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River Monsters, Turtle Man and The Storm

You know from the title of this blog that it’s gonna be CRAAA-ZY  BA-BY! But then, you know me, and you know it will be crazy! Yesterday was a wild day for me an a buddy to catch-and-release fish the Elkhorn River northwest of Gretna (my hometown) in Sarpy County, NE. It started out to be a decent day for wettin’ lines – warm, humid, barometric pressure droppin’,  partly to mostly  cloudy. A pretty morning early morning period.

And yes, the fish were cooperative. We experienced lots of bites. We lost some fish, but landed several like this carp.

My buddy Andre caught a treasured fish in the mighty Elkhorn — a flathead catfish. Nice job, Andre!

I kept seeing what appeared to be gar hitting the surface of the water feeding on various insects and small aquatic creatures off of the deeper edges of shallow sandbars. So, I, quickly rigged to try to catch them. I  hooked a nightcrawler weedless on a medium-sized barbless hook placed under a bobber with one larger tin split-shot weight clamped in between them. Here’s one of several shortnose gar we caught.

Gar are native fish with prehistoric roots and let me tell you are among the hardest-fighting fish that you’ll ever hook! I have great respect for them, especially when it comes to handling them with their needle-like teeth! Yes, they will bite. Gar are a much-maligned fish and do serve a biological purpose to control populations of prey fish and small aquatic creatures in a river environment. In the southern U.S., gar are highly sought after to eat because of their firm, tasty flesh (a.k.a. gar balls). Some Nebraskans say that our shortnose and longnose gar are the closest things we have to so-called  ‘river monsters’ swimming in our waters. But, I’m not buyin’ that! Enough about gar already. Here’s another river dweller I caught while fishing the Elkhorn. Do you know what kind of turtle this is?

Answer: Smooth softshell. Isn’t it cool? The Turtle Man on the Animal Planet TV Channel has nothing on me. Bet he hasn’t caught one of these turtles that always seem to have an ‘attitude’, nor has he held one before, HA! “LIVE ACTION!” The real fun of fishing in the eastern Nebraska rivers such as the Elkhorn is not knowing what you might catch next! See the current Nebraska Fishing Guide for river access locations: http://www.outdoornebraska.ne.gov/Fishing/guides/fishguide/pdf/FishGuide.pdf

Now, at this point in our fishing outing, the skies began to turn ominous.

Here comes the thunderstorm. It’s almost right overhead. Time to grab the gear and head for cover.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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