Some days I am not sure what to blog about. Some days I have something in mind. . . .
Then my phone starts ringing; the internet starts “chattering”. A couple of things have been hot topics at my desk this morning. . . .
Know the Regs!!!!!
I can think of at least one news release we published already this open-water season reminding anglers to know the fishing regulations. I can also tell you that not a day goes by that I do not answer at least one fishing regulation question. Usually, as soon as I hang up the phone after one of those calls, I mumble under my breath something about reading our Fishing Guide!
All the rules and regulations an angler needs to know while fishing any Nebraska water are in the Fishing Guide. Read it, learn it, live it.
My latest reminder came this morning in a conversation with our northeast regional fisheries supervisor Jeff Schuckman. I love Jeff, he, like all of us, has a passion for his job, a passion for Nebraska’s fisheries resources. You cannot talk to Jeff for 30 seconds without knowing that. Jeff was a little worked up this morning because he is encountering anglers, not just one, but several, who did NOT know the walleye harvest regulations for Calamus Reservoir.
Now I will admit, we have a special walleye regulation in affect at Calamus, it is different than any other waterbody in the state. At Calamus an angler’s daily bag limit of four walleyes may include two fish between 15 and 18 inches and two fish larger than 18 inches with no more than one per day larger than 22 inches. At Calamus anglers CANNOT harvest four walleyes per day larger than 18 inches! Two between 15 and 18 and two larger than 18. If an angler gets into a good bite on walleyes larger than 18 inches at Calamus, and there have been some, he or she can only harvest two of those fish; to fill out their limit they would need to find two more 15-18-inchers.
That is a special regulation enacted because of the amount of harvest of walleyes that occurs at Calamus. We hope that it will provide more opportunity for anglers to catch some larger walleyes there, but it sure ain’t gonna work if folks do not know the regulation. Yes, it is a special regulation, but it has been on the books for two years now.
The second topic I would like to mention comes from our recent hot weather, but it is this way mid-summer every summer.
Water temperatures on some of our waters in Nebraska can rise at least as high as the 80’s F during the peak of our summer heat waves. Depending on the waterbody and the species of fish, those water temperatures are high enough that temperature alone is stressful to some fish. Coolwater species like northern pike, muskellunge and wipers, especially large wipers, will be under some stress just from those water temperatures. If additional stress is placed on those fish by being hooked, fought and landed by an angler, especially if the fish is played too long and not handled right, that can be enough to kill the fish.
So, if you are fishing any Nebraska waters right now for pike, muskies or wipers, you better be darned careful about the handling of those fish if they have to be released, or if you want to release them. First of all, they need to be played and landed as soon as possible. The longer they are played, the more likely the stress will be too much. Catching and releasing big fish on light lines might prove your prowess as an angler, but I would consider it to be very poor form during the heat of the summer. If you are fishing waters where pike, muskies or wipers are a potential catch, then I would say you have a responsibility to the resource, a responsibility to the fish, to be prepared to land them as quickly as possible.
That goes double after those fish are landed. If they are going to be released, then they need to be released ASAP–no time out of the water, no time fooling around removing hooks, no time for pictures. It was a few years ago, but I took no photos of one of the biggest wipers I ever caught because it was hooked in late July, it absolutely ate the bait, and by the time I got the fish unhooked I knew it could withstand no more handling.
In fact I will go even further, I will even suggest that you not even fish for pike, muskies or big wipers on some Nebraska waters right now! If you intend to catch & release those fish, you would be better to wait until the water cools, at least back into the low 70’s F. The fish will be just as catchable, if not more so then, and a lot less stressed.
There have been reports of some large, dead pike floating around Lake Wanahoo in recent weeks. Every pike there has to be released and right now I am sure they will be very stressed after being caught in this heat. I would NOT be targeting them, and I would be darned sure that regardless of what I was fishing for on Wanahoo, I was completely prepared to immediately handle and release a big toothy–over-sized landing net, gloves, pliers, jaw spreaders, hook cutters should all be at the ready and immediately accessible (Fish Handling).