDWPT operates five fish hatcheries here in Kansas, none are equipped to hatch and raise trout, which are especially sensitive to environmental factors such as temperature, water quality etc., so it’s more cost effective to purchase trout from commercial hatcheries for the stocking program.

This year, a Colorado hatchery will supply all trout for the western half of the state, trout for the south central and south eastern portions of the state will come from a hatchery in Missouri, and a hatchery in Nebraska will supply trout for the northern and north central portions of Kansas.

Rainbow trout are the easiest and least expensive trout for hatcheries to raise, making them also the least expensive to buy, plus they tolerate warm temperatures better than other trout, so this year all trout stocked here in KS will be rainbows.

Water in the seep stream below Kanopolis reservoir comes from the bottom of the reservoir, and the lakes and ponds that make up the mined land area in eastern KS are old strip mine pits that are very deep, so the water in those impoundments is very cold. Trout in most locations are not expected to live through the hot Kansas summers, but trout in those two locations often survive.

All locations are stocked twice a month from November through March; waters in the southwestern region are stocked November through April. A complete stocking schedule can be found on the KDWPT website, Click on “fishing” at the top, then click “special fishing programs” on the left.

The “trout program” will appear in a box toward the center of the screen. All available information on the trout fishing and stocking program is available there including license and permit requirements which vary from region to region.

Over the past 10 years, nearly 1.7 million trout (about 3.7 million pounds) have been stocked in Kansas lakes through the program; that averages out to be over 150,000 per year. This year alone, over 95,000 trout (more than 56.000 pounds) will be stocked in the 17 state owned lakes alone.

The lakes enrolled in the Communities Fisheries Assistance Program purchase their own fish, so the total number of trout stocked in those 15 lakes is unknown.

The state record rainbow trout weighted 15.72 pounds, was 28.5 inches long and was caught in Kill Creek Park Lake in Johnson Co. in February, 2014 by Josh McCullough from Spring Hill, Kans.

I know fishermen who do not keep any of the trout they catch because they deem them to be less desirable fish, and yes, compared to walleye and crappie, which is kinda’ like comparing a Volkswagen to a Cadillac, I would agree.

But trout is a very mild tasting fish that actually contains higher than average amounts of good Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Trout is also known to help reduce bad cholesterol and to help lower high blood pressure. I don’t ever order trout in a restaurant because it always comes with the head still attached and I’m not real crazy about my meal looking back at me.

However, trout can be filleted just like any other fish, and can be battered and pan fried or deep fried just like catfish, or can be basted with herb butter and baked. The way I see it, I have now officially removed all excuses for not fishing here in Kansas this winter.

So, check out the website for trout stocked near you, purchase a 365-day trout stamp for $14.50, then grab a kid and enjoy some great fall and winter trout fishing as you continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at