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Fall into Winter Fishing

Here we are in December, and there’s no reason for the weird Nebraska weather of 2014 to stop now. In typical fashion, we were just freezing cold a few weeks ago around Thanksgiving. Now, we’re back to above normal temps, and I hope some of you have been out taking advantage of it, like we have been.

We made it to Harlan Friday for a day on the water, and managed to have a little bit of fun. We found fish right away in mid-range depths, and also found them to be quite willing. We found a ton of shad, as 2 out of 3 of us snagged one on our jigs and spoons. We moved around a little and found catfish nearby who were feeding on those shad. The catfish were so aggressive that I had my slab spoon hanging down while I was helping out in the boat, and a nice 2-3 pound channel just inhaled it. You know they’re hungry when they’re hitting a non-moving spoon, a first for me.

After catching a good half dozen or so channel cats, we tried looking for walleyes. While we never did find them, the white bass and cats were not hard to come by. The white bass were just as aggressive as the channel cats, and I’m not sure how many we caught, but it was a fair number, up to 15 ½” or so. Add in a few drum, and even a carp, and we were busy most of the day. The nice thing was, it didn’t matter where we were. Different breaks were fished at depths from 20 to 34 feet, sometimes miles apart, but most areas had cooperative fish. That is, as long as you were in the main lake area. The creek arms were not holding fish, for whatever reason. As for presentations, slab spoons and jigs both worked. It didn’t seem to matter on color of the slabs, but they were picky when it came to jigs. We found a certain color combo that you seemed to need to trigger the white bass.

We are at a strange part of the year. While there is some ice fishing happening in the northern part of the state, I would imagine even that could be threatened in some spots by this nice weather. Elwood Reservoir remains open, and while you can get a boat in Johnson, you would only be able to fish a small part of the lake.  We broke a small bit of ice getting into Harlan, but it was gone by noon. The Tri County canal is a no go, as the ramps are iced up. I know some ice fishing was done recently on the canal, but there was no success reported. Ice fishermen are waiting for ice to form, while guys with boats are still able to get in some areas. This is Nebraska, and this kind of thing happens every few years it seems. It’s looking like this year’s ice season may be shorter than first anticipated when the cold weather originally set in. I was sure we were in for a long winter at that point.

Some fish are being caught at the checks on the canal as well, which is common this time of year, into mid and late winter. With weather like this, that water should definitely stay open for some time, as it’s constantly moving, even if it is very slow.

If you venture out onto the ice, be very careful. I know you’ve heard it 100 times, but it bears repeating. Especially with our unpredictable weather and ice conditions in this state. Sooner or later we’ll have some solid ice and more fish will be caught. Until then, get out and enjoy this weather the next week or two, because this may (finally) be our last chance at nice weather for the year. 2015 is just around the corner, and who knows what it will have in store. I hope you had a good 2014, and 2015 is even better.

About Brian Robinson

Brian Robinson is a lifelong resident of central Nebraska who has spent his entire life chasing fish of all kinds. Nearing 100 Master Angler awards for 13 different species, Brian spends most of his time fishing central Nebraska water, including the Tri County Canal system and associated waters.

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