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Back in the Saddle

I am all fishing, all the time, except when the turkeys are gobbling in the spring.  I just cannot get enough of hunting those big, beautiful Toms.  So, the past few weeks I have to admit to you that I have been fishing very little.  But, Nebraska’s spring turkey season 2016 is now in the rear-view mirror, and it is time to get back on the water!  This past weekend, a holiday weekend, was a great one to do that, so let me give you a little report, show some pictures, tell a story or two. . . .

My family and I ventured to west-central Nebraska for the long Memorial Day weekend.  We have family there to spend time with, and there are a lot of fishing options too.  Love it.  I will always tell you that May and June are two of the best fishing months in Nebraska every year.  Our spring weather tends to become a little less chaotic by May and June, although yes, I have to admit, we had at least one thunderstorm every night over the holiday weekend.  But, at least it did not snow, I have seen it do that on the Memorial Day weekend!  Anyhow, the more stable weather leads to more consistent fishing patterns.  In addition, a number of species of fish have finished spawning or are just finishing, and are back to feeding by May and June.  Later in the summer, in another month or so, the young-of-the-year baitfish will begin to show up literally in the millions, and then there will be an abundance of natural prey for the fish to eat and they will get tougher to catch.  For now, there are a number of hungry fish of a variety of species in a variety of waters and they are actively searching for whatever prey they can find right now.  That is a prescription for good fishing!

We dodged some storms during our first evening, but managed to dry off some modest White Bass and small Smallmouth Bass at the Sutherland Reservoir inlet.

The Rainbow Trout fishery in Lake Ogallala and associated waters (i.e. the canal and North Platte River downstream of Lake Ogallala) is still very good and I take every opportunity to fish that.  The trout stocked there are the same 10-inch, catchable-size trout that are stocked in early spring, fall and winter in urban and parks waters all over the state, but in Lake Ogallala they can survive year-around and grow like weeds in that very productive fishery.  In short, I fish Lake Ogallala every chance I get because I have a chance to catch some big trout there!  It took my son all of three casts to catch the first one after we got there.  He also caught the first two nice fish:

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I actually caught a Rainbow on my first cast, but believe I may have been a little “rusty”.  I seemed to struggle for a bit, spent more time fooling with tackle than fishing, but then I got “zoned-in”.

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The largest of those trout were all in the 18-19-inch range.  We did not keep track of exactly how many we caught that day, but it was well into double figures.

I have always loved the interstate lakes along Interstate 80.  Almost all of those pits have excellent water quality and habitat and some good fishing.  The rest of the weekend we fished a couple of different interstate lakes targeting mostly panfish.  Rock Bass are not a common fish in Nebraska, but there are a few interstate lakes that have fish-able populations of Rockies and we know of a couple, three of them that produce some big Rock Bass.  My son, nephew and I all dried off at least a couple of Rock Bass in excess of 11 inches.

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Rock Bass are panfish and admittedly do not weigh lots of pounds, but they are such purdy fish and we enjoy spending a day or two catching them each spring.

We spent some time fishing for Bluegills too–Yep, bobbers and all of that “kid’s stuff”.  We found Bluegills on their spawn beds, and you can have a lot of fun just watching the antics of those fish, especially the males, as they try to guard their beds from other males, maybe herd a female in to spawn, and once in awhile notice there is something to eat drifting nearby.  Spawning Bluegills are not easy to catch with all the spawning behavior being acted out, but while watching them, a few can be caught in the process.  This one was nothing special, but it does show how colorful the male Bluegills are when they are spawning:

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On a number of interstate lakes we find some Redear Sunfish in addition to the Bluegills.  We caught some small Redears, but none that were deemed worthy of pictures.  Believe me, we saw some big Redears swim by, but could never get them to bite.  I spent an hour on one particularly nice Redear, experimenting, trying different things, and a couple of times thought I had him ready to suck in a bait, but then he refused.  Gggggrrrrrrrrrrr!

In the clear water of the interstate lakes we spotted a lot of Largemouth Bass cruising around.  I believe most of those “cruisers” were done spawning, but we saw other bass that were still on their beds.  We did not spend much time targeting the bass, but managed to catch a few of them too.  Here is my nephew with a representative bass:

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May and June are great months to fish in Nebraska, and great months for a variety of species of fish.  Over the weekend, without trying too hard, we caught White Bass, Rainbow Trout, Rock Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, and some Green Sunfish and Green Sunfish X Bluegill hybrids that I did not even mention.  That was 9 different fish and we easily could have thrown in more if we had wanted to or had more time.

I will return to a theme I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post:  May and June are two of the best months to fish Nebraska, on a variety of waters for a variety of species of fish.

Right Now!  Get off the couch, quit talking about it, quit reading about it, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200–GO FISH!

All of the fish we caught were released, I know they are there, you might catch ’em too.  If you need some more hints on where to go, do a little homework here:  2016 Fishing Forecast, and here, I-80 Lakes Fisheries Sampling Summary.

Until next time. . . .

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My Mom and Daughter watching bobbers. Would you believe I found an arrowhead right where I was standing when I took this picture?

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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