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Small & Largemouth The Bass Gary Howey

  Bass, both the smallmouth and largemouth bass are one of the top predators in any body of water as they’re some of the most aggressive fish in the body of water.

Largemouth

  The largemouth inhabits most bodies of water from small farm ponds, gravel/sand pits, to the Missouri River Reservoirs of South Dakota and Nebraska. Where’s there’s water, you’ll find the largemouth, including in the numerous lakes found throughout Minnesota and the “Glacial Lakes” of northeastern South Dakota.

  As mentioned earlier, largemouth can be very aggressive and will attack almost anything they might think they can get into their mouth. Among several of the things that bass are known to eat include snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders, ducklings, crayfish as well as other fish.

  Bass are aggressive feeders, in the spring before the “Dog” days of summer; you’ll find them shallow in preparation for the spawn.

  The male will create a nest with their tail in one to three feet generally less than ten feet from shoreline where the fertilized eggs are deposited. The male will guard the fingerlings until they’re capable of fending for themselves.

  Because the male has been busy keeping predators away from the nest, he hasn’t had an opportunity to eat and one of the final things he’ll do before leaving the nest is chase the fingerlings from the nest by gobbling down as many of the young as possible. This not only allows the male to feed, but it may also show the young fish that they can’t trust anything, not even their father.

  After the spawn, the female moves into the deep water to rest and recuperate from the spawning ritual.  During the cool time of the day and after the sunsets, the females will move from the deeper water up shallow looking for a quick meal.

  In the summer, all largemouth will look for more comfortable water temperatures, this may be deep, adjacent or in the weeds or in the shade of a dead fall or stump lying in the water.

  As summer moves into fall, bass like all fish will start to feed heavily, as they need to bulk up before winter sets in, feeding heavily until water temperature decline when these cold blooded creatures metabolism slows and they ride out the winter.

  Some of the preferred baits for taking largemouth include; jigs and pig, spinnerbaits, buzz baits, Texas rigs with Berkley Gulp, PowerBaits and Carolina Rigs,  dropshot rigs, crankbaits like those manufactured by  Bagley and in some cases live bait rigs.

    The largemouth records for the states mentioned above vary with the South Dakota record for largemouth being 9 lbs. 3 Oz. with the Minnesota record fish coming in at 8 Lbs. 15 Oz. while the Nebraska record tipping the scales at 10 Lbs. 11 Oz

Smallmouth

The smallmouth bass can be even more aggressive than their cousin the largemouth bass are. Called the Bronze-back, a name given to smallmouth because of their aggressive nature and the way they fight once hooked, pretty much describes the fight an angler has on his hands once the fish is hooked. They run hard, test your equipment and come from deep water in a flash, dancing along the surface trying to dislodge the hook in their jaw.

  They inhabit numerous lakes throughout Nebraska, with excellent populations in the Missouri River reservoirs as well as on Merritt Reservoir and other smaller lakes.

  The South Dakota Reservoirs, Lewis & Clark, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe all have huge smallmouth populations as do the “Glacial Lakes” in the northeastern portion of the state that include Horseshoe, Roy Lake, Reetz Lake and Enemy Swim.

   In Minnesota, you’ll find numerous lakes where these “Bull Dogs of the Deep” will test your equipment and your fish fighting skill. [Read more…]

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When the fish won’t bite! Do a Change-Up! By Gary Howey

   What I’m writing about happened to me numerous times over the years and I’m sure it will happen again.

   We were fishing on one of the numerous lakes in the Glacial Lakes and Prairie Region of Northeastern South Dakota, near Watertown and not having much luck. I knew there was a tremendous fisheries here as I was born and raised in this area but was beginning to think there wasn’t a walleye in the lake and as I was about to call it a day, I finally located some fish with my locator.

   My eyes were glued to my locator, as they had most of the day, hoping to find these fish.

  As I was working my way back and forth over this one particular spot, there they were fish just off the bottom in 12 foot of water, as well as several on the bottom. They were showing up as those big lazy arcs indicating the presence of fish and by the size of the marks on the locator, they appeared to be big!

  Since they were located right on or just a couple of feet or so off the bottom, I guessed they were active walleyes and immediately marked the spot.

  Grabbing a couple rods one rigged with a live bait rig while on the other I used a jig. I put the one rod with the live bait rig in a rod holder letting it drag along the edge the drop off, while I used a jig, working it up from the deeper water onto the flat where my locator indicated the fish were holding.

  Even though the fish appeared to be active as they were off the bottom, it didn’t take me long to realize that these fish were in a negative mood or weren’t interested in what I was offering.

  I started digging through my tackle bag, switching from one walleye bait to another, going with my old standards, a bottom bouncer with a spinner baited with a minnow. I tried a livebait rig with a crawler, a jig with a Gulp leech, bottom bouncer and spinner and finally going to a crawler on a plain hook with just a small split shot for weight, all to no avail.

  These fish weren’t in the mood, no matter what I was putting in front of them; they just ignored my offerings or lay tight on the bottom refusing to move.

  Once again, I started rummaging through my tackle bag, looking for something different that the walleyes may not have seen before, something to get them to bite. I needed something, that might get the fish’s attention, and to pull them out of their negative mood. [Read more…]

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The 15th Annual Paralyzed Veteran’s of America &Fireman’s Fishing event By Gary Howey

  What does it take to have the ability to take dozens of paralyzed veterans and other individuals fishing on the Missouri River? It’s a monumental task, which is pulled off each year in the Missouri River waters adjacent to Chamberlain/Oacoma, S.D.

  Our destination, Arrowwood, Cedar Shore Resort, which located on the west bank of the Missouri River near Oacoma and as  we pulled into the parking lot, there were vehicles from several states including; Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.

   The resort was the headquarters for the 2017 Firefighters Paralyzed Veterans of America North Central Chapter Joel Niemeyer Memorial Walleye Fishing event that was held May 25 and May 26.

  This event, the 15th annual would give disabled veterans and other individuals the opportunity to get out in a boat to do some fishing, for some; this would be their only opportunity of the year.

  Sponsored by numerous Fire fighters organizations, the North Central Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, local sponsors, several veterans groups, numerous volunteers, that included up to thirty boat commanders and first mates,  who’d volunteer their time, boats and equipment to take these folks out onto the river to fish. [Read more…]

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Learning from Past Experiences! By Gary Howey

  I remember while growing up in Watertown, SD, about all the things there were to do and how I wanted to try to do all of them!

  I also remember that several of these things weren’t what I really should have been doing.  My folks were always there to set me straight and would give me that old line, “you don’t need to do that, you could get hurt” and so on and so forth!

  Well after many years of contemplating their statements and many years of wondering how they knew so much about this subject.  I’ve finally concluded that they knew because when they were young, they probably tried it or had a friend that tried it and “got hurt!”

  We all learn from past-experiences and as an outdoorsmen or women, we really should rely on those past-experiences to give us insight on what’s going on around us in the outdoors.

  Take for instance a guide trip that I had a few years back, I had two of the toughest clients that I can ever remember taking out.

  It was late October, a warm October, but none the less October and in my neck of the woods; it’s that time of the year when water is about as close to becoming ice as it gets.

  Well these guys insisted that I take them out as they wanted to take advantage of the warm day, it didn’t make any difference that the water temps were in the 40’s, it was a nice day and they wanted to fish.

  Well as anyone who’s ever been on the water knows that at 40 degrees, fish aren’t exactly bouncing off the wall, heck, they’re hardly moving. [Read more…]

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Figuring Out Spring Fishing By Gary Howey

  To me, it seems like this has been one long winter and unfortunately, there’s a lot of it left! It hasn’t been overly cold, but the wind has been blowing a lot. I like winter to a point, for ice fishing and predator calling, but each year, it seems like I like winter less.

  When the weather has been decent, anglers have been on the water below the Missouri River dams hard.

  Like any other area we fish, the more boats you have out, the better your chances are that someone will locate a concentration of fish. Once people hear that fish are being caught, there are going to be numerous boats on the water during the nice days.

  The majority of the walleyes, sauger and bass caught during the early spring are probably going to be those smaller aggressive males.

  Catching small fish isn’t all-bad because those smaller fish are a good sign for the fishing in the future, indicating that previous spawns were successful and at least there’s something jerking on the line.

  It won’t be long before these smaller fish will be legal size and the fishing down the road should be good.

  The walleyes that they’re catching below the dams now are fish, which started their movement upstream last fall and wintered over below the dam in preparation for this spring’s spawn.

  The larger females will be the last to come up and they’ll set up in the deeper water, waiting for water temperatures to warm up enough for the spawning to begin.

  The walleye & sauger begin spawning when water temperatures hit around 48 degrees, which, during most years is around the first part of May.

  However, who knows, with the temperatures changing the way they do, it could happen earlier than that!

  You’ll find that the smaller males will bite throughout the spawning period, as they are traveling around looking for receptive females and will exert more energy than the females that are in a holding pattern.

  Fishing for the females can be slow up to, through the spawn, and as much as two weeks after the spawn, as the spawn is harder on the females and they will require more time to recuperate.

  After recuperating, the females will go on a feeding binge, as the spawning ritual has taken a lot out of them. This feeding binge, where they’ll feed heavily could last as long as a month.

  After the spawn, with water temperatures warming, all fish will become more active and begin to feed heavily.

  As the water warms, you’ll find the walleyes prowling the shallower water looking for their next meal, generally cruising in 15 foot of water or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on the bite, doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there grabbing everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is directly related to the water temperature, so they’ll still be in their slow mode until summer temperatures arrive.  [Read more…]

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Studying Missouri River fisheries is his job By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

ONAWA, Iowa — Monitoring the Missouri River fishery is the job of Ryan Hupfeld, Missouri River fish management biologist.

Hupfeld was named to the position last fall after Van Sterner, fisheries biologist, retired.

While much of the work on the river addresses the endangered pallid sturgeon, other fish are also studied, and, as time goes on, Hupfeld hopes to expand those studies.

“The paddlefish season opened a couple of years ago, and we have been monitoring that by gill netting every spring and fall,” Ryan says. “They seem to be doing very well. We caught fish from 18 to 41 inches, and the average weight was between 17 and 20 pounds.

“We are also jaw tagging these fish to look at movement and also exploitation to some degree,” he continued. “We’ve had nine recaptures and eight of them were from our tagging and one was from South Dakota. We also have had multiple numbers that were called in by anglers.”

What the paddlefish snagging studies have shown is somewhat surprising. It is clear that these fish roam up and down our rivers a lot.

“We learned most of them traveled well over 500 river miles,” he said. One of the paddlefish we tagged in March right here at Decatur was caught in October. It went all the way down the Missouri, down the Mississippi and up the Big Muddy River and was caught below a dam. That’s 1000 miles.”

“We’re also trying to work with and cooperate with other states to manage these fish,” he says.

Invasive fish species are of great concern.

Over the years, grass carp, bighead carp and silver carp have exploded in numbers through the Missouri below Gavins Point Dam at Yankton, S.D. All of these carp, including another called black carp, originally came from Asia and were brought over by fish farmers in an effort to keep their growing ponds clean. Floods enabled many of them to escape into our waterways.

“Black carp haven’t made it up here that we know of,” Ryan says. “Asian carp spawn from April through October, and they are very efficient at feeding, much more so than native plankton feeders.

“There are no natural predators for them like there is in China,” he continues. “They are having a big effect on our native fish. We’re monitoring silver carp populations, looking at age and growth. They’re very good to eat. We need to start developing a market for them so we can relieve our native fish populations from the stresses of them.” [Read more…]

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Eight lures you should fish, but may not By Larry MYHRE

Every angler is looking for the next hot bait. And when they find it, they buy it. And that is good. However, there are some baits that were hot yesteryear, are hot today and will be hot tomorrow.

So why do we tend to forget them?

I think part of the reason is that our bait choices are so high today that just trying to pick out a plastic worm, for instance, becomes an exercise wrapped up in futility. Four-inch, six-inch, seven-inch, or bigger? Three hundred and fifty different colors, 10 different flavors (scented or unscented). Flat tail or curly tail or double curly tail. Ribbed or not ribbed. And on and on. The original plastic worm was six inches long and offered in black or purple. It caught fish like crazy and still does. Things were so much simpler 40 years ago.

We’re going to discuss eight lures that have stood the test of time. They are fish-catching machines, yet they seem to get lost in the hubbub of Madison Avenue fishing advertising.

Let’s start with the Rapala Original Floater minnow. Eighty years ago, Lauri Rapala, a Finnish commercial fisherman, carved the first lure that became known as the Rapala minnow.

In 1959 the lure was brought to America. It became an overnight phenomenon. This balsa lure dives a couple of feet and has an action fish can’t resist. Few fishermen in the Upper Midwest use this lure consistently. They may have a box full of number 7 Shap Raps, another Rapala lure, but the Original Floater, if they have one, isn’t fished much.

Next spring, pull it behind a bottom bouncer and see what happens.

If you fish for northern pike, a Dardevle spoon is an absolute must. I would guess more northerns have been caught on this lure than any other presentation. While it comes in a lot of colors, the familiar red and white spoon is really the only color you need.

There are some secrets to fishing a Dardevle spoon effectively. First, you should use a snap to attach the lure so it has the freedom to make that side-to-side wobbling action. Secondly, mix up your retrieve. A stop and go retrieve and rod twiches will give it an erratic, darting action that gamefish can’t resist.

Yes, I said gamefish. The Dardevle catches more than just northerns. Use it in smaller sizes for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass, crappies and trout.

This lure was created in 1906 by Lou Eppinger. It’s probably the most recognizable fishing lure out there. It deserves a spot in your tackle box.

Let’s look at another spoon. The Dardevle doesn’t do well in heavy weeds or woody cover. Its single treble hook will snag up. Not so, the Johnson Silver Minnow. This lure, with its single hook soldered to the back of the spoon, is protected by a weed guard. You can make long casts with this lure and cover lots of water.

While the Silver Minnow will catch fish when fished plain, I like to hang a “trailer” on the hook. A plastic worm, curly tail or double curly tail or a plastic frog will often give the lure more “fish appeal.” I used to always use a pork trailer on this lure, but I think the pork rinds have gone the way of the dodo bird.

[Read more…]

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Looking Back at Another Year By Gary Howey

  It’s the time of the year, when temperatures are dropping and the northwest wind is making a visit to our part of the country.

  I’m in the office working with my computer, hating to think that I’ll have to head outside again, when I think about all the last year, 2016, which will be ending soon.

  Overall, it was a very good year, where Team members and I spent some time on the water and in the field with old friends as well as making some new ones along the way.

  We started out our year in Howard, S.D. on a late season hunt where Team member Josh Anderson and I filmed a pheasant hunt, on this trip; it was easy to see why South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World”.  This trip brought back memories, reminding me of how the pheasant hunting was when I was a boy growing up in Watertown, S.D.  

  Back then, they had a government program, the Soil Bank program with a potion of the farm left idle. This and the method they farmed back then, created thousands of acres of habitat, which help to create excellent pheasant numbers.

  Current pheasant numbers in our area are down, but I’m optimistic and looking forward to bird numbers improving. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will create thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, which gives birds a place to nest, roost, raise their chicks and help to protect the birds from predators.

  Following that trip, Team member Simon Fuller and I headed to the Aberdeen-Webster area to do some ice fishing. On the trip there were some big walleyes caught and returned into the icy depths of the Glacial Lake we were fishing. On that trip, I set a record for the most fish caught; unfortunately, they were minuscule, about the length of my hand and released, allowing them to grow up. It was a great trip as it gave us the opportunity to spend time on the ice with folks cut from the same cloth we were, spending time with others who loved to spend time in the outdoors, on the ice on a cold winter day. [Read more…]

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Going Back to Prehistoric Times, In Search of the Paddlefish By Gary Howey

  I’d been waiting for this moment for several years and it had finally arrived, after applying for and being unsuccessful in the past, this year, would be my year, as I was successful in this year’s drawing for a Nebraska paddlefish snagging tag!

  Over the years, my daughter one of our Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Mieke Howey Slaba from Wagner, South Dakota had both drawn tags, but not this year as I had mine and Mieke didn’t.

  Our other Team members and I planned on meeting at the Nebraska boat ramp just below Gavin’s Point Dam. Once again, the weatherman had tricked us into believing we’d have a warm sunny day to do some Paddlefish snagging.

  When we arrived at Gavin’s Point Dam that morning, it was misting, wind from the northwest with no sun in sight.

  Team Outdoorsmen Adventures members Marlyn Wiebelhaus, Wiebelhaus Guide Service would run the boat, Larry Myhre on the camera with me doing the snagging.

  The Paddlefish season was in high gear as could be seen by the number of anglers on the shore and in boats who were equipped with long heavy rods, big reels capable of holding huge quantities of heavy line were chucking 4 ounce lead weights and 2/0 treble hooks.

   South Dakota state record, a 127-pound, 9-ounce fish came from Ft. Randall, In Nebraska, and the record came from the tail waters behind Gavin’s Point Dam, and it weighed 113 pounds 4 ounce fish.

  They are found in the Yangtze River and its tributaries in China and in the U.S. the Missouri River and its tributaries.

  Paddlefish, with their torpedo like shape and their powerful tail, are able to move through the water quickly.

They are a prehistoric looking fish; have no bones in their body, ONLY one long cartilage running along their back from the head to their tail.

  My first fish, a short one, came as Marlyn maneuvered the boat around the other boats in the stilling basin, as I brought the small fish to the boat, I noticed it had no bill, and said, “It must have lost it going through the turbine side of the dam.”

  As Marlyn lifted the fish in the boat, he commented, “it’s a tagged fish” and as I held the small fish up, Marlyn jotted down the tag number before I released it back into the water.

  Bringing even a small paddlefish like this one to the boat can be tough,  especially if hooked in the back or tail, as you’re not only are you fighting this powerful fish, you are also fighting their huge gills that flair out, filling with water.

   We caught several more fish in the stilling basin, but as it started to get crowded, Marlyn fired up the big motor and moved down stream, to an area where there were no boats

  It didn’t take long for me to hook into another fish, and the way it was taking line, I knew it wasn’t the size of those I’d taken earlier. The fish peeled the line off the reel as I reared back and cranked on the reel handle, trying to gain back some of the line I’d lost earlier. Slowly but surely, I was gaining on the fish and as he popped to the surface all of us in the boat knew this one would be a slot fish. A slot fish is one that measures between 35″ to 45″ between the front of the eye to the fork of the tail and is a fish, which has to be released. [Read more…]

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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…]