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Iowa Great Lakes are a multi-species paradise By Larry Myhre Team Outdoorsmen Adventures

     SPIRIT LAKE,  Iowa — It was shaping up to be a picture perfect, bluebird day. The sun glinted off the calm surface of Emersons Bay on Big West Lake Okoboji as fishing guide John Grosvenor put the hammer down on his big Skeeter WX2060.

     Aboard were Clay Norris, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member and longtime product manager for the Berkley Company, and me. Following close behind the Skeeter were Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., who has the Outdoorsman Adventures Television show, and cameraman Garrett Heikes, Wayne, Neb., in my Alumacraft Tournament Sport which would serve as the camera boat for this trip.

     We didn’t have far to run.

     Grosvenor had caught a lot of fish on a rock bar just outside the mouth of the bay the day before. Bluegills, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and walleyes had rounded out his catch. He dropped down his Minn Kota Ulterra, bow-mounted electric motor and hit the anchor button. GPS tracking would keep us on one spot in spite of a light breeze which was beginning to kick up.

     John handed Clay a rod armed with a slip bobber and a 1/16-ounce jig head tipped with two red wiggler worms. These tiny worms max out at about 4-inches long and are great fish bait because of their wiggling action. After getting Clay rigged up, John handed me a drop shot rod with a Havoc Bottom Hopper Jr., plastic worm, on the short-shanked drop shot hook. A three-eights ounce drop shot sinker was slipped onto the line about 18-inches below the hook.

     Both rods were rigged with Berkley Crystal Fireline with Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon leaders.

     Both the slip bobber and drop shot rig are finesse techniques and work well in the clear waters of this spring-fed, 3,847 acre lake.

     It didn’t take long for Clay to hook up with a nine-inch bluegill. It was a brightly colored male as were most of the big ‘gills we caught that day. In this deeper water, the ‘gills were still on the beds. Clay took two more fish, a bluegill and a largemouth, before I hooked up with my first largemouth of the day.

     We moved a couple times on that bar, but could not find the larger bass John was looking for. Ours topped out at about 15 inches. And the walleyes, it seemed had left except for the small one that Clay brought to the boat. We had caught and released a lot of bluegills and largemouth, but the smallmouth were absent. A cold front had moved through late the day before and we figured the smallies might have gone into deeper water.

     John decided to make a move. He started the big motor and pointed the bow north. We were headed for the rock bars above Gull Point.

     John has been guiding on the Iowa Great Lakes for the past 16 years. I first met John when he was an Anchor/Reporter for KTIV-TV news and I was working at the Sioux City Journal. John spent 10 years in the news business, both in Sioux City and Des Moines.

     As we began working the rock piles on the flats above Gull, it became apparent that the largemouth and bluegills and even a few walleyes were home, but the smallies still evaded us. We also caught three small northerns along here. I caught a silver northern, my first ever. A silver northern is just a color phase and not a separate species. The silver northern has no spots or coloring along its back and sides.

     Clay remarked, “It looks like a walleye with a northern pike’s head.”

     That’s as good of a description as any.

     Another color phase found in these lakes is the striped northern. The DNR estimates only one percent of the northern population is striped, while some 20 percent are silvers. Apparently, the three color phases originated from Spirit Lake, but the DNR has stocked them in both West and East Okoboji.

     We made one more move into deeper water on a rock pile to the north. [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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That Time of the Year Being Thankful By Gary Howey

  The holiday season and especially Christmas is a time to reflect back and truly appreciate all we have, our families, friends, the many opportunities available to us because we live where we do, and for those that have given up so much for us as they serve in our military.

  We should be thankful for so many things, especially our families, our husbands and wives, children, and grandchildren and for those who have been around longer than I have your great-grand kids. Our families, who may have sometimes wondered about us, have been there and who have supported us throughout life, through thick and thin.

  We should be especially thankful for their support over the year and for me, especially the support of a wife, “who has kept the home fires burning” while I was away.

  On my journey, I’ve traveled many miles, yes I was fishing and hunting, but as my good friend Tony Dean once said, “It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.” 

  For those friends, old, new, some we have lost and those friends we may not yet have meet, those we think of from time-to-time.

Those, whom we may have spent time with in the blinds, peering in the air for the waterfowl flights that may not appear, in the fields walking those many miles in search of pheasants, quail and prairie chicken, on the water waiting for that next bite, those who helped us to create our own outdoor adventures.

  We should be thankful for time spent with friends and family who have passed, remembering those good times we had with them.

  I’m also thankful for the wildlife we have on earth, those animals, birds and fish that have fed and clothed early Americans and for those in the wild today.  These wildlife species aren’t there just for hunters to enjoy, but also hikers, bird watchers, wildlife photographers and nature lovers. Many of these species increase in numbers because of the efforts of hunters and the dollars aid by them in excise taxes on their equipment and their permits.

  Then there’s our Team Outdoorsmen Adventures members who keep us advised on the outdoors in their areas and furnish their time and equipment to put us on the fish and game when things get hot.

  To those who have spent long hours with us, supervising our journey, helping us to get to where we are today, we all should be thankful for.  

  For me, it would be the newspaper editors who’ve had to work with me, the videographers, editors and radio co-hosts who made sense of what I did, wrote and say.

  Then there are the opportunities given in life, the direction our lives have went, where we live and the decisions we’ve made in life.

  We should be thankful for the opportunities we’ve received, in putting our lives together, our occupations, our families,  the people we’ve met and where we’ve ended up in life. [Read more…]

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Down to the Last Wire – In the final Hour Nebraska Turkey Hunt By Gary Howey

  The Tom gobbled once as he made his way west out of the field and I knew it was going to be a tough hunt as it was the last day of the Nebraska Spring turkey season and his harem of hens were with him.

 In Nebraska, the turkeys began mating before the April 26 Nebraska opener and it was on May 31, the last day of the season.  This wasn’t our first trip as Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member Josh Anderson, Hartington and I had been out several times, only to return home empty handed.

  It had been a good season for both of us as Josh had three tags, filling all three. On two of them, I had the opportunity to be along, filming his first archery turkey hunt as well as his  shotgun hunt, while he had gone out and called in his third bird.

  It was a tough spring to hunt, as when it wasn’t raining, it was windy, so calling birds was tough. Not that it’s impossible, but when you’re hunting and have a camera along, moisture and winds don’t go well when bringing along camera equipment.

  My first bird came when I was scouting for the next day’s filming,  when I stumbled into a flock of turkeys, with several big Gobblers. I couldn’t help myself and called one in, allowed him to strut around my decoy a bit and then knocked him down.

  Josh and I had planned several different trips, but we’re beaten back by rain and the horrendous winds we’ve had this spring. When we did make it out, our calls must have not sounded sweet enough for the Gobblers, as they refused to leave their hens and come our way.

  When it’s the last few hours of the last day of the season, things change and we decided in order to film the show and fill the tag we may have to change our tactics. This late in the season, if they wouldn’t come to us we were going to have to go to them.

  Our first set up on the final day required a good quarter mile hike toting our decoys, shotgun, camera and turkey fan, as we made our way to a thick shelterbelt.  Once there, we would need to get through it quietly to where we had first spotted the birds. As we came to the north side of the trees, we hunkered down and glassed the area, seeing no birds; I gave a soft hen yelp. A resounding gobble came from behind us on the side we had just come through and while making our way through the chest high grass, we must have bypassed the bird.

  Not wanting to give up on the bird, I’d call, and if there were no response, pause a minute or two before Josh would give it a go. One gobble was all we could get from the bird and he seemed happy to stay right where he was.

  On the outside of the trees was some more tall grass, so seeing very far out in front of us was impossible. I motioned to Josh that I was going to move up to the fence line along the edge of the alfalfa field and that he should follow.

  We managed to move a short distance to the fence line without making too much racket and once we were settled in, glassed the field. Off to our right we could see one good bird and several hens, but they were heading away from us. I called to the gobbler, getting his attention, with his red head and neck extending out as far as possible, hoping to see the bird that was calling to him.

  He continued to move away from us, went under the fence as he walked away and with nothing but open ground between us, we had to wait for the gobbler and hens to disappear in a low spot in the alfalfa field.

  It looked like this would be another one of those days, where we would see gobblers, but couldn’t get to them. [Read more…]

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Archery Gobblers Nebraska Style By Gary Howey

It looked as if it would be a tough season for Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Josh Anderson, Hartington, NE. and I as we tried to film Josh’s first archery turkey hunt.

  Our first set up (Plan A) was in the field the birds had been using last year, but this year, they decided to do their thing in a field below.

  Our second set up (Plan B) was in the bottom where the gobblers were strutting this year: where we relocated a ground blind in amongst the trees along the creek. When the sun rose, the birds pitched out into the field east of our blind, refusing to come to the west.

  Then the birds changed their pattern, moving west of the blind and not coming east, so we relocated the blind to the west field (Plan B).   

  (Plan C)  Happened a few days later, where they moved back to their old haunt, so we grabbed my blind and stuck it in the ground just west of where they were roosting, I called in a nice gobbler, but the bird spotted Josh bringing his bow up and high tailed it back to the east.

  (Plan D) On our last scouting trip, the birds weren’t in the field we had hunted, so we changed tactics, moving to a new area, as we worked our way in along the edge of the tree line several Toms gobbled north of an open field.  We quickly set up the blind, tucking it in amongst the plum bushes, doing our best to brush in the front of the blind, slid out of the area and came back that evening. With our decoys out in front of the blind, we patiently waited for those Toms that had gobbled at us earlier to respond to our calls. Nothing no gobbles and no sign of the birds, it looked like we would have to come up with a better plan. We tried using Plan A & B and had blown right through Plans C, D, so it was time to get serious and go to Plan E.

  (Plan E)  We would be to quietly sneak into the trees around midday, pull the blind and relocate it to the north side of the grove where, in the past we observed several Gobblers and hens feeding the open secluded open ground.

It was late afternoon, as we snuck into the blind, putting out our decoys and started calling. We would be using the Big Three, calls that always seemed to get a response from a gobbler, my box, slate and diaphragm calls. Since we weren’t sure how close the birds might be, I begun calling with my slate, calling quietly, throwing in a few purrs, the sound a hen makes when she’s contented and when she’s mating. We waited, waiting for the gobbles to ring out across the valley; we waited and waited and waited. 

  Getting no answer, I raised the volume of the call, putting more pressure on the striker and picking up the pace, still no response. 

  Perhaps, because of the gusting winds, I wasn’t getting enough volume and my call wasn’t reaching the birds upwind from the blind.

  I picked up my box call, applied pressure to the paddle and quickly slid it across the edges of the box call, increasing the pressure on the paddle and volume as I waited for the thundering response from an old Gobbler. As before, nothing, we knew the birds were using the area, perhaps our moving of the blind had spooked them, but there still was a lot of time before sundown.

  I tried all three calls, with no response, which really didn’t surprise me as in the past Gobblers had them come on in stealth mode, silently, strutting, tail feathers spread, their chest puffed out with their wings dragging on the ground. [Read more…]

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Latest Outdoorsmen Adventures Shows Available On MYoutdoorTV.com

MYOUTDOORTV logoLooking for some your favorite Outdoorsmen Adventures television shows or one you might have missed, there available on the Outdoor Channels video web site.

Twenty-one of our latest Outdooorsmen Adventures shows “2012-2015” can now be seen on the Outdoor Channels www.MyOutdoorTV.com web site.