If you are an outdoors-person, a hunter, angler or trapper, you probably are a weather geek. If you are not, you should be. Spend any time in the field, especially in Nebraska, and you will realize that the weather and changing weather conditions will have a dramatic impact on fish and game behavior and on our success in catching or taking said fish and game. I am not going to ramble on here about how weather and weather changes impact fish and game behavior, that is a long topic for many additional blog posts. All I am going to say is that you should pay close attention to the weather, and I am going to suggest some resources to help you do that.
Back in the day, a long, long time ago, when I roamed the campus of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, I took a meteorology course with Dr. Ken Dewey, http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=24 . Dr. Dewey was an excellent professor, one of the best in my entire college career, and I loved his course. If I was not so determined to pursue a career as a fisheries biologist I might have been tempted to consider meteorology. Dr. Dewey reminded us that the Great Plains, Nebraska, has some of the most interesting weather in the world because here in the middle of the continent we truly experience extremes; everything from 100-degree+ heat to sub-zero temperatures, droughts to floods, rain, snow, hail, freezing rain, sleet, wind, oh yes, lots and lots of wind, dark of night, etc., etc.
There was a time when I religiously watched The Weather Channel; who ever would have imagined a TV channel devoted entirely to weather!? Unfortunately, if you allow me to rant for a second, The Weather Channel programming has become less and less current weather and forecasts especially for us in the middle of “fly-over country”. So, if you thought I was going to recommend you watch The Weather Channel or follow them on the internet, you can, but I believe there are a lot better sources of weather information.
First off, why not go directly to the source? Here is the Nebraska web page from the National Weather Service, http://www.nws.noaa.gov/view/states.php?state=ne&map=on , and here is the main home page for the National Weather Service, http://www.weather.gov/ . You can find just about anything you can imagine or want there, watch radar here, http://www.weather.gov/Radar , check out forecasts, http://www.weather.gov/forecastmaps , and of course stay up-to-date on severe weather, http://www.spc.noaa.gov/ . With winter coming, you might be interested in snowfall probability, http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/wwd/winter_wx.shtml#snow , and once we get some snow I like to check out snow depth, especially if I am making a trip someplace, and this web page is great for doing that, http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/html/map.html . When I get anxious for my ice-fishing season to start, I can get an idea of the progression of ice-up here, http://www.natice.noaa.gov/ims/loop/usa-1mo-loop.html .
I will always tell you that the best time to go hunting, fishing or trapping is whenever you have time, but I will also tell you that I do look ahead at weather forecasts and try to plan my activities accordingly. Being able to have some idea of future weather conditions is especially helpful when planning long-distance trips. I already mentioned forecast maps and graphics on the main National Weather Service web page, but I also take that further by going to the Climate Prediction Center and checking some of their products, http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/forecasts/ . Any meteorologist will tell you that the further ahead in time you try to predict the weather the more unpredictable it will be, but by looking ahead to those mid-range and long-term forecasts a person can get at least an idea of general trends. If you want to “geek out” even more, I like to go here to get more information on predicted weather patterns up to 10 days in the future, http://weather.unisys.com/gfsx/gfsx.php?inv=0&plot=hght®ion=us&t=9p&expanddiv=hide_bar . Do not ask me to explain those maps, I only took one semester of meteorology, but I do know they give an idea of predicted weather patterns, hot and cold air masses and how they are predicted to move across the continent.
One other weather page that I have found very helpful is Weather Underground, here is their Nebraska page, http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=Nebraska . Spend some time surfing around on Weather Underground and you can find just about anything you can imagine. Some particular features I like on their website is the ability to go back and see historic weather information or the exact times of sunrise and sunset, moon rise, etc.
Lastly, let me mention one other page. This past fall I spent a couple days in northeast Nebraska fishing the Missouri River, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2012/10/river-too/ . My fishing partner and I stayed a couple of nights at Niobrara State Park while we were there, http://www.outdoornebraska.ne.gov/parks/guides/parksearch/showpark.asp?Area_No=126 . Recently, they started a weather and webcam page for the park, so you can go there and see current conditions and views, http://www.lakestatus.com/niobrara/ . I realize that may not be news, as I first saw it announced on our Game & Parks FaceBook page, but let me point out one feature there that you anglers will particularly like: If you click on the “Lewis & Clark Lake” tab at the top of that page, it will take you to another page with current weather conditions including water temperature for Lewis & Clark Reservoir. Again I could launch into a whole ‘nother blog post on water temps. and what they do and do not mean to fish and anglers, but it is nice to have a web page where a person can see a current water temperature for a Nebraska reservoir. I wish we had more reservoirs that had current weather conditions and water temperatures on the internet.
Let me mention one other weather product that has been extremely useful. Sometimes I like to get away from the stinkin’ computer and even cell phones, but in Nebraska it can be very important that a person stay in touch with weather conditions even if you are out in the middle of the sandhills. For that I have found a portable weather radio to be a great item to have with me. Currently, I have a portable Midlands weather radio, https://midlandusa.com/weather-radios/product/hh50/ .
That is a compact, simple weather radio that serves my needs and I like it. They make other models with a lot more “bells and whistles”, so shop around if you are looking for something more. By the way, hint, hint, a portable weather radio would be a great gift idea for that outdoors-person on your Christmas list.
When I was young I can remember getting extremely frustrated when the weather was not the way I wanted it to be, when it seemed to ruin a long-planned hunting or fishing trip or freeze up my traps. I would hope we get wiser as we get older, and eventually I have come to the point where the weather still may not be what I would like, but I realize there ain’t a thing I can do about it. In fact, a person might as well not only accept it, but come to appreciate it too! The always-changing, somewhat unpredictable weather we have here on the Great Plains of Nebraska is something else unique about our state, something that influences our time in the field and on the water, and might as well be appreciated as part of the experience! No doubt a person will have to adapt and adjust to the changing weather conditions, especially if you want to be successful in the field and on the water in spite of the weather. Keep an eye on the sky!