Fishing the Sandhills Guide

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Page 19 of 19

northern pike or muskie in Watts following the renovation in hopes of making it a quality panfish and bass lake. Hackberry Lake 680 Acres. Bluegill, Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch. Hackberry was renovated in 2004, but carp have found their way back into the lake. While it remains a fair fishery, it could be renovated in the near future to remove carp, as it is at the top of a series of lakes. Marshy areas on the north bank, especially in the eastern third, can be difficult to get a boat in but often hold bass and can be fished with waders and from a kayak. Restroom at refuge sub-headquarters. Pelican Lake 798 Acres. Bluegill, Bullhead, Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch. The longest of the refuge lakes at more than 3 miles, Pelican is very productive and holds trophy bluegill, perch and pike. Like Hackberry, Pelican lies at the top of the system and may be renovated in the near future to remove carp. Dewey Lake 550 Acres. Bluegill, Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch. The east half of this lake is deeper than the west, which gets choked with vegetation early in the summer. An island and stands of cattails form a peninsula that separates the two halves. That area and the marshy areas on the east and west ends of the lake can be productive. Clear Lake 425 Acres. Black Crappie, Bluegill, Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch. This lake holds some big pike but is hampered by carp. It is the deepest of the lakes, reaching 14 feet when at full pool. Deep water can be found along the north bank, and the marsh on the east end can be productive. Willow Lake 353 Acres. Black Crappie, Bluegill, Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch. A road was built around the east end of this lake in 2015 to construct a water control structure and fish barrier to replace one that washed out years ago. However, plans currently call for that road to be for maintenance only, meaning anglers will still have to walk in from a parking area on the south side. An abundance of carp and low water levels have left few gamefish in this lake, but once renovated it should provide excellent fishing, as it has in the past, and be worth the effort to drag in a kayak or float tube. ■ Fishing the Sandhills was printed in the May 2016 issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine, which is published by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. For more information, contact Commission fisheries staff in Alliance, 308-763-2940, Bassett, 402-684-2921, or Norfolk, 402-370-3374. Additional copies of this publication can be requested by calling the Commission's Fisheries Division at 402-471-5552. Cover photo, Hackberry Lake, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, by Jeff Kurrus. This guide was written by Eric Fowler, with assistance from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission fisheries biologists, many of whom are directly involved in managing Sandhills lakes, including Al Hanson, Joe Rydell, Zac Brashears, Andy Glidden, Jeff Schuckmann, Phil Chvala, Daryl Bauer and Dave Tunink. Past work on fishing the Sandhills by longtime NEBRASKAland Magazine staffer Ken Bouc was also an invaluable resource. C ommission biologists don't stock northern pike in every Sandhills lake. While some anglers love fishing for these toothy, hard-fighting predators, the presence of pike in a lake may hamper panfish populations, which makes other anglers despise them. Studies have found that pike can reduce both the abundance and size of yellow perch. Pike don't have as great of an effect on bluegills. Pike are sometimes stocked in lakes to help control common carp, and according to studies on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, are fairly good at it, able to keep the fish from overpopulating and ruining a fishery. Yet in cloudy water, this sight-feeding fish isn't at its best and can appear skinny. Nebraska being on the southern edge of the species range also affects its longevity, and while some fish reach trophy size, most don't live long enough. When Commission biologists restock a lake following a renovation, they look at several factors when they decide whether or not the stocked fish will include pike. Often, it comes down to geography. If there is a good pike lake nearby, the lake may only get bass and panfish. That provides something for all anglers. To Pike or Not to Pike? H ● 33 P 798 ● 34 D 550 ● 35 C ● 36 W 353 ● 37 PHOTO BY STEVE FREDERICK Author Eric Fowler with pike caught at Dewey Lake near Valentine.

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