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Banking on the Refuge

In Nebraska, the wind is going to blow – especially in wide-open locales like the lakes at the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve gotten used to it, but some days I just don’t feel like trying to keep a boat straight. But no worries. The most productive adjustment I have made when fishing for species like largemouth bass and northern pike is one I’ve been using since childhood – bank fishing.

Bank fishing is especially productive at a place like the Refuge due to the vast amount of good fishing close to the shore. For example, at the boat putin at Clear Lake last summer, I watched a pair of friends try to navigate whitecapping waters while I waded out mere feet and casted black spinnerbaits as far as I could, taking advantage of the shallow flat near the put-in. The result? More northern pike than two men in the boat mustered, including several fish above 30 inches.

 

Northern pike fishing on Clear Lake at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. Jeff Kurrus/NEBRASKAland Magazine
Northern pike fishing on Clear Lake at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
Jeff Kurrus/NEBRASKAland Magazine

But Clear Lake isn’t the Refuge’s only bank option. Hackberry, with its immense amount of shallow water bulrushes, is also an excellent place to wade through the muck and fish any open pocket of water you can find for pike or largemouth bass. Lure choices for these fish are similar. Stay weedless as much as you can, using floating soft plastics and spinnerbaits that will work through the rushes with little incident. Also make sure you have a pair of chest waders with you and an extra change of clothes just in case you step into a hole or venture out a little deeper than you originally intended.

Lastly, wear a personal flotation device (PFD) if you plan on wading at all. It’s hard enough walking in open water without coming across obstructions. Try doing this tromping through hundreds of yards of bulrushes and it’s a matter of time before you fall. Just make sure you have a PFD to help pick you back up.

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