The past couple of weeks have been busy and I have traveled to several corners of our great state. Time to give you a report on what I have been doing, mostly show some pictures, and oh yes, tell you about some fishing. . . .
Most years I end up spending the 4th of July holiday with my family in Valentine. That has been a tradition for about as long as I can remember. This year was no exception and with the 4th falling on a Thursday we spent an extended time there this year. We spent a lot of time doing a lot of things with family, slipped in some fishing when we could. Here are some shots of my family at the big Valentine 4th of July parade.
We had a bit of a fishing theme for the family 4th of July float this year. If you look close you will see a couple of fishing rods being held by my daughter and by my cousin’s daughter, and the skirting around the float was supposed to look like red, white and blue water (use your imagination). The float riders tossed candy to all the kids, young and old. A couple of the rods had cardboard fish tied to the lines, but my daughter tied a piece of candy on the end of her line and then she would toss it out and reel it away from folks reaching for the candy. We got a bunch of good laughs out of that. Do not worry, there was lots of candy for everyone. I wonder where my daughter gets her ornery streak? Ha.
Another float down the Niobrara on the day after the 4th. . . .
Then we finally got around to doing some fishing. My son and one of my cousin’s son-in-law slipped down to the Mill Pond and did some bass fishing. I aired up my float tube and jumped in thinking I would out-fish the boys by getting to some water that they could not access from the shoreline. Wrong. Even though we were far from getting an early start that morning, the bass were still smashing scum frogs and similar top-water baits ( http://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2011/07/piggy-loves-kermit/ ). I could only scratch a couple of small fish in my float tube; the boys did better than that and caught several fish up to 18 inches or so. Between the three of us we caught and released at least 10 largemouths.
I have been thinking about the boys out-fishing me that morning (being out-fished tends to stay with me). I will tell you that matching the behavior of prey that fish are eating can be very important, in most cases more important that using baits that look exactly like the prey. I am wondering if it was more natural, and those bass were more likely to grab a scum frog bait as it was retrieved back towards the shoreline instead of along the aquatic vegetation or out into open water where I was floating in my tube?
We spent another hot afternoon puddling around on the beach at Merritt Reservoir and then grilled some hot dogs and made S’mores. That evening my son and I slipped into my cousin’s son’s boat for a little fishing. We did not have long to fish that evening, so we tried to cover some water using a variety of presentations to see what we could come up with. We came across a little point where there was a nice drop into deep water and still a few willows in the water. I cranked a Shad Rap ( http://www.rapala.com/Shad-Rap/Shad%20Rap,default,pd.html?start=66&cgid=rapala-lures ) across that point and something just hammered it. When I set the hook the water exploded. By that time the sun was low in the sky and as I looked into the sun all I could see was a relatively good-sized fish churning on the surface and jumping. I could see a white belly and forked tail and concluded that it was jumping, had a white belly and forked tail–I just put the steel to a muskie. The fish then turned and headed towards deeper water, I took my time and my boat partners and I played merry-go-round the boat a couple of times before we were ready to put the fish in the net. I pumped it up and instead of a muskie discovered I had a nice channel cat.
Yep, that 30-inch Master Angler size channel cat clobbered a crankbait (catfish on crankbaits happens more often than many anglers think), and it jumped when I hooked it! It was not the fish I originally thought it was, but I will take it. Slipped it back into the water after snapping a couple of photos.
We fished until it was starting to get dark. Jerrad, my cousin’s son, flipped on the running lights on the way back to the ramp. Then, about halfway back, he remembered that he had tricked out his boat with some “mood” lighting.
The lights blinked, chased, changed colors. At that point we were the coolest boat on the reservoir. We laughed and laughed.
Part of the experience of any time spent outdoors is the things you see and encounter. For example metallic green beetles,
big spiders with “crowns” (I believe it was molting?),
and a pretty damsel fly.
One “rule” I like to live by is “to never go home the same way you came”. My family and I take a lot of scenic side trips in our travels across the state and are always finding something new and interesting to see. The Norden Chute on the Niobrara River for example:
After the 4th of July weekend I spent a few days down at Harlan County Reservoir. I participated in some meetings with fellow pointy-headed fisheries biologists during the day; did a little fishing in the evenings. It was H-O-T! The young-of-the-year (YOY) gizzard shad were literally everywhere. Those baitfish will be THE primary prey for the predator fish in many of our reservoirs for the rest of this summer, fall and into winter. At Harlan last week those YOY shad were about 1-1.5 inches long and the white bass were schooling and chasing them to the surface. We had about an hour of some of that feeding frenzy one evening and caught and released maybe 20 or so white bass. There were a few gulls working the same schools of baitfish, so it was not hard to find the fish when they were actively feeding. It also was not hard to catch those fish and we caught them on a variety of crankbaits, spoons, spinners and jigs. The most important part of the presentation was to match the size of the YOY gizzard shad; anything that looked like a YOY gizzard shad about 1-2 inches long would get bit.
I would show you some pictures of the gulls and white bass feeding activity and some of the fish we caught, but my camera was acting up. One of my boat partners did get a picture of the thunderstorms moving towards the reservoir that put an end to our fishing that evening.
I know some of you have fished the same reservoirs that I just mentioned and have been doing very well on walleyes. I know, I know, I just did not have time to do as much fishing as I would have liked. Yes, I missed out on some good fishing, but on the other hand, my partners and I caught fish.
Finally, I made a quick trip out to North Platte to help with our Carp-O-Rama event at Lake Maloney last Saturday. Again it was H-O-T, hot. By the way, I saw pods of 1-2-inch, YOY gizzard shad swimming around there as well, and yes, the white bass were chasing them there too. While I was there, I slipped out one evening, climbed into my float tube and caught some interstate lake bass. At least I was sitting in the water and in the evening it was bearable to be outside fishing. I caught 5 largemouth bass that night, most on a swimbait. None of them were the pigs I was looking for; they were all 14-15 inches. As hot as it was, I was happy just to be staying cool and catching fish.
That is my quick report on my travels across the state the past couple of weeks. Once again I have enjoyed being able to travel and fish a variety of waters and catch a variety of fish. You know I am always promoting the diversity of fishing opportunities Nebraska offers, and that is one reason I never get tired of it, even when the weather is hot–big catfish, schooling white bass, largemouth bass in pits and ponds–it is all good and there is always something to catch, something that is “biting”.
I have told you where I have fished, there you go, no secrets. But once again I have to warn you, in my travels I discovered another one of my trained rattlesnakes guarding one of my best fishing spots!
It was not a big snake and it only had a “button” for a rattle. But, it was a beautiful little snake and it cooperated for several minutes while I fooled with my malfunctioning camera and took some pictures. The snake never did get defensive or even nervous; I eventually had to use a long stick to encourage it to go on its way after I was done taking pictures. It never rattled, coiled or acted aggressive at all; all of the rattlesnakes I have encountered in the wild have been that way, and unless you mess with them I believe your chances of being bit are slim and none. It went back to guarding my fishing spots, and I went on my way, both happy. It has been a great year so far for me–that is the second live rattlesnake I have encountered in my travels–nice to know they are out there doing their job!