That time of year is quickly approaching and, in some cases, has already arrived: transition time. I’m referring to the locations of fish in our reservoirs and the patterns that are succeeding in putting more of those fish in the boat. We are truly into summer now.
It’s taken some time, but water temps in some areas have been slow to rise. This is not true for the Tri County canal system, however. It’s generally warmer because it’s always moving. Even if it’s only 100 cfs (cubic feet per second), it’s still moving water. The canal has been a strange place this year thus far. The crazy weather is partly to blame, but so is the high water out west that has been blasting through our part of the country for the past several weeks. This is good as we’re getting water into Elwood reservoir, but it has changed things up in the canal for the fish. Recently, we have not been catching the fish we are used to catching this time of year. While we have lost some really nice fish on crankbaits for whatever reason (I believe they haven’t been aggressive and are only barely being hooked on the rear hook), those fish have been far and few in between. I believe this past week I found out why the fish haven’t been as aggressive: the canal is loaded with shad. There were several places where the bottom 6 to 8 feet was just black on the fish finder because you could not pack one more shad into that area. This high water and heat seems to have gotten the shad going just a bit earlier this year, so it could make things interesting in the canal.
We also spent a week out west at our biggest reservoir, McConaughy. It became very clear after a short while fishing that most of the fish are out west in the trees. With rising water in that reservoir, more trees have become submerged around the time the alewife spawn. Those baitfish have moved into the trees, and the fish are right in there after them. Our first day was decent with numerous walleyes caught, including 21” and 25” inch fish that were extremely fat. It’s safe to say the 25 incher was pushing 7 pounds, which is just crazy. A few years ago I caught one that was nearly 26”, but went an astounding 7 ½ pounds. Nothing like McConaughy walleyes.
That being said, not all of the fish are down there. My friends managed a 29” walleye on the dam at night, but I will also tell you that they were not trolling. Trolling was pretty much reserved for the western part of the lake. We ranged from 10’ to 25’ of water and deeper and caught fish about everywhere. To say there was a bit of boat pressure is a major understatement. I believe as the week wore on, the fish became pressured and the bite slowed a bit, but not much. Some people were still doing rather well. As water starts to roll downstream from Mac, you’ll see those fish start to disperse from the trees and move around the reservoir, and start moving down east again as well. Once again, not all fish will follow this pattern, but I believe you’ll start to hear of more fish being caught down east, unlike the week we were there.
As for the shad situation, this brings up one of my favorite things to do, and that is throwing a cast net for bait. I learned years ago on a trip to Texoma Reservoir on the Oklahoma/Texas border that I needed to learn how to throw a net. One thing that is for certain is that you’ll need to learn your own way of throwing a net successfully. I throw best with my left hand which makes no sense since I’m right handed. I have a friend who holds part of it in his teeth to secure it before throwing, and I have another friend who uses the plastic net thrower you can buy. Everyone has their own style. One thing that cannot be argued, however, is the effectiveness of using shad for fresh bait for the next 2-3 months and beyond. So get out there and enjoy the summer while it’s here. As the weather in Nebraska this year has proven, you never know when it will change.