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Adventure Report, Early February 2014

My family and I took a long weekend recently and made a trip “out west”.  We spent a lot of time with family and helped them get some chores done, but of course you know we were on the ice as much as possible!  It is time to give you a report, tell you about it.

It has been mid-winter, but as you all know we had some brutal winds in January that opened up some of our ice.  We still found plenty of ice to fish on, but as I will always tell you, you have to be careful every time you walk on the ice.  We saw areas of open water on every water we fished.  I also believe that open water and the mixing of cold water caused by having that water exposed to the wind can make the fishing tough.  We worked for all the fish we caught, but we fished hard, kept moving, kept thinking and trying, and at the end of the weekend managed to scratch together some fish.

We tried some places and things that just did not pan out, and some might have considered that “wasted time”.  Or was it?  Sometimes a person has to try some things, things no one else is doing, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.  We did some of that and it did not pay off. . . this time.  It is easy to fall into a rut, so I always try to make myself try new things and new waters even if I have not heard reports from anyone else.  I want to be the first one to do it!  It did not result in great catches this time, but it has before and it will again.  Even when new ideas do not result in roaring success, something is learned in the process.

We spent one day being chauffeured around Merritt by a buddy.  We caught a few crappies, but nothing outstanding, and we kept moving.  I know some folks did better than we did that day, but we wanted to keep trying different areas instead of fishing near the crowd.  The walleyes did not show up to play that evening either.  It was a long day, we did not do as well as we wished, but that was OK.  Like I said, we tried and we spent a day together fishing hard.  I would do it all again in a heart-beat!  Thanks for dragging us around behind the 4-wheeler, Don!

The next day was windy, and cold, but we were there to fish and that is what we did!

My kids ignored me (I am used to it, Ha); backs to the wind, fishing hard.

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My nephew fished with us and hooked a pike on a panfish jigging rod.  Now, we never use any kind of pike leaders while jigging for panfish.  Those panfish baits are small and any additional hardware ruins the presentation and keeps fish from biting.  We just figure that a lost jig or tear-drop here and there due to a pike bite-off is the price of doing business (although it always seems to be your “best tear-drop”).  However, once in awhile we will hook a pike on a jigging rod, win the tug-o-war, and put ‘em on the ice.  Anytime that happens, even if it was not a big pike, it is considered an accomplishment worthy of pictures!

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The next day, the old man accomplished the same feat.

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We drilled lots of holes and kept moving until we started catching some panfish, mostly small bluegills.  Once we did that we sat my daughter, Emily, in a good spot and she went to fishing.  At the end of the day, guess who had caught the most quality panfish?

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We fished hard again the next day, most of the day was again tough with not a lot to show for it.  But, late in the day we found some panfish again.  Initially, all my son Daniel and I were catching was a small ‘gill here and there, but then the Cox boys showed up and they dialed-in on some bigger fish.

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Garrett with a nice one.

That got me to thinking.  We were fishing the same water as Don and his son Garrett, but they were catching more and bigger fish.  The day before, Emily had out-fished us.  Now you can dismiss things like that as being “lucky”, but I do not believe in luck.  There was a reason Emily and the Cox boys were doing better than my son and I.  I though about that for a few minutes, and then adjusted.  We down-sized our baits, went with something less aggressive, kept moving if we were not seeing fish, but slowed down and stayed on a hole longer if we saw some activity.

Bingo.

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One last day on the ice, Daniel and I went back after some more big ‘gills.  We wanted just a couple 10–inchers or bigger.  The bite was slow throughout the day, a few nice bluegills in the morning and then the bite died.  We put out a grand total of 3 tip-ups and when the bluegill bite died in mid-afternoon the pike bite picked up.  We had good action on those few tip-ups and that kept us catching fish.  Here was the biggest pike, a chunky 29-incher.

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Gotta tell you one story about that pike.  Last winter I picked up an “Ice Rigger tip-up” from HT Enterprises.  Well, that was the first fish I caught on that ice-rigger and it about pulled the ice-rigger and my rod and reel right down the hole.  I set the line a little deep in the clip and when the pike took the bait, the line did not release.  I heard a noise, turned, looked and saw the ice-rigger, rod and reel heading for the hole.  It has been a long time since I actually ran for a tip-up flag.  Fortunately, the ice-rigger and rod caught on the edge of the hole.  I still wonder how the line did not break before I could release it.

Later in the afternoon the pike bite slacked off, but then the big ‘gills picked up again.

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Between the last two days, we iced a couple dozen nice big ‘gills and a half-dozen or so pike.  We did not hammer ‘em, but we put together a nice trip.  We had some beautiful bluegills just a little short of 10-inches; they are there, we will get ‘em next time.  We have had trips where we have done a lot better, but that is fishing!  I got to spend time on the ice with family and friends, we fished hard, spent some time in some of the best of “God’s Country”, and we caught fish.  It was a great trip!

And when it was all said and done, we drove all the way back home to Lincoln without harvesting a single fish!  Was it worth it?  You better believe it, cannot wait to go again!

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Release those big panfish too!

About Daryl Bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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