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The Paddlefish By Gary Howey

  Paddlefish, a prehistoric looking fish whose skeleton has few bones, only a cartilage running from their head to their tail.

  Unlike other fish with scales, the paddlefish is smooth-skinned, with a shark-like body and an elongated, paddle-like snout, which is often up to one-third of their total length. Their paddle and head contain tens of thousands of sensory receptors used for locating swarms of zooplankton. They have a huge toothless mouth on the bottom of their head and are a powerful fish with a deeply forked tail.      

  Fossil records of paddlefish date back over 300 to 400 million, nearly 50 million years before dinosaurs first appeared.    

  There are two Paddlefish species in existence, the American paddlefish, found in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries and the endangered Chinese paddlefish found in the Yangtze River in China.

  By now anglers in Nebraska and South Dakota know if they drew snagging permits which were applied for the first two weeks in July.

  Unfortunately, for me and many other anglers who failed to draw a snagging permit this year, we will have to wait until the next application period and hope we have better luck in the 2019 drawing.

  The Nebraska and South Dakota paddlefish-snagging season opens up on October 1 running through the end of the month.

  October is the month when huge concentrations of anglers, those who drew snagging tags will descend on the waters below and downstream of Gavin’s Point Dam to try their luck at snagging a paddlefish.    

  Because they are filter feeders, traditional fishing methods will not work on these prehistoric fish, as they can only be taken by snagging. Open waters for snagging in Nebraska and South Dakota runs from Gavin’s Point Dam on down to the Big Sioux River.

  These fish are one of the largest, native freshwater fish in North America, reaching lengths of more than six feet, weighing over 100 pounds, with the South Dakota state record weighs more than 140 pounds, while the Nebraska record is over 113 pounds.

  At one time, paddlefish season opened in November, running through March allowing snaggers to harvest three fish a day.  Back then, in South Dakota and Nebraska anglers only needed a resident fishing license to snag paddlefish.  Then, the season opened in November, running through March and during those earlier seasons, snaggers could harvest three fish a day.

   Historically, paddlefish were free to travel great distances, migrating up to 1200 miles to reach their spawning grounds.

With their migration blocked by the construction of Dams on the Missouri River, and the changes in their natural habitat there was a decline in their numbers.

  Because of these factors, there were changes made on how they issue tags. These permit/tags issued on a limited-drawing basis, with both residents and nonresidents tags available in both Nebraska and South Dakota.

Author with Team outdoorsmen Adventures member Marlyn Wiebelhaus, Wynot with  a paddlefish taken below Gavin’s Point Dam. This fish was a slot fish, measuring 44 ¾” long, ¼” short of being a keeper, then released back into the water. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)

  Those with a tag can take one legal size paddlefish with all fish measuring 35 to 45 inches from the eye to the fork of the tail returned to the water, as these fish are the main spawners.

  Paddlefish are powerful fish and it takes either a heavy bait-casting reel spooled with heavy line, fifty pounds on up or a stiff spinning rod with a long forgiving tip with a large spool spinning reel. Snaggers are allowed only one hook and its gap between the hook and the shank cannot to exceed one-half inch.

   The weights used for snagging can run from two ounces to eight ounces, with the weight used directly related to how you fish and the amount of current.

  It takes a good back to snag a paddlefish, as snaggers need to cast these heavy rigs out, allow them to sink to the bottom and then jerk back on the rod, reel up the slack and repeat this until you hook something.

  If you are snagging out of a boat it is still a lot of work, but you can cover more ground by having the boat running back and forth across the current while, the snagger rips the line through the water. If they do not connect, let the hook sink back to the bottom and repeat until they connect with a fish. 

  Paddlefish prefer quiet, slow-flowing waters where they swim continuously near the surface slowly swimming with their mouths wide open, filtering the water, removing the microscopic plants and animals as the water passes through specially designed gill rakers

  Paddlefish live long lives, with some living over thirty 30 years of age.  Male paddlefish generally mature at about five to eight years. They spawn in early spring when water temperatures get close to the mid-fifty degree range.

  Larger females produce over a half-million eggs, depositing the fertilized eggs over gravel bars in large free-flowing rivers. The best hatching success is in water containing clean gravel with little siltation and good aeration  and hatch quickly, in nine days or less, when water temperatures are sixty-five to seventy degrees and able to swim at birth. These young paddlefish look nothing like their parents and it takes about a month before the young paddlefish, start to resemble their parent.

  Successful paddlefish reproduction, in South Dakota and Nebraska documented only in the free-flowing river below Gavin’s Point Dam in South Dakota and on a small stretch of “semi-natural” Missouri River below Ft. Randall Dam.

  When an angler brings a fish to the boat, the fish should be measured and if it is below or above the slot, it can be kept and tagged in the dorsal fin.

  There is a certain way to clean paddlefish if you want excellent eating. Some anglers cut off the tail, allowing the fish to bleed out, others after gutting the fish, cut along the cartilage filleting the meat from the sides of the fish, and then skin the fish from the fillets.  Once done with this, remove all and I do mean “all” of the red meat from the fish as if it is not, you will wish you had as the red meat has a nasty taste, you want the meat you end up white and very firm.

  Others, because these fish have no bones will gut the fish, then cut the fish into chunks, fillet off the skin, remove the red meat and then soak it in cold water, which is a good ideas as it helps to draw any excess oil out of the fish, helping to firm up the meat.

  Some bread and deep fat fry their fish, while others make it much like lobster, boiling it and then dipping it in butter.

  My wife breads it and then fries it up in a pan and it is delicious, with a small paddlefish not lasting long in our house.

  If you have not applied for a snagging tag, you should, as the fish you snag will test you and your equipment, could be over one-hundred pound or even a state record and will be some of the finest eating fish you have ever eaten.












Hunting Seasons are Here by Gary Howey

  You have to feel it, the air, the cool brisk temperatures and the breeze that will soon bring the cold weather our way. 

  My old hunting dog, “Mo” knew right away that it was here; he had a little more bounce in his step when I let out for his run

  He would come out of the kennel on a dead run, nose to the ground, tail high in the air and after two or three laps around the yard, run to the back of the pickup thinking that it was time to go hunting.

   You will not have to look at a calendar to know that fall arrives on September 22. You will feel it!

  With the arrival of fall outdoorsmen and women, know that hunting seasons have begun or are getting close

    In South Dakota, one of the first seasons to open is the sharptail grouse/prairie chicken season, which opened Sep 15, 2018, closing January 6, 2019. 
  South Dakota Game & Parks lek surveys indicated that grouse numbers were looking good this year with substantial increase in numbers in several counties including; Jackson, with a 321% change, Beadle with its 100% change and Jerauld-Aurora  that has a 125% change over last year.

  Sharp-tailed grouse, the sharptails and greater prairie chickens, known as prairie grouse, closely related native birds found across areas of the state where you will find mainly prairie landscapes of central and western South Dakota. 

  Sharptails have a short tail with its two center feathers longer and darker than its outer tail feathers, giving its tail feathers that sharper look than those of the prairie chicken and where these birds gained their name. Their coloring is mottled dark with a light brown and a light background, while prairie chickens have a shorter tail that is, dark, and rounded. Grouse have feathers running all the way down their legs to their toes, while the prairie grouses feet are hairless.         

 Most prairie grouse hunting occurs on large expanses of grassland, but some birds occur in cropland along the field edges in grassland areas. They group up in coveys, which grows in numbers size in later season. Prairie grouse can also be found in mixed flocks in areas where their habitat or range overlaps.

  Grouse are a creature of the prairie and like most other wildlife living on the prairie; depend on their eyesight for safety.

  Grouse locate in areas where they have a clear sight of vision.  At times, it will be an area with thinnest cover as this gives them the ability to spot danger at a distance.

  Since they inhabit the prairie, where it seems like it is always windy, look for grouse on the downwind side of a ridge or hill.

  They will move into thick cover to get out of the sun and I have found them nestled under cedar trees on very warm sunny days.

  If you are hunting on a day that is very warm, especially during the early season, look for them around stock tanks, ponds or any location where they might easily find water.

  The edges of irrigated alfalfa fields are also a good spot to look for grouse as the alfalfa is a good food source for the birds and the irrigation systems wheel tracks generally hold enough water to quench the grouses thirst.

  A good way to locate grouse is to look a field over with your field glasses before heading into it to hunt. As grouse will usually have a sentry or two with their head protruding above the grass looking for danger. [Read more…]


Pheasant Survey Indicates 47% Increase for South Dakota’s 100th Hunting Season

August 27, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. – According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), this year’s pheasant brood survey shows a 47 percent increase over last year. The 2018 statewide pheasants-per-mile (PPM) index is 2.47, up from the 2017 index of 1.68.

“A substantial increase in the pheasants-per-mile index is an exciting prospect for South Dakota’s 100th pheasant hunting season this fall,” stated Kelly Hepler, GFP Secretary. “Weather conditions continue to play a significant role when it comes to bird numbers and better weather helped this year with the average pheasant brood size increasing 22 percent over last year.”

From late July through mid-August, GFP surveyed 110, thirty-mile routes across the state’s pheasant range to estimate pheasant production and calculate the PPM index. The survey is not a population estimate, but rather compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information. Statewide, 85 of the 110 survey routes had a higher PPM than 2017.

“We are pleased to see pheasant numbers improve across the state; particularly in the far eastern part of the state where hunters will have more opportunities to harvest birds than in recent years,” stated Hepler. “The full report provides an overview of upland habitat; which remains a concern for all wildlife across the state. Just as changes in landscape-level habitat conditions have produced peaks and valleys in the pheasant population for 100 years, habitat will again be the key to preserving pheasant hunting for another century.” [Read more…]


Reetz Lake near Webster, S.D. Open to Anglers on August 1

PIERRE, S.D. – As part of a signed access agreement with the landowners, Reetz Lake will be open to licensed anglers starting Aug. 1 – Sept. 30, 2018 and from May 1 – Sept. 30, 2019.  

Although the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission adopted regulation changes for the lake, the revised regulations will not take effect until the administrative rules process is complete and the rules are approved and filed with the Secretary of State. At the earliest, the new fishing regulations would take effect on Sept. 10, 2018.

“The Department is pleased to announce that after 15 months of being closed, Reetz Lake will once again be open to the public and even though the new regulations are not in effect Aug. 1, the landowners are willing to provide additional angling opportunities,” stated Kevin Robling, GFP special projects coordinator. “As a reminder to anglers, we ask everyone to recreate with respect and be aware of the size restriction changes likely to occur in September.”

From Aug. 1 – Sept. 10, daily fish limits for Reetz Lake include:

  • 1 walleye or sauger 28 inches or greater.
  • Only those largemouth and smallmouth bass less than 14 inches can be taken and only 1 greater than 18 inches.
  • Statewide regulations for all other species.

From Sept. 10 – 30, daily fish limits for Reetz Lake will be:

  • 1 walleye or sauger, 28 inches or greater.
  • 1 yellow perch, 14 inches or greater.
  • 1 black crappie, 15 inches or greater.
  • 1 bluegill, 10 inches or greater.
  • Statewide regulations for all other fish species.
    • Includes the year-round removal of the largemouth and smallmouth bass size restrictions.

Landowner permission is required to fish Reetz Lake from Oct. 1 – April 30.


Redlin Art Center featuring Terry’s Final Painting And his Farewell Collection By Gary Howey

  When travelers made their way north on Interstate 29 as they came into the Watertown, S.D. exit twenty-one years ago, when the Art Center first opened its doors, they could not help but notice the Redlin Art Center as it rose majestically from the South Dakota prairie landscape.

  Today, there are several buildings adjacent to the Center, but its size and beauty dwarfs them as do the grounds, concrete walking paths, ponds and gazebo.

  The Art Center, designed by Redlin’s son Charles, is the home of one of America’s greatest and most respected Wildlife-Americana artists, original paintings by Terry Redlin.

   At the Center, visitors have an opportunity to view one hundred and fifty of his original paintings as well as other of his artwork.

  The Center, opened in June 1997, is located just on a beautiful tract of land just off the Interstate on Exit 177 along U.S. Highway 212.

  This magnificent 52,000 square foot brick building, with its 38-foot white granite columns, resemble those seen on large southern mansions of the Civil War period.

  Once inside, you will find polished granite, with the main floor of the gallery covered with more than 9,000 square feet of white granite tile.

   There also, you will find over 24,900 square feet of granite from countries throughout the world including India and Africa.

  The grand entrance, welcomes you to more than 10,000 square feet of black Galaxy granite brought in from India.  The same black granite lies behind the railings in the Gallery.  The walls of the Gallery also feature another 5,900 square feet of white Impala granite from Africa.

  The Redlin Art Center an architectural marvel a fitting place to display Terry’s artwork, in Watertown, the place he called home.

  As Terry once quoted, “An American novelist once told us that you ‘can’t go home again.’ He was wrong. In my mind, I never left home, even when physically away. And when I finally returned, it was a great relief. I had a deep feeling that, finally, things were going to be okay. I was reconnected to my past, and to a childhood that was magic.”

  Redlin, a Master Artist, received numerous accolades from numerous conservation groups, such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.  Redlin was designated many times in the 1990’s as “America’s Most Popular” U.S. Artist, and was inducted into the U.S. Arts Hall of Fame in 1992, the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Watertown Hall of Fame in 2014.

  The paintings displayed at the Art Center depict some of nature’s most beautiful scenes, reminding us of our childhood memories and those days gone by. 

  A huge supporter of wildlife and the organizations that work hard to preserve them, Terry’s artwork raised $40 to $ 50 million dollars for numerous wildlife conservation groups including Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation. [Read more…]


On the Water The Firefighters/Paralyzed Veterans of America Memorial “Fishing Event” By Gary Howey

  The weather forecast for this two-day event was going to be a scorcher, but that did not seem to bother the attendees who showed up for this Memorial  event,  some were in wheel chairs, others walked with walkers, canes or assistance from family and friends, another great event allowing those with disabilities to be involved in.

  Pulling into the staging area, the sound of the lift assisting those in wheelchairs, echoed across the Arrowwood Cedar Shore boat launch parking lot.  To some, it may have sounded rather loud and rough, but to those attending the sixteenth annual Firefighters/Paralyzed Veterans of America Joel Niemeyer Memorial “Gone Fishing “event, it was music to their ears.

  With the help of the lift and assisted by several area students, the anglers  wheelchairs were tethered to by a special lift system that gently lifted them into the boats that would soon take them out onto the Missouri River, giving many of the attendees their only opportunity to get on the water and do some fishing.

  Co-host Josh Anderson and I made the trip up to Chamberlain May 23 to film this 16th annual memorial two-day fishing event.

  The event,  a memorial to Joel Niemeyer, who served as the executive director of the North Central P.V.A. for fifteen years, a strong advocate for veterans and one who truly cared about those who served and the P.V.A. members.

  According to Bill Curry, one of the many organizers and volunteers of the event, the first event had sixteen participants and this year there were fifty individuals from several states as far away as Texas invited along with fifty boat captains and their first mates.

  The boat captains, one of the numerous volunteers helping with this event furnished their boats and their time all in support of those veterans and others invited to participate in this event.

   We would be the official videographers, capturing footage of the disabled P.V.A. members: disabled anglers, firefighters’ and volunteers on the water, fishing and enjoying this wonderful event.

  Once the invitees arrived, their only cost incurred would be their South Dakota fishing license, as the P.V.A. would take care of Thursday night’s lodging at Arrowhead Cedar Shore Resort. With the volunteers and sponsors providing sack lunches, water and drinks in the boats for those on the water Thursday and Friday.  Sponsors along with local volunteers that included the North Central P.V.A., Firefighters from several states, and Veteran’s organizations would be there to provide the Thursday night group dinner held at the Oacoma’s Community Center.

  As the boats started launching, we made our way north, with some boats heading for their secret fishing spots, while others fished off the points and flats along the river near several well-known walleye fishing locations.

  Others motored to the south in the direction of the White River, with some venturing even farther south, hoping to locate that big fish hole that they had found the week before.

  The Ranger bass boat with a 200 Mercury good friend Chuck Doom had furnished us got us up north quickly and when we arrived, several boats were already working the flats, trolling or drifting one ounce bottom bouncers and spinners, or Slow Death Rigs pegged with half a  crawler and a few trying their luck with minnows.

   Others were slow trolling, 1.2 to 1.5 miles per hour pulling up to one hundred feet of line behind the boats using crankbaits, hoping to get into one of the more aggressive larger fish. [Read more…]


South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks new geo-fensing

Earlier this week, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) launched a new geo-fencing technology feature within the outdoor mobile app to alert anglers and boaters to pull their plugs at Lewis and Clark in the southeast part of the state.

A geofence is a virtual perimeter that you can draw around any location on a map, and target customers who enter that location. This new feature allows us to reach not only anglers but recreational boaters as well.

The goal is to trigger anglers and boaters to pull boat plugs at the right time and place. This technology has been enabled at these boat ramps: Lewis and Clark Marina, East Midway, West Midway and Gavins Point. 

If a boater or angler comes within 100 feet of these four boat ramps, an automated alert will be sent to their phone reminding them of South Dakota’s aquatic invasive species regulations.

It is essential that the user have location services and notifications enabled for the outdoors mobile app on their mobile device for the new feature to function properly. 

Thank you,

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks


For Better Fishing Fish Water Releases Gary Howey

  When I was a guide and tournament angler, I needed to use everything I could to help me catch fish when fishing was tough.

  There were numerous things affecting the bite, shutting the bite down or making it extremely hard to get a bite. 

  Some of these things were cold fronts, heavy winds, no wind, cold-water temperatures, angler pressure and bright sunny days with high daily temperatures.

  In order to allow me to be one-step ahead of the competition, I was always looking for the thing that could give me the edge over other anglers when it came to catching fish.

  Before heading for the river or lake, there was always one thing I made sure to check out and that was to look in the local newspaper to see what the water levels were and discharges coming into the the body of water I was fishing.

  When a release was scheduled, especially a major release, I wanted to be on the water.

 It sure bet when a release was scheduled or a change of water coming down the river, baring any natural disaster, the fishing would start to pick up and the next week or so could be some of the best fishing of the season.

  The heavier the release the better the fishing, but even the smallest change in the discharge could trigger the fish.

  I wish I had figured this out years before as it would have saved me a lot of time and made many of my trips much more successful.

  You do not need to be a NASA scientist to figure it out as has to do with common sense, one thing that others and I sometime did not use enough.

  Water releases can and will trigger fish, especially below a dam or spillway.

  Look at the overall picture and you will see why fishing would pick up below these areas.

  First, you have a huge volume of deep water held back behind the dam or spillway and that deep water is holding and hiding fish of all sizes and species as well as other aquatic life.

 When the gates opened up, there are thousand of gallons of water drawn forcibly through the turbines or gates, bringing with it, the fish and other aquatic life that were above the dam, flushing them downstream.

  The influx of water through the turbines and through the gates brings the gamefish, baitfish and other aquatic life from the lake into the river below, pushing heavy current downstream.

  With the water release, it is the ringing of the dinner bell to those fish living downstream and to those carried with the water from the lake, as they will quickly move up, taking advantage of the injured and wounded critters coming through the dam. [Read more…]


Archery Honors Up for Grabs at 2018 GFP-NASP 3D Tournament

Pierre, S.D. – Young people from across South Dakota will show off their skills at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) State 3D Tournament May 4 and 5. The 3D Tournament uses life-size game animals as targets.

The 3D Target Tournament will be held at the NFAA/Easton Archery Facility in Yankton. Shooting begins at 5 p.m. on Friday and continues at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

The tournament is sponsored by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and will host hundreds of young archers competing for individual and team honors in three age divisions. The top three individual and team winners in each division will receive trophies. All participants receive a free tournament t-shirt.

Students who participate in NASP within their schools or home-school programs are eligible for the competition.

“The GFP-NASP 3D Tournament is a unique event for South Dakota school age youth,” said Pat Klotzbach, NASP coordinator for GFP. “3D shooting not only provides young people with a safe shooting sports experience, it also educates archers on where to aim at game animals when they go hunting.”

There is no charge to attend the tournaments, and the public is welcome. Individuals who wish to volunteer with the tournament may contact outdoorprogramming@gmail.com or call 605.220.2130.


Maple Syrup-Tap Sap & Boil, By Gary Howey

    Where we call home, Nebraska & South Dakota, where patriotism is important to us with agriculture leading the way, it is not uncommon to see John Deere and Case IH farming equipment working the fields and traveling down our roads.

  While the northeast, in the New England states, it is their beautiful fall foliage and of course Maple syrup.

  The main ingredient in Maple syrup is the sap of all varieties of Maple trees, trees I and other kids climbed on and made forts in, as I did in Watertown, S.D., The sugar, black, red, the silver maple and the box elder, which is a Maple tree. 

  In order to extract the sap, the trees need to be tapped and the sap needs to be boiled down, removing the water, which  can be a time consuming process, but the end-results are worth it, yielding one of Mother Nature’s sweetest gifts, Maple syrup.

  The origin of making Maple syrup goes back in history a long ways with the American Indians the first to make the syrup; they eventually passed their knowledge onto the European immigrants who sailed to America, with Maple syrup made each spring since that time.

  Several years ago, I was asked if I though filming one of our Outdoorsmen Adventures television shows on making Maple syrup might be of interest to our viewers. The individual had been making syrup for several years, is one of the few tree tappers in my area.

  Unfortunately, last year before we had an opportunity to get together, we had both gotten busy and he had finished with the process.

  Then, just last week, good friend and Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Bill Christensen, Hartington, Nebraska  mentioned he was going out to check the Maple trees he tapped this year, as the season was coming to an end  with the sap flow decreasing.

   Earlier in February, he tapped sixteen Maples, putting out collection buckets and since then had collected a large quantity of the sap from the trees.

  They say that any Maple will work when gathering sap to make Maple Syrup, including Silver, Sugar, Red as well as the Box Elder Maple. [Read more…]