outdoors

Courtesy photo Catching a big crappie, or any panfish, is a great way to get youngsters excited about the outdoors.

Nebraska’s reservoirs, lakes, and rivers are home to a wide diversity of fish species. This spring is shaping up to be a good one for area anglers. What follows is the fishing forecast for several of the region’s most popular bodies of water.

At Johnson Reservoir, 2018 walleye counts were up, both in terms of numbers of fish and those over 15-inches, compared to the previous year. So are hybrid striped bass, and sauger numbers are way up.

Last year’s data indicated an abundance of young sauger in the lake, so the fishing looks really promising for this year and the next couple years. However, white bass, perch, and crappies dropped noticeably from 2017, while catfish counts dropped slightly. Even so, crappie fishing is predicted to be good at Johnson this year.

Catfish numbers were also down at Harlan Reservoir, as were white bass. Walleye were up, though, and wipers were way up from the previous year. Crappie counts remain low due to low water levels.

Channel catfish numbers remained steady at Sherman, as did walleye, while white bass were up slightly. So were crappies. Sherman Reservoir is consistently one of the best crappie fishing spots in the state year after year, thanks in part to a 10-inch minimum length limit.

Davis Creek should be good for crappies in 2019, too. Walleyes remained steady, although many may be on the small side measuring under 15-inches. Channel cats were down, but wiper numbers increased dramatically in 2018. Anglers are also likely to experience good fishing for white bass in this scenic reservoir.

Calamus Reservoir continues to be one of the state’s top white bass destinations. Walleye are predicted to be mostly small in Calamus this year, although there should still be a few fish over 15-inches.

Overall, the outlook for Central Nebraska reservoirs looks positive, and anglers should enjoy some memorable outings on area waters.

Rainbow trout were originally scheduled to be stocked last week in many area lakes. However, those stockings have been delayed due to the recent flooding. “We have not stocked any trout yet this spring, and will not until we sort out flood damages,” said Daryl Bauer of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Eventually, over 85,000 trout are planned to be released across Nebraska this spring. These are all put-and-take fisheries, since most trout won’t survive over summer, so don’t be afraid to keep any fish caught and enjoy a meal of fresh, friend trout.

Initially, corn and powerbaits seem to be the ticket for catching recently released rainbows. However, as the fish get hungrier, spoons, spinners, and even flies will appeal more to their growing appetites.

Anyone 16 or older needs a fishing permit, which costs $38 for an annual permit, $10 for a one-day permit, and $31 for a 3-day permit. In addition, a park entry permit, which costs $30 annually or $6 daily, is required on vehicles visiting state parks and recreation areas.

However, free fishing and park entry day will be Saturday, May 18 this year, which is a week prior to Memorial Day weekend. This is a great opportunity for those wanting to give fishing a try or explore our state parks for free.

Many of us can’t wait that long, though. March means the weather is finally warming up, at least somewhat. It’s time to dust off that old rod and reel. It’s time to go fishing.

Jarrod Spilger writes about the outdoors for The Independent.

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