I have been “out and about” some in the past week or two; need to let you know what I have been doing. First of all, with the exceptionally warm weather we have been having, who can stay in the office????? I am always saying that early spring is one of the toughest times of the year for fishing because the water is still relatively cold and the weather can be so schizophrenic, and that fishing tends picks up later in the spring as the water warms. Forget all of that; this year it seems we have skipped the whole early spring, cold-water thing and progressed right into mid- to late-spring, at least so far.
I know some folks are thinking that spawning activity for their favorite species might be a lot earlier than usual with the weather we are having, but I do not believe that is the case. There are many cues that trigger spawning in fish and water temperature is only one of those potential cues. Do not assume that with the exceptionally mild weather fish are going to rush to spawn much earlier than “normal”. For many of our species of fish, photoperiod or the amount of daylight is also a cue and for that reason spawning activities tend to occur near the same time every year. If you think about that, it makes sense, as that would be a wise spawning strategy. If there were some magic temperature at which spawning occurred for a given species of fish, then unseasonably warm temperatures could trigger early spawning activity and then BAM, the spring weather changes and water temperatures plummet resulting in the death of those eggs and fry that were spawned early. For that reason I believe photoperiod is an important cue for the spawning of most of our fish species and that spawning period is only modified a few days one way or the other by water temperatures and weather conditions. For example, I have seen walleyes spawning in 30-some degree water literally the day the ice left and I have seen walleyes spawning in 50-some degree water, both at about the same time of year.
However, I will tell you one thing, I believe the unseasonably mild early spring we are having is producing some excellent, early spring, pre-spawn fishing for many species of fish in Nebraska waters. I can tell you the reports have been pouring in the past couple of weeks, channel catfish, crappie, some walleyes and big bass are being caught from a variety of Nebraska waters. My son and I have taken advantage of some of that in the past couple of weeks.
I caught a nice largemouth bass, not a huge fish, but a respectable 3-4-pounder the same afternoon, from the same water.
You see no picture because I left the fish in the net, in the water while I was getting the camera and it managed to escape.
Anyway, I know everyone has spring fever with this mild weather and everyone is anxious to hit the water, and it is time!
BEYOND BECOMING AN OUTDOORS-WOMAN
I have helped with our Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BO-W) program for a lot of years now; they keep asking me back (and I enjoy doing it!). This past weekend we did a “Beyond BO-W” trout fishing workshop at Lake Ogallala. The weather was great for that event and we had a dozen ladies show up. With that large of a class, and an “on the water” workshop, I enlisted my son Daniel to go along to help. At this “advanced” workshop my goal was to teach and learn while on the water actually fishing, so that is what we did. We started on Saturday morning on a stretch of Lake Ogallala shoreline where my son and I had caught a few trout while scouting things out the previous day. That was at least a good place to have the ladies spread out and fish and to tell them about fishing for trout in a lake, in “standing water”. Even though my son and I had caught fish there the previous afternoon, the fishing was really slow that morning at that spot on Lake Ogallala. Just before we moved to another spot there was a little bit of wind that started to kick up and as soon as it did there were a bunch of midge larvae that could be seen bobbing around in the water. I believe eventually there might have been some trout show up there and start feeding again, but we moved on to new water before then. Anyway, before we moved, I scooped up a few of those midge larvae and put them in a bottle so the ladies could see what those trout prey items looked like.
Our second spot was down on the North Platte River below Lake Ogallala. Now, it was a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon and there were a bunch of folks fishing there already, so all of the ladies scattered out where they could find a spot and we fished a stretch of the river for the rest of the day. Again, with all the activity, bright sunshine, and low flows it was a tough bite, but we did manage to catch a few trout down there that afternoon.
Not all of the gals caught fish down on the river, but more than just catching fish I hoped to give them some idea of how fishing flowing water was different, how they needed to fish differently to catch fish there. Several of the ladies fished really hard, would not quit, and most of them did manage to catch at least one fish before they headed for home.
One of my frustrations when doing a class or workshop like that “on the water” is getting the fish to bite. I cannot make them bite. I suspected with all the other anglers, the bright sun and lack of flow that it would be a tough bite and it was. I wish there was some magic I could work to enable every participant to catch fish, but I do not know of any. All I know is to tell them everything I can, answer their questions, and try to encourage them to keep trying. I have said it before, when it comes to fishing the only thing I know for sure is you cannot catch anything sitting at home on the couch! I hope that even the participants that did not catch fish at least learned something, because if they did that, and had a good time, well then it was a complete success!
I also wish that those ladies that really wanted to catch fish could have stayed until dark because in the evenings the crowd dispersed and the trout cranked up. Friday evening before the workshop my son and I lost track of the number of trout we caught.
Saturday evening after helping the ladies fish all day, Daniel and I had an hour or less of daylight to burn before dark. So, yes, we fished some more! What else would we do? Again the evening bite was good.
I already hinted that midge larvae are one of the important prey items for trout in Lake Ogallala and associated waters. Of course fly-fishing is a great way to imitate those aquatic insects and catch fish. Some of the gals on Saturday caught fish on fly rods, but a person does not necessarily have to use fly gear to imitate those aquatic insects. One thing I showed the ladies Saturday is that a spinning rod and a float can be used to present small baits, even flies. I call it fly-fishing without the fly rod and I have used that presentation to catch a darned lot of trout from a lot of waters in Nebraska and other states. As a matter of fact, the trout being held by one of the ladies in the picture earlier in this post was caught on a small bead head midge larvae imitation (one tied by my trout-bum nephew), but it was fished below a small float, with a spinning rod. The lady who caught that fish was very excited to catch it, but no more excited than her “instructor” who helped her with that presentation!
OK, one funny story before I quit rambling (at least I had to laugh at myself, so I thought it was funny). I wore chest waders all day long during the Beyond BO-W workshop. I just do not feel like I am fishing unless I am in waders and I roamed all over helping the participants on Saturday so the waders came in handy. I also want to be prepared if I needed to wade in to help land a fish! Anyway, Saturday evening I finally peeled the waders off after wearing them for hours. As I did, I discovered that sometime during the day I had ripped out my jeans, of course right in the crotchal area. Thank goodness I was wearing waders or that could have been embarrassing! Ha.