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Myhre signs off after 44 years of columns By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

After 44 years of writing this column every week, I can tell you this. Some are a lot harder to write than others.

This is one of the hard ones.

You see, I’m saying goodbye.

It’s time to hit the “Shut Down” button on the old computer. But before I do that, allow me to look back over the past 44 years.

I started working at the Journal in 1965 as a summer intern. One of my first stories was a feature on the now-long-gone Sioux City Gun Club. The camera I used was a 4X5 Speed Graphic, a bulky thing, complete with bellows. I came to work full time as a reporter in February 1966.

In those days, the Journal was at the corner of Fifth and Douglas streets. A parking ramp stands there today. The editor who hired me was Erwin Sias. If you’ve followed this column very long you know I have written about him many times. He was among a small handful of men whom I count as among the best fishermen ever.

He and another Journal employee, Marc Cox, the farm editor, wrote outdoors in each Sunday’s Sports section. I marveled at the quality of their writing and the exotic fishing trips they each took and wrote about.

Meanwhile, I was doing some outdoor writing myself. I was writing and selling stories to outdoor magazines. I never cracked the Big Three (Sports Afield, Outdoor Life and Field & Stream) at that time, but I was regularly published in Fur-Fish-Game, farm magazines and some others.

In the spring of 1973, Marc Cox was killed in a private plane crash on his way home from the Minnesota’s Governor’s Fishing Opener, an event he had attended for many years. Being the only reporter on the Journal staff with a farm background, I was selected for his job, which consisted mostly of writing for and editing the Farm Weekly tabloid.

Shorty after, Sias asked me to co-write the outdoor column with him. Of course, I quickly accepted that assignment. I abandoned magazine freelancing and concentrated on my column work.

I still remember my first column. I had discovered the Little Sioux Watershed and its hundreds of fish-filled farm ponds. It was like a man dying of thirst in the desert finally finding a canteen of water. And I drank deeply, the charms of farm pond fishing.

I also had small children and they loved to fish. Farm pond bluegills are perfect for kids. Non-stop action. Kids and farm ponds. That was the column.

I don’t remember what the next column was about, but in those days I had joined Sias and his friends each fall fishing perch at West Okoboji and wrote columns on each trip. There were a lot of them. One winter we fished every weekend from Labor Day to Memorial Day. When West Lake finally froze over usually in mid-December, East Lake had sufficiently thick ice for ice fishing. The Okoboji’s are where I met and fished with C.J. “Cap” Kennedy of Rock-a-Roo jig fame, and Jim Stone, who knew the subtle patterns of West Okoboji better than anybody.

We also headed to the Alexandria, Minnesota, area each spring to open the bass season. There we were joined by Lacey Gee, Si’s friend who owned the Wapsi Fly Company in Independence, Iowa, Bob Brown, sports editor of the Fort Dodge Messenger and their outdoor columnist, and others. We usually spent five days up there fishing crappies, bluegills, and walleyes before the bass opener. [Read more…]

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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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Coyote calling can be an unexpected adventure By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

Things don’t always go as planned when you are calling coyotes. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.

If you are calling in coyote-rich country such as western Nebraska, there’s little doubt you can call in several in a day. Other places, not so much.

If I can call in one coyote for six different sets, that’s about average. So, you will spend a lot of time looking over the landscape with nothing to show for it.

But sometimes you get the surprise of your life.

It was early morning on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota a few years ago. Three of us were set up alongside a deep, tree-lined ravine. We were each leaning back against a tree trunk and looking out over the prairie. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon spreading its light slowly. It reminded me of raising a shade in a dark room.

Suddenly, out of the ravine burst a big, mangy-looking dog, snarling and looking left and right for that dying rabbit. I was holding the camera, not a gun and the beast was now right in front of me, staring into my eyes. I had tangled with wild dogs before and knew if they see a gun they will run. I had no gun. Yet, in a heartbeat he turned and ran back into the ravine.

Good riddance.

We called in a bobcat on that set, but the season was closed. The cat crossed right in front of us through a 100-yard long clearing and into the same ravine the dog had come from.

The cat ended up sitting in a plum patch not more than 12 feet away from one of us. After its curiosity was satisfied it turned back into the ravine and vanished.

Sometimes a little humor can be included.

Fran and I were with my cousin Denny Myhre and his wife, Audrey, driving down a road, I think in Grand Teton National Park, when two young coyotes crossed in front of us. I grabbed my camera with the 300mm lens.

“I’ll see if I can call them in,” I said.

Just as I left the car another filled with Japanese students pulled alongside asking what we had seen.

“Coyotes,” Denny answered.

“Mistake,” I thought.

I ran over the rise that was hiding the vehicles and ran about 200 yards to a lodgepole pine, which I got behind and began trying to catch my breath. Then I saw the two coyotes about 200 yards off and heading away. I did my dying rabbit sound with my mouth and as soon as they heard that they began running in. Hiding behind the tree trunk, I began making pictures of them.

At about one hundred yards out they stopped. I did the mouth squeak several times but they would not respond. Then they turned and ran.

“That was strange,” I thought. “They were about five-month-old pups and should have run right in.”

[Read more…]

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Late winter action slows, even on farm ponds By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

I didn’t need to look at a calendar to know that it was the month of February.

My depth finder was lit up like a Christmas tree with fish signals, but nothing was happening. A tiny 1/100th-ounce jig was hanging on fresh, two-pound test line. It was tipped with a micro grub body with a long, skinny tail. A tiny piece of waxworm added some scent.

But even this finesse presentation was being ignored.

Yes, that happens a lot in February. Ice fishing success slows down. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish, it just means you have to pay attention to details. And, you just have to hang in there, because sometime during the day the bite will take off, and you will be hard pressed to get your bait back down to pull up another fish before it all ends.

I was fishing a farm pond northeast of Hartington, Neb. I had met Gary Howey and Dani Thoene, both of Hartington, at the pond a few minutes earlier.

Dani was running the gasoline-powered auger digging holes all over. Gary was shoveling the ice chips away from each hole. So, all the hard work was done before I even got down there. Imagine that.

I dropped the transducer down one of the holes and took a look. Ten feet deep and nothing there.

Undaunted, I dropped down my tiny jig and before long the fish showed up. Probably bluegills.

Meanwhile, Gary and Dani were reporting the same thing. Lots of fish, but no biters.

Of course, that changed.

Dani was the first to score a small bluegill. Gary added another shortly after. Another finally took my small jig a few minutes later, and the smell of “skunk” wafted away into the cool, clear air.

We were each taking fish from time to time, mostly small bluegills but occasionally we’d get a good one, seven to eight inches.

Before long we were joined by Dani’s brother Anthony and Melvin Kruse, both of Hartington.

[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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Tricks for finicky late-season fish By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

There’s one thing you can take to the bank if you are an ice fisherman during the month of February. Catching fish is just going to get tougher.

The bloom of early ice is off. Gamefish have settled into the doldrums of winter. If you are going to catch your share, whether it is bluegills, crappies, perch or walleyes, you are going to have to fish smarter.

Generally that means lightening up. Smaller baits, lighter lines, more precise presentation all play a greater role late in the ice fishing season.

If you have been fishing four pound test, you might consider switching to two pound. But even more importantly, you need to fish fresh line. Monofilament has a memory. That memory means the line comes off your spool in curls. Your tiny ice fishing jigs or teardrops are not heavy enough to take out those curls, so you are never in direct contact with your lure.

One thing underwater cameras have shown us is how lightly late winter panfish hit lures. We’ve watched bluegills and perch swim up to a lure, inhale it and spit it out all in one motion.

If you are using a camera, you can probably hook that fish. If not, you won’t even know it inhaled the bait. Sure, you can see the fish on your flasher, but you can’t tell if he has the lure.

One little trick I use is when I see the fish signal merge with my bait signal I began raising my rod tip feeling for pressure. Quite often, especially this time of year, the fish has taken the bait with no indication even if I’m using a bite indicator.

So here’s the thing. Having coils in your line severely complicates the catching of light biting fish.

I could make a strong argument for changing your line each time you go fishing.

That doesn’t mean you put on an entire 110 yards of new line each time. If you are fishing 30 feet or less, put on 40 feet of new line, using a blood knot to join the old with the new.

Once you are on the ice, it is a good idea to hook your lure on something heavy like your ice shack or snowmobile and stretch the line to remove the memory coils before fishing.

A good argument can be made for using one of the new “super” lines for ice fishing. There will be no coils in the line and no stretch, so your sense of feel will be greater. The deeper water you fish, the more important it is to use a super line.

Are there other ice fishing tricks that will help you take late-winter fish? You bet. [Read more…]

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Change tactics for ‘educated’ coyotes By Larry Myhre

 

The dying rabbit screams were echoing off the hills on the other side of the valley. It was colder than a well digger’s heart and I was beginning to think this stand was going down as another exercise in futility.

Then I heard the drumming sound of galloping feet behind and to my right. I looked over my shoulder right into the yellow eyes of a coyote, sitting down and staring at me from about 12 feet away. Behind, another was charging in, his paws thumping the frozen ground so hard it sounded like a horse.

It was all over in about three seconds. I had two empty .243 shells on the ground and nothing to show for it but footprints in the snow.

And that’s how it is, sometimes, when calling coyotes. They don’t always come from where you expect them to.

Take another hunt in the Missouri Breaks in Nebraska. Three of us were sitting at the foot of a small wooded valley. The big draw up ahead had coyote written all over it, and I was about as confident as you can get on a coyote stand.

Twenty minutes of calling yielded nothing. Then one of my hunting partners whispered, “There’s a coyote up on that hill.”

There was a huge hill off to our right. I looked up there but could see nothing. There was plenty of snow across that picked cornfield so I should be able to see a coyote. Then I saw it loping down the hill, yet so far away it looked smaller than an ant.

Then it sat down and surveyed the valley we were sitting in.

“Don’t anybody move,” I whispered. [Read more…]

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Warmest memories created in the cold By Larry Myhre

There’s nothing quite like that hour before dawn on the ice. Throughout my long ice fishing career, I harbor many cherished memories. It’s not the big fish or the number of fish I’ve caught on an outing that occupies the high points of my memory of many hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of hours and days on the ice.

No, it is those predawn hours spent on the ice of West Lake Okoboji through the late 1960s and early 1970s that come to mind most often. I was in my early 20s and just happy to be able to join the seasoned outdoors veterans who allowed me to fish with them virtually every weekend all winter.

They were a group of ice fishing addicts. They always ate a big breakfast at whichever lakeside cottage we were staying at. Then they were on the ice a full hour before daylight. And they stayed out there until a limit of perch was reached or dark, whichever came first. Lunch? Forget it. They might have a thermos of coffee and perhaps a snack in their bucket, but most likely not.

My idea of breakfast was a Coke and a cigarette. But I choked down the fried eggs, bacon or sausage and pancakes because I knew we wouldn’t eat again until about 7 p.m.

I was not an early riser. I would hear them banging around and yelling for me to get up. But I was often reluctant to leave the pleasant warmth of my sleeping bag. One morning, one of the group, a big, linebacker-type of man, picked up my sleeping bag with me in it and dumped me out on the cold floor. Another time he dumped me into a baby’s crib. He said that’s where I belonged. Do you know how hard it is to get out of a baby’s crib?

There we’d be. Sitting on a white, five-gallon bucket. If it were windy, a big rock would reside in the bucket so it wouldn’t blow away. Our short ice fishing rods were rigged with a Mitchell 308 spooled with four-pound-test line at the end of which danced a quarter-ounce Swedish Pimple spoon, its single hook sporting several tiny grubs.

So there I’d sit, back to the wind, wondering why in the hell did we have to start so early because perch don’t bite in the dark. Walleyes? Oh yes. They love that hour before dawn. But we were never on a walleye spot. These guys wanted perch. And they usually got them.

Those hours in the pre-dawn darkness reminded me a lot of listening to the marsh wake up when you are duck hunting. It’s eerily quiet at first and then you begin to hear sounds. It might be the wingbeats of ducks flying over, then later the quiet is shattered by the loud quacks of a hen mallard saying nothing in particular. Then the redwing blackbirds begin to sing.

On the ice it is the sounds of vehicles driving out, the snow squeaking under their tires. Loud voices. Laughter. The scream of ice augers punching through 30 inches of ice. All the while a pink tinge to the eastern sky begins to signal that there is, indeed, a sun. As that pink blush splashes into a hot red-orange glow all across the horizon you make out trees, their branches back lit by the morning light.

It’s another half hour before the sun finally crests the hills and splashes its light across the ice.

That’s about when you notice your first bite of the day. A faint pull on the rod tip and you raise it quickly, feeling the resistance of another Okoboji yellow-ringed perch at the other end. Even though the sun is now fully upon the ice, the day seems a little brighter.

And so it is with memories. Time makes them seem a little brighter. [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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Wind, cold, snow part of late season recipe By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

WATERTOWN, S.D. — Late season pheasant hunts can be brutal. And this was one of them.

Temperature was in the teens. Wind was howling out of the northwest at 20 to 30 miles an hour.

I hunkered down in the snow, letting the big, round bale block most of the wind. Over a half mile away a long, thin line of hunters, all friends and veterans of many such hunts, were slugging it out in snow that had crusted on the top, but not enough to support their weight.

Occasionally I could hear a shot, small retorts carried away by the wind.

Then I saw deer busting across a small open field and disappear into the trees. From this distance they looked like long-legged ants scurrying away. I would later learn that the hunters estimated that over a hundred deer were spooked out of the timber.

I wasn’t surprised. We had driven along a field a couple miles to the west and the number of deer trails was unbelievable.

Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and I were here as guests of Chuck and his younger brother Rick Stone, both of Watertown. We were hunting private land in the vicinity of a private hunting lodge the Stones own that served as our headquarters. [Read more…]