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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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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…]

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When the fish won’t bite! Try something different! By Gary Howey

  What I’m about to write 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 near Watertown, South Dakota and not having much luck. I 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 some active 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 rigs 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.

  That’s when I decided to try something different. To do the change up and try a bait I’d used on negative fish in past years. The rig had worked on previous fishing trips on the Missouri River and on lakes in Minnesota to get lethargic walleyes attention and to get them to bite.

  It’s not anything fancy; it’s just something different that most walleye may not have seen before!

When things get slow, and you’ve used every walleye bait in your tackle bag, try something different, Do The Change-Up

  I pulled a floating jig head from my tackle bag and started rigging it in a way that I hoped would work to get them to bite.

  I attached the floating jig head to about a foot of monofilament, tying it about 2′ up the line and at the end of my line, in place of the weight, I attached a ¼ ounce jig.

  Depending on the depth I’m fishing and the amount of current I’m facing, I’ll go with a ¼ oz. jig or a 3/8 oz. jig if I’m fishing in deeper water or in heavier current.

   The style of jig I like to use on this rig is a stand up jig as it “stands up” holding my bait up off the bottom, putting it right in the face of the bottom hugging fish.

  Once the rig ready to go, I baited the floating jig head with a Gulp leech, which would float about, 2′ off the bottom working its way right through the suspended walleyes with the standup jig baited with a minnow running right on the bottom.

  This rig works in several ways, as I jigged along the bottom; it created a cloud of dirt that should attract the fish to my bait.  The floating jig head located above the jig at the depth where I had seen the suspended fish on my locator enticed those fish to bite.

  On this trip, after switching rigs, I managed to take some excellent fish, several in the seventeen to nineteen inch range as well as some smaller fish.

There are days on the water when old walleye standbys may not work, you don’t want to get stuck in the routine where you use the same old traditional bates, not catch fish and go home skunked.

There are times when those baits may not catch fish and you have to come up with a new plan.

When all else fails, you may have to give the fish something different, to do the “Change Up” in order to entice them to look at your bait.

 

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Spring Walleye Fishing By Gary Howey

     Well it’s finally starting to look and feel like spring and to be honest with you, I’m ready for the warmer weather!

  Each day gets a little longer, the sun is warmer and everything is starting to green up.

  It’s what we outdoorsmen and women have been waiting for, as they’re anxious to hit the water and see what’s biting this time of the year.

  With the water temperatures, starting to raise the walleyes below the dams on the river and in the lakes will start feeding more heavily.

  Spawning in some areas is ending as the water temperatures have or will soon reach 50, which in the upper Midwest is generally in the month of May.

  If you’ve fished the post spawn, you know that the smaller more aggressive males make up the majority of the fish taken during this time of the year.

  After the spawning and recuperation period, walleyes will go on a feeding binge because eating during the spawn wasn’t real high on their “To Do.”

  This feeding binge can last throughout the month and at times may even run into early June.

  On sunny days the best fishing, will be in the morning or towards evening, because in the middle of the day the sun is beating down on the shallows which forces walleye and sauger to move deeper as they’re not big fans of a lot of light.

  If you’re fishing on cloudy day or times when the sunlight is subdued, chances are the walleye and sauger may spend the better part of the day cruising in and out of the shallows looking for a meal.

  It’s during those low-light periods when walleyes are on the prowl in the shallower water, usually 10 foot or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on a feeding binge it doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there attacking everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is in direct relation to the water temperature, so they won’t be in high gear, as the water temperature isn’t warm enough.  [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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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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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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Late fall is prime time for big smallies by Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

WEBSTER, S.D. — When those big old cottonwoods begin shedding their bright yellow leaves, there awakens in me an almost uncontrollable desire to be on the water.

            And not just any water.

            No, I begin to dream of lakes harboring strong populations of those big ole brown fish. And if you don’t do Southern speak, let me interpret for you. We are talking about smallmouth bass.

            In my book, the smallmouth bass is the fightingest freshwater fish that swims.

            And the best time to take numbers of huge smallies, sometimes in areas no bigger than your average living room, is right now till freeze up.

            That’s why I called my brother Dean, who lives on a farmstead near Worthing, S.D., and asked if he wanted to chase big smallies on a couple of northeastern South Dakota lakes. It was, of course, a question that needed no answer.

            Fast forward a few days. We had been fishing maybe five minutes when Dean’s seven foot spinning rod bent over and began to pulse with the thrust of a good fish.

            “Got one,” Dean muttered to no one in particular, and I began digging for the landing net. It’s a fold up style and takes a little bit to get unlimbered and ready for action.

            “Should have gotten this ready before we began fishing,” I said as I opened the mesh and began pushing buttons and sliding the handle back and forth.

            I got the thing together just as the three-and-a-half pound smallie surfaced alongside the boat. I dipped him up and placed the net in the boat at Dean’s feet. [Read more…]

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Fall fishing heating up on natural lakes By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

Lake Poinsett, that 7,903-acre glacial lake just a few miles west of Estelline, S.D., certainly lived up to that billing last weekend.

Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska, and I joined fishing guide Jarrod Fredericks for an afternoon go at what Poinsett had to offer.

 We weren’t disappointed. Jarrod sent his Minn Kota Talon to the bottom in eight feet of water to anchor our boat on the edge of a boulder pile that gave way to a gravel and sand flat.

“We get big smallmouth off the boulders as well as good-sized crappies,” he said. “Perch and walleye work the edge of the rocks over the gravel.”

It didn’t take long for us to prove him right.

Gary soon hooked up with a scrappy smallmouth on his 1/8-ounce, minnow-tipped jig. Another smallmouth inhaled my 1/16-ounce, marabou jig to put me on the board.

For the next couple of hours, the smallmouth kept us busy, but we also added some nice walleye and pound-plus crappies.

We each put a dead rod over the side with a 3/16-ounce tungsten jig tipped with a piece of crawler. Smallmouth are notorious for following your cast back to the boat and then setting up residence under the boat. The dead rods proved that, but we also took several walleyes using the same method.

After awhile, Jarrod dropped a Jiggin’ Rap over the side and proceeded to give us a lesson on this technique, which is a “must” method for any serious walleye fisherman. As soon as he dropped the Rap to the bottom and gave it a snap, he was hooked into a two-pound walleye.

After releasing that one, he went back down and, I swear, no more than two snaps and he bagged another walleye.

While this spot had produced big perch for Jarrod in the past, they were absent on this day.

“We may have to troll crankbaits to get them,” he said. “We’ll save that for tomorrow.”

We anchored in two more spots that afternoon and each produced smallmouth and walleye.

I was surprised at the number of boats that were fishing that afternoon. There were lots of trailers and rigs at the boat ramp on the east side of the lake. Most of these anglers were in pursuit of the jumbo perch for which this lake has become famous.

Last winter the lake received tremendous pressure from ice anglers as the big perch bite heated up. It’s amazing how quickly word of a bite can spread through social media nowadays.

It’s a far cry from the days when I first fished this lake in the early 1960s. I’d drive up and launch my 12-foot wooden boat with a 7 1/2-horse motor and fish for whatever I could catch. That was mostly walleyes, white bass and northerns. If Poinsett was slow, I’d slide over to nearby Lake Albert and fish for bullheads. I slept in my car.

It was also where Fran and I spent our two-day honeymoon in August 1964. I caught a nice stringer of walleye, white bass and northern while wading one evening off the shore at our resort in the southwest corner of the lake.

[Read more…]