Barbs and Backlashes

Fall Trout Stockings by whitetips
October 6, 2010, 10:37 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , ,

Water temperatures around the state are cooling down and that means the catchable-size (approximately 10 inches) rainbow trout can be stocked in a number of waters that can only support trout during the fall, winter and early spring.

Here are some news releases on the scheduled stockings.

LINCOLN, Neb. – Rainbow trout have been stocked in some southwest Nebraska waters to provide excellent fall fishing opportunities, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The stocked trout are approximately 10 inches in length.

On Sept. 29, Birdwood Wildlife Management Area at North Platte received 2,304 trout and Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area near Parks received 2,280.

On Sept. 30, Humphrey Pond in Ogallala (1,800 trout), Barnett Park in McCook (1,000), Curtis Golf Course Pond (450), Arnold City Park Pond (850), and Bessey Pond (200) near Halsey were stocked.

(I know personally that those fish were stocked at the Bessey Fish Pond last Thursday; I ran into Hal Walker from our Rock Creek State Fish Hatchery just after he had stocked those fish).

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has released a tentative schedule for October rainbow trout stocking in the eastern half of the state.

The following schedule includes the number of trout to be stocked:

Sept. 29 – Crystal Cove Lake, South Sioux City, 4,250.

Week of Oct. 4 – Niobrara State Park (SP), 1,000; Qwest Lake, Eugene T. Mahoney SP, 2,500; Fremont Lake No. 2, 5,000; TaHaZouka Park, Norfolk, 1,500.

Oct. 9 – Holmes Lake, Lincoln, 4,000; Bowling Lake, Lincoln, 400.

Week of Oct. 12 – Standing Bear Lake, Omaha, 4,000; Auble Pond, Ord, 1,500; Weeping Water Pond, 1,500; Lake Halleck, Papillion, 1,200; David City Park West Pond, 600; Pawnee Park West Pond, Columbus, 1,500.

Week of Oct. 18 – Towl Park Pond, Omaha, 300; Hitchcock Park Pond, Omaha, 450; Steinhart Park Pond, Nebraska City, 1,200; Auburn Rotary Club Lake, 1,400; Heartwell Park Lake, Hastings, 900; Such’s Lake, Grand Island, 1,300; Standing Bear Lake, Omaha, 3,500.

Week of Oct. 25 – Benson Park Pond, Omaha, 1,050; Grove Lake, Royal, 1,500.

Elm Creek just east of Red Cloud was also stocked yesterday, October 5, as well as Qwest Lake at Mahoney State Park.

There are some fishing tips for these hatchery-reared, put & take rainbow trout in this previous blog post, .

We do NOT stock these catchable trout so folks can fill their freezers.  Yes, we expect and want these fish to be harvested, but the real reason we stock these fish in heavily-used urban and parks waters is so beginners have a chance to catch some fish.  These trout are usually relatively easy to catch even as the waters cool and other species begin to slow down.  So, there is the list, grab a kid and take ’em fishing!


Ice ’em by whitetips
July 19, 2010, 10:50 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

I am a huge proponent of catch & release or more specifically “selective harvst”.  If you are not familiar with the selective harvest philosophy it recognizes that catch & release is important for developing and maintaining quality fishing, but also recognizes that fish are a renewable resource and we should maintain the tradition of enjoying some of our catch on the table.  Some species and sizes of fish are naturally more abundant in any fishery and those fish are the best candidates for harvest.  Less abundant predator fish and large individuals of any species, including panfish, are less abundant and are therefore the best candidates for catch & release.  Whenever the decision is made to harvest we should limit our harvest and handle the fish in the right way to ensure the best possible quality on the table.  Handling fish that we choose to harvest in the best possible fashion is another way for us to show proper respect for the resource.

This time of year it becomes a challenge to deliver fish to the table in the best possible quality.  Heat and high water temperatures make it harder to keep fish alive and will result in quick spoilage of any fish that die.  If your fish look discolored, are stiff,  have cloudy eyes or pink gills by the time you get them to the cleaning table, they have already started to spoil.  If you can keep ’em fresh until they are cooked, they will taste SO MUCH BETTER.

Most modern fishing boats have at least one livewell and livewells are a great way to keep fish alive until you are ready to clean them.  But again during the summer, it can be very difficult to keep fish alive even in a livewell.  Probably the best way to handle fish that you plan to eat is to put them on ice!  As soon as the decision is made to harvest a fish, “field-dressing” to remove the “guts” as well as bleeding the fish are great ideas, and then put the fish in a cooler full of crushed ice or ice cubes.  Ever wonder why fish seem to taste so much better when they are caught while ice-fishing?  It is because they are put on ice when they are caught!

Stringers are probably one of the worst ways to keep fish that you choose to harvest.  Yes, in some cases fish can be kept alive for a period of time on a stringer, but during the summer it will be nearly impossible to keep fish alive on stringers for any length of time.  Baskets or bags may work a little better for keeping fish alive, but probably the best thing to do is put them on ice.

If you choose to harvest some fish during the summer months, keep in mind that you may want to cut your fishing short so you can properly care for you catch.  If you are gutting and placing fish on ice, you can continue fishing, but even then you want to quit and head for the cleaning table before the ice melts.  If you are not icing your catch, you absolutely must head to the cleaning table before the fish perish.  That may mean a break in fishing every hour or two to clean fish.

There was a time when I was younger that I harvested more fish than I do now.  Eventually I would have a freezer that contained several bags of fish fillets.  That was fine and good, but what changed my mind about that practice was going to the freezer months later to find bags of fillets that had been in there so long they had freezer-burnt.  That was a waste of good fish, a waste of that valuable resource.  At some point I decided that was enough squirreling fish away in the freezer–if I wanted a meal of fish we would harvest the fish we needed for a meal and if possible eat them before they spent any time in the freezer.  I admit, I still usually freeze fillets because we are not able to prepare them while they are fresh, and I still get upset when I find a bag of fish in the freezer.  If you do choose to freeze some fish for a short time, remove as much air from the freezer bag as possible.  I usually fill the bags with water so all the fillets are frozen in water.  I need to do a better job of this next suggestion myself–label the bags with date and species of fish so you know how long they have been in the freezer and what fish you have in there.  I often prepare different species of fish in different ways and any fish should be consumed before they have spent more than a few months in the freezer.

It is possible to keep fish fresh for a couple of days in the refrigerator without freezing.  To do that take the fish after you are done cleaning and place them in a bowl of crushed ice.  Cover the bowl with some cling wrap and then store in the ‘frige.  It works best to occasionally drain the melt water and add more crushed ice.  If the fish were fresh when placed in the ‘frige in this manner, they can be kept for a couple, maybe three days.

Care and respect for the fish and the fishery extends beyond catch & release.  When you decide to harvest some fish, that same care and respect should be reflected in how those fish are handled, processed and prepared!  And besides all of that, they will taste better too!

Some observations, June 28, 2010 by whitetips
June 28, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , ,

I do not have a lot to report, but a few thoughts floating around in my head–time for a quick blog post.

I know this will entirely ruin what little reputation I had, but I did not spend much time on the water last week.  Between the high and dirty water, hot and humid weather and other activities, I did not take the time.  I promise, I will spend at least a little time on the water someplace this week.  I do know that we are moving into the middle of summer and fishing success usually takes a dip during July and August.  I had some thoughts about that last summer, and you might want to go back and take a look, .


We had another successful Carp-O-Rama event at Pawnee Reservoir west of Lincoln last Saturday.  First of all, I want to say a big THANK YOU to all the folks who volunteer to help at this event every year and to all of those who donated prizes, products, food, drink, etc.  Basically we just have fun with this event and I hope the folks who came out had fun too!  You can see some reports on the fishing along with some photos here, .

Besides being an avid fisherman myself, I have observed a lot of anglers over the years.  I can tell you that on any given day within a bunch of anglers fishing the same body of water there will be some who catch fish and others who will not.  Usually the difference between those who are successful and those who are not comes down to some seemingly inconsequential little detail.  It could be some little presentation detail, bait, rigging, equipment or just the right location, being right on the “X” where the fish are feeding.

I know some of you will think I am crazy, and I know that the brain of a common carp is still only the size of the end of your little finger, but carp have demonstrated that they are one of the “smartest” fish that swim in our waters.  It got busy at Pawnee on Saturday; there was a lot of traffic and a lot of folks fishing.  You can be sure that it did not take the carp long to notice all the activity and that made them harder to catch.  I will always tell you that the K.I.S.S. principle is the best place to start–Keep It Simple, Stupid–but sometimes you have to go beyond the simple corn-on-a-hook-sinker-on-the-bottom to something more technical, more advanced.  Carp feed by sucking baits in and blowing them out; they suck and blow to sort the food from bottom debris.  While they are sucking and blowing they can detect that an angler’s presentation is not something they want to eat.  The guy sitting on the bank sees something “playing” with his line, but it never picks it up enough for a hook up.  When that happens, it may be time to “kick it up a notch”.

Did you know that carp have teeth?  In fact they have teeth located at the back of their throats that look something like the molars in the back of your jaw! When feeding, carp suck food items clear into the back of their throats where they use their pharyngeal teeth to crush food items.  When they do that they can taste and feel the texture of potential food items and they will reject something that does not seem natural to them.  Hardcore European carp anglers have developed what they call a “hair rig” that is the perfect presentation considering the biology and behavior of the carp.

Basic hair rig baited with corn.

Do a search on the internet for “hair rig” and you will get more ideas than you know what to do with, but this one rig is like fishing a rubber worm or spinnerbait for bass anglers–absolutely fundamental!  If you want to catch lots of carp you should be using it, or something similar to it.  One final tip–tie your hair rigs with braided lines, something soft and supple.  Remember as a carp sucks and blows your bait it can feel textures.  If it feels a hard leader made of monofilament or fluorocarbon it will be more likely to reject the presentation.  A soft, supple line used for the leader, for the hair rig, feels natural and will not be expelled.

While you are doing your search, look up “bolt rig” too.  Used in conjunction with a hair rig, a bolt rig will increase your hook ups and you will catch more carp.  Basically a bolt rig uses a relatively heavy sinker that is fixed to the line or only allowed to slip along the main-line for a short distance.  When a carp sucks up the bait and then turns to move away it feels the heavy wet and spooks.  With a hair rig that carp has the bait in the back of its throat and the hook positioned right near the “lips”, and as it “bolts” away from the heavy sinker it automatically hooks itself.  I know, one would think a slip-sinker rig would work better, but it does not.

Anyway, there is a ton of carp fishing material on the internet.  Do some searches and read through some of it and you will see what I mean by important little details that can make a huge difference.  And I promise I will have more thoughts on little details that make a big difference for a variety of other species; today I have carp on the mind following Carp-O-Rama, and carp fishing made for a great example.

Speaking of carp . . .

I know some of you are reading this and thinking “brother, too much fuss for nothing more than a stinkin’ carp” (or maybe those with that attitude have quit reading before now?).  I will tell you that if I could wave a magic wand and all of the exotic carp species, including common carp, would be gone from North America, I would do it in a heart-beat.  Done.  Gone.  Our fisheries would be better off without them.  And I will tell you that as fisheries managers we will continue to manage common carp in many instances by attempting to kill every last one of them.  But, the fact of the matter is we have common carp; have had them for well over a hundred years now, and probably will always have them.  No, they are not as good on the table as yellow perch, walleyes, catfish, crappies or bluegills, but they can be eaten and if prepared right can be darned good.  No, it is not my goal to convert everyone into carp anglers.  I will confess that you will not catch me fishing for carp very often.  But, you WILL catch me as a proponent of fishing for a variety of species of fish; they are all fun to catch and all unique and valuable in their own right, yes, even stinkin’ carp.

Practice makes perfect

I am convinced that a lot of big fish are lost because folks have no idea what to do when they finally hook that “big one”.  Big fish are hard to catch; they are rare and most anglers never encounter enough big fish to practice catching them.  I have the perfect solution for that–go carp fishing!  The average size of common carp you can catch from most waters will be as large or larger than the big fish of most other more desirable sport fish species.  If you get into some truly big carp, you can catch fish as big as anything that swims in our fresh waters.  A day of carp fishing is an excellent way of testing out your tackle on big fish and practicing your fish catching skills.  Think about it, what better ideas are there?  Tying your fishing line to the family dog?

Will you be ready for "the big one"?

Clear Water by whitetips
June 3, 2010, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

About a month ago I made a post about fishing in waters where the water was high and dirty, .  This past week I spent most of my time fishing interstate lakes, fished 6 different interstate lakes and caught 9 different species of fish (you can see some of that report here,  I know some of you who live in eastern Nebraska might have a hard time believing this, but there are waters in Nebraska that have very good water clarity, all the time.  Most of the Interstate 80 lakes in Nebraska have excellent water quality.  On the last interstate lake we fished last weekend, I was watching a pair of largemouth bass on a spawn bed in at least 8 feet of water!  Clear water presents its own fishing challenges.  I grew up fishing interstate lakes, and over the years I may have an observation or strategy or two that can help you catch fish in clear water.

Not my largest, but an interstate lake smallmouth bass from a few years ago.

Continue reading

Family Fishing Nights, Part Two by whitetips
June 2, 2010, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

I highlighted our scheduled family fishing nights a few weeks ago, ,  and I need to promote those again.  Here is a full schedule of all the family fishing nights that are scheduled for this summer.

Family Fishing Nights

Take a close look at that list because we have expanded the family fishing events this summer to include locations around the state.  We cannot be everywhere, but you will find events scheduled for Grand Island, North Platte, Kearney, Norfolk and Columbus in addition to the events in the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas.  The scheduled events will go rain or shine, hopefully shine.  Bait, equipment and instruction will be provided, so if you are a beginning angler or know some beginning anglers plan to attend!

Memorial Day Weekend by whitetips
May 28, 2010, 11:59 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags:

I will be heading out for a few days over the holiday weekend, so I may not get any blog posts up here until sometime next week.  Never fear, there will be plenty of fishing in my weekend, plenty of family time and one big family chore we do every Memorial Day weekend.  Tune in again next week for the report and stories.

Until then, just for fun, I am posting the following video clip.  Those of you who are fly-anglers will appreciate this one.  Make sure you watch past the commercial at the beginning.

One of my nephews sent me that clip; I have had it for awhile.  This is the nephew who is a fly-fishing fool and is guiding on the Bighorn River in Montana.  I heard that last week he got to guide everyone from 20-year old girls who had never fly-fished before (I am still waiting for pictures) to 70-year old gentlemen with artificial hips and knees.

And getting paid for it!

Have a good weekend!

A redear from Memorial Day weekend last year.

What a drag! by whitetips
May 27, 2010, 10:13 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

I have used this photo recently to make a point about fish handling; am going to use it again here to make another point.  This time instead of looking at the big McConaughy white bass, take a close look at the reel.  See that “switch” on the left side?  Yes, the anti-reverse switch.  I use that switch a lot; in fact while fishing my spinning reels almost always have the anti-reverse OFF!  I NEVER rely on the drag on my spinning reels while playing fish.  Now keep in mind this is my preference, this is the way I like to do things, but let me tell you why I fish this way.

First of all, I have a distrust for mechanical gadgets on my fishing reels.  The more “bells and whistles” there are, the more things there are that could fail or break at the worst time.  I realize that a quality reel has an excellent drag system, but how many sad stories have you heard about big fish that got away because “the drag was not set right”?  If your preference is to use the drag on your spinning reels, then fine, good for you, but you better make sure to set the drag tension correctly and re-check it often.  Unfortunately you will find out that your drag tension was not set properly at exactly the wrong time.

If you pick up one of my spinning reels and check the drag tension, you will find the drag screwed down as tight as it can go (i.e. maximum tension).  When I set the hook on a fish, I do not want that drag to slip one fraction of an inch.  Yes, I know it is possible to break light lines with hard hook sets, but I would rather rely on the flexibility of my rod and the appropriate power of my hook set rather than have the drag slip.  In most cases I am not fishing with line that is that light anyway.

When I am playing a big fish, I have the anti-reverse switch on my spinning reels OFF, and I control how much line the fish takes by back-reeling.  Again I prefer this because I am in total control of the fish, in control of the fight, instead of relying on the mechanics of my reel’s drag.  If I hook a big fish in a tight spot where it could wrap my line around a snag, I can put the pressure on and get them out of that spot.  If I get a glimpse of a fish I am playing and discover that it is lightly-hooked, I can be very careful with it and give it all the line it needs.

I have specified spinning reels so far because you have to rely on the drag on casting reels.  Casting reels have a star drag alongside the reel handle that can be quickly adjusted even as a fish is being played.  I try to set the drag on my casting reels relatively light, so the drag slips with far less tension than would cause the line to break.  With the drag set like that on my casting reels I can apply my thumb to the spool during a hook set again to keep the drag from slipping.  Likewise as a fish is played I can fine-tune how much line slips off by applying thumb pressure to the spool, or I can make adjustments with the star drag.

Now I know there are some that are thinking I am full of it because if I hooked a bonefish or permit or roosterfish or some other marine species known for drag-burning runs, I could not back-reel fast enough.  I guess if I ever fish for those species I will find out, but I can tell you that I have caught wipers well into the double-digits and have back-reeled like a monkey while playing those fish.  Worked for me then.  I landed a 55-pound flathead on 14-pound test line and spinning equipment last fall and it worked fine then too.  Your preference may be to rely on your spinning reel’s drag, but for now I will keep a’ back-reeling.