The trout season officially opens Nov. 1 in Kansas, but the lake will be closed to fishing until Nov. 4 to allow more time for the fish to disperse. This also gives trout anglers more time to prepare and devise the perfect strategy to catch some big fish this fall on the man-made lake.
Local fishing guide Clyde Holscher has lived right by the lake for the past 35 years, first on the west side and now on the east side. Though guiding isn’t allowed on the lake, he enjoys getting out to fish the trout season each autumn, when the leaves fall from the trees and he has a great view of the lake from his home.
“Ned Kehde and I fish it, and have for years, as kind of a recreational, fun thing,” Holscher said. “And we’ll wait until, I dunno, two weeks after they’ve stocked when they start to disperse a little bit, because honestly those are hatchery fish and the only thing they know is to swim and eat with a piece of concrete on either side of them, so it takes them a while to get dispersed.”
Holscher said that he and Kehde, who the Ned Rig is named after, use a lot of Z-Man fishing gear to do what Ned calls “bass fishing for trout,” running the lures with a slow drag across the bottom.
“We use exactly the same setup,” Holscher said. “This isn’t gonna be the cup of tea for those guys that are lining up the boat ramp cove down there over on the east end, but it’s by far — and I’ve trout fished on there for about 30 years — our most productive lures.
“What we do is we put 1/32nd- or 1/15th-ounce heads on there and we take half of a ZinkerZ, which was the precursor to the TRD, and we cut that in half. We always use scents on our baits anyway, like Pro-Cure, and we just go bass fishing and we catch a plethora of whatever, there’s a lot of warmouth and largemouth and smallies, and we’ll kinda key on some of those better areas, especially adjacent flats, and catch trout.”
He compared the trout bite on that setup to the bite from a bluegill.
“We also use a lot of Vibric Rooster Tails in the 1/24th- and 1/16th-ounce. Chartreuses, whites, a black and a brown, depending on what water color is. As far as your average reader who wants to know what’s going on out there, a dropshot rig with some PowerBait on it is probably everybody’s best bread and butter.”
He recommended setting the dropshot rig up with an eighth-ounce split shot and then putting a little trout hook on the end of it. He uses Berkley’s floating PowerBait to get the bait up off the bottom. He said to use 4- to 6-pound line, as trout can be skiddish with heavier lines but the water in Lake Shawnee isn’t clear enough to require 2-pound line.
“If you’re bank fishing, be very patient,” he said, “because they’ll come through, and if whoever’s to the left or the right of you 40 yards catches a fish, get ready. They’re coming through any minute. Until those fish are harvested or weeded out a little bit, that’s just the way it is.”
He said The Dock, 2838 S.E. 29th, offers some of the best selection of trout baits and tackle in town, including spinners and Little Cleos.
Fishing in the cold
Anglers shopping at The Dock also can find plenty of gear there for other cold-weather fish in the lake, such as walleye.
One of the big features of the lake that Ensley played a part in adding was the heated dock on the west side, which allows anglers to fish year-round for trout and other species. The dock typically opens on the first day of December each year, allowing anglers to fish even during the bitter cold winter evenings from inside a warm building. When the county stocks the lake again in February, that is one spot that could see a lot of action from trout anglers.
In addition to walleye and trout, Hensley said the county at one time even stocked Northern pike in the lake.
“The Northern pike could never adapt to it too well,” Ensley said. “I don’t know if the water was too warm or what, but we did have it for four, five, six years.”
String of records
Multiple state record-setting rainbow trout have been caught in Lake Shawnee, including a 15.43-pounder caught by Nicole Wilson and a 14.25 pounder caught by Jay Melkus, both in March 2012.
In April 2011, a similar scenario played out on the lake when Topekan Bob Lorson caught an 11.02-pound rainbow trout to briefly hold the state record.
Ed Ames, of Tecumseh, bested his mark just 18 days later with a 13.65-pound, 317/8-inch fish on April 20, exactly one year and five months before his death on Sept. 20, 2012.
“I was at work the day Eddy caught the rainbow trout,” said Ames’ widow, Nancy. “He called me all breathless and said he thought he’d caught a record-breaking trout. He and Gary Day needed to go to the Wildlife and Parks office to have it weighed and verified. He was pretty excited, and I thought he was kidding.”
On Oct. 1 of this year, Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church hosted its fifth annual Ed Ames Fishing Derby in his honor.
“Eddy always loved getting a kid interested in fishing,” Nancy said. “However, neither of our boys caught the bug. The oldest son, Shawn, likes to fish now. He has Eddy’s record-setting trout on his fireplace, which was in Lake Shawnee’s office until he passed away. We decided we should have the fishing derby in Eddy’s memory in the spring of 2013.”
For anglers looking to break the record again this year, the current mark sits at 15.72 pounds, a 28.5-inch beauty caught by Josh McCullough, of Spring Hill, in February 2014 on Kill Creek Park Lake south of De Soto with Berkley Gulp bait.
Lake Shawnee was last stocked with trout on Feb. 25 of this year with 7,000 pounds of fish. Other waters in northeast Kansas that are stocked by the state or local governments include Topeka’s Auburndale Park, Holton’s Elkhorn Lake, Clinton State Park’s Lake Henry, Tuttle Creek State Park’s Willow Creek, Fort Riley’s Moon Lake and Cameron Springs, Herington’s Father Padilla Pond and Atchison’s City Lake No. 1.