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We pursue paddlefish below Gavins Point Dam By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

There swims in the dark, swirling currents of the Missouri River a fish whose lineage dates back to over 300 million years, nearly 50 million years before the age of the dinosaurs. It’s a fish that can grow to a length of seven feet and weigh 160 pounds, although giants of that size may not exist at all anymore.

Or, perhaps not.

The paddlefish is a fish of the largest rivers in the land. Its numbers, however, have declined dramatically over the past 50 years or so, largely due to overfishing and habitat changes. Careful fisheries management has resulted in a limited harvest of this fish along the major rivers where it is found.

Recently, I joined Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and Marlyn Wiebelhaus, a river guide from nearby Wynot, Neb. Gary had drawn one of the 1,520 resident snagging permits. I was there for the photography.

As Marlyn guided his boat into the tailgaters area of the Gavins Point Dam I counted 12 boats with anglers hurling big snagging rods throwing heavy lines anchored by big sinkers with a single 2/0 treble hook tied just above it into the quiet water below the gates.

We slipped in among the boats and found an open area where Marlyn could work his boat. Unlike most of the snaggers, Marlyn does not anchor and cast. Instead, he trolls with the angler trailing his line behind the boat and lunging back and forth in an effort to set the small treble hook into the flesh of one of those prehistoric swimmers.

It didn’t take long.

“Got one,” Gary grunted as his 10-foot rod bowed heavily and the tip began to throb in time with the pulling of the fish.

But our visions of a primitive monster soon evaporated as the fish rolled on the surface.

“A little one,” Gary said as Marlyn lifted it into the boat.

It might have weighed 10 pounds and would have weighed more if it had the distinctive paddle making up the snout of one of these fish. Called a rostrum, the paddle-like extension was once thought to be used to dig food from the bottom, but that is not the case. This little guy almost proved that. He was fat and in good shape.

“Must have lost that coming through the turbines,” Gary remarked as he slid the fish over the side to freedom.

Our next fish also came quickly.

[Read more…]

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Current Facts How current affects fish By Gary Howey

  When I was growing up in Watertown, S.D., where we fished, we did not worry about the current and the way it affected the fish. Why, well we did not know a thing about it, secondly, we were fishing in the Sioux River and lakes where current was not a big factor.

  After moving down to the area I live now, Hartington, NE. where I would be doing the most of my fishing the Missouri River, understanding current became very important.

  Anglers, especially those who fish down river from a one of the four Missouri Reservoir dams, need to pay close attention to what is happening at the dam, especially the amount of water being released or decreased, as a change in water velocity and levels drastically affect the location and mood of the fish. 

  I’ve heard it dozens of times where anglers have clobbered the fish one day and then the next not have a clue why fishing the following day will not be good at all.

  In many cases, the reason things have changed is that the discharge from the dams has changed either raising or lowering the water levels and changing the current flows.

In many of the newspapers including the Yankton Press and Dakotan, they give a report on Gavin’s Point Dam, showing the water temperature of the lake, the amount of discharge as well as other information.

  The water temperature on the lake, gives anglers and idea as to when the spawn will happen and the bite will begin to improve, while the information on the discharge is important, as the movement in the water causes all species of fish to change their patterns.

  The best fishing is going to happen when there’s an increase in water flow as this means there will be injured baitfish coming through the dam, signaling to fish down river that it’s lunch time, causing them to move up stream to feast on what’s being washed through the turbines or over the spillway.

With the increase in water flow, there is an increase in current.  It forces fish to relocate, with some moving to the deeper holes, into current breaks or to the inside bend along the shore line to avoid the swift current while others, the more aggressive fish will move up to the head of the hole to be the first to the feed on what’s washing down to them.

  The exception to the rule is channel catfish, since they seem to enjoy current and will eat about anything, they will move to the outside bend where the current is stronger, taking advantage of what is being carried downstream by the current to feed. [Read more…]