Kansas is a landlocked state in the Midwestern area of the U.S. From the wide-open prairies of the Great Plains to big city lights, the heartland of Kansas has everything for the perfect family vacation. And if you love to cast a line and be rewarded with massive fish, here are the 10 best fishing locations in Kansas.
Kansas is largely agricultural, offering a plethora of outdoor activities. But her cities are also full of things to do. You can visit aquariums, zoos, museums, and historic sites across the Midwestern Prairie State.
Keen leisure anglers will be pleased to hear that, despite being one of the only U.S. states not to have its own designated state fish, Kansas offers plenty of fishing opportunities. There are hundreds of acres of public waters there. You can cast a line at one of the state’s 40 regularly stocked fishing lakes, 24 major reservoirs, or over 100 community and county lakes.
There’s plenty of scope for the freshwater fisherman here as well. As well as contained bodies of water, there are rivers, too. In fact, the Missouri River skirts almost 75 miles of Kansas State’s northeastern borderline.
Licenses & Urban Fishing Program
Any non-resident over 16 years of age must have a valid non-resident license to fish legally in Kansas unless fishing a private pond not open for public fishing. Residents aged 16 through 74 must have a resident fishing or hunting license to be able to cast a line in Kansas.
You can buy a fishing license online or in person from the Kansas Department Wildlife & Parks office or a licensed agent. Fishing licenses are valid for 365 and will set you back $27.50 if you’re a resident and $52.50 if you’re a non-resident. But there are lifetime ($502.50 for residents only), multi-year ($102.50/ 5 years, residents only), five-day ($27.50, non-residents only), and one-day ($8.50 for residents/ $14.50 for non-residents) fishing permits, as well.
If you’re after trout or paddlefish, you’ll need separate permits to fish these species. The additional permit for trout costs $14.50 while the paddlefish one costs $12.50 regardless of residency status.
Thanks to the Kansas Urban Fishing Program, everyone in the state can enjoy good angling, even if they don’t live in the country. There are 80 bodies of water in the program, stocked with over 100,000 channel catfish throughout the spring and summer. During the fall and into the winter, they stock some of the waters with hard-fighting trout.
Some of the larger lakes also support good populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. And these are just three of the best lakes in the Kansas Urban Fishing Program for you to check out. There’s no primitive camping at these locations. But since they’re all in urban areas, lodgings are available. So if you don’t enjoy roughing it, this is one of the best fishing locations in Kansas for you.
Eating Your Catch
Generally, it is safe to eat what you catch in Kansas waters, but check this link to the current advisories issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT).
10 Awesome Fishing Locations
There are so many great places to wet a line in Kansas. So, it’s been a tough job to whittle this list of the best fishing locations in Kansas down to just 10 because there are so many different spots that the anglers of Kansas swear by, but this article would be the size of a book if we mentioned them all.
The Great Plains offer a plethora of ice-fishing opportunities for those who intend to visit the State in the winter months. Just make sure you bring the proper equipment to be prepared for some tough drilling. Although yellow perch are the main attraction for ice-fishermen, there are other locations where you’ll come across walleye and if you are lucky, some pretty decent sized Northern pike as well.
With that being said, you are bound to find something in our list that appeals to you no matter what type of fishing you prefer. So, keep reading to get some inspiration for your next fishing trip in the great state of Kansas.
1. Glen Elder Reservoir
Glen Elder Reservoir is also famous locally as Wakonda Lake. The reservoir is located 12 miles to the west of Beloit, straddling Mitchell County and Osborn County. The 12,586-acre reservoir was originally built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for irrigation and flood control. And it plunges to a measured maximum depth of 55 feet. This means you’ll want to make sure you have all the equipment you need to help you find some fish in deeper waters. The fish species you can expect to encounter here include:
- White Bass
- Black Bass
There’s plenty of standing timber and brush in the Reservoir to attract the predatory species that live here as they hunt down shoals of shad. And the numbers of fish in the reservoir are good since they stock walleye fingerlings every spring. Check out this link for tips on how to find the best fishing spots at the reservoir throughout the year.
Glen Elder is a popular spot for ice-fishing during the winter. But it can be weather-dependent, so always check the forecast and the ice conditions before you go. And when you arrive at the reservoir, look for the buoys that mark the locations of artificial brush piles they placed there to attract the fish.
Ice fishermen like this spot for its healthy numbers of white bass and crappie, which commonly grow up to 16 inches. Also, head to the west end of the reservoir close to the Cawker City Causeway. The current at this spot brings in migrating schools of shad and the predators that follow them. For these reasons, Glen Elder is one of the best fishing locations in Kansas.
2. Severy City Lake
Severy City Lake is 64 miles east of Wichita, to the south of the small town of Severy. They maintain the area around the lake well, so you’ll find several picnic shelters and a boat ramp. If you have an active family, this is one of the best fishing locations in Kansas. Although the lake is ideal for canoes, kayaks, and shore fishing, no gas-powered motors are allowed. You’ll find a nice range of fish species here, including:
- Redear Sunfish
- Largemouth Bass
- Channel Catfish
Fish the quiet waters close to shore for bluegill, especially around brush and in shady areas. Redear sunfish are usually farther out. So try drifting 20 to 30 feet from the shore and fish worms on a small hook to provide just enough weight to hold the bait close to the bottom.
When you’ve almost filled your creel, head to Butcher Falls, about two miles away. The falls are Kansas’ most beautiful natural waterfall, especially after rain. You are allowed to fish the pool below the falls too. But you’ll need a stout line because you have to reel your line and catch up the vertical rocks. However, a bunch of worms under a bobber works well if you let it drift with the current and see what bites.
3. Scott State Lake
115-acre Scott State Lake is close to Scott City in this lovely State Park. There’s plenty of camping nearby, with most of the sites being in beautiful shady spots with full utilities. And you can stay in cabins with lake views rather than under canvas if you prefer. There’s plenty of wildlife and bird watching opportunities in the park, especially along the hiking trails early and late in the day.
So, what about the fishing? Well, this lake ranks as the top bluegill lake in the state. So it has a place on this list fo the best fishing locations in Kansas. So try fishing the little coves and bays or directly in front of the dam early and late in the day. Local anglers recommend casting a small worm below a small bobber for best results.
As well as bluegill, Scott Lake is full of saugeye, with seven-pounders commonly caught there. Try casting diving lures from the shoreline or drifting on the water with a large nightcrawler dragging across the bottom. Also, there are channel catfish there, although they are usually quite small. And you can use chicken livers,
cut bluegill, and stink baits for the best results.
And lastly, for some spectacular sight-seeing, head to the northeast of the Lake to see the Chalk Pyramids and Little Jerusalem rock formations on the nearby Smokey Valley Ranch.
4. Chase State Fishing Lake
Chase State Fishing Lake is a 109-acre lake, 75 miles to the northeast of Wichita in a beautiful Flint Hills valley, close to Cottonwood Falls. So, the first thing you must note when you visit this location is that the lake has zebra mussels. That means that anyone boating or fishing must not transport any live fish or water from there to any other bodies of water.
The reason it is on this list of the best fishing locations in Kansas is because it is super-clear. That, in combination with a rocky shoreline, offers above-average fishing for largemouth bass. And there are smallies and native spotted bass here, too. But other species found in the Lake include saugeye, bluegill, and channel catfish.
Also, the lake has eight fishing piers, some of which have fish feeders. If you visit this spot following rain, go across the dam and follow the path to see the multi-tiered waterfall that’s surrounded by wildflowers. There are lots of nice campgrounds nearby, and there’s lodging at Cottonwood Falls, too.
5. Cowley State Fishing Lake
Cowley State Fishing Lake is about 16 miles east of Arkansas City. The 84-acre Lake is rated third-best in the state among bass fishermen, with average catches weighing in at five-pounds plus. But it’s the population of bluegill that draws anglers to Cowley State Fishing Lake, which is above average for most lakes in Kansas. And that is why this lake belongs on this list of the best fishing locations in Kansas.
And there are also plenty of redear sunfish there. Use worms, crickets, or small spinners and jigs to fish the shallows in the shade for bluegill. And venture out slightly further to find shoals of redear. Channel catfish also frequent the Lake in decent numbers and size.
The Lake has a loading dock and boat ramp, and there are several fish attractors dotted around too. There are some primitive campsites situated around the lake, and there are basic pit toilets. However, be warned that this location is “wild.”
So, if you’re camping or walking around the lake, there are tarantulas and venomous copperheads to avoid. However, it is a beautiful location, and the abundance of wildflowers makes for a glorious display during the spring and summer months.
6. Eureka City Lake
Eureka City Lake is an impressive 259-acre body of water located about four miles north of the town of Eureka, close to the small airport. Fish species that live in the lake include:
- White Crappie
- Green Sunfish
Eureka City Lake has to be on every vacationing angler’s list of the best fishing locations in Kansas. The Lake is ranked as the state’s top lake for white crappie. Check out the man-made fish attractors and brush that shelter crappie as the water warms. There’s also a heated fishing dock that keeps the action coming, even in the dead of winter.
The bass and saugeye fishing are good here too, especially from the water’s edge or from kayaks on a still day when it’s not too windy. And families can enjoy boating or swimming from the public beach. There are restrooms, picnic areas, and campsites there, too.
7. Slough Creek
Slough Creek is the place to go if you fancy fly-fishing for stocked rainbow trout. The creek forms part of Perry Lake. They built Perry Lake Dam in 1966 to help flood control from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The lake has a 160-mile shoreline and 11,150 acres of water surface area. You can find the location here.
Slough Creek is situated in the heart of the lush Kansas forest and is an ideal family camping trip destination. The campground has the lake to one side and the dense forest canopy on the other, making it perfect for those who want to enjoy the best of both environments. There are tent pitches and fully-serviced RV hookups too.
And the fishing there is excellent, so it had to be on this list of the best fishing locations in Kansas. As well as trout, the fish species you can expect to catch include:
- White Crappie
- Flathead Catfish
- White Bass
- Channel Catfish
You can fish from the shoreline or a boat. But be aware that Perry Lake is one of the most popular sailing lakes in the region for boaters of all types, including sailing, canoeing and power boating. So for this reason, you might want to fish early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s quieter.
You’ll need a trout permit to fish there in addition to your regular fishing permit. Also, the one mile stretch of stream that’s designated for trout fishing is restricted to “flies only” by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. However, it is one of the most popular trout streams in south-central Kansas.
8. Demon Lake in Dodge City
Demon Lake in Dodge City is a pond of just about one-acre that sits on the western edge of Dodge City High school. And in fact, they named it after the school’s mascot. However, if you decide to fish there, note that it’s catch-and-release only. Also, the Lake is closed to the public during school hours.
However, that still leaves lots of time during the summer break for angling at this surprisingly picturesque urban spot. They stock the pond with channel catfish during the spring and summer when the weather warms up. And there’s a nice bass population and abundant bluegill, too. For those reasons, this lake has to be on this list of the best fishing locations in Kansas.
9. Lake Lenexa
Lake Lenexa is a 30-acre, family-friendly lake in Johnson County. And there you’ll find all the facilities you’ll need for a nice family day out. There are picnic tables and restrooms, and they mow the shoreline to keep the area looking nice. You can see where the lake is located right here.
Also, Lake Lenexa is home to a good population of bass that thrives around the lily pads and other flooded vegetation. And kids can have a great time fishing with bobbers for bluegill close to the shore. But do be aware that the daily limit for bass is five per day.
Additionally, you must release anything between 13 to 18 inches. Even so, Lake Lenexa has earned a place on this list of our favorite fishing locations in Kansas.
10. Lake Olathe
Lake Olathe, just a mile west of the town of Olathe in Johnson County, is a pretty 172-acre lake. And it has a large park area for the kids to play in if they get bored with fishing. The lake has landed on our list of the best fishing spots in Kansas since it is the home of a surprisingly generous range of fish species, including:
- Largemouth Bass
- Flathead Catfish
- White Crappie
Catfish fishing is particularly good there. Try using live and prepared baits, and fish close to main lake points and other shoreline structures. Remember, some of these fish are huge, so be prepared for a fight and use strong tackle. And that’s why it is one of the best fishing locations in Kansas.
Also, note that some different types of Asian carp have now invaded the area below Lake Olathe dam. So, be aware that it’s illegal to move any fish from below the dam to the area above it. Also, you cannot use fish that have been caught below the dam for bait above the dam.
Casting Your Line
The Great Prairie State of Kansas offers some excellent sport for leisure anglers who love freshwater fishing.
Whether you’re into teasing trout in a well-stocked stream, fishing for predators from the shore or on the water in John Wayne country, or you want to teach the kids to fish for bluegill from a park pier, K
ansas has everything you need for a great trip.
Daniel C. Warren gradually morphed from a weekend warrior into a full-time outdoorsman and outdoor blogger. From picking up trash in the woods or sleeping under an open sky to hiking until his plantar fasciitis says no more or having a field day fishing with like minded fellow countrymen, there’s little he doesn’t wholeheartedly enjoy while out in the wild. While some might call him a true-born nature freak, he likes to see himself as a “born-again” outdoor enthusiast. Daniel just can’t get enough of nature, and we’re grateful whenever he decides to share his latest experiences with us.