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Spring is in the air, and below the water

If you have read my blog for any time at all, you know I love to ice-fish.  As a hard-core ice angler, one of the saddest days of the year is the last day I walk off the ice for the season.  I just do not understand folks who refuse to ice fish, who sit around and wait all winter for open water.  GO FISH!  All the time!

I also find it curious that so many folks judge the seasons by the clothing they are able to wear–if they cannot wear flip-flops and shorts, it ain’t spring yet (already this morning I saw some genius wearing flip-flops).  Actually, if you want me to put on my pointy biologist hat, I would tell you that the gradual changing of the seasons in nature is measured more by the amount of daylight, photoperiod, and less by the actual temperature or how much snow and ice are still laying around.  If you consistently spend time in the field or on the water, or dare I suggest, on the ice, you should have noticed some subtle changes in recent weeks, spring is coming.

Listen, no, not to me, early in the morning, get out of town, maybe just walk out your door, listen.  If you are observant, you can hear it, spring is coming.  No, I am not hearing the nightcrawlers migrate towards the surface, it is still just a little early for that, but the birds know it is coming.  While you are listening, take a deep breath, inhale a snort through your nose.  Smell it?  It is coming.

If you spend time throughout the year on the water, you can follow the gradual changes in fish location and behavior as the seasons evolve.  I have not fished open water for going on three months now, but I can tell you without a doubt, by what the fish are doing under the ice, spring is just around the corner.  In fact, for many species of fish, their behavior under the ice is telling me that spring is here now.

Another sure-fire sign of spring is our annual early spring, put & take trout stockings.  This news release has made the rounds more than once already, but just in case, here it is again:

Spring Trout Stocking Announced

LINCOLN – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will stock catchable-size rainbow trout in several city ponds and lakes across the state this month.

The schedule, subject to change depending on conditions, includes date, location, approximate time of stocking, and quantity:

March 13 – Fremont State Recreation Area (SRA) No. 2, 4,000 trout; CenturyLink Lake, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (SP), 2,500; Weeping Water Pond, 1,500

March 14 – Humboldt City Park Lake, 350; Auburn Rotary Club Lake, 800; Fort Kearny SRA, 600; Holdrege City Park, 1,500; Auble Pond, Ord, 750; Ponca SP, 900

March 15 – Lake Halleck, Papillion, 11 a.m., 1,200; Steinhart Park, Nebraska City, 12:30 p.m., 1,200; Holmes Lake, Lincoln, 11:30 a.m., 4,000; TaHaZouka Park, Norfolk, 9:30 a.m., 1,500; Pawnee Park West, Columbus, 11 a.m., 1,500; Heartwell Park, Hastings, 10:15 a.m., 450; Windmill SRA No. 2, 11: 15 a.m., 300; Barnett Park, McCook, 10 a.m., 1,000; Curtis Golf Course, 11 a.m., 150; Oxford City Lake, 1 p.m., 150; Elm Creek, 2:30 p.m., 1,000

March 17 – Stanton Lake, Falls City, 600; Pawnee City Pond, 300; Morrill sandpits: north, 1,350, middle, 450; Scottsbluff Zoo Pond, 900; Terry’s Pit, Terrytown, 1,500

March 18 – Lake Ogallala, 2,600; Bridgeport SRA northwest pit, 1,400

March 20 – Lake Ogallala, 4,000

Week of March 17 – Ponca SP, 600; Fremont SRA No. 2, 1,000; Gracie Creek Pond, 1,000

March 24 – Lake Ogallala, 2,400

Week of March 31 – Niobrara SP, 1,000

All anglers fishing in Nebraska, except residents under age 16, must have a fishing license. A park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering state parks, recreation areas and historical parks. Purchase permits at OutdoorNebraska.org.


Several folks have asked today about the Trout Lake at Two Rivers State Recreation Area (SRA).  Yes, the Trout Lake opened last weekend, some of the lake was still iced, but there was enough open water to fish.  There were 134 trout tags sold there over the weekend (a special trout tag is required to fish for the put & take trout at Two Rivers SRA and ONLY at Two Rivers SRA).  There were 177 trout harvested from the Trout Lake over the weekend for an average catch of 2.5 trout per tag, 1.4 trout per angler-hour.  There are still over 9,300 trout still swimming in the Trout Lake.

I have blogged about the put & take trout many times.  If you want some advice on catching them, and preparing them, please go back and read one of my previous blog posts, Spring Trout Stockings.

Before I quit, I am going to mention something else, again.  We stock the catchable-size rainbows in urban and parks waters around the state for this reason:  To provide fish that are easy to catch, especially in cold water, so we can get beginner and young anglers to easily-accessible waters and get them hooked on fishing (pun intended).  There is nothing that says that an old, experienced angler cannot take advantage of the put & take trout stockings, but if you are one of those anglers, do me a favor–TAKE A KID FISHING!


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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