Last week I got a chance to return to fish some “old” waters on which I used to spend a lot of time. Let me give you a report and tell you about it.
The water I am referring to was Elwood Reservoir. Back a few years I worked out in the Kearney area and while I was there I made a lot of trips to fish Elwood. Actually I have spent some time fishing Elwood ever since it was first built back in the 1970′s. Back in the early days we caught a lot of panfish, pike, and a few walleyes. When I lived in the Kearney area back in the ’90′s Elwood produced a lot of really nice walleyes. I have spent hundreds of hours fishing Elwood; not as much time as I would like, but enough to feel “at home”.
I do not live in central Nebraska right now and do not get to fish Elwood nearly as much as I would like, but I still make it a point to fish there whenever I get the chance. Elwood has always been what I would consider to be one of the state’s fishing treasures, it has good water quality, a diversity of species of fish, a variety of big, fat and fast-growing fish, and there are NO water skiers, jet skiers or speed boaters–it is a fishing “lake”!
Last week I had some business, meetings, in Lexington, but my evenings were free to fish! Honestly, as hot as it was, evenings were definitely the most enjoyable part of the day to fish. Now, I have fished Elwood from a boat, many times, but since I do not own a boat I have also spent a lot of time fishing that reservoir from the shore or more specifically while wading. A word of caution, much of Elwood has shorelines that quickly drop into deep water and the bottom content on many of those shorelines is a slick clay, if you ever wade Elwood, be careful. Anyway, last week I waded “wet”, wore some boots and light pants and walked right in. That felt great!
Elwood suffered during the many years of drought just a few years back. As a matter of fact, there were times during that extended drought where we wondered if there was going to be enough water in Elwood to keep the fishery alive. There were days I was depressed about that thought.
In spite of the drought, Elwood continued to offer some good fishing and my son and I had some good trips there even when the water was depressingly low. This past week was my first chance to fish it since water levels have recovered. Man, did my “old friend” look good!
The water quality on Elwood is usually very good and that is no exception right now. With clear water fish can be more challenging to catch; for one thing they can examine your bait or lure, your presentation, a little more clearly. I will never tell you that fish are “smart”, their brains are the size of the end of your little finger, but they get dialed-in on their prey and can easily identify a fake if it does not look or act right. For that reason, whenever I am faced with clear water, and the clarity at Elwood last week was several feet, I always try to target times when there are low-light conditions–mornings, evenings, gloomy, foggy, rainy days, windy days, and of course after dark. I was in no hurry last week to get to the reservoir and get to fishing, as long as I was there before dark I was plenty early enough.
Let me throw out a tip here: I have mentioned before that I have kept a log-book of all my fishing trips since I was a kid, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2009/12/fishing-log/ . That was a long time ago. I have not fished Elwood in June for years, but I was able to page back through my log books, review a number of June fishing trips on Elwood, and I had a plan before I ever got there! Yes, I can remember the places and baits I caught fish on all those years ago, but you would be surprised at how many little details you have forgotten until you go back and page through those notes from fishing trips past. If you have fished for any length of time, you know that those little details make a huge difference in the numbers and size of fish caught!
Anyway, I fished Elwood two evenings. I saw some brief surface-feeding activity the first night and caught my first fish shortly after that. As it got even darker there were baitfish schools pushed right up near the shoreline, and that is always a great sign! I caught a pair of wipers the first night, 22 and 23-inchers; and a couple of walleyes, 17- and 24-inches. The second night I saw hardly any surface-feeding activity and few baitfish; had to fish later in the evening before I caught anything, but ended up with three more wipers, the largest being 25.5 inches. I hooked and lost a couple of fish the second night and I am guessing by the way one of them fought it was a walleye.
For those of you who are doing some internet scouting for hot spots, I will leave it up to you to scrutinize my photos and decide where I was fishing. All I will say is I was on Elwood Reservoir. Likewise I will not tell you all my presentation secrets and I do not believe I need to: The fish were feeding on small shad, a few inches long, and a variety of baits can be used to imitate those baitfish and catch fish. I will tell you that in low-light periods, after dark, keep in mind how important vibration can be for attracting fish to your presentation and getting them to bite ( http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2011/04/feel-now/ )! (Hint: swimbaits and crankbaits work really well, wink)
I only took pictures of the biggest wiper each evening; the 23- and 25.5-inchers. I am going to post the photos here, but I am warning you they are blurry. I need to work with my camera some more and figure out how to get it to focus better after dark. Sorry for the picture quality, but at least you know I did not find someone else’s glossy, professional photos and use them.
As you can see, the fishery at Elwood, with water back in the reservoir, is alive and well. Hopefully water levels will remain high and Elwood can continue to be one of the best fishing waters in the state. I know I cannot wait to go back and see the “old friend” again. I released all of my fish; will try to re-acquaint myself with them at some time in the future as well!