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A Sandhills Perch Safari

My son and I made it out to the glorious Nebraska sandhills for another ice-fishing trip this past month.  I have been swamped with “important” stuff to blog about since then and have not been able to tell you about it.  Time to change that.

We love ice-fishing Nebraska’s sandhill lakes; they truly are some of the best ice-fishing in the country for a variety of species of fish, northern pike, largemouth bass, bluegills, yellow perch, black crappies, we love ’em all.  On this trip we were not sure what our plan should be so we ended up swinging for something we had not done for awhile–some big yellow perch on some waters we do not normally fish.  One reason I never get tired of fishing is the variety, something Nebraska waters offer in spades.

Now, I fully understand the popularity of yellow perch, especially those golden beauties pulled through ice holes.  I also fully realize the fantastic opportunities for that species offered by some of our neighboring states just to the north.  I spent a couple of winters in northeast SoDakota myself, back when water levels were just starting to rise and flood thousands of acres of lakes and wetlands making them ideal habitats for yellow perch.  I am envious of the amount of water some of our neighboring states have, and I wish we had as much yellow perch habitat in Nebraska as they do in the Dakotas.  However, I also know that Nebraska is blessed with some waters that are just as good for yellow perch as those found in the Dakotas, just not as many of them.

My son and I spent the first cold day in a snowstorm fishing for some big perch and whatever else might come along.  Sometimes we could barely see each other or the white hills lying just beyond the water’s edge.


But I could see when Daniel was hooked up!

IMG_1481 (2)

You can see with the conditions we had to go “old-school”–ice skimmers, sandhills jigging rods, and bobbers.  But, “old school” is still the best under some conditions!

Mission accomplished!


There were some nice ‘gills thrown in too!  Of course there were, we were fishing in Nebraska’s sandhills!


After scooping snow, my cousin, Robin, joined us for the second cold day.

It was a winter wonderland, nothing but fresh, virgin, powder for as far as you could see.  The sandhills were glorious that day, quiet, white, deer on the hillside in the distance, pheasants pecking in a weed patch the other direction, a hunting hawk, a faraway coyote pausing to look at the funny humans howling at him, and a mink loping through the snow (another story for another day).  Yeah, it was a great day to watch wildlife, but we also were a part of it, we drilled holes and fished.  The perch were as glorious as the day!  Several over 13 inches, the largest just under 14!

I caught the first.


My cousin learned to fish from the same guys I did, he can dry ’em off too!


So can the next generation!


I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed that day on the ice, just my son, my cousin and me.  The bite never was fast and furious, but steady, all day long; lots of small- to medium-size bass and then a big ole golden beauty would come up through the hole.

I could show you a pile of mouth-watering perch laying on the ice, or a cleaning table with ’em all lined up, but I ain’t gonna do that.  Nope, ain’t going to because we did not keep a single fish, not even those delicious yellow perch.  If you want to see piles of fillets stacked up, fillets that are now gone, you can find plenty of that on the internet.  Nope, all you are gonna get from me is this:


Yep, those big perch went right back down the hole.  They will be there for us to catch again and maybe next time there will be a 15-incher!

My son got some other photos that special day.  I think this one might be the quintessential Nebraska ice-fishing photo, high clouds filtering the sun, snow-covered hills, windmill in the background!


Of course the obligatory sunset photo:


Notice the bent rod; one last perch!


The perfect end to the perfect day.

Of course the weather finally got nice when we had to head for home.  A few more hours on one more lake; this is what happens when you try to make your bass look as big as the perch you caught the day before!


Cannot wait to get back on the ice!


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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