“There are always fish to catch,” says Nebraska Game and Parks Biologist Daryl Bauer. And I fully agree. Read on to see proof.
Valentine NWR, NE
“Cut holes, and lots of them,” said Bauer. “If you’re not catching fish, move.” At the refuge it is no different. Start your day with a Swedish pimple tipped with a waxworm for the chance at big panfish, largemouth bass and northern pike. Pelican, Dewey and Hackberry lakes will be strong again, but I would never pass on Clear Lake, either.
For a second option, look at Swan Lake in South Dakota. Schools of yellow perch can be found by using minnows and jigs.
Lastly, stay close to the Omaha metro at Summit Lake, where big bluegills are available on the multitude of both shallow and deep underwater structure throughout the lake.
Glen Elder, KS
“There are some big crappies at Glen Elder,” said perennial ice-angler Monte Mares. “Last year, we were trying to jig our waxworms in 10 feet of water, but rarely did our jig make it to that depth before we got a bite.” Also, Mares added, “fish were schooled under snow piles trying to stay out of the sun, and there were a lot of them.” However, if ice isn’t on Glen Elder, fish the shallow coves using the same lures under bobbers for crappies trying to spawn.
Second, look at Bittern Lake in South Dakota, where you’ll be fishing for quality, not quantity. Look for trophy walleye, northern pike and yellow perch under the ice at this destination that was mostly snow-covered in 2011.
For a third choice, fish Kansas’ best reservoir largemouth fishery, La Cygne, in open water while the rest of the world is still frozen.
Devils Lake, ND
“Devils is a walleye factory,” North Dakota Game and Fish Biologist Scott Gangl said. “We’re seeing a ton of fish in the 14- to 20-inch range,” said Gangl, “and they grow very fast on a diet of plankton and freshwater shrimp.”
“Fish mid-lake humps and submerged roadbeds,” said guide Jason Feldner. “Put out tip-ups with fatheads while also hole-bouncing using spoons until you find the spot on the spot.”
For a second option, look south at the I-80 lake system in Nebraska. Bluegills are popular fish both through the ice and on soft water, and can be caught on the dozens of lakes within a stone’s throw of the interstate.
Lastly, while all of South Dakota has seen tremendous reproduction of its northern pike population, said Gangl, Lake Sakakawea is a great place to start. “Right before ice-out, these fish are drawn into the shallow areas and creeks and can be very active.”
Mid-Sized Lakes, KS
In 2011, there were 39 lakes and ponds throughout the state that had higher density ratings than Kansas’ most popular largemouth destination, La Cygne. Translation: go small for both big numbers and a chance for big bass in Kansas, especially this month, by viewing these fish surveys, and mapping your next bass fishing trip. And even though there are still some cool days this time of year, don’t slow your presentation down until the fish convince you it’s necessary.
For another option, look at Nebraska’s Lake Ogallala rainbow trout fishery. I’m nearly tired of seeing the umpteen photos of nice trout caught with light spinning tackle or on the fly at this lake.
Third, travel south to 144-acre Kingman Lake in south central Kansas for some early-season pike action.
A look at the top spots for Great Plains fishing for May, June, July and August can be found on page two