Outdoor notes: Fishing events; Cowboy Trail; Motorboating and drinking

Go fish this Memorial Day weekend

LINCOLN, Neb. – Kick off the summer with a weekend of fishing. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is excited to offer such varied angling opportunities this Memorial Day.

And don’t go alone. Find someone new or someone who has not been fishing in a while and take them with you. When you do, snap a photo and enter to win prizes in the Take ’em Fishing challenge. Visit outdoornebraska.gov/takeemfishing for details.

“May and June are two of the best months for fishing across Nebraska,” said Daryl Bauer, Game and Parks’ fisheries outreach program manager. “Pick a water body and go fishing because something will be biting.”

Here is Bauer’s list of waters anglers might want to try this Memorial Day weekend:

Lake McConaughy – This is always a favorite destination all summer and anglers will find some excellent opportunities for walleyes, wipers, and channel catfish. The smallmouth bass fishery is excellent as well, and a little bit of a secret!

Harlan County Reservoir – It is always good news when we have reservoirs full of water and Harlan filled to capacity earlier this spring. That will send fish towards the flooded shallows, and that is where anglers have been extracting walleyes, white bass, channel catfish and some crappies.

Sherman Reservoir – Sherman has reached full pool and that means water back into the bays and coves where anglers can find some excellent crappie fishing. On the main lake, walleyes have been biting and if you are bouncing a crankbait along the bottom, you better hold onto that rod in case a big, predatory flathead catfish strikes!

Merritt Reservoir – Water levels are at full pool and several species are feeding in shallow water; walleyes, channel catfish, pike, muskies, and crappies are all a possibility.

Smith Lake – Recent reports have included nice bluegills. Also possible are largemouth bass, crappies and some northern pike.

Frye Lake – The Sandhills are bursting with water, and Frye is bursting with nice panfish and largemouth bass.

Box Butte Reservoir – Water levels are just a few feet below full pool. Exploring flooded trees right now should be productive for a variety of panfish, largemouth bass and northern pike. Look for some trophy channel catfish, too.

Lake Minatare – Water has been flowing through the canal into Lake Minatare, which means the walleyes and white bass are on the bite!

Calamus Reservoir – This is a great time for some hot white bass action towards the upper, west end of the reservoir. There can always be a few wipers mingling with the white bass, and again look for some walleye action in relatively shallow water.

Red Willow Reservoir – Another reservoir that recently has had low water levels due to dam repairs, but now those levels are recovering. Always one of the best waters in the state for wipers, the fishing has been good recently along wind-blown shorelines. Big crappies and largemouth bass are possible, too!

Swanson Reservoir – Recent reports have been good for walleyes, white bass, wipers, crappies, largemouth bass, channel and blue catfish.

Elwood Reservoir – Water levels have been more consistently high at Elwood in recent years and fish populations have responded! Trophy wipers are abundant in Elwood as well as walleyes, largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, pike and a few muskies.

Lewis and Clark Reservoir – Walleyes and sauger have been scattered over the reservoir but expect the best bite in relatively shallow water near shore or on mud flats. Likewise, look for some big white bass and catfish in shallow water especially where there may be some current flowing.

Skyview Lake – This Norfolk lake has some excellent fishing for bluegill, largemouth bass and even some walleyes!

Maple Creek Reservoir – This is another good spot for some bluegills, crappies and largemouth bass, maybe a walleye or two.

Summit Reservoir – This is one of the best places this year for quality-size bluegills, plus it is an excellent fishery for largemouth bass and some big channel catfish.

Lawrence Youngman – There are excellent populations of largemouth bass and bluegills, more walleyes than you might expect, and some big redear sunfish.

Zorinsky Lake – Zorinsky has been producing some excellent fishing this spring for crappies, largemouth bass, and walleyes. Rogue muskies have been giving anglers a surprise, too!

Wehrspann Lake – Sport fish populations have responded favorably to recent management activities; anglers are catching nice crappies, largemouth bass and channel catfish.

Lake Wanahoo – Cold and dirty water this spring has challenged anglers at Wanahoo, but conditions are improving and the crappie, bass and walleye bite is taking off. Of course, there are pike waiting to shock unexpecting anglers, too.

Branched Oak Lake – The crappie bite has been good the past couple of weeks, plus some catfish, mostly channel cats, but also flatheads and even a few big blues. Walleyes, wipers and an occasional largemouth bass thrown in for variety.

Yankee Hill Lake – Very good reports coming in this spring for bluegills, crappies and some walleyes.

Iron Horse Trail Lake – Bass anglers have been whispering about it for the past several years; this reservoir in the southeast corner is one of the best bass fisheries in the state now, with some nice saugeye, too.

Burchard Lake – With great water quality and habitat, Burchard is consistently one of the best fisheries in southeastern Nebraska for largemouth bass, panfish and channel catfish.

Visit outdoornebraska.org to buy a fishing permit.

Nebraska Game and Parks urges safety while boating

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraskans will enjoy this summer boating on waters across the state. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urges boaters to keep safety the top priority.

Boaters and paddlers should not take safety for granted. Game and Parks suggests ways boaters may reduce the risk of incidents and help ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

Before Launching – Ensure your boat is in good running condition. Get the boat registered and, if a nonresident, purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species sticker on the commission’s website. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Paddlers of kayaks or canoes should physically inspect their planned take-out point to make sure it is accessible.

Legal Operators – Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1985, who operates a motorboat or personal watercraft in Nebraska must have successfully completed the Nebraska boating safety course. Visit BoatSafeNebraska.org for a list or to take an online class. Anyone operating a motorboat or personal watercraft in Nebraska must be at least 14 years of age.

Wear a Life Jacket – Children under age 13 and anybody on a personal watercraft are required by law to wear a United States Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. People being towed by a boat on skis, a tube, or other similar device also must wear a life jacket. Every vessel, except sailboards, must carry a flotation device for each person on board.

Avoid Alcohol – Boat operators can become impaired with less alcohol than motor vehicle drivers due to heat and dehydration. Boating Under the Influence is a criminal violation and is enforced actively.

Have All Required Safety Equipment – Life jackets, throw cushions, fire extinguishers and bailing devices are required on most boats. For a list of what is required on a boat, check out the 2019 Boating Guide at BoatSafeNebraska.org.

Be Wary of Surroundings – Look around for other boats, personal watercraft, swimmers, stumps and other hazards. Speeds in excess of 5 mph are prohibited if within 30 yards of any other vessel, swimming area or dock. If padding a kayak or canoe, be aware of possible debris below the surface or under bridges.

Watch the Weather – Storms can pop up quickly in Nebraska. Check the weather in advance and monitor it during the day, if necessary.

Access – At Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area (SRA), Victory Lake opens to regular boating on May 22, and the 5 p.m./no wake restriction remains on Lake 20. Kayaking is encouraged on all Fremont lakes. Kayak launches remain closed at Platte River State Park, Schramm Park SRA and Louisville SRA.

Avoid Hypothermia – Even though temperatures are rising, the water still can be cold. Hypothermia is caused by exposure to cold weather or water. Take caution to prevent hypothermia.

Go Fishing – Fishing is heating up across the state. Get your fishing permit and head to your favorite lake.

Most park areas open for Memorial Day weekend

LINCOLN, Neb. – Park goers will find most of the 76 park areas in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s park system open for Memorial Day weekend.

Nebraska State Parks offer fun activities for people to have fun and create family memories outdoors. With so many diverse areas, park visitors can find adventure or solitude. Some of the most popular activities include camping, boating, fishing, picnicking, huddling around a campfire, hiking, biking, watching wildlife, horse trail rides, Jeep rides, Go Ape treetop ropes course, and family-friendly shooting ranges.

A few parks that were affected by spring flooding and have limited access, camping or services. An update on some park areas includes:

Two Rivers State Recreation Area – The park is open for camping and day use, with the some limitations. Electrical service has been restored to most electrical campsites. The Riverside day use area is accessible, however the Riverside, Cottonwood and equestrian campgrounds are closed temporarily.

Willow Creek SRA – The park is open for camping and day use and electrical service has been restored to most electrical campsites.

Fremont Lakes SRA – The 5 mph/no wake restriction on Lake 10 and Victory Lake (Lake 15) were lifted May 22. A 5 mph/no wake restriction remains in effect for Lakes 16 and 20. Game and Parks urges boaters to heed all safety buoys, signage, and boating regulations.

Game and Parks continues to provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation as it can.

Mormon Island SRA – On May 23, the updated Cedar campground on the park’s east end will open. Contractors have added 38 30/50-amp electrical pedestals; water hydrants will be added later this summer. The campground offers 38 campsites with many located along the edge of Lake 2. Seven of the sites are designated pull-through campsites to accommodate large recreational vehicles and can provide 80-amp service. The campground offers a modern restroom facility with private showers and a large picnic shelter. Half of the campsites will be available on the Nebraska Game and Parks reservation system. Contact the park for camping availability at 308-385-6211.

Schramm Education Center at Schramm Park SRA – The new state-of-the art nature center and aquarium officially opened May 1 and is open daily 9 to 5.

For a listing of park areas and their status, check out outdoornebraska.gov/weatherclosures/.

Activities are scheduled throughout the park system. For a listing, visit calendar.outdoornebraska.gov/. A park entry permit is required of each vehicle entering a park.

Game and Parks receives NET grant for Natural Legacy Project

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will receive $55,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project: New Approaches to Biodiversity Conservation.

This is the first year of the award, with a potential for second- and third-year funding totaling $315,000 and $200,000 respectively.

The Nebraska Natural Legacy Project has applied strategic conservation to restore at-risk species since it was federally approved in 2005. The habitat-based plan identifies at-risk species, threats to those species, conservation actions, and prioritizes Biologically Unique Landscapes (BULs) for conserving Nebraska’s biodiversity. Natural Legacy partners have worked with private landowners to implement conservation projects in nearly two dozen BULs that enhanced over 400,000 acres of at-risk species’ habitat.

The first goal is to continue strategic habitat improvement on at least 100,000 acres. Habitat restoration on private and conservation lands will benefit at-risk species and native common species. Private land projects will be delivered collaboratively with partners and use a voluntary, incentive-based approach. Another goal is to complete a comprehensive revision of the Legacy Project. This process will follow national guidelines, engage over 22 Nebraska stakeholder organizations, and reach hundreds of individuals. The Natural Legacy Project will continue to broaden engagement and enthusiasm for at-risk species conservation, and raise awareness for the needs of Nebraska’s native fish and wildlife.

The project is one of the 117 projects receiving $19,501,444 in grant awards from the Trust this year. Of these, 85 were new applications and 32 are carry-over projects.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $305 million in grants to over 2,200 projects across the state.

Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.

Full slate of fishing events scheduled this summer

LINCOLN, Neb. – Fishing season is here, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has lined up a series of events for anglers of all ages.

Community Fishing Nights, formerly known as Family Fishing Nights, are held at lakes and ponds across the state. They are designed to introduce or reintroduce families and individuals to fishing. At these events, Game and Parks staff and certified fishing instructors teach people of all ages who have never been fishing or haven’t fished for years the basics of this fun and relaxing activity. Loaner equipment and bait are available. All fishing regulations apply.

Game and Parks also added some special fishing events geared toward adults:

Discover Flying Fishing – Learn about all things fly fishing, from equipment, fly tying and casting. Loaner fly rods will be available.

Discover Catfish Fishing – These events are held in conjunction with Community Fishing Nights, only later in the evening. Participants can learn the basics of catfishing, from bait and equipment to techniques. Anglers are encouraged to bring a lawn chair, but all fishing equipment will be provided.

Fishing with Friends – Join like-minded individuals and bring a friend or two to this fun, educational event. Beyond fishing, participants can learn how to clean and cook fish. Experts will be on hand to teach kayak fishing. A vendor will be on-site with information on how to purchase a kayak. Equipment will be provided.

For the complete schedule of fishing events, visit outdoornebraska.gov/familyfishing.

Portions of Cowboy Trail reopened after flood

LINCOLN, Neb. – Portions of the Cowboy Trail have reopened to public use following historic flooding that washed away surfacing and damaged bridges along the trail in March.

The trail is now open from Valentine to O’Neill, with the exception of a small area near Long Pine. Additionally, several short stretches of the trail are open between O’Neill and Norfolk. Those who wish to use the trail can view specific information about open and closed portions at https://maps.outdoornebraska.gov/Trails/.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds Cowboy Trail users to stay off closed bridges and other areas for their own safety. Trail users should also be mindful that rough surfaces may exist even along open portions of the trail. Commission staff will continue to work to repair the trail, and the map at the link above will be updated as repairs are completed.

Don’t drink while operating a motorboat

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraskans are urged to not drink alcohol while operating a boat during the Memorial Day weekend, warns the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Boat operators can become impaired with less alcohol than motor vehicle drivers due to heat and dehydration.

In Nebraska, it is unlawful to operate a motorboat with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater. Doing so constitutes Boating Under the Influence (BUI), which carries a penalty of up to $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail, and loss of boating privileges for six months. Refusal to submit to a chemical blood alcohol test will result in the same penalties as BUI.

Cedar View Campground at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area is temporarily closed

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – Cedar View Campground at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area is temporarily closed to allow construction crews to complete upgrades to campground amenities until early June.

Cedar View Campground, located about 15 miles west of Kingsley Dam on Highway 92 near Otter Creek Bay, is closed for public use until approximately June 13. Certain project aspects may not be completed until fall 2019. The upgrades will include all new electrical and water utilities leading to 85 camping sites with 50/30/20 amp pedestals and water availability. Eight existing campsites will be updated with accessible features along with renovations to the existing shower facility. Other campground facilities are open including Lone Eagle and Little Thunder Campgrounds at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area and Lake Ogallala Campground on the east side of Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area.

Contact Regional Park Superintendent Colby Johnson at 308-284-8804 or colby.johnson@nebraska.gov for more information.

Landowners have until June 14 to enroll in Open Fields and Waters

LINCOLN, Neb. – Private landowners have until June 14 to enroll their land in the Open Fields and Waters (OFW) Program. Through OFW, landowners can earn additional income for allowing walk-in hunting, trapping and/or fishing access on their properties.

According to John Laux, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s upland habitat and access manager, OFW is a “win-win” for both private landowners and hunters. “Participating landowners benefit from the extra income and our hunters and anglers [who help fund the program] have more places to go,” said Laux. With over 97 percent of Nebraska’s land-base in private ownership, obtaining access to private lands continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing today’s hunters and anglers.

Increasing public hunting opportunities is a primary objective outlined in the Berggren Plan, Game and Park’s five-year initiative aimed at improving the pheasant hunting experience in Nebraska. “Last year, we added nearly 60,000 acres and hope to continue to expand the program in 2019,” said Laux. Over 700 landowners participated in OFW in 2018, opening over 316,000 land acres, 600 acres of ponds/lakes, and 42 miles of streams to public access across the state.

In addition to receiving annual, per-acre payments, participating landowners are also afforded protection from liability under the Nebraska Recreation Liability Act. Payment rates vary from 50 cents to $15 per acre, depending on habitat type and property location. Game and Parks biologists post boundary signs and enrolled properties are published annually in the Nebraska Public Access Atlas, which is available at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas/.

Private landowners interested in enrolling in OFW should contact their nearest Game and Parks district office: Lincoln (402-471-5561), Norfolk (402-370-3374), Alliance (308-763-2940) or North Platte (308-535-8025).

Drinking water access restored to Memphis State Recreation Area

LINCOLN, Neb. – Drinking water access has been restored at Memphis State Recreation Area in Saunders County.

The area had been without drinking water since 2018 because of groundwater conditions, and guests were asked to bring their own water. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission worked with the Village of Memphis to restore drinking water to the 163-acre area.

The area offers primitive camping, fishing, hiking and non-powered boating. A valid Nebraska park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering the park.

June outdoor calendar

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission events and important dates in June. Get more event details at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org for a list of hunter education classes and boating safety classes.

June 1 – Underwater spearfishing season begins at Box Butte Reservoir and on private waters

June 1 – National Trails Day, Indian Cave State Park (SP), Shubert

June 1 – DeSoto Bend Bow Fishing Mentor Program, DeSoto and Boyer Chute national wildlife refuges

June 1 – Heritage Day Fishing Activity, Yanney Lake, Kearney

June 1 – Introduction to Archery, Danish Alps State Recreation Area (SRA), Hubbard

June 1-2 – Living History, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (SHP), Fort Calhoun

June 1-2 – Rock Creek Trail Days, Rock Creek Station SHP, Fairbury

June 1-2 – Scheels 3-D Archery Tournament, Ponca SP, Ponca

June 1-30 – Archery paddlefish season

June 5 – Community Fishing Night, Benson Lake, Omaha

June 5, 12, 19 – Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Handgun Series, Platte River SP, Louisville

June 6 – Ride the Ridge, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford

June 6 – Community Fishing Night, Mormon Island SRA Lake #1, Doniphan; Oak Lake, Lincoln

June 6 – Discover Fly Fishing, Oak Lake, Lincoln

June 6 – Food Plot Establishment & MCM Techniques, Beede Outdoors, Unadilla

June 7 – Final day landowners may apply for one elk permit

June 7 – Community Fishing Night, Birdwood Lake, North Platte

June 7 – Wildflower Walk, Wildcat Hills SRA, Gering

June 8 – Hooked for Life, Red Willow Reservoir, McCook

June 8 – Introduction to Kayaking, Danish Alps SRA, Hubbard

June 8 – Tractor Show, Indian Cave SP, Shubert

June 9 – Community Fishing Night, Terry’s Pit, Terrytown

June 10-28 – Residents and nonresidents may apply for one deer permit in any draw unit

June 10-28 – Residents may apply for one elk permit

June 10-28 – Residents and eligible landowners may apply for one buck or either-sex antelope permit in available units.

June 11 – Conservation Contractor Work Opportunities, Curtis Community Center, Curtis

June 11 – Community Fishing Night, Walnut Creek Lake, Papillion

June 12 – Grazing Lands and Prescribed Fire, Moore/Shamrock Ranch, Wallace

June 12 – Community Fishing Night, Bowling Lake, Lincoln

June 12 – Family Fun Night, Red Willow Reservoir, McCook

June 13 – Intensive Grazing Management, Sundstrom Family Ranch, Moorefield

June 13 – Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Beginning Kayaking, Memphis Lake SRA, Memphis

June 15 – Youth Shooting and Fishing Day, Lincoln Izaak Walton League, Bennet

June 15 – 3rd Annual National Marina Day, Lewis and Clark SRA, Crofton

June 15 – Critter Corner, Danish Alps SRA, Hubbard

June 16 – Father’s Day Buffet, Platte River SP, Louisville

June 16 – Father’s Day Fishing Clinic, Danish Alps SRA, Hubbard

June 16 – Father’s Day Fish Fry, Ponca SP, Ponca

June 18 – Community Fishing Night, Archway Monument Pond, Kearney; Holmes Lake, Lincoln

June 18 – The Do’s and Don’ts of Mowing Ditches and the Like, ENREC UNL Extension, Ithaca

June 18 – Discover Catfish Fishing, Holmes Lake, Lincoln

June 19 – Family Nature Night, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Denton

June 20 – Corners for Wildlife: Profitability, Resource Conservation and Wildlife Habitat, Trotters West Parking Lot, Broken Bow

June 20 – Pints and Pollinators, Lazy Horse Brewing and Winery, Ohiowa

June 20 – Community Fishing Night, Towl Park Lake, Omaha; Skyview Lake, Norfolk

June 20-21 – Nebraska Game and Parks commission meeting, Alma

June 22 – Carp-O-Rama, Branched Oak Lake, Raymond

June 22 – Family Outdoor Day, Mormon Island SRA, Doniphan

June 22 – Outdoor Survivor, Danish Alps SRA, Hubbard

June 24 – Calamus Campfire Cookout, Calamus SRA, Burwell

June 26 – Monarchs in the Classroom, North Platte NRD, Scottsbluff

June 26 – Community Fishing Night, Prairie Queen Lake, Papillion

June 26 – Family Fun Night, Red Willow Reservoir, McCook

June 27 – Managing the Eastern Sandhills for Profitable Ranching and Quality Wildlife Habitat, Johnstown Fairgrounds North, Johnstown

June 27 – Improving Your Grassland Through the Use of Prescribed Fire, Johnson Community Center, Alma

June 27 – Take and Taste Thursday, USDA Service Center, Imperial

June 27 – Community Fishing Night, Kramer Lake, Bellevue

June 27 – Discover Fly Fishing, Kramer Lake, Bellevue

June 29 – Monitoring Wildlife on Your Property, USDA Service Center, North Platte

June 29 – White Perch Tournament, Branched Oak Lake, Raymond

June 29 – Nature Hike, Danish Alps SRA, Hubbard

June 29 – Show and Shine Car Show, Indian Cave SP, Shubert

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