March 31st, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member – printed with permission by the Renville County Register

Many of our people were ice fishing yet last month, but the ice has now gone out. Others are hesitant to fish at all this season as the ice has been “iffy” to say the least. Fear of a sudden bath in ice water has cut down the numbers of people who ice fished this year.

More cars and trucks than usual have gone through the ice, and even ATVs and snowmobiles have gone through the ice. We have even lost people this way.

The cost of retrieving a car or truck from the bottom of a lake is extremely high. Divers are needed in most cases. Special winches are often required and cutting channels in the ice are sometimes necessary; All in all, a bad thing for the car owner.

So, with all the bad news about ice, cars and trucks going into the water, and somewhat poor late winter fishing, we are thinking about open water fishing. Without ice fishing for many people, and the cold winds stopping any enjoyment of being outdoors, cabin fever has set in very seriously.

Boat dealers have been having open houses now that winter is dying. The fishing shows on TV have helped the fishermen to learn new techniques and lures, and they are ready to do some open water fishing.

Nothing can beat actually fishing in open water. If one has the time and incentive to fish in very early spring, the latitude of Interstate 80 across Iowa and Nebraska can be a gateway for open water fishing.

Southern Iowa and Nebraska will have spring by the third week in March most years. At the southern level of these two states, warmth is serious and ice is mostly gone from lakes now. The grass is trying to show some green. Ducks and geese have filtered into this latitude in serious numbers. In Nebraska the Crane migration is in high gear on the Platte River between Grand Island and Kearney.

Trout streams in Iowa and Minnesota are pretty much open for catch and release fishing. In southern Iowa and Nebraska the reservoirs are pretty open and warming now. Fish are about to bite seriously.

All along the I-80 Corridor, “borrow ponds” are clearing of ice if not already and will produce fishing for interested fishermen. A person can combine a bird watching trip to the Platte River with some fishing in the borrow pits or ponds all along the highway there.

One more possibility for early open water fishing, including for trout is at Lake Ogallala, north of Ogallala, Nebraska north of I-80. Below the earthen dam on Lake McConaughy, there is a large “borrow pit” lake where soil was used for the earth dam. The Kingsley Dam is used for releasing water for irrigation and electric power generation. This lake has some seepage of water through the dam so it doesn’t freeze up very hard some years. And, where seepage water moves into the lake, there is usually open water where trout can be caught on small flies early in the spring. I have had some good luck fishing there in March. The trout weren’t very large, only about 14 inches in length but do they feel good on the fly rod when you haven’t fished for months in open water.

Lake Ogallala has catfish, trout, wipers and almost every other variety of fish in it. Camping is allowed on both sides of this small lake also. There are always some early fishermen camping at this little lake in March.

Another option for early spring trout fishermen is Western South Dakota. The Rapid City area has the best trout stream in the Black Hills area running through it. Rapid Creek flows from the high country in the Black Hills, through Pactola Lake, and down to Rapid City. As it flows into Rapid City, it passes through a small reservoir called Canyon Lake.

The creek and the lake both produce great trout fishing. The ice should be off Canyon Lake by the third week in March so fishing can be done in the little lake or in the creek.

How about it? Are you sick of cabin fever and ice fishing that you didn’t do because you didn’t want to have a cold bath in the lake? Are you ready to try fishing in warmer open water where the climate is already trying to be spring? Southern Iowa has reservoirs. Northeast Iowa has good trout streams that are always open. The south half of Nebraska is coming alive with spring as we talk here. South Dakota is warming and the trout are getting hungry.

Another option is below dams on the Missouri river running through South Dakota. It seems that most fishermen want walleyes and go to Chamberlain, South Dakota by way of I-90 from Worthington to Chamberlain. Boats can be brought along or you can hire a guide for a day or two out there. This is colder than the previous places we have mentioned for open water fishing as it is farther north than most of the others except the Rapid City area. The current on the Missouri keeps the ice thin or off large areas of the river. There is lots of history to study on that river also. Lewis and Clark left quite a legacy of exploration in 1803 that you can learn about while out there.

Having trouble with cabin fever? Go Fishing in open water.


Sven said he saw this on a tombstone: “WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply