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Learning from Past Experiences! By Gary Howey

  I remember while growing up in Watertown, SD, about all the things there were to do and how I wanted to try to do all of them!

  I also remember that several of these things weren’t what I really should have been doing.  My folks were always there to set me straight and would give me that old line, “you don’t need to do that, you could get hurt” and so on and so forth!

  Well after many years of contemplating their statements and many years of wondering how they knew so much about this subject.  I’ve finally concluded that they knew because when they were young, they probably tried it or had a friend that tried it and “got hurt!”

  We all learn from past-experiences and as an outdoorsmen or women, we really should rely on those past-experiences to give us insight on what’s going on around us in the outdoors.

  Take for instance a guide trip that I had a few years back, I had two of the toughest clients that I can ever remember taking out.

  It was late October, a warm October, but none the less October and in my neck of the woods; it’s that time of the year when water is about as close to becoming ice as it gets.

  Well these guys insisted that I take them out as they wanted to take advantage of the warm day, it didn’t make any difference that the water temps were in the 40’s, it was a nice day and they wanted to fish.

  Well as anyone who’s ever been on the water knows that at 40 degrees, fish aren’t exactly bouncing off the wall, heck, they’re hardly moving. [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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6 Hot Spots For Finding Shed Antlers

6 Hot Spots For Finding Shed Antlers

Shed hunting is all the rage now-days. People train their dogs specifically to find sheds, there are clubs and organizations devoted to the sport and shed hunting has become so popular that guided week-long “shed hunts” in prime areas can cost you $2,500 or more with food and lodging included. Fear not, sheds can be found in your own hunting area or on public land…for free. Here are the best spots to search;

1)  Winter Food Sources

During this time of the year whitetails aren’t moving much unless they have to. They spend most of their time in their bedding area and in whatever their major food source is at that time. If there are brassicas or corn in the area, these would be the best places to begin, but any major food source is a good bet for sheds.

2)  Deer Yards – Conifer Swamps with ample Browse Nearby

Whitetails spend most of their day during the winter in their “bedroom.” Most of the locations mentioned below would qualify as their bedroom, or what some would call their “core area,” “secure area,” or many other names – it’s basically the spot where they’re spending the greater part of the day. These spots will usually have protection from the wind, thermal cover and ample browse nearby.

3)  Thick Stands Of conifers Or Other Thermal cover

When driving a snow-machine or ATV during this time of year you can definitely feel when you’ve crossed into an area with warmer temperatures, often caused by conifer trees absorbing and holding the heat from the sun. Even on a cloudy day, the dark canopy is gathering and holding radiant heat sent via infrared and ultraviolet energy from the sun. The heat transmission process includes the mechanics of thermal radiation and convection. The sun heats the conifer trees and the air current moves the heat around.

4)  South And Southwest Facing Slopes Or Benches

Here again, we’re talking about your herd taking advantage of the sun’s energy. Because of the more direct angle to the sun on these southern exposures, besides the radiant energy, these spots likely have better, thicker cover and more browse due to increased stem density.

5)  Freshly Logged Areas

In newly logged areas we have the warmth of the sun making it to the ground and obviously newly accessible browse. Even though browse is poor nutrition and difficult to digest when compared to food plot crops, whitetails for some reason must have it. This is especially so during the winter months.

6)  Fence Crossings And Narrow Gully Or Creek Crossings

These features are Mother Nature’s “shed shakers.” Follow freshly used trails and look for places where a buck may have to jump or otherwise jar his antlers lose.

[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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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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Tackle Tips, Getting into the sport of Fishing By Gary Howey

 At the seminars and on my web page, there are many questions on what type of tackle is needed to get  into the sport of fishing.

  The information in this column will give you information on the basic tackle needed if you are thinking about going fishing.

  This is a good time to start checking out the fishing department of a sporting goods store, as this is when they start to restock their shelves.

  As I mentioned in previous columns, when it comes to fishing you need to keep it as simple as possible.  There are thousands of lures, hooks and baits out there; the only problem is that many of these baits have caught more anglers than fish.

  It’s best to start with the basics, the hook, line and sinker, your basic live bait rig.

Hooks

  When it comes to hook size, you’ll want to match your hook to the species of fish that you’ll be going after.  I’d recommend that you purchased snelled hooks, those that are

pre-tied, having the monofilament line tied to the hook as snelled hooks are easier to attach to a swivel or rig.

  A good rule of thumb is if your fishing for small fish such as trout or panfish is to use a size 4, 6 or 8 hooks.  Use a long shank hook when ever possible as this makes it easier to remove the hook from a smaller fish’s mouth. 

  For bass or larger fish, you can use a size 1, 2, 1/0 or 2/0 hook.  Walleye anglers prefer a shorter more compact hook in a size 6 or 8.  The main thing to remember is to match the size of your hook with the size of the mouth of the fish that you hope to catch.

Line

As far as line is concerned, depending on what type of fish you’re after and where you’ll be fishing for them, I’d suggest you use the lightest light possible.  Generally, if you’re fishing water that’s not full of snags a 6 or 8-pound test for walleyes works well. If you’re fishing for bass or catfish in or near weeds, brush, submerged timber or areas where there are a lot of rocks and snags it’s a good idea to go with 12-pound test or heavier

  The colder the water temperature, the less active the fish are and the more finesse you’re going to need to catch the fish, so as water temps drop, so does my line diameter as smaller baits perform better on lighter line.

  The larger the line diameter, the less action you’re going to get out of your bait. This is especially true when using diving bait as heavier line has more resistance and won’t allow your bait to go as deep (crankbait) or sink as fast (jigs).

  In addition, heavier line has more memory, it won‘t lay out as nice as lighter line, and not allowing your lure to work properly.

  One thing that you really need to pay attention to is the knot you use to attach your hook or lure to the line.

  Avoid the old overhand knot as it won’t hold, will slip, come loose or break, use a good knot such as the Palomar or TRILENE Knot. Illustrations of these and other useful knots are found at www.animatedknots.com/indexfishing.php

  Before you pull your knot tight, be sure to wet the line, if you don’t, the friction created by the line rubbing together will melt the line.

“Sinkers”

The amount of weight or sinker that you’ll attach to the line depends on what type of water you’ll be fishing.  When fishing in a river, dealing with current, it may require a heavier sinker.  If you’re fishing from a boat, you probably won’t need as much weight because you’re fishing vertically.

  I carry an assortment of split shot, a few 1/4 oz. and 3/8 oz. sinkers.  With these, I can fish just about any body of water in the Midwest.  If you need a little more weight, it’s easy to add more weight or attach a small split shot above your weight.

  The basic rule on what weight to use is to use the smallest weight possible.

I know what some of you are saying, “What about fishing in the heavy current in the river?”

To be real honest with you very few fish will be in that heavy current as it takes a lot more energy for them to fight the current than it does to sit behind a point, sandbar or submerged rock pile where there is little or a reduced amount of current.

  Sure, you’ll find some fish in the fast water, but the majority of them will be behind something that breaks the current (current breaks) like those that I mentioned earlier.

If you use too much weight, and a fish tries to inhale it, as most fish do, and the bait doesn’t move, many fish will move on.

  Crappie Rigs are another item that you might want to try.  A Crappie rig is a pre-tied two-hook rig with a swivel on the top that you tie to your line and then attach your sinker to the snap at the bottom.

  Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about some other lures that you might want to try. [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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Cold Weather It’sTime To Be on the Ice Gary Howey

  As the wind howls through the Black Hills Spruce in my front yard, I busy myself re-arranging gear that I’ll need to load in my Dodge Ram.  I call this the “In Between Time”, when I and other outdoor people are coming out of one outdoor activity and getting into another.

  Since we just returned from a late season pheasant hunt in the Watertown, S.D. area,  I still have my shotguns, shells, chaps, hunters orange and cold weather clothing loaded and once the wind dies down a bit, I will transfer it to my office loading dock.

  Once it is unloaded, I will get ready for my next outdoor adventures, “Ice Fishing” starting to load my Vexilar locator-underwater camera, five-gallon buckets, ice sled, rod & reels, tackle and auger.

  I love ice fishing, and with the gear and clothing we have today, it takes a lot to drive me off the ice. I really do not enjoy being out in ten below weather when a strong northwesterly wind is blowing my ice fishing sled and me all over the ice.  However, when the wind lies down and the sun comes out, I am game for any kind of ice fishing.

  In Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota there are numerous bodies of water that I love to spend time on ice fishing.

  In Nebraska, several lakes in the Valentine area hold excellent numbers of fish taken through the ice. Merritt Reservoir is one of these, as I like to fish it for walleye, crappie and bluegill. [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…]