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Fresh Air At Clinton Lake by: D.M. Zumbaugh


In the 70’s, when I was going to college at Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, Bob Hope was the featured performer at our Home Coming “concert” one year. That’s right, Bob Hope! Shortly afterwards he was on Johnny Carson and lamented about his Kansas experience, “I knew I was in Kansas when I went into the bathroom and there were whitecaps in the toilet bowl”.  What a reputation for a great state like Kansas to have!

Unfortunately, the fresh air Hope described was too much for us recently on a fishing excursion to Clinton Lake, near Lawrence. We literally got blown off the water as conditions deteriorated to be too dangerous in a fishing boat. The stained body of the lake had three-foot swells frothed on their crests, reminding me of the cappuccino I had enjoyed earlier. Increasing in intensity, these waves were threatening to swamp or even capsize the 16-foot, V-bottomed Lund we were being bounced vigorously around in.

Although Kansas boasts some of the best sport fishing in the country for walleyes, white bass, crappies and stripers, you must be cautious on the reservoirs in springtime. Weather conditions can change quickly with storms or a simple change in prevailing wind direction, posing serious threats to unwary boaters. Keep advised of wind direction, as this is just as important as velocity. For example, at Clinton, a west or northwest blow affects the water surface significantly more than a breeze straight out of the north or south.

Always do a safety check on your boat every time you launch. Ensure that you have adequate fuel, the batteries are charged and the motor is in good working order. Make certain everyone on board has an approved personal floatation device (PFD) and that they are quickly accessible.  Be watchful of your environment to avoid submerged stumps and rocks as these fish attractors can also damage props and hulls and put you and your craft in a vulnerable situation.

Clinton is an exceptional fishery with ample access for bank fisherman and boaters as well.  Well designed boat ramps are strategically placed and there is a full service marina with convenient hours.  There is a 5 acre trout pound that is stocked several times a year and a 1-acre children’s fishing pond.

Clinton State Park has 400 campsites, shelters, kid’s playgrounds and a swimming beach. There are hiking and biking trails and an archery range. To find out more about Clinton visit www.kpwp.state.ks.us or call 785-842-8562.


Our best fishing efforts yielded four shiny crappies and one stubborn wiper, which is a hybrid between a white bass and a striper. Aggressive jigging with different colored grub tails was apparently not on the piscatorial menu and action was slow at best. Recent fronts with the associated precipitation, pressure changes and cloudy/sunny skies have made fishing success inconsistent so far this year, even though water temperature was 62 F.  There were some fishers luckier than us, as several nice walleyes were witnessed at the fish cleaning station near the marina.

I will not be deterred and expect to be back out to Clinton soon. Hope to see you there!



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