By Tim Huffman
A recent trip to Parsons Kansas revealed some laid-back, enjoyable, fun fishing. The town of 11,000 people has a great, revitalized main street. An F3 tornado hit the town in 2000 so there is a mixture of older and newer buildings. The area is primarily agricultural. The railroad was a major part of the town until a few decades ago. For you zombie enthusiasts, ZombieGeddon was filmed in Parsons in 2002. Parsons may be best known for Dwane’s Photo, the last processor of K-14 Kodachrome film and was the location of the last frame taken on the final roll.
Big Hill Reservoir, KS
Southeast Kansas hosts a variety of hunting and fishing spots. Crappie waters include small strip pits, lakes and reservoirs. Big Hill Reservoir is located 8 miles west of Parsons and about 4.5 miles from Cherryvale.
Big Hill is 1240 surface acres with a maximum depth of 60 feet. Normal lake level is 858 feet. Water is usually relatively clear with 6 to 10 feet visibility. It’s controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. Crappie creel limit is a liberal 50. No boat motor limitations apply.
Big Hill is a very productive fishing lake. Although popular, it is seldom crowded with fishermen. Along with crappie, the lake includes many other species.
The best part of the lake is the timber left standing when the lake was built. A locator and an eye for typical fishing locations is all you need to find fish.
My trip was during post-spawn a few weeks ago. Local fishermen say crappie had spawned three weeks earlier even though we found the water temperature stable at 67 degrees. On day one, due to the water temperature, we couldn’t help but give shallow water a few hours of hard fishing. However, we found no fish left in the skinny water.
As usual, electronics were critical. We found suspended fish in open water areas and near the edges of standing timber. We switched to trolling crankbaits and immediately started picking up crappie. A Flicker Shad and Rebel Deep Wee trolled behind the boat did the trick. Crappie were suspended 10 to 14 feet deep with water depth 15 feet or deeper. It seemed 20 feet of water over a drop-off was ideal.
My day two fishing was with Larry Steeby, a retired fire chief and former bass pro who grew up in the area. He says, “The reason the lake is such a good crappie lake is the standing timber. Crappie usually spawn here April and then make a slow transition out toward deeper water. Right now (mid-May) they are going to be in the 10 to 15 foot water out away from the banks.
“As the summer temperatures come into play the crappie go out toward the deeper areas in the middle of the lake. Many will stay around the brush and submerged timber out in deeper water.
“I call the water “green water”, clear but not too clear,” says Steeby. “It’s a rare type lake where so many species live and strive together without one species dominating. Crappie, smallmouth, largemouth, walleye, white bass and others live in harmony. It’s easy to fish because of its size. I really like a hair or a feather jig here for crappie.”
June fish should be on deep timber and ledges. As the temperatures increase some of the crappie will stay suspended in open water while others will go deeper along channel drops and deep cover. The small lake can be quickly covered with electronics to learn fish depths and structures.
Big Hill is clear making it excellent night fishing for crappie. If you’re serious about catching numbers of fish, night fishing might be the best bet from now until fall. During the day look for trolling cranks to be a key tactic.
The lake is known for good numbers of smaller sized crappie. Our largest was around 11 inches with most 8 to 9 inches, but locals say it’s not uncommon to catch a few bigger kickers on most trips.
Negatives include: out-of-the-way location (not near a big city for secondary vacation activities); the average size of Big Hill crappie are small but big ones are possible.
The positives of a trip to Parsons and Big Hill Reservoir include: Relaxed community; a timber-filled lake set up great for crappie fishing; large enough for different structure fishing but small enough to easily analyze; good numbers of crappie with a liberal 50-fish limit; fantastic hunting if you want to do a combo hunt/fish trip to the area; Parsons is a nice, quiet, clean town to visit, eat, and stay; bonus fishing is available at the 770 acre Parsons Lake; and nearby mined pit fishing.
For more information, go to visitlabette.com or call 800-280-6401; kdwp.state.ks.us; ksoutdoors.com.