Program doubles rate of fish growth

Monday, July 29, 2002

The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. -- Initially, it looks like just another Kansas pond.

But let a lure or bait spend much time below that placid surface, and it's obvious this is not just another pond.

Two casts into a recent visit, a chunky, 4-pound smallmouth bass split the surface with acrobatics that would make a gymnast proud.

From saucer-sized bluegill to the magnum wipers, all were bowling-ball fat and longer than what you'd expect from a pond just 6 years old.

Then again, these fish had no shortage of the most important element needed to grow.

"Normally, nutrition's the biggest limiting factor fish have for reaching their potential," Leonard Jirak said. "We've overcome that."

A Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks district biologist, Jirak raised eyebrows when he installed feeders and reduced creel limits at Yates Center City Lake.

After watching staggering growth rates on bluegill and catfish, most other department biologists installed feeders at other lakes.

But like many, Jirak began to wonder if it would be possible to help boost other species, namely bass, with feeding programs.

Jirak learned a private fisheries biologist was having success starting tiny fish on fishmeal-based pellets. Once he found a Colorado mill that would start making pellets to thumb-size, Jirak was able to start taking the pellet-trained fish to bigger sizes.

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