Barbs and Backlashes

Frog Migration by whitetips
September 27, 2010, 10:21 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , , ,

I am sure you know that there are many species of birds that migrate through Nebraska; we also have butterflies that migrate, bats, fish, etc.  But you may never have realized that we have amphibian migrations as well, and if you like to catch fish in the fall, you need to be aware of the fall leopard frog migration.

I am not a herpetologist, so I am no expert when it comes to Nebraska’s amphibians and reptiles.  Most of what I know comes from this website, , and the recently published Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Nebraska, .  I have noticed more leopard frogs around the state this year and I believe that might be due to the increased precipitation and higher water levels we have had the past couple of years.  Nebraska actually has two species of leopard frog; the northern leopard frog,

and the plains leopard frog.

Obviously there are subtle differences between the two species, and if you are interested in distinguishing characteristics be sure to get the field guide that I recommended earlier.  From what I have read, the two species can hybridize as well which makes specific identification even more of a challenge.

The fish do not care.

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Catch and release makes a difference by whitetips
September 8, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

I followed a discussion on the Nebraska Fish & Game Association Fishing Forum that posed some interesting questions, .  A couple of those questions sent me searching into some of our data and I would like to share that with you.

First of all, let me post a disclaimer.  I know it is not fair that I have access to our Master Angler data and I cannot share that database with other anglers.  We have recently re-done our entire web page and at some time we would like to have our Master Angler database available to the public.  We are not there yet, so for now you are going to have to put up with what I can share with you.  Sorry, but please be patient.

Let me take you back in time.  Our angler recognition program or Master Angler program has always been extremely popular.  In fact Nebraska’s Master Angler program is one of the largest angler recognition programs in the country.  Years ago Nebraska anglers had to take their trophy catches to scales to have them certified for master angler awards.  If you wanted a Master Angler certificate, you kept the fish.  Angler attitudes have changed over the years and that was reflected in our Master Angler program in 1986 when in addition to the qualifying minimum weights, minimum lengths were established that could be used to qualify largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, muskie, pike, trout and walleye for master angler awards.  Anglers could then measure those 9 species of fish, release those fish and still qualify for a master angler award.

Largemouth bass have always been one of the most popular fish in Nebraska’s Master Angler Program.  Many years more largemouth bass are entered for master angler awards than any other fish (largemouths have to weigh a minimum of 5 pounds if kept to qualify for the award; measure 20 inches long to qualify if immediately released).    The percentage of master angler largemouth bass that have been released has steadily increased over the years.

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Stop the presses, another big Japanese bass by whitetips
August 27, 2010, 10:45 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

Quick post here for the weekend.  I have no exclusive scoop on this, and many of you may have already heard the word.  There was another giant largemouth bass caught in Japan; another fish that topped the 20-pound mark.  This fish will not be large enough to be a new world’s record, but a H-A-W-G of a bass nonetheless!  Here is what a 28-inch largemouth bass looks like.  Man, wouldn’t I look good holding that fish?

You can read everything I know about the catch here, .  Apparently this fish was caught from another Japanese water, not Lake Biwa where the fish that tied the world’s record was caught, .

Largemouth bass are an invasive species in Japan.  I believe their story is much the same as many of the aquatic invasive species here in North America–nobody knows for sure how they got there, but they are there and they are a threat to their native fishes.  That creates an interesting dilemma as they would just as soon be rid of largemouth bass and bluegills, but obviously those fish have created a following among Japanese anglers.  I would bet that they will have to learn to manage them and live with them because it may be impossible to get rid of all of them.  Can you imagine considering largemouth bass to be nothing more than “green carp”?  Especially when they have demonstrated the potential to reach such huge proportions?

The fact that largemouth bass are an exotic species in Japan may be a large part of the reason they grow so large there.  In Japanese waters largemouth bass may have little competition from the native predator fish and are able to expand into a new habitat where they are very successful.  At some point they may not reach the exceptionally large sizes they are now, but then again if the habitat conditions are ideal we may continue to see some monstrous bass being caught in Japan.  Unfortunately a large predator like that could have serious impacts on the ecology of Japanese waters as well.

Topwater Time by whitetips
August 18, 2010, 10:21 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Even though I have a tackle box that holds nothing but top-water baits, I have to admit that a top-water bait is usually not the first thing I tie on my line.  But I have to tell you I have been reconsidering that philosophy.  Every angler knows that catching fish on top-water baits is some of the most fun you can have on the water.  I usually figure that a top-water bait is going to be the right tool for the job only a small percentage of the time and I try not to become addicted to the adrenaline-rush of just one top-water strike when another presentation would be catching a lot more fish.  But, as I sit here and reflect, I can recall catching white bass, wipers, trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pike, and even walleyes on top-water baits.  I have heard stories of catfish being caught on top-waters, and although I have not caught a muskie on a top-water yet, it is just a matter of time.  I have caught fish on top-water baits from spring, May, well into fall, October.  A case could be made that the middle of the summer is one of the times when top-waters are the best tool for the job.

Think about it, how many times during the summer, especially early and late in the day, do you see the waters calm and notice a lot of “life” on the surface?  It happens all the time.  Look and you will see all kinds of aquatic insects on the surface during the summer and most times there are a variety of baitfish or panfish near the surface as well.  Frogs are another example of an important prey item that can often be found on the surface.  Predator fish are always looking for an advantage, anything that will make it easier for them to capture prey, and anytime there are prey items near the surface those predators know that prey cannot escape by going up!  They will run out of water!  So anytime you see baitfish or panfish activity near the surface could be an excellent time to tie on a top-water.  Even if you do not see that surface activity there are situations, for example aquatic vegetation growing just under or even all the way to the surface, when a top-water bait could be the BEST presentation and not just the “funnest”.

Here are some of my favorite top-water baits . . . .

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Hopper Time by whitetips
August 1, 2010, 10:24 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , , ,

Nebraska is in the middle of the Great Plains.  The first European settlers in our state discovered that the Great Plains are full of grasshoppers.  We have grasshoppers every summer, some summers are worse than others, but I do not ever recall a summer when we did not have any grasshoppers.

If you are a trout angler, you know how important grasshoppers can be as a late summer and fall prey item for stream trout.  I will always tell you that one of the most important things for any angler to understand is what the fish are eating.  I believe that finding enough food to eat and grow is the primary “concern” that determines the day-to-day behavior of fish most of the time (spawn period and spawning behavior is the exception).  As anglers it is doubly important to understand the predator/prey relationships because to be successful we not only have to find the fish, we also have to get them to bite.  Fly anglers are very conscious of “matching the hatch” and on many streams the “hatch” in late summer and fall is grasshoppers.

A Montana brown trout caught on a hopper pattern last summer.

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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.

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Where I’ve Been, June 14, 2010 by whitetips
June 14, 2010, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , ,

Today has been one of those Mondays.  A lot has been going on, I am trying to keep up with everything and now it is late in the afternoon and I intended to get this blog post up hours ago.  There will be lots to blog about later this week, but let me give you a quick update on my weekend.

I was up to Ponca State Park, again this past weekend to help with a Becoming an Outdoors-Family event, .  The BO-F workshops are something relatively new, I believe this is only the second year we have offered them.  They are similar to our Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops that I have helped with for years, but the BO-F workshops are designed for families, adults and children.  I had a good time, I hope the participants did.  Yes, it has been wet in northeast Nebraska too and some of the “camping” out was done indoors to avoid the nightly floods, but all of the activities went on as scheduled.

I do not know that I did a very good job of instructing.  The kids that were there did not want to listen to me ramble on about fishing or show them how to tie knots or select lures and baits or learn how to cast or talk about presentation theory or the spawning habits of Lepomis macrochirus or anything else that I could have rambled on about for hours.  They wanted to go fishing!!!!!  So, I tried to get all the kids rigged up and down to the pond to fish and then if I could teach some knot-tying or casting or something else while we were fishing, then that would be great.  I hope they had a good time, everybody caught fish, I believe the FIRST FISH for some of them!

One group fishing along the dock on the Ponca pond.


If you have read my blog for any length of time, you have probably heard me refer to fishing with my parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, son, daughter, etc., etc., etc.  Spending time in the outdoors camping, fishing, hunting and trapping has always been something we have done together as a family, immediate and extended family, on both sides of my family.  Our outdoor pursuits are participation sports and the beauty is anyone can participate and you can participate on many levels.  That makes camping and fishing, for example, the perfect family activities–everyone can do it and they can do it together!

I know in our busy world folks are always wanting to spend more “quality time” together.

What is “quality time”?

You know what?  You cannot dictate when that “quality time” occurs by scheduling it on your day planner.  The fact is you just have to take time, sometimes lots of time, to be together.  When you do that, somewhere, at sometime, sometimes when you least expect it, the “quality time” will occur.  I know this much, it is important; it is important to the ones you love and to those who love you.  I will even go so far as to say it is beneficial to our society because we need strong families; families that spend time together.

And if they are spending time together, they might as well be fishing!  (end of sermon for this blog post, Ha)

I slipped out and did some fishing on my own when I had some free time.  I had a spot or two on the Missouri River that I wanted to check, but the water was up a little bit and a little dirty, so that did not pan out.

All I got fishing on the river was this picture.

I have mentioned some general tactics for fishing high and dirty waters before, , but let me tell you what I did once I found the conditions on the river to be less than favorable.  A person can catch fish in high and muddy water, but if he or she can find some clear water under those conditions their chances for success likely will be much better.  If you can find locations where the water has not become dirty, the fish will likely be a lot more catchable.  This past weekend I knew that Powder Creek Reservoir was nearby and I suspected that even if it had received a lot of rain the water would be relatively clean.  Powder Creek has a good watershed and a lot of features built into the reservoir to maintain water quality and provide fish habitat.  So, I slipped over to Powder Creek when I had a little more time to fish and found the water quality to be very good.  I only had an hour or so to fish it, but managed a couple of nice largemouths, both about 16 inches.  It pays to be versatile and it pays to have different options in mind; I only wish I had more time to spend on Powder Creek.

By the way, the bass are finishing up their spawning activities in most parts of the state by now and there is some good fishing to be had.  My son and a buddy made a trip out to central Nebraska over the weekend and did very well on some largemouth bass on several different bodies of water.