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Big Mac Pike

Northern pike have been swimming in Lake McConaughy since biologists stocked them around the time the reservoir on the North Platte River began filling in 1941. But judging by fish sampling data, angler reports and the 10 pike that topped 36 inches in length or 10 pounds to qualify for Master Angler there in 2013, the current population may be the best since.

That doesn’t mean there are a lot of the toothy critters in the lake. “[The pike population] is low compared to walleye and other game fish species, but there are still enough that people who want to target them can, at certain times of the year, find them and have success,” said Darrol Eichner, fisheries biologist for the Game and Parks Commission.

The rise, Eichner said, can be attributed to years of declining water levels that led to a new record low lake level in 2004 and thousands of acres of trees, brush, cockleburs and smartweed growing on the exposed lakebed. When the lake began refilling and that structure was inundated, the handful of brood fish in the reservoir took advantage of ideal spawning conditions, especially in 2008 and 2009.

As long as the lake stays high enough to keep bays full and trees flooded, that’s where anglers should start to look for these structure-oriented fish. The best bites Eichner heard of last year were the following: in the heat of summer, when anglers were boating up to 30 pike a day trolling over the tops of submerged trees; a fall bite along the face of Kingsley Dam; and a year-long bite in Otter Creek Bay.

Jamie Vasa of Ogallala holds a 37-inch northern pike caught July 2013 while trolling spinnerbaits and crankbaits over submerged trees at Lake McConaughy. Eric Fowler/NEBRASKAland Magazine
Jamie Vasa of Ogallala holds a 37-inch northern pike caught July 2013 while trolling spinnerbaits and crankbaits over submerged trees at Lake McConaughy.
Eric Fowler/NEBRASKAland Magazine

About eric fowler

Nebraskaland Regional Editor Eric Fowler was born in Hastings, graduated from Ogallala High School in 1988 and completed his Bachelor’s at Chadron State College in 1993. After six years as a writer and photographer with newspapers in Chadron and Scottsbluff, he joined the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in 1998 as Publications Editor and has been a member of the NEBRASKAland staff since 2001. Fowler spends as much time as he can in Outdoor Nebraska. When he’s not photographing wildlife, landscapes or people enjoying the state’s outdoor resources for the magazine, he’s enjoying them himself while hunting, fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking or camping with family, including his wife and son, and friends.

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