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Reeling in the Elusive Northern Pike – Lake Wanahoo

lead-photoCommissioners’ Corner – Dr. Mark Pinkerton

What a great day! I recently spent the day fishing and learning about one of the state’s newest fishing spots.   As a newly appointed Commissioner back around 2002 I toured the Lake Wanahoo construction site before any dirt had been moved. All I can say is WOW, what a change. I am impressed. The lake is amazing. From breakwater structures to trees that provide great fish habitat the lake is very well thought out and designed.  If you are a birding enthusiast you can view amazing numbers of waterfowl, as well as the majestic bald eagle.

Lake Wanahoo is a flood-control project located on the north edge of Wahoo.  Built by the Lower Platte North NRD, the fishing structure and design was created by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. An agreement was reached between the two agencies to have the Commission manage the area.

It took a while to get our calendars to match up but I finally pinned down a date with Steve Satra, who was in charge of designing the fishery, to take a couple of us out on the lake. I  invited Mick Jensen, a Commissioner from Blair, to join us. What better way to check out the lake than with Steve. He is the guy who knows all the spots where the “big ones” hang out!

Lake Wanahoo offers a variety of fishing opportunities. It holds bluegill, crappie, bass, walleye, blue catfish, and northern pike. A decision was made to make the northern pike fishery a catch and release proposition in order to provide a long-term opportunity to catch this challenging predator.

On this outing I wanted to see if I could hook into a northern pike. I hadn’t caught one since I was 15 years old. My first experience was in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota with the Boy Scouts. That trip was so many years ago I hate to tell what year it occurred.

Steve, Mick and myself formulated a plan to catch a northern pike. Steve took us around the lake to fish the most likely structures and hideouts for our quarry while providing some history of the lake’s construction and its significant features and their importance to the fishery design.

Mick (pictured in top photo ) says "..you should have seen the one that got away!"
Mick (pictured in top photo ) says “..you should have seen the one that got away!”

We all tried different baits that were known favorites of Mr. Pike. From Red Eyes to Daredevil spoons to Shad Raps, we fished them all without much success.

It soon became obvious “Plan A” wasn’t working so we huddled up and came up with a new plan. We broke out the trolling rods and rigged them with Shad Raps. If we couldn’t catch those elusive pike then we would let them catch us.

As we started the boat out around the lake it didn’t take long for our luck to change. Mick scored first with a true trophy fish! It was a “hammer handle” pike. Although it wasn’t much of a fish, we were on the board.

Not long after Mick’s fish I caught a miniature pike of my own. This was much more like it!

Over the next hour we caught three more fish in the 23 – 25 inch range. Now that was what we came for.  Pike are still as much fun to catch as I remembered from long ago.

The Lake Wanahoo trip was an enjoyable outing. Thank you to Steve for the guide service and Mick for demonstrating some outstanding fishing skills. As another angler on the lake stated, “It beats working”

Until next time…

Mick and Mark with two "heftier" Pike.
Mick and Mark with two “heftier” Pike.

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