Change of direction
BY MICHAEL PEARCE
EL DORADO LAKE — While laughing,
Shane Eustice fought the fish loudly
from the time the hook was set until
in the net.
You'd have thought it a fish
worthy of a trip to the taxidermist
or a Master Angler award.
Nope. It was just an
average-sized wiper of about 17
Anytime such a so-so fish gets an
experienced angler excited, you know
the fishing's been tough.
"Most of this year's been a real
struggle," said Eustice, one of the
top anglers on El Dorado Lake. "One
trip you're on fish and the next few
times it's like there's not a fish
in the lake."
Craig Johnson, Kansas Department
of Wildlife and Parks fisheries
biologist for the lake, said he's
heard few glowing reports this
That's a far cry from last year.
"Last year was fantastic. It was
probably the best summertime bite
I've ever had," said Eustice, who's
fished El Dorado an average of three
times a week for 16 years. "The
(Kansas Walleye Association)
tournament last year was one of the
best they've ever had. This year it
was such a bust people were asking
me where the fish had gone."
Johnson and Eustice are confident
El Dorado still holds plenty of
fish. They had great pre-spawn
catches of crappie. They caught
limits of walleye during the spawn.
But that was then.
"I really think it's had a lot to
do with all the rain, all the
inflows and outflows," Eustice said.
"The gates were open for about three
months straight. I think all the
water going up and down made it
impossible to get a pattern on the
At least misery loves company.
Johnson said most biologists are
reporting slower than normal fishing
at central Kansas lakes.
"They've been catching wipers at
Milford but Cheney, Marion and El
Dorado have all been too much up and
down," he said. "You always need
stable water for the fish to get
into a pattern."
Such is often the case during the
dog days of summer. Most years
Eustice does well even when water
temperatures are about 90 degrees.
This time last year the weather
was similar, but the fishing was
Night after night, Eustice and
Johnson enjoyed great action on
white bass and wipers where many
wouldn't have expected to find them.
"We caught fish in water from
five to a half-foot deep all
summer," Eustice said. "We could go
out some nights and catch 50 to 70
fish. I think we got skunked one
In the past few weeks, the
anglers have had a few fair outings.
Sometimes it was much worse.
Twice within the past two weeks,
Eustice spent tough evenings casting
along a submerged old roadbed in
The first evening produced one
small channel catfish. Three anglers
caught two small white bass and the
much-appreciated wiper on the second
If there is a silver lining, its
that the fish Eustice is catching
are plump, not the rail-thin wipers
and white bass El Dorado was known
for over the past few years.
Johnson said he's pleased with
the size and numbers of shad he's
Both anglers are still working
hard to salvage this year's
remaining trips. After the rods were
stowed Monday evening, Eustice and
Johnson sat and talked as the boat
drifted across the dark lake.
Eustice stopped mid-sentence when
he noticed his fish locator was
showing the marks of fish near the
bottom in about 20 feet of water.
He made plans to try trolling
crankbaits over such deep spots soon
and vertically fishing slab spoons
if he finds concentrations of fish.
"Maybe they're just deeper this
year," Eustice said. "You have to
just keep going fishing. You never
know when you're going to have that
trip when you catch 60."