In case you have not figured it out by now, I am very serious about my fishing–I fish hard, I am out there to catch fish, big fish. One of the side benefits of all the time spent on the water or in the field is getting to see and experience some things in the outdoors that are truly awesome. I can tell you stories about big gobblers engaged in a spurs-and-feathers-flying fight, walleyes slurping leopard frogs off the shoreline after dark, raccoons stealing our late-night snack of homemade brownies right out of the tupperware container, bobcats ghosting into predator calls, a falcon chasing a duck right in front of me, a bald eagle picking one snow goose out of a flock of Canada geese and pursuing it in a life and death struggle, wipers chasing shad between my legs, etc., etc., etc. If you get two or more hunters, trappers, or anglers together for any length of time, stories like that will flow.
A little over a month ago, some of you may recall I “called my shot”, announced it was time to get after some fall walleyes, even proposed a “theme song” for the pursuit, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2011/09/feel-it/ . I spend a lot of time fishing for walleyes, big walleyes, in the fall, after dark. Simply put it is one of the best times of year to catch those big whitetips. The fall evenings and nights can be very pleasant and enjoyable, and as I mentioned sometimes you see and experience some neat things while standing in the dark waiting for a big walleye to bite.
Nebraska is a little far south for viewing of the Aurora Borealis or “northern lights”, but occasionally it happens. Fall is one of the best times to see the northern lights and on at least a couple of fall walleye fishing excursions I have been treated to displays of the northern lights that were simply awesome. One of those times occurred this past week, last Monday night to be exact. My son and I spent some time fishing that night, started before sunset and fished a couple of hours into the night. As soon as it got dark ,I noticed a green halo, a light green glow on the northern horizon. I knew right away it had to be the Aurora Borealis as there were no clouds and no lighted cities in that direction. As we continued to fish, the glow got brighter and morphed across the sky. Eventually, there were bright red curtains that spread up over our heads and then occasional spotlight beams of white light shot up through them. The peak of the display, the red curtains high in the sky, only lasted for a short time, maybe a half hour, but for that short period I can only describe it as awesome, jaw-dropping. We kept casting, but really did not care if we caught a fish.
On a previous occasion I tried taking pictures of the northern lights with my own camera. I learned that you have to use very specific camera settings and a very steady rest (i.e. long exposures and tripods). So, I do not have any of my own pictures of the October 24, 2011 display of northern lights to show you. If you surf the internet you can find lots of them as the display was exceptional that night. I do have some photos that one of my sandhills buddies took. . . . Thanks Don!
By the way, Nebrsaka’s sandhills are one of the best places in the world to view stars and on rare occasions the northern lights. There are lots of wide open spaces in our sandhills, darned few trees to get in the way, and no lights from cities and towns. I can only imagine what the display looked like out in the sandhills Monday night; I wish I had been there.
Now, I am a pointy-headed fisheries biologist and old fisherman. I can tell you lots of things about fish, but darned few things about astronomy. I spend a lot of time looking at the stars while I am fishing for walleyes, but about all I can show you would be the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, the north star, and some constellation called Cassiopeia that a fishing buddy taught me one night. Other than that I know nothing. But. . . I have done some research on the internet and in the fall I check this website often to monitor the possibility of seeing the northern lights, http://spaceweather.com/ . Take a look at that website and you can learn more about the northern lights and other displays in the nighttime skies. You can see predictions for northern light viewing and even sign up for alerts if you wish. There are lots of spectacular photos there from previous northern light displays, especially from Oct. 24, 2011, even some from Nebraska!
As I understand it, the red displays are somewhat rare and a bit of a mystery. I thought they were just red because they were over Nebraska!
Oh yes, I did catch one of these,
And I turned her loose so I could catch her again!
It was one of those nights my son and I will never forget!