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Top 10 beginner-friendly lakes across Nebraska

A large boardwalk allows a roomy area for anglers to enjoy fishing the pond at Ponca State Park. (Nebraskaland Magazine/NGPC)

By Larry Pape
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

LINCOLN, Neb. – From Auburn to Alliance, Nebraska’s beginner-friendly lakes stretch form border to border.

These lakes have been designated by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as family friendly because they are safe, comfortable and have great fish-catching potential. They include a combination of barrier-free fishing access, fishing trails, groomed parks, concessions, playgrounds, picnic areas, and maintained fish populations.

The following are 10 of the best examples of lakes for beginners and families to enjoy for a day of fishing. Most will have bass, bluegill and catfish, with rainbow trout seasonally stocked. Go for the fishing, stay for the other local activities.

Optimist Lake in Auburn has a walking trail around the lake and a nearby playground, campground and ballpark. Trout are stocked in October and March. Fall City, Nebraska City and Humboldt are other area towns with similar ponds.

Holmes Lake in Lincoln is a fishing family’s dream, with lots of fish, hiking trails, playgrounds and local services. It includes crappie and bluegill that are large enough to consider keeping for a dinner of fish filets. It also includes trophy bass and channel catfish. Areas of the dam and central part of the lake shoreline is sand; great for the kids to play in while waiting for the seasonally stocked trout to bite.

Ponca State Park has a 1-acre pond with a boardwalk to fish from and mowed grass shorelines. Fishing rods and reels can be checked out at the visitor center to catch trout and panfish. Consider spending a weekend in the cabins or campgrounds and visiting the Lewis and Clark Museum displays while you are there.

Two Rivers State Recreation Area Lake No. 5 requires a fee to fish for rainbow trout. The lake has high numbers of fish for a great catching opportunity. Enjoy fishing from mowed shorelines and a handicapped accessible dock. Two Rivers has unique railroad cabooses turned into cabins that can be rented for your park stay.

• Yanney Park in Kearney includes a beautiful Yanney Lake, which is ringed by a hiking and biking trail that winds its way to Fort Kearny State Recreation Area Lake No. 6. Both of these lakes offer October and March trout stocking and great bass and panfish catching opportunity.

Victoria Springs State Recreation Area is the third oldest area in Nebraska’s state park system and will be part of Game and Parks’ centennial celebration this summer. The Victoria Springs pond is a scenic setting for a day of fishing and relaxation. Nearby Broken Bow includes all of the services needed and is home to Melham Park Pond, another great beginner-friendly lake.

Birdwood Wildlife Management Area Lake near North Platte is one of dozens of small lakes along Interstate 80 that was created by the digging of soil used in the interstate’s construction. Recent improvements make this lake more angler friendly, featuring fishing docks over clear water that has great panfish and seasonal trout fishing.

Lake Ogallala and Lake McConaughy offer opportunity for a day-trip or weekend getaway that includes fishing. Trout can be caught from the shorelines or fishing docks of Lake Ogallala, or spend time on McConaughy’s sandy shores and fish for just about anything. Bring your sand toys and build a castle while you wait for a bite.

Chadron State Park has a rare pond for Nebraska in that it is cold enough for trout year-round. Rainbow and cutthroat trout are the featured species. This beautiful location has a fishing dock and shaded shorelines. Plan ahead and reserve a cabin for a relaxing vacation.

• A golf course seems like an unlikely place to fish, but the Alliance Golf Course Pond allows fishing from sunrise until 9 a.m., Monday through Friday. Beautifully groomed shorelines, easy access and trout is the featured attraction.

To view a map of more lakes Game and Parks has designated as family friendly, visit outdoornebraska.gov/familyfriendlylakes.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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