Fishing is an activity that is relaxing, rewarding and challenging. When people think of fishing spots, Nebraska may not be on the top of the list. However, the state offers a wide variety of opportunities for anglers.
“We may not have as much water in Nebraska, but we truly are a place where North meet South and East meets West. We have a great diversity in geography, and that’s reflected in the fish and wildlife,” said Daryl Bauer, Fisheries Outreach Program Manager for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
He continued, “We have a variety of different fishing opportunities in the state. That’s one thing people don’t think of, they don’t think of Nebraska as a fishing destination. If there’s a particular fish you like to fish for, we probably have it somewhere in the state.”
Fishing in the fall is one of the best times of the year to go. The weather is cooler, the bugs are down and the fish are biting. “Fall is one of the best times to fish, and one of my favorite times to go. The fish are getting ready to feed up for the winter, and many of our fish spawn in the spring, but are already starting to produce eggs now,” Bauer said.
He added, “Fish are looking for food and that makes the fishing good. The trout streams are especially good this time of year. The bugs are less, and some of the brush and undergrowth is down. It’s cooler. Trout are a cold-water fish, and they are active and very catchable in the fall.”
According to the Games and Parks fish forecast, “Nebraska has waters capable of supporting cold water fish year-round, where anglers can find rainbow, brown and brook trout. Most of the cold-water trout streams are in the western and northern parts of the state; the east Branch of Verdigre Creek, Long Pine Creek and Ninemile Creek are perennial favorites among trout anglers.”
This time of year many people are focused on hunting, and this makes the fishing holes less crowded. However, fishing while on a hunting trip is a great way to take advantage of both activities.
“In the fall is a great time to a do combination hunting and fishing trips. You could do an archery antelope hunt in the morning, and trout fish in the afternoon. The priority right now is on the hunting side, and the hunters don’t think so much about fishing. If you are camping, you can do some fishing as well,” Bauer said.
Even though the seasons are concurrent, usually hunters and anglers do not run into problems with each other. “Usually the fisherman don’t have issues with the hunters. On bigger reservoirs or lakes you might run into some waterfowl hunters. You just need to pay attention and respect each other’s space,” he said.
He also suggested that anglers need to be aware of the hunting season, and if they are fishing in areas where hunters are, it’s best to be visible. “For a season like firearm deer season, you may want to wear blaze orange,” Bauer stated.
Fishermen also need to be aware of the regulations in the area they are fishing. “We have bag limits, and some of those are statewide and we also have special regulations on some waters. They are all in the fishing guide and that can be picked up across the state as well as seen online,” he said.
A fishing license needs to be able to be produced at all times. Anglers can buy a one-day, three-day or annual pass, as well as a lifetime pass. A one-day permit is $6.50, a three-day pass is $21.50, and an annual pass is $27.50. A lifetime pass depends on the age of the applicant.
Unlike hunting, a habitat stamp does not need to be purchased in addition to the license. “The habitat stamp is included in the price of a fishing permit. Part of your permit money goes into that program,” Bauer said.
The fishing season is year-round in Nebraska, and even through the winter anglers can find a way to fish. “Ice fishing is very popular here. Our ability to ice fish depends on the winter that we have. In a mild winter, we may not have enough ice to do much fishing,” he said.
He continued, “On average, people hit the ice around Christmas, maybe a little earlier. They can usually ice fish through February.”
One of the most popular fish to catch during the ice fishing season is the Northern Pike. “The northern pike is probably the best suited to ice fishing of all Nebraska gamefish. Northerns feed often and aggressively, giving fishermen a good chance of hooking one. They grow large, with 10 to 15 pounders common in some lakes, and they make fine eating. Northerns are fairly well distributed across the state, but most Nebraska pike fishing occurs in Sandhills lakes and Box Butte Reservoir. Sherman, Swanson and Elwood reservoirs and Alkali Lake, where fewer but bigger fish are taken, are also popular,” according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
In fact, during the ice fishing season is when a lot of the trophy fish are caught. “Some of the bigger ones are caught during that time through the ice than any other time. The lakes are very productive, and produce some fast growing, fat fish that reach trophy sizes. Those lakes are relatively shallow. During the summer they have a lot of vegetation, and it makes the fish tough to catch. In the winter there are less weeds and the fish tend to bite more,” Bauer stated.
Some of the streams and ponds have naturally producing fish, but not all of the fishing spots do. “There are fish there that are naturally reproducing, but we also stock those reservoirs. We monitor the fish communities all the time, and determine what management activities we need to do to keep the fish population healthy and provide good fishing,” he said.
One of the more popular fish to catch in Nebraska is the hybrid strip bass, also called the wiper. The wiper is a white bass by striped bass hybrid, but one that is also sterile and has to be restocked.
“They are a very popular fish to catch. They are basically an overgrown white bass. They can get to 10 to 15 pounds, and the state record is just over 20-pounds. They are a hard fighting fish. They are a trophy fish. It takes some skill to get them in the net,” he said.
No matter the area where anglers choose to fish, Nebraska offers a lot of opportunities for a great fishing experience. “We have a lot of diversity. You can go catch a fish and have a family fish fry, or go catch something that’s more challenging,” Bauer said. ❖
“In the fall is a great time to a do combination hunting and fishing trip.”
~ Daryl Bauer