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Fits and Starts

If you have lived in the great state of Nebraska for any length of time, you know that spring is a frustrating time.  It comes in “fits and starts”.  I laugh at the wild swings in weather, and the wild swings in the mental health of those hoping for warm, sunny days.  Ha.  We are going to live with this schizophrenia for several weeks yet, might as well make the most of it!

For example, in this past week I was in the north-central part of the state and there occurred one of the worst days of the year for me:

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The day the ice goes out.  NOOOOooooooo!!!!!!

Oh, never fear, I was on that ice less than 48 hours before, rode it until the end again this winter.  Besides, I knew I could still find some fishable ice nearby. . . .

Ice-up occurs later but lasts longer on larger, deeper bodies of water, so when the ice starts to go, I like options.  I swung by to check an option and found someone I knew still sitting on the ice.  My drill was giving me some problems, so I begged a couple of holes and spent some time fishing with him.  You wonder why I ride the ice until the end, until the buzzer goes off, because the fishing is that good!  Because the channel cats are getting ready for ice out!

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I landed and released that 31-inch channel cat, one with a little beauty mark, and started re-tying (always re-tie knots after big fish!).  Before I could finish, my partner hooked a fish.

You know, an extra pair of hands sure helps get a big catfish head into the hole!

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After a couple of pics, Tyler slipped his 30-incher back in the hole.  Leela supervised to make sure it was all done correctly!

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Thanks Tyler and Leela for drilling a couple of holes for me (Tyler drilled the holes), and letting me fish with you!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Check out Tyler’s website:  Tooth and Whiskers.

It was 70 degrees when I left Tyler and Leela on the ice.  It literally was shirt sleeve weather.  By the way, there was more than 15 inches of ice, and still may be ice there now, but you better watch the edges and look for some spots to start opening.

I had places to go, but on such a nice day, you better believe I was in no hurry.  I took the “scenic route” and admired dozens, hundreds, of spring-plumage ducks, geese, and swans.  The muskrats were busy and stopping by some open water I spotted a familiar shape.

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Look close, put on those polarized sun glasses. . . .

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Oh yeah!  But were they catchable?

Well, it took some experimenting, and with the cold water I assumed that a slow presentation would be best.  That did not do the trick.  Then on one cast, I noticed one little reaction from one fish. . . “hmm, maybe a little more aggressive?”

Once again, Oh yeah!

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A beautiful early spring afternoon, a big channel through the ice, and within a couple of hours a pike from open water!  Man I hated to quit!

But wait, that was not all!

I have often blogged that I love catching a variety of species of fish, and by fishing for a variety it is possible to stay on hot bites for longer periods of time.  In early spring, everyone has the urge to fish, but the water is still cold and the fishing can be frustrating. . . . Unless, you find some place with cold-water species which are very active in early spring–one of my favorite times to explore one of our cold-water streams!

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Ah, trout water!

I raised several trout in a few hours fishing, but had a hard time hooking them.  Missed one right here:


Late in the afternoon, found one more big pool, one of those spots where you know there are fish, maybe a big fish.  “Don’t blow it. . . .”

Finally, I kept one buttoned; a start on my “Trout Slam“.


Don’t tell me about that fish being hooked outside the mouth, and therefore not a legal catch.  That is how it ended up after rolling in the net and torquing the front treble out of the corner of its mouth.  A quick photo or two, it rolled some more, and then no hooks were in the fish–right back in the creek it went!

Do not know how many “fits and starts” lay ahead yet this spring.  Do not really care.  Adapt and adjust, dry some off along the way!

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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