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Dove Opener 2017 By Gary Howey

  I like many other hunters throughout America were patiently waiting for the opener of the most popular game bird early hunting season, the dove opener, which would be September 1.

  Scouting is an important part of any hunting and I had scouted for doves on every trip I made to the field.  Several of my game cameras were on covering my minerals licks in an adjacent field and each time I came into the field the fence lines between the two CRP fields were covered up with doves.

  As the end of August started to draw near our temperatures surely did not feel like August, as the days were comfortable and the nights cool. Which is not good if you are looking forward to the dove opener as cooler weather, northerly winds and the threat of rain make the doves’ bunch up and if the weather persists, the birds may move out, migrating south to beat the cold weather?

  When opening day finally arrived, and  as I waited throughout the day to get out and do a late afternoon hunt. All my dove hunting gear was loaded into my Dodge Ram pickup, but as the day drew on, the clouds started to build and a steady drizzle appeared, getting worse as the day drew on.

  I’m not one to give up easily, so I stopped by the office to grab my rain gear and headed west out of town, hoping to see does piled up on the fence and power lines.

  As I approached the field entrance, it did not look good as there were but a few birds to be seen and many of those that I saw were tweedy birds, not the doves I had hoped to see.

  Topping the rise, I could see the refection of the farm pond off in the distance, but the fence line leading to it was barren, not even a single tweedy bird. “Oh Well” I came this far, might as well open the gate, go through the pasture and see what needed to be done to make the area I’d be hunting more appealing to the doves.

  There had been cattle in the pasture, so the weeds along one side of the dam were tramped down or absent, perfect for the short-legged doves, as it allowed them easy access to the water.

  All along the face of the dam, the doves favorite food had taken root with an over abundance of Hemp (Marijuana) and ragweed growing there, as doves love nothing better than to stuff themselves with these tiny seeds.  Because the water was close by, it should have been the perfect place for the birds to be prior to heading to their nighttime roosts.

  When hunting I am a believer in decoys, but especially when going after doves as a hunter does a lot of moving when hunting these small acrobatic birds. If they come in low, they are almost impossible to see, so you are always cranking your head around, squinting you eyes, moving,  hoping to see them above the horizon as they come in. [Read more…]

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Early Hunting Season Grouse & Prairie Chicken By Gary Howey

  The early upland game bird hunting seasons are just around the corner and the bird surveys that have been completed on the sharptail grouse and the prairie chicken seem to indicate good numbers of both species.

  In South Dakota, the lek count indicates that the sharptail grouse numbers are up slightly, while the count for prairies chicken is down slightly, which pencils out to having about the same number of birds that were in the state last season.

  Counting the male birds on leks, which are often called dancing or booming grounds gives the Game & Parks an ideas as to the number of birds.

   The life span of these birds is short with about a 50% survival rate. Young of year birds usually outnumber adult birds in the fall.

  This is reason these counts are taken in the spring, when the males gather on the lek, these counts are a good indicator of the adult bird and how things will look in the future.

  Distinguishing the difference between the two isn’t difficult as the sharptails have a shorter tail with their two middle feathers longer and darker than the outside tail feathers; their sharp tail is the reason for their name. A sharptails feathers are marked with spots or blotches of a different color or shade.

   The prairie chickens tail is short, dark, and rounded with the greater part of their feet feathered.

  Hunting grouse on the prairie means that you have to cover a lot of distance, as the birds are generally in large flocks and found in the western grassland of the state.

  In the morning in the spring both the grouse and prairie chickens dance or display or dance on the lek with the male prairie chicken raising the feathers on its head and inflating the orange sacs on their neck, trying their best to impress the females.

  The females arrive at the lek each morning to check out the males as they strut, display and stutter step as they move around in a circle.

  Once the female has mated, like other upland game birds she will tend the eggs and raise then young on her own.

  One thing you can do to locate birds before hitting the field is something I learned from a friend when I first started hunting grouse.  He uses his binoculars to glass the larger pastures and grassland, as the grouse and chickens always seem to have a lookout with its head up watching for danger. He looked for their lookout and said they resembled a bowling pin sticking out of the grass. I’ve tried it several times and have located birds, but without glassing the field first, I would have had to walk the entire field before finding the birds.

  When I was younger, I had a Brittney Spaniel, who led the way, nose to the ground through the fields as he worked to pick up the birds scent. We’d walk until we busted a covey, shot what we could and watched the direction the birds glided to and then walked again, covering several miles in pursuit of the birds. [Read more…]

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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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Jumping Fish and Anchored Mussels…Who Knew?

We have been sending emails to you all summer, trying to keep you informed of the laws and what South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is doing to try and slow the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in our great state.

We thought with the dog days of summer upon us, we would lighten the mood a little with a few interesting facts about AIS.

1. Asian carp were brought to the U.S. in the mid-1970’s to help clean commercial catfish rearing ponds, but did you know that in terms of aquaculture (producing fish for food),these carp are the fourth most produced fish in the world? They are a valued fish for eating and are extinct due to overfishing in much of their home range. Here is a video showing how to clean and prepare silver carp.

2. Asian carp are vocacious eaters of plankton and can eat 20%- 40% of their body weight in the micro-organism every day!

3. Although they prefer lakes, they require large rivers for spawning.  The eggs are semi-buoyant and it is believed they must remain suspended in the water column to survive. [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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Boat plug, bait and fish transporting rules for South Dakota.

 

As summer kicks into full swing, we would like to give you a fresh reminder on the boat plug and bait and fish transporting rules for South Dakota.

DRAIN PLUGS: Boaters and anglers are required to open or remove all drain pluge or similar devices; except when in the boat ramp parking lot or when the boat is being launched and loaded.  Plugs must remain out of the boat during transportation and storage.

BAIT: Bait and fish may not be transported in water taken from a lake, river or stream. Bait may be transported in water taken from a lake, river or stream while in route to a fish cleaning station only if the cleaning station is located within the parking lot area and must be drained prior to leaving the fish cleaning station.

FISH: Anglers have three options for transporting whole fish for cleaning at home or at a cleaning station not within the boat ramp parking area:

  1. In a container –  (not a part of the boat) that is filled with domestic water (tap, well, bottled or ice).
  2. On ice – in a cooler or pull the plug on their livewell and fill it with ice (plug must remain out).
  3. Dry – put fish in an empty bucket or pull the livewell plug before leaving the boat ramp and let it drain while traveling.

Remembering these simple rules will help keep South Dakota’s lakes, rivers, ponds and streams free from invasive species. 

Stay educated, stay informed and help current and future generations slow the spread of AIS in our great state. You can also visit sdleastwanted.com at any time to learn more about what you can do!

 

 

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Gov. Dennis Daugaard Signs Lakes Bill Into Law

Pierre, SD

Doug Haas with a nice Smallmouth bass taken in one of the many lakes that would have been closed until recently.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed into law new rules governing the use of lakes on private land for recreation that lawmakers approved during a special legislative session.

The Republican governor signed the bill Monday. After some disagreement between the House and Senate, both chambers ultimately voted in favor of the bill during the special session.

Daugaard says signing the bill opens up tens of thousands of acres of waters to public recreation while also respecting the property rights of landowners.

The law restores access to nearly 30 lakes for public recreation hampered after a recent state Supreme Court decision.

The measure also says that other lakes on private property are open for recreational use unless a landowner installs signs or buoys saying an area is closed.

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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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Small Ponds, Lakes & Weeds By Gary Howey

  If you fish some of the clearer lakes and ponds such as the Glacial Lakes in the Watertown, SD area and others found in in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa or smaller lakes and ponds in late spring and on into summer you’re going to have to deal with weeds.

  As temperatures rise and the sun’s power increases, these bodies of water will weed up in the first eight to ten foot from the shoreline a weedy mess.

  This makes for some tough fishing especially for the bank angler.  Using a simple rig such as the hook, line, sinker and a bobber doesn’t work if the shoreline is weed covered.
  The moss and emergent weed growth can make it impossible to fish from shore, but it’s a blessing for the newly hatched fingerlings as it gives the small fish a place to hide from predator fish such as bass, pike and walleye. 

  It doesn’t take much shoreline cover to give fingerlings a hiding place to keep from being eaten by the many larger species looking for their next meal. 

  Because the predator fish are cruising along and in between the weed lines, why shouldn’t we be fishing in or near them, but that’s easier said than done as nothing eats tackle like heavy weeds.

    There are ways, shore or bank anglers can fish these solid beds of vegetation and take Bluegill and bass. In all weed beds, there are some open areas where the weeds haven’t grown or they don’t come to the surface.  These open pockets may have a rock or sandy bottom where weeds haven’t been able to establish themselves.  These areas form an edge or a bottom change, as all fish and wildlife, like the edge.

  This gives the fish a place to retreat out of sight, a place to hide from any predators and a place for predators to ambush any smaller fish.

  By fishing these pockets, you’re able to pull the fish out of the weedy areas.  Surface lures imitating a frog or insects work well to entice the fish in these areas as do spinners and buzz baits when run over the top of the weeds and through the openings in the weeds.

   When using spinner baits you’ll want to cast your lure into the water past the pocket, hold your rod high and crank quickly in order to keep your bait from sinking into the weeds. Once you come to an open pocket, pause, allowing your bait to helicopter into the pocket and then crank hard to bring the bait back on top and over the top of the weeds.   Your strike should come as the bait helicopters into the pocket or when you start bringing it up out of the pocket.

   The worst thing you can do when fishing weeds is to work your bait too quickly.  All species of fish use their five senses to locate their prey, sight, sound, vibration, taste and hearing. You’ll have to remember when it comes to fishing in the weeds; the fish aren’t able to use all of their senses in heavy weed growth. Its vision and sense of vibration become impaired because of the thick weeds and it will take them longer to locate your bait, so work it as slow as possible. [Read more…]

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Bottom Bouncing Slow Death Rigs On Francis Case By Gary Howey

 As we pulled into the parking lot on Tuesday, the second day of our fishing trip on Lake Francis Case, there were sixteen rigs inline waiting to launch their boats, my first thoughts were, Wow doesn’t anyone work anymore!”

  When the bite is on, news travels fast and the bite was definitely on with boats launching out of Platte Creek in the Dock 44 area.

  As I mentioned in the beginning of this column, it was our second day on the water, where we’d be filming with professional angler and Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, Ted Takasaki, Sioux Falls, S.D.
  Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA., camera operator Bill, Miller, Elgin, NE.  and I had driven up on Monday in heavy wind and intermittent rain showers, and it looked like the bite would surely be off because of the front coming through and we’d have to pound the water late into the first day to find some fish.

  Ted, who arrived mid afternoon had waited out the storms, which took roofs off several buildings in Armour, S.D. and dropped hail east of Sioux Falls. He’s been busy as he just returned from fishing the National Walleye Tour on Lake Sakakawea where he finished in 5th Place.

  We launched Ted’s Lund 219 Pro V mid afternoon, heading out of the bay, expecting to having to fight the wind, when it  calmed down, making for a perfect walleye chop and a nice smooth ride to where we would be fishing.

  This was the first day of our two-day trip and with all the fronts that had gone through, I didn’t know what to expect as cold fronts generally shut the fish off.

  When we arrived at the first spot we’d planned to fish, we were greeted by several boats working the point, with the majority of them pulling plugs.

  Because we were filming, which seems to attract a crowd, Ted maneuvered the boat to an area that was less crowded?

  On this trip, we’d be using bottom bouncers and spinners. Ted uses the Smile spinner blade Slow Death rigs, which proved to be deadly on walleye. The Slow Death hook is off set causing the bait to spin with a corkscrew action with the blade’s extra wiggle gives off more vibration. If you’re using the rig with crawlers, you want to insert the barb of the hook as close to the top of the crawlers head and thread it up past the hooks eye, the pinch off all bur 5 or 6″ of the worm. The vibration from the blade and the action of the hook along with the scent being dispersed from the crawler seemed to draw fish to the bait. [Read more…]