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Adventure Report, Father’s Day

Let me give an update on some of my latest fishing in our great state.  On Father’s Day my kids and I were invited by a buddy to fish on a private pit.  That sounded like a really good idea and we jumped at the opportunity.

As soon as we got there and tackled up, we spotted a bunch of bluegills and small largemouth bass cruising the shorelines.  That is a very common sight on Nebraska pits and ponds this time of year.  Actually being able to see fish is fascinating at anytime and we got even more fascinated when we spotted a big redear sunfish in the back of a bay.  Neither of the kids seemed to be motivated to go after that big redear, so after they wandered away and I got my rod rigged, I headed down.  The fish was still in the area and after pulling my bait away from some smaller bluegills that big redear swam over and sucked it in.  Yes, I landed that fish and I am sure it was in excess of 10 inches, maybe close to 11, but before I could measure it or get a photo, it slipped out of my hands and back into the water.  Oh well, “easy come, easy go”, and I figured there would be more opportunities to catch redears before the day was over.

We scattered out across our host’s fishing dock and started catching fish.  Bluegills were easy to come by and life was good.  After a little bit I hooked this fish.

P10200172That is a green sunfish X bluegill hybrid.  Those two species of sunfish are found throughout Nebraska and can hybridize in the wild.  Normally they are about the same size as their parent species and given the right conditions they can reach trophy proportions.   We called the fish I caught “Stumpy” because it’s body depth and width dwarfed it’s tail.  It was almost 11 inches long, the biggest hybrid sunfish I have ever seen let alone caught, and I am guessing it would have weighed in the neighborhood of a pound and a half!

Later in the afternoon my son caught a couple more big hybrid sunfish, fish in excess of 10 inches, but not quite as large as “the old man’s”

DSCN5726We caught a number of fat, pure-bred bluegills in excess of 9 inches, some really close to 10, but none actually 10 inches or larger.

My daughter was catching bluegills too, but eventually she switched things up and tried for some bass.  She caught a fat 18-incher right away and then with some coaching from our host, scored on a bigger one. . . .

Much bigger!

P10200442SmallThat is what a 22 1/2-inch Nebraska largemouth bass looks like!  I am guessing that fish weighed 6.5-7 pounds!

Now I have to tell you that had I caught that bass it would have been my biggest largemouth ever.  So, there you go, my daughter Emily has caught a largemouth bass bigger than any I have ever caught.  See what happens when you start your kids fishing when they are young?–They grow up and out-fish you!

I cannot think of a better Father’s Day photo!

I know one thing many of you are wondering right now, what did we catch ’em on?  That’s easy, the Kid’s System worked great on the sunfish, and a couple weeks ago I gave you a clue about what you should be doing for largemouth bass in Nebraska waters right now, A Couple of Odds & Ends for the Weekend.

I have also been doing this long enough to know that some of you are going to look at the photos, read the fishing report and grumble about my fishing on private water.  Public or private, it makes no difference, the same thing could be done for bass, bluegills, and other sunfish throughout Nebraska right now.  But, just in case you are one of those grumbling, let me ramble about Nebraska private waters for a bit. . . .

Private Waters

I will always tell you that in Nebraska we need to maximize our fishing opportunities on EVERY available aquatic habitat and that includes private waters!  Nebraska angler surveys have consistently indicated that private waters are an important resource.  At least 25% of Nebraska anglers will spend at least some time fishing private waters and might I add that fishing permits are required on almost all of those private waters.  Private waters in Nebraska are consistently some of our best fisheries for largemouth bass, bluegills and large crappies.

I am very conscious of who I work for, the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, yes, but more importantly, Nebraska anglers.  I do feel I am obligated to highlight fishing opportunities in Nebraska, especially on public waters.  However, I feel it is appropriate to show some pictures and mention private waters on occasion especially since they also are important resources.  Just for the record, I looked back through my fishing log; from 2010 through June 15, 2014, I have recorded exactly 350 fishing trips.  A grand total of 6 of those trips, a little less than 2%, were on private waters.  All of those 350 trips were made in Nebraska and 344 of them were on public waters; if you look back through my blog you will see a lot of pictures and can read a lot of reports on those trips as well.

The pit we fished obviously had some fantastic fish and fishing!  That is an understatement.  It was a demonstration of the potential of many Nebraska pits and ponds.  However, in most cases those fisheries do NOT reach their potential without some hard work.  It is NOT as easy as digging a hole in the ground, filling it with water, stocking fish and then walking away.  In the case of the pit my kids and I fished, several of the landowners around the pit have invested a lot of time and money into a variety of fisheries management activities.

What management activities are needed on private pits and ponds?  Let me answer that by pointing out that private waters in Nebraska are important enough that the Game & Parks Commission, “we”, have a program dedicated to private waters.  We do not have a huge staff in that program, in fact there is just one private waters specialist, but that is all he works on.  I always tell folks that we have lots of free advice and if you need to contact someone about management of your private water there is contact information in the link I just provided.  You can also get a good idea of what you need to do to produce good fishing in private pits and ponds by reviewing the Pond Management Guide Series.  Everything is contained in that guide series from pond construction to stocking and management of fish populations, artificial feeding, pond trouble-shooting, and a whole lot more.

I know I will be accused of climbing up on my catch & release “soapbox” again, but most private waters are relatively small and restrictive harvest regulations are a NECESSITY for producing quality fishing!  My kids and I kept not one fish from the private pit we fished.  We would not have thought about keeping one of those big bluegills, hybrid sunfish or bass.  I know the pit owners do some selective harvest especially of smaller, female bluegills and channel catfish, but the big fish go back in the water.  On a small body of water, all it takes is a handful of, maybe only one or two, fish hogs to ruin it for everyone.

FishHog1
Drawing by Don Gabelhouse, Jr.

We never did catch another redear sunfish.  I guess we will just have to go back to accomplish that.  I need to catch a largemouth bass bigger than Emily’s too!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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