Hunting’s Almost Done..But Then There’s Fishing.
Ok, with turkey season about to kick off here in Nebraska most hunters are getting decoys dusted off and getting pumped up, except me. This time of the year brings ups and downs for me. Sure I’m all excited to get out and call in some gobblers, but it also reminds me that hunting season is about to end. No more sitting in tree stands or crawling into layout blinds watching the sun rise or set, and no more working the dogs in the fields trying to find that big rooster that we Nebraskans love so much. However, just as I’m about to sulk in sadness I’m reminded that it’s not all that bad, because fishing is just around the corner.
Here in Nebraska we find ourselves pretty fortunete to be able to fish a wide variety of species from bluegill and trout to walleyes and muskies. For me, it’s always been about the walleyes. The shear size and evasiveness of this great predator fish has kept many anglers chasing them all through the summer and into the next year’s hunting season. Which may be a good reason why I enjoy it so much other than they’re a great tasting fish. So where do I enjoy chasing wally gators here in the big red state? Here’s a few tips I use to jump start my angling season. After turkey season of course.
Most of my walleye Fishing takes me out west. Sure there are some great lakes on the east side of Nebraska with walleyes, but it just doesn’t compare to the abundance that the west holds. Dependant upon the weather, most lakes around here tend to see the walleye begin their spawning stages during the months of April and May. In the early part of that time and sometimes even in late March we see what I like to call pre spawn. the walleyes are just starting their feeding in preparation for the spawn and this is where I like to get my smaller “eaters” (15-18 inches). Usually I find my self bank fishing areas where there are currents like rivers or the canal system that runs from Lake McConaughy east connecting the NPPD hydro electric systems and their power plant at Sutherland Reservoir. This time of year the water is still pretty cold and simple hook and slip weights using live minnows tend to work the best for me. Expect to catch a lot of small non-keepers this time of year but you’ll catch fish often and it’s a great way to check your tackle and get back into the swing of things.
Then comes the spawn. During this time excellent walleye Fishing can be found along most rock dams on reservoirs like Lake McConaughy or shallow water like at Merritt Reservoir. For me Though I’m not a big fan of this time. Often times along the areas walleyes are spawning in are very crowded with anglers and I like to think I’m helping the population of the species by allowing those big females to lay their eggs safely and without stress. But this is a time when simple jigging along the dam from the bank to about 10 feet out is very successful in catching large numbers of big fat walleye and can give the bank fisherman great opportunities to limit out.
My real favorite time is post spawn. This usually kicks into gear around memorial weekend at the end of Turkey season and stays strong til typically late June. The walleyes have spawned, went into a little slump, and are back to eating to get energy back. This can bring the potential for fish of all sizes to be caught with a variety of tactics to catch them in depths from 5 to 15 feet. Morning feeding frenzies are great times to use your live bait like minnows or nightcrawlers using Lindy rigs or walleye harnesses. Leeches are also a great option to add to the list and I often find myself abandoning the minnows this time of year to work with crawlers or leeches. Later into the day I like to chase the big walleyes trolling crankbaits or cast and crank smaller crankbaits or large spinnerbaits into the submerged tree areas. This tends to show my better success of large trophy fish as well its just a really exciting and challenging way to catch your future fish fries.
The fact that we’re coming closer to the end of our hunting season is something that we as outdoorsman are just going to have to suck it up and accept. We can either mow our yards and count the days til next hunting season while you sit in the air conditioned house watching your favorite hunting shows sulking on the couch, or you can remind yourself like I do that there’s another way to enjoy the outdoors and pick up that rod and tackle and find your favorite watering hole for some fishing and relaxation. And if you find yourself chasing after walleyes in early spring, hopefully these tips can assist in you locating and catching that next meal or state record.