El Dorado Wildlife Area News

Area News

2014 Dove Hunting Outlook:

Two sunflower tracts (10 & 17 acres) should provide fair to good dove hunting opportunities at El Dorado Wildlife Area.  Portions of each of the sunflower fields will be mowed (if conditions allow) to enhance dove use and hunter access.  The 10 acre sunflower field can be accessed from the north by traveling 0.1 mile east of the junction of NE Bluestem Road and NE 90 Street.  The same field can be accessed from the south by traveling 0.1 mile east of the junction of NE Bluestem Road and NE 85th Street.  The 17 acre sunflower field is about 200 yards north of the parking area along NE40th Street, south of Satchel Creek. Dove hunters using these managed fields must use non-toxic shot (see related article below). Dove hunters may be asked to obtain a permit prior to hunting and to report harvest at the conclusion of their hunt.  Please assist area staff with evaluating these opportunities by following instructions located at permit stations posted at each field.  Hunters are also reminded to please be courteous and aware of other hunting parties while using these fields!  For a brochure and map of the entire wildlife area please visit the El Dorado Wildlife Area web page (ksoutdoors.com) and click on the brochure tab at the top of the page.  For more information please call area manager, Brent Konen, at #620/767-5900.

Dove Field Hunters Required to Use Non-toxic Shot!

Beginning in 2013 many managed dove fields on KDWPT public wildlife areas required the use of non-toxic shot.  Designated fields at El Dorado Wildlife Area have been included in this requirement and will continue to include all sunflower fields.  Signs designating this requirement will be posted at each field.    

Lead exposure has long been recognized as a significant threat to waterfowl populations.  Concerns arose when large concentrations of lead from spent shotgun shells began to accumulate in traditional waterfowl hunting locations.  It was discovered that waterfowl could ingest the lead shot while feeding, and that the lead was toxic and could lead to illness or death.  It was also found that some animals that scavenged lead poisoned carcasses could also ingest remaining lead and become afflicted, thus impacting an entire food chain.  Losses from lead poisoning were estimated to be significant, and as such a nation-wide ban on the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting was implemented decades ago. 

Concerns of lead exposure to other wildlife species, including doves has become more common.  Managed dove hunting fields can provide fast-paced gunning opportunities leading to the deposition of significant quantities of lead within some fields.  This lead can potentially be ingested by species foraging in these fields such as doves, ducks, geese, prairie chickens, and non-game species such as songbirds.  Concerns may be elevated in fields where no-till planting has been employed (increasingly common) for its soil building and erosion control benefits.  As the name implies, no-till planted fields do not incorporate ground tillage into planting preparations.  Lead deposited in these fields may be more likely to remain available to wildlife at the ground surface as compared to conventionally planted fields were tillage is incorporated into plans and where lead could be mixed beneath the soil surface. 

Non-toxic shot availability and price has improved and its use should help to insure the responsible conservation of our wildlife resources and preservation of our treasured hunting heritage.

Want Current Lake Condition Information?  It’s Just a Click Away!

It can be argued that technology is not always a good thing.  But for outdoor recreationists wanting to know current information about El Dorado Lake, technology can be good because the information is available and can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by visiting the internet on your computer or smart phone.

For those interested in learning more about current or historic lake levels, precipitation amounts, lake inflow, or lake releases, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a convenient web site providing this information.  Whether you are an angler interested in lake conditions to determine if it might be right for pursuing your favorite species of fish, or are a boater or camper wondering how lake conditions have been impacted by recent drought or rains, the website can be a valuable trip planning tool.  To access this information simply visit:


El Dorado Lake – 2014 Fishing Outlook

District Fisheries Biologist, Craig Johnson, has provided the following information to assist anglers when planning upcoming fishing trips.  Information is provided based upon his annual population sampling. 

White crappie- Good  Crappie density obtained during trap netting in October 2013 was the second highest of the last five years.  Overall size will also be up during 2014.  Approximately 30% of the crappie sampled exceeded 10-inches compared to 7% during the previous year.  Crappie had good body condition values during October which equates to nice, plump fish.  Anglers should be happy with the crappie fishing at the lake during 2014. 

Walleye- Good Walleye numbers decreased during the October 2013 sample while overall size continued to increase.  Forty-three percent (43%) of the walleye sampled during fall test netting exceeded the 21-inch minimum length limit.  Anglers should again expect good walleye fishing during 2014 with high percentages of keeper sized fish.  Walleye fingerlings are annually stocked but despite the addition of these 200,000 fingerlings each spring the numbers of young walleye within this population has remained low.  A good year class is needed in the near future to ensure good walleye fishing in coming years. 

White bass- Fair White bass densities are down to the lowest level seen in quite some time.  Drought conditions during 2011 through 2013 have provided less than ideal spawning conditions for the white bass.  Density has decreased with a population comprised mainly of larger, older individuals with few younger individuals available to replace those fish leaving the population.  Anglers reported catching fewer white bass throughout the 2013 fishing season.  Although density will be down during 2014, anglers should be pleased with the size of the white bass that they do catch. 

Wiper- Good While white bass numbers have dropped in recent years, wiper numbers have increased.  The 80,000 wiper fingerlings stocked each year have done well in recruiting to the adult population which has created good wiper fishing opportunities.  Wiper are protected with a 21-inch minimum length limit and 2/day creel limit.  Anglers experienced very good wiper fishing with increasing catches of fish larger than 26-inches during 2013 and this should continue in 2014.

Channel catfish- Fair Channel catfish numbers are down heading in to 2014.  This population has received a rating of fair this year.  Anglers will still find good catfish action in the old Bluestem Lake area and in the feeder creeks during times of inflows. 

Blue catfish-Fair  This population received a fair rating mainly due to the low percentage of fish available for harvest with the 35-inch minimum length limit in place.  KDWPT personnel verified several angler caught blue catfish during 2013 that exceeded the 35-inch limit.  Legal length fish numbers continue to increase each year.  Overall density of this population continues to increase and angler catch rates are also increasing.  Catch and release opportunities would be ratedGoodas there are plenty of fish for catching.  This population should continue to improve in the years to come. 

Black bass-Poor The lake contains three species of black bass:  largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass.  Largemouth and spotted bass population densities are low whereas smallmouth bass densities can be quite good in areas with good smallmouth habitat.  Skilled bass anglers continue to catch nice largemouth bass at El Dorado, but the casual angler would likely be quite disappointed in largemouth bass action at the lake.  Smallmouth prefer the rockier areas of the reservoir while the largemouth prefer the vegetated coves, shallow timbered areas, and feeder creeks.  The density of all three populations remains fairly stable from year to year.  Recent attempts to increase the numbers of these fishes in the lake have not proved to be very successful.

Anglers and Boaters Reminded to Take Precautions to Control Aquatic Nuisance Species!

Unfortunately more Kansas waters were recently added to the growing list of those threatened by aquatic nuisance species (ANS).  ANS waters are defined as those containing Asian carp, white perch, or zebra mussels.  In 2013, zebra mussels were found in Clinton and Glen Elder Reservoirs, and in Wabaunsee Lake and Lake Shawnee.

Why are these species a problem?  ANS often become dominant within an area.  They can out-compete native species for food or space and can reduce biological diversity or the assemblage of plants and animals within our native habitats.  Ultimately, ANS species such as zebra mussels, asian carp, and white perch, threaten to alter aquatic habitats, of which our wildlife species depend, including those species sought by anglers in Kansas!

Regulations have recently been enacted to prevent the spread of ANS.  Boaters and anglers are reminded to follow these regulations while visiting Kansas waters.

  1.  Livewells and bilges must be drained and drain plugs removed from all vessels being removed from waters of the state before transport on a public highway. 
  2. No person may possess ANY live fish upon departure from any designated ANS body of water. 
  3. Live baitfish may be caught and used as live bait only within the common drainage where caught.  However, bluegill and green sunfish collected from non-designated ANS waters may be possessed or used as live bait anywhere in the state.  Live baitfish shall not be transported and used above any upstream dam or barrier that prohibits the normal passage of fish.  

For a list of ANS designated waters please refer to the 2014 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary (page 30) or visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism website at www.ksoutdoors.com and click on “Fishing”, then “Aquatic Nuisance Species”.  Other ANS designated waters near El Dorado Reservoir include Cheney, Marion, and  Council Grove Reservoirs, Coffey County Lake, Kingman and Chase State Fishing Lakes, Lake Afton, and Council Grove and Winfield City Lakes.  Streams and rivers below these Kansas lakes are also designated ANS waters. 

To protect our aquatic habitats, follow these simple steps at every lake, wetland, and river, every time: 

CLEAN: Inspect all equipment for anything attached (plants, animals, and mud) andremoveanything that is found. 

DRAIN: Empty all water from equipment (livewell, bilge, bait bucket, etc.) before using at a different location. 

DRY:Dry all equipment for a minimum of 5 days before using it again. If you need to use it sooner, wash with hot (140 degree) water. 

Water Level Planning at El Dorado Lake 

Why let out so much water?  Why leave the lake so full?  Why are they releasing water now?

Questions such as these are often asked of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWPT) personnel working at El Dorado Lake.  Answers to such questions are often more complex than many might think.  Water level management planning utilizes the education and experience of many different natural resource professionals including water planners, engineers, park managers, fisheries biologists, and wildlife biologists.  To add to the complexity, they are charged with trying to meet the needs of a tremendously diverse group of resource consumers including landowners, agricultural interests, industry, and municipalities, in addition to an equally diverse group of resource users including recreationists of all types.

The construction of El Dorado Lake was first authorized by the United States Congress in 1965.  Completed in 1981, the project developed a lake comprised of approximately 98 miles of shoreline, and 8,000 surface acres of water.  The lake was constructed to provide flood control, to enhance water supply, to improve water quality, to provide fish and wildlife habitat, and to provide public recreation.  With all of those intended functions, it is a challenge to try to meet the needs of all lake users all of the time.

Flood control functions often take precedence in times of abundant precipitation.  At such times, the COE is charged with managing El Dorado Lake not as a separate entity, but rather as a part or piece of an entire watershed system comprised of many other lakes, and millions of acres of land within several states.  Decisions made to retain or release water at El Dorado Lake may not always appear rational if simply considering local conditions.  COE engineers and area managers must not only consider local conditions when establishing lake levels and water release rates and duration, but those of a much larger area including other lakes, lands, and property downstream.

At many federal reservoirs the impacts of age are becoming more apparent.  Silt deposition in several older Kansas reservoirs, threatens water supplies and other lake functions.  El Dorado Lake will someday face similar threats.  Increasing human populations and diminishing water supplies are a significant concern to water planners, rural water districts, and municipalities.  Water uses to maintain a human population, agriculture, and industry are expected to increase.  Existing water supplies within El Dorado Lake serve communities such as El Dorado and others in Butler County.  Current lake level plans already have “built in” conditions designed to protect the water supply purpose of the lake.  These conditions don’t allow elevated water releases beyond a lower lake level threshold.

Water quality functions are also considered when developing water level management plans at El Dorado Lake.  Sediments are often allowed to settle to the lake bottom after being carried into the lake from flows within area creeks and rivers.  By doing so, sediments and other impairments are “captured” within the lake basin and prevented from being released into the Walnut River below the lake dam.  Downstream water quality is then often enhanced.  Additional downstream water quality needs are also considered by water releases designed to allow a minimum stream flow.  This flow is designed to provide an adequate water supply for downstream use and improve water quality to sustain aquatic and terrestrial wildlife downstream.  Water quality impairments and land losses created from eroding stream banks are of yet another concern.  Release rates and duration can affect stream bank erosion and are considered when developing water release plans.  Responsibility to enhance the quality of water within El Dorado Lake, and thus the waters released from it, ultimately lies with all public and private lake users and land managers.

Lake level management for the benefit of fish and wildlife species alone can be a difficult task.  Because nature is so complex, any action or change in habitat cannot be equally beneficial or harmful to all living things.  Each time the lake level changes, or water is released, some species of fish and wildlife will benefit, others may not be impacted, while others may be harmed.  Fisheries biologists and wildlife biologists are then often tasked with trying to meet the needs of the majority of species, of those most valued by the public, of species of greatest environmental influence, or those most threatened with extinction.  Lake level planning for the benefit of fish and wildlife species at El Dorado Lake currently places significant management emphasis upon game fish species.  Lake level plans consider year round needs of species by managing lake levels and water releases to enhance spawning and brood habitat and enhance recruitment by minimizing losses during high flow events.  Although the lake does provide habitat for many migratory birds, including waterfowl, water level restrictions set forth to insure water supply needs, inhibit KDWPT’s ability to enhance shoreline habitats for the benefit of many such species.  To add yet another dimension of complexity, KDWPT biologists are tasked with evaluating the impacts of zebra mussels upon other fish and wildlife species and whether water level management can serve as a tool to manage invasive species populations.

The recreational function of El Dorado Lake enhances the quality of life of area residents and visitors and significantly boosts the area economy.  As such, this function is also considered when developing lake level plans.  The desires of campers, hunters, anglers, boaters, canoeists, marina operators, and others are considered when formulating plans.  Area management staff must always be mindful of impacts to these users and the impacts of water level management actions upon the infrastructure that is necessary, and in place, to provide these users with opportunities to pursue a favored pastime.

Lake level management decisions do not often come easy.  Those responsible for such decisions do so knowing those actions may well be controversial.  Is it possible to make everyone happy all the time?  Consider again all of the intended purposes of El Dorado Lake and all of those depending upon it for necessity and recreation.  Then tell me…is it possible?

Upland Habitat Planting Plan Unveiled in 2013:

A new 5 year plan designed to provide multiple benefits, including those to enhance water quality, wildlife habitat, and associated recreation was initiated this past spring. Beginning in 2013, portions of agricultural lands along 5 lake tributaries will be idled and planted to native grasses and forbs. These annual planting projects are designed to enhance grassland cover availability in areas dominated by woodland and cropland habitats. As a result, plantings should enhance habitat diversity within the wildlife area, ultimately enhancing habitat for wildlife species such as quail, turkey, deer, and others, and enhance lake water quality by filtering some run-off from adjacent agricultural lands. This spring, 6 former agricultural tracts were planted totaling approximately 30 acres along Durechen Creek. Similar efforts are being planned in 2014 to convert portions of 3 tracts totaling 12 acres along Cole Creek. Additional work will be conducted each spring along each of the primary drainages leading into El Dorado Lake. By improving habitat, we can enhance wildlife populations and outdoor recreation opportunities such as hunting.

Area Habitats Enhanced with Tree Cutting Project (Again!):

Visitors to El Dorado Wildlife Area may again notice that many area tracts recently received tree cutting treatments. Significant work was completed early this year with another round just wrapped up in late September. Although the primary goal of these projects is to simply maintain and enhance grassland dominated habitats from tree encroachment for the benefit of species such as quail, other more specific goals have also been identified. Those goals include: protecting the integrity and diversity of native grass and forb stands; enhancing nesting and brood rearing cover for game bird species and other wildlife; enhancing capabilities of grass filter strips to filter run-off from adjacent agricultural fields; enhancing vegetation management capabilities in smooth brome stands; reducing competition to benefit desireable shrubs such as plum, sumac, and dogwood; removing bush honeysuckle as an emerging invasive threat to area woodland habitats; protecting existing infrastucture such as fences, power supply lines, and levees; and enhancing management vehicle access to area lands. Since 2004, nearly 586 hours of mechanical tree shearing has been completed. Organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Kansas Forest Service have provided financial assistance to complete some of this work in past years.