Students study biology at Tonganoxie lake
Monday morning, Richard Sanders had all the catch-and-release he could handle.
Sanders, the district fisheries biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, was at the Leavenworth State Fishing Lake, surveying the largemouth bass population.
And while he was there, Tonganoxie Junior High Assistant Principal Darren Neas brought members of his after-school fishing club to watch.
Sanders told students he was surveying fish electronically, with the assistance of what he called an electrofishing boat, which included a device that sends electricity into the water. The boat is used near downed trees or rocks in water.
"If everything's set up all right, the bass are stunned by the electrical field," Sanders said. "They float to the surface and we can dip them up and weigh them, and then release them."
Sanders estimated that the 160-acre lake has about 50 pounds of bass per acre.
The lake, which is about six miles northwest of Tonganoxie, was drained in 1994 for repairs and was reopened in March 1997, Sanders said.
The fish in the lake are relatively young, but numerous, he said.
"There are tens of thousands of largemouth bass out there," Sanders said.
From March 1997 through October 1997, Sanders said, it was documented that there were 60,000 bass in the lake.
Because of the 18-inch minimum limit, he said, almost all of the bass caught out of the lake have been released.
Members of the fishing class said they've enjoyed participating in the school's after-school fishing club, as well as meeting the fisheries biologist. The club usually meets weekly.
"It gives us kids the opportunity to get out in nature and have fun," said Shane DeGraeve, who especially likes to fish for catfish. He uses catfish bait on a treble, and a bobber.
Kyle Heike said he likes to fish for largemouth bass.
"I like to fish for them because of the fight," Heike said.
And David Hassinger said he goes fishing every chance he gets.
Neas said students have to maintain good grades to participate in the class.
"We do a weekly check and see if they get to go fishing," Neas said. "I'm just happy that they're not going home after school and sitting on the couch. Also, it's nice to have this place in your backyard."