Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Recreational fishing in the Great Plains is about as diverse as any angler wants to make it. Cold-water species such as trout and salmon can be found in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and even out onto the Plains in cold-water streams and in stocked winter fisheries. Cool-water species–northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch, to name a few–abound in the northern part of the Plains and in some of the deeper artificial reservoirs. And, of course, warm-water species abound in the multitude of farm ponds, small lakes, reservoirs, and stream and river systems that drain this rich agricultural region. These species include the catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, other sunfish species, white bass, the landlocked striped bass, the relatively new hybrid wiper and saugeye, and a myriad of other game and non game fishes.

When it comes to fishing opportunities, anglers in the Great Plains probably have more different opportunities than anywhere else in the United States and Canada. In the northern part of this region, walleye rank high on the popularity list, while the southern angler would likely put the black bass at or near the top. In the Central Plains, catfish are an important item on the anglers' list. But specialized anglers who belong to a striper tournament circuit, a fly-fishing organization, or a local bass club, who fish in the yearly carp derby, or who simply dunk a worm for anything they can catch are everywhere.

Nationwide in the United States, fishing remains the number two water-related outdoor sport, with nearly 45 million participants, according to a 1997 survey from the National Sporting Goods Association. Among all indoor and outdoor sports, fishing is seventh. Statistics from the 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate that recreational fishing produced $108 billion and created more than 1.2 million full-time jobs in 1996. In Kansas in 1996, for example, fishing was worth $357 million to the state's economy and created the equivalent of 4,922 full-time jobs. In Nebraska, the economic benefit of fishing to the state was even greater, at $427 million and 6,448 jobs. Texas ranks second in the nation, behind only California, with $6.4 billion in revenues from fishing and 80,282 associated jobs (these figures include parts of Texas that are not part of the Great Plains). Clearly, throughout the Great Plains fishing is a significant economic enterprise as well as an integral part of regional culture.


Tommie Berger Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

American Sportsfishing Association. Economic Impact of Sportsfishing in the United States. Alexandria VA: American Sportsfishing Association, 1996.

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