Long at last, it’s open water season, and we have wasted no time finding fish.
The waters were warming up nicely until the cold front this past week. Water temps in the Tri County and Johnson Lake were all the way up to 50 at one point. Now I’ve heard the temp has dropped quite a ways, which is to be expected. We fished in water from 47 to 50 degrees and found the fishing to be slow. We managed only a few crappies in the canal, and only one sauger at Johnson. While talking with other friends out on the lake, their success has been similar. While we thought that the walleyes could easily move up on the dams at night real soon, that may have been pushed back just slightly because of this cold. But I do not believe it will be a big setback. With a slight warm up ahead in the forecast, the night fishing could be hot.
With snow melt coming from out west, the canal has been moving quite a bit of water. Last year at this time it was common to see water moving as slow as 1100 cubic feet per second (cfs). This week we’ve seen it up around 2000. When fishing the canal, it’s nice to keep the current in mind as it can really move the fish around. I believe that was part of the problem with our lack of success with crappies and saugers. The water is simply dictating some of their movement right now.
Now onto something completely different. My friends and I have been doing something lately that is new to us, which I’m sure will be old news to some of you. We have a variety of public and private sandpits that we’ve been targeting for big largemouth bass with stick baits. We have been working hard on trying all kinds of new baits and seeing which ones are doing the best for us. The baits that are doing the best for us are baits that suspend at rest, as this is a key part of our presentation. We’ll cast out, crank the bait down a few feet, then let it sit. Twitch it, reel slow, let it sit. There are all kinds of combinations of cadences you can use while doing this. We’re finding most of the time we do not need to let the bait sit longer than 5 or 6 seconds. The bass that are taking these baits are very aggressive, sometimes waiting until the lure is near the shore to come out and grab it. Some of our most fun catches have been heart stoppers when the water erupts at your feet. Another reminder that just because you’re almost at the end of your retrieve, you still need to be ready.
I had the opportunity this past weekend to fish with my friend Marty Hughes, who, as Kayakajak, is the foremost expert in kayak fishing in the region. We set out in search of monster bass at a public area near Elm Creek one day, and private waters the next. While we didn’t find the monster we were looking for, we did find a pattern that rewarded us with a few catches. Most all the fish we caught during the weekend were in shallower waters where it was the warmest, calmest part of the sandpit. These fish are moving up to warm up, and are often easily tricked into smacking a passing bait. It’s amazing at how much access you have while in a kayak. You can go many places that are otherwise hard to reach with larger vessels, or difficult to fish from shore. I learned a lot about kayak fishing this weekend, and you can too if you spend time with Marty on one of his adventures.
The nice thing about this recent cold weather is that patterns like the ones mentioned above will go a bit longer into the year. We’re having a lot of fun finding out which stick baits work best, and frankly, it’s just a fun way to fish. Having a bass smack a lure after it’s been motionless for a short time is real fun.
That said, be sure to get out and enjoy the springtime in Nebraska and get a great start to another great year.