In many parts of Nebraska the “D” word has been used frequently in the past year or two–“drought”.  Even now some parts of the state have had less than the amount of precipitation we usually see.  However, other parts of the state have been blessed with significant precipitation for several months now.

What is unusual about all of this is that the “rain shadow” I learned about in some meteorology class has actually been reversed this year!  You have heard me say that Nebraska is a diverse state and our geography and climate make it diverse.  The amount of annual precipitation varies greatly from one corner of Nebraska to the other.  Western Nebraska is usually the driest and usually receives half or even less of the precipitation seen in southeast Nebraska.  This year it has been just the opposite, western Nebraska has had more precipitation than eastern Nebraska and continues to receive even more!

Fortunately, at least in the past couple of weeks, eastern Nebraska has been receiving some much needed rain.  That also is unusual because it is July!  Usually July is nothing but hot and dry.  Hopefully it keeps coming.

If you do some traveling like I have done recently, you can really notice as you travel west there has been more precipitation.  One evening admiring the view and wildflowers some thoughts struck me. . . .

Nebraska is a great plains state.  We are known to be an arid region.  At one time some even referred to our region as “the great American desert”.  That is mostly BALONEY because when we have had precipitation, our state truly is a garden of Eden.

Photo taken by Justin Powell, one of our wildlife biologists. Justin took the photo recently in the Nebraska panhandle and graciously agreed to let me post it here. THANKS, Justin!

I have heard that Ireland is called the “emerald isle”.  I guess it is green (Duh, thus the name).  Never have been there, do not know if I ever will.  Have wondered how it can be any greener or any more beautiful than the Nebraska sandhills after we have had a period of good precipitation?

How does this relate to fish and wildlife?  Well the great plains are a place of extremes.  We are always either in a wet cycle or dry cycle.  A wise sandhill rancher I know once said that we are never more than twenty days away from the next drought.

The weather is always changing.  What is “normal” is nothing more than an average of the extremes.  I remember something that Roger Welsch wrote once about our Nebraska weather:  We have not been keeping records here on the Great Plains long enough to truly even know what the extremes can be.

Our fish and wildlife have to survive those extremes.

And, you know what?  They do.

Yep, there are always “ups” and “downs”.  I often say that fish populations are dynamic–always changing.  That is especially true in a place like Nebraska where weather trumps everything.  Even more true in a man-made reservoir in the middle of a place like Nebraska.

So, if you hunt or fish in a place like this, you better know there are going to be good years and, well, not so good years.  No matter what we think we can do to “manage” or enhance fish and wildlife populations, and we can do a lot, there are many things beyond our control.  Cinch up and enjoy the ride.

And know that there is no place like it, especially when it has been wet!

I know I have shared our state song before, but not recently.  It has been playing in my head along with these thoughts.

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

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