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Ice-out is time for trophy northern pike By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

If your goal is to catch a trophy northern pike, the best time to do it is coming soon.

The big, old females, those 20-pound-plus leviathans, move into shallow bays to spawn even before the ice goes out. By the time the ice leaves the bays, the spawn is usually over, but those hogs stay around, basking in the warmer water those bright, sunny spring days often bring.

And the good news is, they can be caught.

Much of what these big females are foraging on is winter-killed fish that are lying on the bottom. If your lake has shad, the bottom might be littered with dead fish. And big catfish will join northerns in this feeding frenzy. If there are no shad, rest assured there will be other fish offering meals to the cruising northerns.

South Dakota’s massive Oahe Reservoir is a definite destination for early northern pike fishermen. Just about any of the lake’s many shallow bays will offer good fishing.

For years I would make an annual trip to fish with my friend Steve Nelson who lives in Pierre and is definitely one of the best shore fishermen up there.

While you can definitely catch these big fish from a boat, most of the early anglers fish from shore.

As anyone who has spent much time around water knows, the ice leaves the shallow bays first while the main lake remains in an icy grip. So shore fishermen might get as much as two weeks head start on the northerns before the boats can even get there.

Here’s how we would go about it.

Our rods were long and rather heavy. I used the same rods I used for downrigging at the time, eight-and-one-half feet long, medium heavy action. We would attach big spinning reels spooled with 12-pound-test monofilament.

Our terminal tackle consisted of a 12-inch steel leader with a swivel on one end and a snap on the other. Our hook was a size 1 treble. Our bait was frozen smelt which we obtained at local grocery stores or tackle shops.

We preferred to cast our smelt out onto a flat coming off the shoreline.

Here’s the method. Take one of the smelt and insert the shank of the treble hook into it at mid body. Push the shank through and attach the eye of the hook to the snap.

Using a kind of lob cast, throw the rig as far out as you can, making sure the smelt doesn’t fly off. Then let the whole rig sink slowly to the bottom. [Read more…]

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Walleyes Pre & Post Spawn Gary Howey

 A couple of weeks ago, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member Larry Myhre and I spent some with guide Kent Hutcheson time probing the waters of Lake Sharpe for walleyes.

  We were hoping to hit the Pre-spawn or tail end of the spawn, which usually occurs when water temperatures hit forty degrees and ends when temperatures warm up past forty-five degrees.

  Because of the strange weather we’ve had this spring, the walleyes had a tough time finding ideal spawning temperatures and the pre-spawn and spawn occurred differently than it had in past years.

  In preparation of the spawn, walleyes should be stacked up in areas adjacent to rocky points, areas with a lot of wave action as the waves oxygenates the eggs and prevents silt from covering the eggs.

   During the pre-spawn the spawn, we looked for the fish to be located in the deeper water along rip-rap areas or areas with fist size rocks. They were there, but the major part of the spawn had already occurred, with those fish using the area the smaller males, still hanging around hoping to find a female that hadn’t dropped her eggs. [Read more…]

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Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

There’s a fish swimming in most of South Dakota’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs that has often been described as “the fightingest fish that swims.”

Yet, like the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield was fond of saying, “it don’t get no respect.”

You see, the smallmouth bass is, indeed, the fish most likely to stretch the memory coils out of your monofilament that has sat dormant on your reel’s spool all winter. A two-pounder will demand your full attention, and will probably jump at least two feet out of the water, more than once.

However, this bronze rocket has the misfortune of swimming in water where the walleye is king. This is the land of $60,000 boats pulled by $60,000 pickups by guys hoping to land a limit of four walleyes measuring over 15 inches. None, most likely, will measure greater than 18 inches on most days and weigh less than a pound an a half.

They are fishing for sport and food. Sometimes I wonder which holds the most importance.

If they have the misfortune of hooking a smallmouth, a wave of disappointment washes over them. More than likely the smallie will go into the live well to keep the walleyes company, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Smallmouth are darn good eating, too. OK, I’ve let the cat out of the bag.

Bass fishermen will label me as a heretic. They don’t keep bass. They release them to fight again. It is a matter of principle with them. You’ll never see limits of smallmouths hanging on steel hooks bolted to two by fours with the proud anglers standing behind them smiling as they display their success.

That’s walleye company. It’s a prelude to good eating.

And, it was the lure of walleyes that drew Gary Howey of Hartington, Nebraska, and me to Pierre, South Dakota, a couple of weeks ago. But it turned out to be one of those times when you go to a walleye fight and a smallmouth fight breaks out.

“You’ll probably catch some smallmouth here,” our guide Kent “Hutch” Hutcheson said as he eased the big Ranger up onto a rocky flat projecting off Lake Sharpe’s east shoreline just south of the West Bend boat ramp. He should know. He’s been guiding here for over 30 years.

Sure enough, Howey’s rod tip bounced and the fish tore off line in a frantic run toward shore. I grabbed the camera, flipped on the switch and caught the smallie leaping out of the water some 30 feet away. The red “Record” light was on and through the dim viewfinder I saw the fish leave the water throwing spray six feet across on either side of him.

“I’d rather be lucky than good,” I muttered to no one. Getting that jumping fish on tape was pure luck, and I’d be the first to admit it.

With the smallie in the boat and unhooked, we took some quick pictures and released him. There would be bigger ones, we knew. [Read more…]

http://outdoorsmenadventures.com/12506-2/

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We pursue post-spawn walleyes on Lake Sharpe By Larry Myhre

 

PIERRE, S.D. | If there is one thing you can count on about Lake Sharpe this time of year, it is that it will kick out walleyes. Early spring means “eaters,” those 15- to 18-inch males that take up residence on the rocky flats where the big females move in to spawn.

If you hit it right, the fishing can be phenomenal. Be a few days early or a few days late, and it is another story.

Oh, you’ll catch fish. And you shouldn’t have any trouble catching a limit of four walleyes over 15 inches. But you will have to work for them.

That’s what happened to us late last week. Gary Howey of Hartington, Nebraska, and I fished with longtime friend and fishing guide Kent “Hutch” Hutcheson, who has been guiding in the Pierre area for over 30 years.

When Hutch picked us up at the Ramkota Hotel, our headquarters for the next few days, he told us the walleyes were at the end of their spawn and finding fish might be tough. He had fished the Cheyenne River on massive Lake Oahe the previous day and reported the fish were there but finding them was not easy.

After some conversation we decided our best bet might be the West Bend area of Lake Sharpe, the 80-mile-long reservoir to the south that stretches from Big Bend Dam just above Chamberlain to the Oahe dam just a few miles north of Pierre.

When Gary and I crossed the bridge spanning across the river from Fort Pierre to Pierre, we noticed a lot of boats working the sandbars just downstream. I took a quick count and came up with 26 boats.

“Doesn’t anybody work anymore?” Gary said. We used to see this kind of pressure on the weekend, but this was during the week.

It was the same at the West Bend boat ramp. Over 20 rigs were parked in the parking lot and three more boats were ready to launch.

As we eased out of the small bay that protects the ramp, I counted 15 boats working the big, long sunken reef or island that lays out across the bend. But Hutch wasn’t heading there. He abhors fishing with a bunch of boats and pointed the bow downstream to one of his hot spots a few miles away.

When we got there, three boats were working one hump and another was awfully close to where Hutch wanted to fish.

“I used to have this spot all to myself for years,” he said. “But things have changed.”

[Read more…]

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Small Waters Big Fish Gary Howey

  The sun was lighting up the morning sky in brilliant shades of pink and blue as we made our way west from the Ramkota Inn, Pierre, South Dakota and it appeared to be the beginning of a beautiful day for fishing.

Good friend Steve Nelson, Pierre, South Dakota had been trying to get us out his way for several years to sample some of great fishing the stock dams, the smaller bodies of water in the area had to offer. Many of the ponds and stock dams he had bragged about were located on the 115,997 acres Fort Pierre National Grasslands, while others were scattered throughout the privately owned range land in that part of the state.

These smaller bodies of water are found throughout the upper Midwest and contain catchable populations of bass, bluegill, sunfish and catfish.

In mid July, when we finally made the trip west, the temperatures can easily reach ninety plus degrees. The day before we arrived, the temperatures had been in the high nineties, with similar weather predicted the two days we would be there, because of this, we would start fishing around sunrise, during the early morning.

It was close to seven am when we pulled into the pasture and as we arrived at the stock dam; it looked as if we would have to spend some time trying to locate the fish as the shoreline weeds gave them plenty of places to hide..

Because of the weedy shoreline, we would be fishing out of two Coleman Crawdad boats, oaring our way through the thick weed beds and then using electric trolling motors to work along the deeper water of the outside edges of the weeds.

Armed with one sixty-fourth and one-sixteenth ounce jigs tipped with tiny pieces of crawlers, we probed the ten-foot water between and along the outer edge of the weed line.

As Larry pulled us away from the shore, I rigged up a micro jig with a small piece of crawler and worked it between the weed pockets.

When using such a small jig, light line is necessary and as I fed my four-pound line from my reel, keeping a tight line, following the jig to the bottom, it suddenly paused, then darted off to the right. I set the hook, not knowing what to expect, then, my ultra light rod doubled over with the drag on my small spinning reel began to scream.

Whatever had engulfed my lure was putting up a good fight and as I worked it to the surface, an angry bull bluegill came up alongside the boat. The thick ten-inch plus fish was at least one pound, and only the beginning of several dozen of the big fish who would fall prey to our offerings. [Read more…]

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West River stock dams yield big bluegills By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

PIERRE, S.D. | The prairie swept away to the west like an endless sea of waving grass. It was shortly after dawn and antelope and deer scampered away from our vehicles as Gary Howey and Steve Nelson guided their trucks down the gravel roadway.

We were on our way to fish one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of stock dams which dot these grasslands. The ponds are built to provide water for cattle, an industry which anchors the incomes of most who live in this region.

Steve Nelson, Pierre, S.D., has been a friend of mine since we attended the University of South Dakota a generation ago. After graduation, our paths went separate ways until we made contact about 10 years later. Pierre, Steve told me, was an outdoorsman’s paradise. I needed to come visit. Of course I knew that, but my tunnel vision was fishing. It was hard to drive farther than Lake Frances Case, a Missouri River reservoir a lot closer than Lake Oahe. Oahe had bigger fish, but Case had the numbers. Decisions, decisions.

But, I needed to see an old friend.

And ever since then, Pierre has drawn me like a moth to a flame.

No one has a better handle on stock-dam fishing than my friend, Steve. He’s guided me on many memorable trips to these dams for bass, bluegills and perch. And I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill fish. I’m talking about pound-plus ‘gills, perch and bass of nearly state record proportions.

So when Steve called and said we should come out and seek big bluegills, we went.

The pond we were intending to fish is on private land. And that’s the case of many West River stock dams. You must have permission of the landowner to fish them, but that’s not difficult to obtain.

But, there are also a lot of ponds and small reservoirs on public land. More about that later. [Read more…]