County lakes busy on free fishing weekend

Chad Frey
A pair of boys from Newton fish at Camp Hawk last weekend, a free fishing weekend in the state of Kansas. The county parks have been busy this spring.

It was a busy weekend at the county parks — though those have become the norm.

According to park rangers, the parks saw a slight traffic increase for the annual “Free Fishing Weekend,” a weekend selected by the state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism that lifts license requirements for anglers.

“It was busy. We have been busy since Memorial Day,” said Kass Miller, director of the parks department.

The first full weekend in June is traditionally the free fishing weekend. Anglers do not need a fishing license on those days but must abide by all other regulations such as length and creel limits, equipment requirements, etc.

License requirements are back in effect and have been in effect throughout the COIVD-19 pandemic.

All three county parks — Camp Hawk, Harvey County West and Harvey County East — saw anglers trying their hand at taking home a meal.

And, Miller said, fishing has been busier this year than in years past.

“It is strange, COVID-19 has really helped the fishing industry,” Miller said. “... The fishing industry has really taken off. It is getting difficult to get supplies and tackle.”

Indeed. Local retailers have had supply chain problems that have created bait shortages off and on for the past six weeks.

The county stocks the fishing lakes three times each fishing season, with two of those stockings already complete for 2020.

“We will stock again in July right before the fourth of July to get it filled up again,” Miller said.

There will also be a state stocking project for the three lakes later in the summer.

The camping season at the county parks started slowly but has also come on strong since Memorial Day. The free fishing weekend also saw Harvey County East Lake at capacity for campers.

“People have just had cabin fever. We have been full on weekends since Memorial Day. They are starting to show up on Thursday to get the places they want,” Miller said.

Cabins under construction at Camp Hawk will open this summer — those will be shown to the park board this week as they await construction of small roads for access the cabins.