Barbs and Backlashes

Home Water by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
March 2, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Fishing

Let me share one more thought with you from my ramblings around the state in the past couple of weeks.

As I have said before Nebraska is home to me; I have not fished all the waters in the state yet, but am working on it.  I love them all and will always tell you that I have so much water to fish, so many fish to catch and so little time.  Naturally there are some waters that I get to spend more time on than others and there are a bunch of waters that have special meaning to me.

Let me tell you about one of those that I got to fish a couple of weeks ago.

I have fished Pelican Lake for a darned long time; years and years.  I have never lived close to Pelican, but have tried to get there and fish every chance I get.  I have had family in Valentine over the years and that has made it easier for me to get there once in awhile.  In fact those are some of my earliest memories of fishing Pelican–ice-fishing with my cousin, uncle, gramps and dad.  I can remember back in those days we usually targeted pike, and I can remember jigging a red & white DareDevle tipped with a chunk of beef-steak (no kidding, I am not making that up) in an ice hole.  I can remember looking down that ice hole and seeing a pike nose right up to my spoon.  I can also remember that pike did not bite and I did not catch any others that day; I was very, VERY disappointed and could not wait to get back on Pelican ice to catch one of those pike.

I can remember on another trip having pike poles set out.  Now let me explain what “pike poles” were; they were nothing more than a dowel with a spike in the end that you could stick in the ice next to an ice-hole.  There were pegs on the dowel to wrap line around.  When we used pike poles, and sometimes still use them, we would bait the hook, put a bobber on to float the bait off the bottom and then lay a bunch of slack line out on the ice where we would attach another bobber.  A pike that took the bait would take off pulling that excess line off the ice and the bobber laying up on top of the ice would go skipping across the ice and into the hole.  That meant you had a bite!  I can remember my older cousin beating me to those lines when we had a bite and how I stood there with my jaw on the ice watching him battle those humongous pike.  I remember a string of pike at the end of the day that both of us strained to hold up for pictures.

Of course I eventually caught plenty of pike myself and have pulled a darned lot of them through Pelican Lake ice holes.  I can remember another trip where my cousin and I were busy running after bobbers skipping across the ice while gramps sat on a lawn chair, probably fishing with his regular 6-foot long open-water fishing poles.  At the end of the day gramps had a couple of the biggest bluegills I had ever seen and a perch that was so big it ate another, smaller perch!  And then there was a big ole bass to top it off.  Over the years we spent less and less time chasing the pike poles and tip-ups and more and more time jigging for panfish.  And oh what panfish we have caught over the years.  I have marveled at every one of them; yellow perch with obese bellies, and bluegills as big around as the ice holes they come through.  They look like speed bumps laying on the ice.  I probably have a hundred pictures of them and cannot resist taking more.

I have fished Pelican from one end to the other; there was a day on the east end when Uncle Ivan finally found the panfish and then my dad and I and he sat there and caught 1-pound bluegills one after another along with some nice-sized bass and some perch that were as big as the bass.  And then there was that time on the west end on late ice when there was more open-water on the lake than there was ice, but we fished anyway.  In fact I even got my wife to fish with us.  On the way out to the lake I told her that the bite may not be hot and heavy, but to make sure to watch those bobbers because a big bluegill might only make the bobber tip on its side.  Naturally, I ready a line for her, she drops it in the first hole, and then says to me “my bobber isn’t setting right in the water”.  “SET THE HOOK!”  She did and pulled out the first 10-inch+ bluegill.  We caught a bunch more that day.

And then there were trips to Pelican with my son and nephews when they were not as old as they are today.  There was that time when there was 18-inches of ice and all I had was a hand auger.  I drilled holes and drilled holes for myself and the boys; had to keep moving to find the fish.  Finally in mid-afternoon I drilled the boys another set of holes and they started pulling big bluegills through the ice.  I drilled a couple more for myself and then we sat there in heaven until it was sunset and time to leave.  There were a bunch of tired boys that drove home that night, a couple of them young and one of them not so young.  We had fished hard, so hard that we did not even eat our sandwiches that day.  When we got home my wife was upset that we had not eaten our lunches and she wanted us to eat them then and there.  The boys and I looked at each other and got to giggling so hard we couldn’t eat; which made my wife even angrier, but we didn’t care.  We had caught and released a bunch of big Pelican bluegills that day and life was good.  Man, was I sore for the next two days from drilling through all of that ice.  We now feed our sandwiches to the coyotes if we do not get around to eating them.

I am getting sentimental and rambling, but you get the idea.  All of those memories and more come flooding over me every time I walk onto Pelican ice.  There is just something about that place that washes over me.  I still get excited at the thought of fishing there, especially ice-fishing, I get jittery trying to get there as fast as I can.  I know that somewhere in those 800 acres of water, weedbeds, and bulrushes swim some of the prettiest fish on earth.  I know that somewhere underneath that ice is the biggest bluegill I have ever seen and one of these days I am going to catch it!  There is something about those hills, those unique, glorious sandhills, ridge after ridge for as far as you can see.  It is the smell, the quiet, the solitude, the wind on my face.  When I finally get there it just oozes into me; I breath it, feel it, taste it, hear it, smell it.  And when I finally get the holes drilled and the first lines baited and dropped in the water, I sit down on my bucket and suddenly I am just entirely relaxed, ah; a big exhale, and a glance at the bobbers.  Everything is right in the world because I am finally . . . HOME AGAIN.

Now, where are those big bluegills?

Sitting at home, on my favorite chair!


7 Comments so far
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Fine piece, Daryl, fine piece. I feel the same way when I am on Nebraska’s Snake River in summer. Good fishin’ buddy!

“Wags” — Greg Wagner

Comment by Daryl Bauer

Nice story Daryl, made me feel like I was there with you.

Comment by Jerry Lauby

A great sign, Mr. B.- you’re still a “kid” at heart!

Great read!

Harold F.

Comment by Harold F.

Great story, well written. Your love for the sandhills permeates every word. I agree, there’s something magical about the place.

Comment by uglymike

Great read Daryl!! Colorful, emotional and to the heart!! Remember too the more years we add the more our memoeries become precious to us. Important to write/compile them for your family and grandchildren…your legend will always live on then too and they will come to fully understand the true man inside!! Again, colorful read!!!

Comment by Hookem

I remember that day with the 18 inches of ice and the one hand auger we used. That was my first trip ice fishing!! I will never forget pulling that first big bluegill through the ice, and as you said never eating our sandwiches. That was a GREAT DAY!!! Laughing as I remember that day!! Daryl I appreciate all you have shown me and taught me about fishing that I never would have experienced or learned on my own. Thank you!! Have to go and catch somemore big bluegills again!

Comment by AGAMBLE

Quit it Andrew. You are making me choke up.

“Uncle” Daryl

Comment by Daryl Bauer

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