Barbs and Backlashes

Where I’ve Been, July 26, 2010 by whitetips
July 26, 2010, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , ,

I mentioned last week that I was out of the office and should have a fishing report when I got back.  Well, here it is.

I spent a couple days in meetings in O’Neill; had some time to fish in the evenings.  You all know it has been relatively wet all over the state this year, the hills and meadows around O’Neill were as green as can be; everything looked gorgeous.  Watched the lightning as a storm rolled in over those hills one night; there is nothing like watching a sandhill’s thurderstorm,  “There is no place like Nebraska”!

The first evening three of us from our Lincoln office met up with Jeff Schuckman from our Norfolk office.  Jeff is the fisheries supervisor for the northeast region and he was kind enough to bring a boat over and meet up with us on Goose Lake.  Goose has had extremely high water earlier this summer, but it was not flooded when we were there last week.  There was still a big mud hole in the last corner where the road turns into the lake, but that was no problem, drove right through.

Goose looked GREAT!  I will always tell you that the submerged aquatic vegetation in our sandhill lakes can make them hard to fish during the summer.  The submerged vegetation was all over Goose, but it was not impossible to fish.  The guys tossed some small jigs up into the emergent vegetation, cattails mostly, some bulrushes, and were pulling bluegills out of there.  I kept tossing a spinnerbait  or a swimbait along the outside edge of the emergent vegetation and out into the lake from there and picked up a few bass.  Every once in awhile Jeff would pick up his spinnerbait rod and make a few casts off the front of the boat and he was picking up some small pike doing that.  Here is the biggest pike Jeff caught.

Let me make a comment about that pike.  You can see it is skinny, exactly what I would expect for the middle of July.  I had 80 degrees F for a surface temperature the night we fished Goose.  Remember that northern pike are called “northern” for a reason–they are cool-water fish and 80 degrees ain’t no cool water.  I am sure the pike in Goose find water cooler than the 80 degree surface temp. and survive just fine, but the high water temperatures of mid-summer mean the metabolism of those pike is high–they are burning lots of energy.  In fact in those water temperatures they are literally burning energy as fast as they can take it in; their metabolism is so high that at this time they are not able to devote any energy to growth, to fat, or “bulking up”.  During the middle of the summer I expect our cool-water species, and especially large specimens of our cool-water species to be skinny.  Even though there is a lot of natural prey available right now and those fish are feeding frequently, they will not begin to put on much weight until this fall.  In many of our Nebraska waters the walleyes, pike, wipers and muskies you catch during the summer will be “long and lean”.  If you fish into the fall you will notice those fish looking more “healthy”, a lot thicker, fatter, as the water begins to cool.

As our evening progressed towards dark I dug out a buzzbait and started tossing it around.  By the time we quit, I could have sold 3 of my buzzbaits to my boat partners (wink)!  I was tossing the buzzbait around some of the beds of submerged vegetation, a clump of bulrushes was sure to have a fish holding near it too.  Of course there is nothing better than catching fish on a top-water bait and the last half-hour or so of fishing was GREAT!  I lost count but I suppose I caught a half-dozen bass and one small pike on the buzzbait before we quit; missed one or two fish, but got most of them.  Most of the bass were about 14-15 inches and were great examples of the fat, beautifully-colored largemouth bass I expect from our sandhill lakes.  I did manage a couple of bigger bass, one about 16 inches and the largest was 17.5 inches.

The 17.5-incher looked a lot bigger when I got it up beside the boat; it was a fat little toad.  In contrast to cool-water northern pike, largemouth bass are warm-water fish and water temperatures near 80 are more optimal for largemouth bass.  Given plenty of food, and our sandhill lakes have more than enough food, the bass still can be fat little hogs during the summer.  There are plenty of small panfish, frogs, and other prey items for the bass and pike in Goose to eat right now.  We did not keep any fish, did not examine any stomach contents, but whatever natural prey they were eating, I had no problem getting them to come up to bust a buzzbait.

The second evening I did not have much time to fish.  I know I could have gone back to Goose and had a blast catching some more bass, but I wanted to check out Grove Lake so I drove over there and fished for an hour or so.  In the time I was there I managed to catch one fish, another bass, this one on a swim-bait.

This fish was 18 inches, not as fat as the Goose Lake fish.  I have caught bigger bass, but for a few hours fishing on a couple of beautiful evenings in July I was happy!  I always wish I had more time to fish, especially on waters that I do not get to visit every day.


Jeff and I had a little conversation as we were packing stuff up to leave Goose Lake the first night.  Let me share some of those thoughts with you.  There was plenty of aquatic vegetation, both emergent and submergent, at both Goose and Grove.  I refuse to use the word “weeds” in reference to that aquatic vegetation.  Webster’s dictionary defines “weed” as an undesirable plant.  In the eyes of this pointy-headed fisheries biologist those aquatic plants are anything but “weeds”!  I mentioned that our sandhill lakes like Goose can have so much aquatic vegetation during the summer that they can be harder to fish.  Last week the aquatic vegetation on Goose was extensive; there were cattails and bulrush, several species of narrow-leafed and broad-leafed pondweeds, water milfoil, coontail, bladderwort, and musk grass.  The aquatic vegetation was all over.  Yes, it occasionally fouled our hooks and we had to clear the electric trolling motor at least once.  All of that aquatic vegetation can make the fishing more challenging, but it did not make it impossible!  There was open water along and over the aquatic vegetation and if you kept your bait in that zone you were going to catch fish!  Most species of fish thrive in aquatic vegetation!  Pull some of that aquatic vegetation up some time and take a close look at it; you will find a bunch of aquatic insects, leeches, “worms”, crustaceans and other squiggly critters in that vegetation and it is all fish food!

I often listen to anglers who complain about all the “weeds” in their favorite public or private body of water.  Usually the aquatic vegetation is not a problem for the fish or for the health of that body of water.  Yes, you can have too much aquatic vegetation for producing a quality fishery, but that is not the case most of the time when I listen to complaining about aquatic vegetation.  I try to be sympathetic, especially with the owners of private waters because they may have different management objectives for their pond.  But, most of the time what I would really like to tell anglers who complain about the “weeds” is that they need to learn how to deal with it!  It is 2010 and there are plenty of baits and lures, rods, reels, lines and hooks that you can use to fish the “weeds”.  Last week I used a bait-casting reel coupled with a 6 1/2-foot, relatively stiff rod most of the time, it was spooled with SpiderWire and I fished buzzbaits or spinnerbaits over the “weeds”, slithered some swimbaits over, through and alongside the “weeds”.  Occasionally I had to snap some “weeds” off my bait as I was retrieving it, and yes, I had to clean some “weeds” off of the hooks now and then.  I did not mind, the fish were in the aquatic vegetation, they love that habitat, and all you had to do was go in there after them!

Call me up and complain about fishing aquatic vegetation and I may recommend any one of several waters that have no vegetation for you to fish.  Enjoy your time fishing those waters; you likely will not see me there, give me the “weeds” any day!


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[…] Fishing | Tags: fisheries management I gave you a fishing report for my little trip last week,’ve-been-july-26-2010/ but I did not tell you why I was out in that part of our great […]

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