Our blog migration to a new server is underway. I do not know that it is all complete, yet, or maybe I just do not understand it all yet?
Anyway, last week when I was informed there would be some “down time”, I promised you that I would be spending some time on the water. A year ago we had widespread, significant snowfall across Nebraska in early October. I love fall fishing and usually experience some of my best fishing of the open-water season in the fall, but last year the sudden, drastic weather change made it a lot more challenging to catch fish last fall.
In contrast this fall has been glorious. If I were “god” I would create a year in which I had 6 months of ice-fishing (have I mentioned that I LOVE to ice-fish?), 3 months of spring turkey hunting (have I mentioned that I love to hunt those big toms in the spring?), and 3 months of fall fishing. I wish this fall would never end!
My family and I took a little trip back “west” last weekend. I have a nephew that is a senior this year and we had not watched him play football yet this fall, so we did that last weekend (they lost, but it was an exciting game right to the last second), we spent time with family, and although we wasted some potential fishing time on Saturday watching the stupid HUSKER game, we did as much fishing as we could.
We spent some evenings fishing a couple, three different interstate lakes. I grew up in North Platte and spent a lot of time fishing interstate lakes back then; still love those waters today. Many of those lakes have relatively clear water and as the water begins to cool in the fall that water can clear even more. I love fishing clear waters, but in clear water the fish can be spooky and tougher to catch. My first strategy for catching fish from clear interstate lakes is to fish in low-light conditions and after dark. Even in the fall I will target those waters in late afternoon, evening and after dark. Most of the fish we caught from those interstate lakes this past weekend were caught well after dark. I am talking about largemouth bass, rock bass, and even a walleye and northern pike. No, there are not a lot of pike and walleyes in the interstate lakes, but some of them have those species. Northern pike are a rare catch after dark, but I can guarantee you that by far the majority of walleyes I have taken from interstate lakes have been caught in the evening, early morning and especially after dark.
Most of those fish were taken on neutrally-buoyant, shallow-running, minnow-imitating crankbaits. You want specifics? #12 Rapala Husky Jerks. I throw neutrally-buoyant crankbaits in the fall, a lot. Predator fish are feeding in the fall to get ready for the hard winter to come and the rigors of spawning next spring (much of the egg and milt development for next spring occurs during the late summer and fall of the previous year), and they are looking for meat! Crankbaits are great imitations of baitfish and will catch a variety of predator fish. Let me again emphasize the part about those baits being neutrally-buoyant–these are baits that will maintain their depth when a retrieve is stopped–they will not rise back to the surface nor sink to the bottom. The best neutrally-buoyant baits are those that maintain a horizontal orientation when a retrieve is stopped. I want a bait that is hanging horizontal in the water, not nose down, not tail down. Neutral buoyancy is important because as the water cools in the fall, I fish those baits slower and slower. To be most effective I want those baits to stay at the level they dive to when the retrieve is slowed or stopped. This past weekend my son and I were wobbling those baits just above the submerged aquatic vegetation and slowing them down to a moderate pace. We did not catch any big fish doing that on this trip, but we caught a variety of quality fish.
And then we spent the middle of one day up on Lake Ogallala. There was some dredging and maintenance work done at Lake Ogallala last fall, and while the water was down that was the perfect opportunity to once again chemically renovate Lake Ogallala to knock back the numbers of carp and suckers that degrade water quality and habitat and compete with the trout. Trout stocking started at the end of last December and less than a year later the trout fishery at Lake Ogallala is BACK! There is a stretch of North Platte River below Lake Ogallala that supports trout and offers some public access. My son and I fished one spot on that water for about four hours and caught & released over two dozen rainbows in that time. We could have caught more, but after 4 hours we were ready for a break and it was about time to head for my nephew’s football game. Most of those fish ranged from 10-14 inches, but we caught a half-dozen or so that were 17-18 inches. I would guess the 17-18-inch fish would have been some of the first trout that were stocked back into Lake Ogallala following last year’s rotenone renovation. Those fish would have been stocked when they were approximately 10 inches long and if you do the math you will figure out that rainbow trout in Lake Ogallala can grow at a rate approaching an inch per month when water and habitat conditions are good. The Lake Ogallala trout fishery is back right now, and it is going to get even better in the next few years. You can fish wherever you want, but I will be spending as much time as possible fishing Lake Ogallala and associated waters in the coming months!
There you go, you look at those pictures long enough and you will be able to figure out exactly where we were fishing. There are a lot of fish there, and there are plenty of trout in Lake Ogallala, the North Platte River below Lake Ogallala and the canal below Lake Ogallala. The fish are there and they can be caught from all of those waters. We caught fish on small crankbaits, a few on ‘crawlers, and others on jigs. Trout are cold-water fish, and those Lake Ogallala trout will be very catchable for quite some time yet this fall. And in fact, you can catch trout from that fishery every month of the year.
I ain’t even close to be doing fishing yet this fall. I hope this weather holds, but even as it begins to cool there will still be fish to be caught!