A few folks have already noticed, but I am betting that most have not seen that the new 2012 Fishing Forecast has been posted on our Nebraska Game & Parks Commission website, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/fishing/pdfs/FishForecast.pdf . We have been producing this annual fishing forecast for several years now, and I believe it has become one of the more popular angling publications we produce every year. Since I believe most anglers are familiar with the Fishing Forecast, I will not bore you with all the details. However, let me play the pointy-headed fisheries biologist for a bit and tell you that we have biologists working in the field every year sampling fish from waters all across the state. Some of our largest, most important fisheries are sampled every year and we try to sample all of our waters at least once every 3-5 years. The information we gain from those fish population surveys is invaluable to fisheries biologist as they allow us to monitor the health of our fisheries and evaluate our fisheries management activities. A nice secondary benefit from all the fish population sampling done by our fisheries biologists is we can use that data to predict where the best fishing will be in the coming year; thus the annual Fishing Forecast.
Anglers are always on the hunt for the next “hot bite” or hot fishery. The only thing constant in nature is change, so the best anglers know that to stay on top of the best fishing they may have to move to new areas, new waters. Fisheries that were hot last year may be good again this year, but there may be something even better. Fish populations are dynamic, always changing, and to stay on top of the best fishing, anglers need to change too. The annual Fishing Forecast is a great tool to help Nebraska anglers stay on top of the best fishing; I carefully study it every year and plan my fishing strategies accordingly.
I will not recite all the details found in the 2012 Fishing Forecast here. You can follow the link above and read and study for yourself. What I will tell you is each year I bug our field biologists around the state to send me their data summaries so I can put together the annual Fishing Forecast, and each year as I compile that data there are some things that jump out at me. Last year was “the year of the panhandle” as several panhandle fisheries (e.g. Minatare, Box Butte, Whitney, Oliver) looked particularly good. Many of those panhandle fisheries will be very good again this year, but let me tell you what caught my eye this year.
First of all, Swanson Reservoir will be one of the best waters in the state this year for a variety of species; white bass, walleye, wipers and channel catfish. In addition to that Swanson has an abundance of flooded trees right now and is literally one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the state–any of you bass anglers who are looking for a large reservoir to gun your bass boat and then experience some great bass fishing–you better plan a trip out to Swanson this year. In addition there are a bunch of crappies and even a few pike up in all of that flooded habitat.
A number of other Nebraska reservoirs that are perennially good fisheries will be good again this year, Calamus, McConaughy, Merritt, and Harlan. Elwood Reservoir finally filled with water a couple years ago after years of minimal water and fish populations there have rebounded. It is time to start fishing Elwood again, now. Likewise there was a lot of water that moved through the Tri-County canal system last year and reservoirs on that system, Maloney and Sutherland in particular, will be among the best in the state this year for catching some eating-size walleyes.
Speaking of water, we all know about the high water conditions on the Missouri River last summer. Admittedly the loss of property and damage caused by the flooding was unfortunate, but one of the primary habitat requirements for fish is water and on the Missouri River last year, “it was a good year to be a fish”. Since the water levels have dropped back to “normal”, fishing on the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska has been outstanding and I expect that to last well into 2012. As a matter of fact the fishing has been very good up there right into this winter.
In southeast Nebraska Wagon Train Reservoir continues to be near the “top of the charts” for several species of fish. Nearby, Stagecoach Reservoir will be one of the best in eastern Nebraska for crappies as well as Wehrspann in Omaha. One new fishery in southeast Nebraska will create a huge “buzz” this year when it opens for fishing (which I believe will be sometime this spring, stay tuned). The new Lake Wanahoo will offer some catchable-size fish, primarily crappies as soon as it opens. In addition anglers will find some largemouth bass there as well as a few walleyes and even some northern pike. I know Wanahoo will attract A LOT of anglers as soon as it opens and the fishing will be great; however, I would ask folks to stop and consider that Wanahoo has had fish in it for only a couple of years and if anglers would release what they catch there, the fishing will be even better in another couple of years.
Branched Oak Reservoir will continue to be as good a catfish fishery as can be found anywhere as well as offering some big walleyes and wipers as well as crappies and largemouth bass. The trout fishery on Lake Ogallala and associated waters will again be “world class” in 2012; the sandhill lakes are full of water, panfish, pike and some of the prettiest bass to be found anywhere. The interstate lakes offer a lot of good fishing opportunities and there are a number of small to medium-size reservoirs with some great bass fishing, and . . . and . . . and . . . .
So much water and so little time!