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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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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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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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Summer walleye bite on Bitter going strong By Larry Myhre

WEBSTER, S.D. | Bitter Lake appeared to be a sleeping, gentle giant as I peered across the big lake from the east shore boat ramp. Its waters were flat calm, a very unusual thing in this year of constant wind.

Cory Ewing backed his big Lund into the water and Austin Creamer, Hartington, Neb., and I jumped in while Gary Howey, Hartington, parked the trailer.

Soon the three of us were motoring over the flat water and the slight chill in the air made me glad I had the pull over windbreaker on.

It wasn’t long before Cory cut the RPMs and we glided into a saddle between the shoreline and a sunken island. The water here ranged from 6 to 9 feet deep and the weeds on either side of us gave away the shallower structure.

“Walleyes were in here thick yesterday,” he said as we idled through with our eyes glued to the graph. Soon the familiar arches of fish showed up. “They’re still here.”

We dropped down one-eighth-ounce jigs tipped with minnows and began to jig vertically while Corey moved us slowly with the electric motor.

Austin, an intern with Gary’s Outdoorsman Adventures, had never caught a walleye, but the high school senior was a quick learner. He landed the first fish, a 15-inch walleye. That was a fine start and we worked the area for about an hour, landing several more walleyes from 14 to 17 inches.

And then we moved.

This time Corey selected a saddle between two sunken islands. Again weeds gave away the shallow water on either side of the 6- to 9-foot deep area we were fishing. I had retied with a 1/16-ounce, chartreuse lead head, a size I am much more comfortable with in this shallow water.

Again, the depth finder told us there were fish present and again we proved it right by catching them.

It was good, steady action and we caught what looked to me like three separate year classes. They are just good eating-size walleyes. And then the big fish hit. [Read more…]

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Danger lurks below the surface of most lakes by Larry Myhre

I still remember the first northern I ever caught. I was dangling a worm on a big bullhead hook off of a dock at Wall Lake, a small, 200-acre natural lake just southwest of Sioux Falls, S.D. I was all of 5 years old

The little green rocket zoomed out from under the shaded depths and nailed that worm. The speed of his ambush soon brought him up short at the end of about three feet of braided, black Dacron that hung down from my steel baitcasting rod.

His momentum carried him out of the water, and I swung him back onto the dock and made a run for shore. There I took note of the thing. The evil look in his eyes did not escape me, and neither did the vicious looking teeth clenched around my bullhead hook.

I would later rendezvous with those wicked teeth in a mind boggling number of waters throughout the upper Midwest and Canada. You see, northern pike are found just about anywhere there is water.

But for now, I wasn’t even sure what it was. It was just another cog in the mystery wheel of what lies hidden beneath the waters’ depths.

I think that was what attracted me to fishing in the first place.

There were a lot of creatures living out of sight in all kinds of waters. I was intrigued and marveled at each one. Some were immensely beautiful like the first pumpkinseed sunfish I caught out of Beaver Creek a mile from home. Some ugly like the bullheads, catfish and carp I caught below the low head dam on the Big Sioux River at Klondike, Iowa, just a few miles from our South Dakota farm.

And some, just a surprise like the northern with the evil eye.

I was a lucky kid.

My folks and my grandfather took me fishing all the time. I graduated from a cane pole to an old steel rod and Bronson casting reel before I attended the one-room country school a mile and a half from the farm. I still have the casting rod. In fact, I looked it over yesterday. For some reason I had painted the steel shaft red up to the first guide and then white up to the next guide. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because grandpa always painted everything, even his tools.

Thankfully, I got past that.

I caught northerns in the spring-swollen waters of the little creek that ran through our farm. I caught northerns at Swan Lake.

But I never had any idea of the monstrous proportions these fish can attain until we vacationed at Minnesota’s Green Lake one summer.

Dad was casting a red and white Dardevle spoon when a monster fish hit it. When the fish turned to run for deeper water, it came up short against Dad’s 20-pound test Dacron line. Before the line broke we saw this huge tail come out of a washtub-sized boil and the fish was gone.

In college, at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, I spent more time in the spring along the Missouri River than I did in class. The backwaters were filled with northerns and I caught a bunch of them both at Vermillion and at another backwater on the east edge of Yankton. Most of these fish were in the 5 to 8-pound range. Biggest I ever caught probably pushed 12 pounds.

Lure of choice? The red and white Dardevle spoon. I’d venture that more northerns have been caught on red and white spoons than any other lure. [Read more…]