Spring is a very busy time for Nebraska Game & Parks Commission fisheries workers; fish to be stocked, fish to be spawned, sampling to be done, eggs to be hatched, etc., etc. I will always tell you that in our field work we do NOT necessarily see the biggest fish that are present in our waters. If you want to see that, anglers as a group target big fish and are most likely to encounter the biggest fish in any population.
But, from time to time I want to tease you with some pictures of some of the specimens our fisheries biologists have seen in the field; I want to give you an idea of what lurks beneath the surface of our waters!
Collecting eggs from northern pike is one of the first annual spring duties and that starts as soon as a boat can be launched in liquid water. Sometimes we even have to break ice.
Lakes on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge almost always provide all the pike we need for our stocking requests. They did again this year. Here are a couple of examples of pike we saw while collecting those fish in March.
Pike were definitely the target during those collections, but there was some by-catch swimming in the frame nets too!
All of those fish are back in the water happily swimming. No secret where they are, Valentine Refuge Sampling Summary.
Also in the sandhills, over towards Crescent Lake, our panhandle fisheries biologists discovered some fine bullheads.
Yes, I said bullheads. In fact I am going to show you some more. Here are some very fine “yellow bellies” we saw at Lake Wanahoo this spring.
Look close, those fish were pushing 15 inches!
Now I know what some of you detractors are loading up to say, “Bullheads? Are you kidding?”, and “See, that just proves that Nebraska does not have any good fishing.”
Do me a favor, save your breath.
Bullheads are a fine game fish too! In fact more than a few of us started our angling careers with bullheads; they are usually very willing to bite and can be a lot of fun to catch. My Dad had a great aunt with which we had a standing order to deliver bullheads anytime we could catch them. Yes, there are folks who like to fish for bullheads! For those of you who do, make note of those bullheads and where they were collected–they are back swimming in there too and we are talking about trophy bullheads!
Bullheads get a “bad rap”, but honestly I can only think of a few waterbodies where bullheads have actually over-populated and caused problems. In most cases an over-population of bullheads is indicative of bigger problems, like periodic fish kills due to poor water quality–the bullheads were not the cause. As a matter of fact, we have no problem keeping bullhead populations under control as long as water quality is good and there are healthy populations of predator fish. The biggest challenge is that everything loves to eat small bullheads, and they tend to disappear from a fishery over time. I have just tipped you off on a couple of good bullhead fisheries right now; you should grab the kids, some worms, and GO FISH!