According to many experts on the interwebs, Nebraska’s ice-fishing season has been DONE for a couple of weeks now.
Nebraska is a big state. You have probably heard me say before that the state’s geography and climate changes A LOT from one end of the state to the other. You may live in the southeast part of Nebraska, where much of our human population does live, and you may think the ice fishing season is over. It ain’t, not by a long shot, and there is a whole state out there to explore. You might be surprised at what you might find.
A month ago, my kids, wife and I planned to make a trip out west, up north, to ice fish. Yes, we knew back then that it would be early March. Yes, we were confident there would still be safe ice.
We drilled anywhere from 17 to 22 inches of ice. There is going to be ice to fish in some parts of Nebraska for quite some time yet.
Anytime I am on the ice in March I expect the bite to be hot. Late ice is some of the best fishing of the year, not just ice-fishing, best fishing, period. However, it has been a long, brutal winter in some parts of Nebraska. We found lots of ice and perhaps that is why the bite was still like I would expect in mid-winter–tough. Maybe some thawing in another week or two would change that?
Regardless, we were there to fish, and fish we did. It might have been a challenging bite, but we still caught fish. We caught a variety. Doing some exploring on the first day, I found some sandhills gold:
The next day we caught more, but none quite as nice as that first one:
Bluegills were hard to come by. We caught a few, but nothing picture-worthy.
However, the bass were cooperative. I have come to appreciate catching largemouth bass through the ice more and more over the years. Yes, my partners and I tend to target panfish and take any bass that come along incidentally. Now, we expect the bass and even do some things to attract and land more of them. At the very least they are fun to catch! My partners and I all dried off at least a bass or two. My son, caught the biggest:
When we get together for an ice-fishing trip we like to call in a fly-by to commemorate the occasion:
I have mentioned previously this winter that I have not caught any picture-worthy crappies. Or, on one occasion I did catch some nice crappies, but it was so cold that I did not want to handle them to take photos. That day I unhooked them and got them back down the hole ASAP.
Our last afternoon on the ice we knew a spot we wanted to fish. We had to navigate past one snow drift to get there, but then we drilled a bunch of holes on the spot. There was some flooded cover we were fishing, and you would think any hole near or over that flooded cover would likely produce. If you have ice-fished for any length of time, you know that some holes are HOT and sometimes there is no explanation. They are just hot holes! I moved to one freshly-drilled hole and before I could get my bait down I could see the fish on my Vexilar coming up out of cover to meet it.
Bang, bang, bang, I caught three really nice crappies in succession. Each one a little bit larger than the last, so we got photos of all of them. Drop a bait, catch a fish, take some photos, release the fish, repeat. The biggest one was just a fraction of an inch less than 14 inches.
Thinking I had found “the spot” I helped my daughter and son-in-law move so they could get in on the action. You know what happened next. . . . not another bite. Apparently, there were only three nice crappie hanging there and I caught ’em all in less than five minutes.
Finally, just before we quit, my son scratched one of these:
We do not get to fish together all the time. You can be sure we have a great time when we do. Oh yes, we fish HARD, but we have fun. We did take a minute to shoot a group photo. My daughter said something funny that had us all laughing:
Oh yes, one more thing. Let me say it with a couple of photos. You will get the idea!
Yep, drove all that way, drilled all that ice, and kept not a single fish! And it was worth it!
Had the time of our lives and cannot wait to do it again, preferably on ice!