The recent influx of arctic air across the area is fantastic news for waterfowlers, with more ducks and geese flowing daily into the state from the north. Near the Kansas-Missouri border, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Mound City, Mo., tallied nearly three times as many snow geese (278,490) and Canada geese (1,588) on Tuesday as it had seen the week before. Mallard numbers increased from 52,601 to 58,658 and 11,600 Ross’s geese were spotted on the waters.
Temperatures ranging from the low-20s to mid-40s will often push geese to move more in search of food throughout the day, which means great hunting. In warmer weather, which we’ve been seeing a lot of to this point, geese are less likely to move much. The same with extreme cold, which causes geese to huddle up on frozen lakes for warmth.
Anglers may be deterred by the cooler temperatures, but they shouldn’t be. Some of the best crappie fishing all year can take place once the weather gets cold, as crappie will group up when the temperatures fall. Once you find a good spot, you can catch your limit in a hurry. Docks and areas with heavy cover are good places to target.
The heated dock at Lake Shawnee, which opened Dec. 1 and is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, also offers Topekans some yearlong fishing opportunities. Its doors will remain open until March 31. Anglers can sit inside the heated building and drop a line in the water at the center of the room, no matter how bad the weather is outside. The spot can be great for crappie, catfish and rainbow trout — a cold-water species that is stocked during the fall and spring.
Crappie anglers can drop and twitch jigs over the cover below the heated dock. Minnows and live worms also work pretty well at the area, especially in cooler waters. Trout anglers will need to purchase a trout license, in addition to the regular fishing license. Salmon eggs are a great, natural bait to catch trout, but you can also use nightcrawlers, minnows, Berkley PowerBait or Gulp! Trout Dough. Spoon lures work well on trout, and if the water is open you can go that route from the banks, but you won’t be able to cast very far from inside the heated dock.
Ice fishing also is an option once the waters begin to freeze over. Ice fishing is allowed at Lake Shawnee only when authorized in designated areas. Other bodies of water also may have local laws to govern ice fishing, so pay attention to any regulations posted at those areas. Motorized vehicles also must be cleared from the ice one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise the following morning, and holes cut in the ice on public waters can be no larger than 12 inches in diameter or 12 inches square.
Tip-ups, a type of fishing rod that raises a flag once fish have taken the hook, may have a maximum of two hooks each. You can also use a traditional rod and reel setup.