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Low water levels prompt action; daily creel limit increased to six

NORTON - Effective Sept. 29, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) will temporarily remove the 15-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass at Sebelius Reservoir. This action was taken in response to loss of bass habitat and overcrowding of largemouth bass following rapid declines in water levels. The lake will be posted with signs outlining the new rules, which will remain in effect until the lake refills. At that time, the signs will be removed.

In addition to the length-limit suspension, anglers may also take as many as six largemouth per day of any size, rather than the normal statewide limit of five.

Following prolonged water shortages during the 1970s and 1980s, Sebelius Reservoir refilled during the flood years of the 1990s. This resulted in great expanses of newly-flooded trees and other vegetation that provided ideal fish habitat. This was especially beneficial for shoreline cover-oriented species such as largemouth bass and other sunfish species. These populations flourished, and Sebelius became one of the top largemouth bass fisheries in the region.

However, Sebelius Reservoir water supplies have since diminished. Surface area dropped from 2,410 acres in March 1997 to 922 acres in August 2003. This decline has severely reduced the amount of habitat and space available for largemouth bass and other species. Overcrowding of largemouth bass has resulted in deterioration of body condition and slow growth. The 15-inch length limit is being removed to promote a reduction of bass numbers through harvest. Approximately 74 percent of the largemouth sampled in spring 2003 were less than 15 inches long, with the majority ranging from 12 to 15 inches.

Sebelius Reservoir supports two species of black bass:  largemouth bass and spotted bass. The 15-inch length limit will remain in effect for spotted bass. All other existing limits, such as the 18-inch length limit for walleye and saugeye, and all other creel limits will remain in effect.

Fisheries biologists monitor the fish community annually to assess numbers, size, physical condition, and growth rates of the various species within the reservoir. Harvest restrictions such as length and creel limits are evaluated continually. At this time, biologists would like to maintain high numbers of open water predators such as wipers and saugeye. These species are not dependent upon shoreline cover and are fairly tolerant of low water conditions.

For more information, contact Mark Shaw, (785) 425-6775




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