Outdoor notes: April, May ripe for catching crappies; Volunteers needed for Missouri River cleanup

Outdoor notes: April, May ripe for catching crappies; Volunteers needed for Missouri River cleanup
Hayden Anibal, of Bennington, Nebraska, with a 16-inch crappie that was caught in a sandpit lake near Schuyler.

April and May are a good time for anyone looking for an outdoor activity to fish for crappies.

“Crappies tend to move into shallow water near the shore in the spring, making them easily accessible to all anglers, whether they are in boats or on the bank,” said Daryl Bauer, fisheries outreach program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Bauer said crappies start moving on warm afternoons as they seek protected areas where the water may be warmer. Bays and coves protected from the wind are crappie habitat, especially with shallow-water cover such as wood, aquatic vegetation or rocks.

As spring progresses, the crappies will stay shallow for their spawning activities. In many Nebraska waters, the same bays and coves that harbored crappies soon after the ice melts will continue to hold fish through the spawn period.

“Crappies are not difficult to catch,” Bauer said. “Old-fashioned cane poles work just fine, and in some cases may be the best way to catch crappies. Light- to medium-action spincast and spinning gear with 4- to 10-pound test line also will do just fine.”

On waters where live bait is permitted, a small minnow suspended underneath a bobber is a good option, but jigs in a variety of shapes and colors also will work. Consider using a bobber above jigs, as well, especially to slow down and tempt less aggressive fish.

Good crappie fishing can be found across the state, with pits, ponds and small reservoirs being some of the best crappie habitats. However, some of Nebraska’s largest reservoirs also have good crappie populations, especially where there are bays with shallow-water cover.

Check out the 2018 Fishing Forecast at outdoornebraska.gov/fishingforecast to find the best crappie waters across the state. Visit outdoornebraska.org for additional fishing resources and to purchase permits.

Missouri River cleanup

The National Park Service is looking for volunteers to help with the 15th annual Missouri River Cleanup on Saturday.

Volunteers should meet in Yankton, South Dakota, at the Riverside Park boat ramp picnic shelter at 8 a.m. for registration, coffee and doughnuts. All volunteers will be issued official T-shirts.

Boats from the National Park Service and partner agencies will transport volunteers to and from cleanup sites along the river. The cleanup will end at noon with a lunch of bratwursts, chips and drinks.

“Help keep the wild and scenic Missouri and Yankton’s waterfront clean and green by volunteering on Saturday,” said Dugan Smith, Missouri National Recreational River park ranger and volunteer coordinator. “Since 2004, 108 tons of trash has been removed within a 5-mile stretch of river. The citizens of this area have helped the National Park Service carry out its mission of protecting and preserving this wild and scenic river.”

Volunteers should wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Personal flotation devices will be provided. Sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. For additional information contact Smith by phone at 605-665-0209, ext. 28 or by email at Dugan_Smith@nps.gov.

Willows and Wings

The public is invited to celebrate International Migratory Bird Month by participating in Willows and Wings on May 19 at Willow Creek State Recreation Area in Pierce County.

This event includes a bird identification hike and an introduction to eBird, an online tool for monitoring bird populations.

All ages and experience levels are welcome. No park entry permit is required as May 19 is Free Fishing and Park Entry Day in Nebraska. Flights of birders will leave the area’s northwest parking lot at 6 and 9 a.m.

Call Jen Corman at 402-893-3109 for more information.

Free educator workshops

Nebraska Project WILD will have a free educator workshop April 30 in Norfolk to help teachers engage their students through birds. It will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Elkhorn Valley Museum, 515 Queen City Blvd.

Participants will receive a “Birds of Nebraska” field guide and “Flying WILD: An Educators Guide to Celebrating Birds.” Through more than 40 activities, the Flying WILD guide helps teachers introduce students to birds and shows them why birds are important.

Contact Jamie Bachmann at jamie.bachmann@nebraska.gov for more information or to register.

Swan release

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will release eight trumpeter swans at three locations in southwest Iowa as part of an effort to create a self-sustaining population of swans south of Interstate 80.

Four swans will be released on the north side of Lake Icaria at the east boat ramp on May 10 at 9:30 a.m., in partnership with the Adams County Conservation Board.

Two swans will be released at Viking Lake on May 10 at 1 p.m.

Two swans will be released at Lake Anita on May 11 at 1:30 p.m., in partnership with the Cass County Conservation Board.

These releases are part of the Iowa DNR’s effort to restore trumpeter swans to Iowa. Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s.

It takes six years, on average, for trumpeter swans to successfully nest. Last year, Iowa was home to 54 pairs of nesting trumpeter swans, but only two of those nesting pairs were south of I-80. Dave Hoffman, wildlife research technician with the Iowa DNR, said the goal is to raise that number to seven, which would likely create a self-sustaining population.

“We are hopeful to get them nesting here in a year or two,” Hoffman said. “We had swans displaying some territorial signs last year at Lake Icaria, which is encouraging.”

Okoboji walleye fishing

Walleye fishing season officially opens in Iowa May 5 at Spirit Lake, East Okoboji Lake and West Okoboji Lake.

“Winter is still hanging on in northern Iowa and some lakes are still frozen. The latest ice-out for Spirit Lake and the Okobojis is April 28th, 1951, and we’re on track to get close to that date,” said fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins. “There aren’t many years of history to study to know how this late ice will affect the bite. We expect the spawn to be delayed and the spring pattern accelerated.”

Walleye population assessments in the Iowa Great Lakes show healthy numbers of walleyes. “We continue to see some very good numbers of broodstock-sized fish (17 inches or more) in the Iowa Great Lakes.” Hawkins added that the number of fish under 17 inches will also be good this year. “On Spirit Lake, I predict anglers will catch quite a few 13- to 15-inch walleyes.”

Like many of Iowa’s walleye populations, stocking success is variable with good classes of walleyes occurring every three to five years. “Even when millions of walleyes are stocked each year, Mother Nature and other lake variables usually dictate how well a stocking will do,” Hawkins notes. “This year looks to be one of those years when we will hit the part of the cycle with good numbers of harvest-sized fish.”

Marble Beach State Park, a popular area campground and boat ramp, will be closed this year for an extensive improvement project. Since the park is closed, the fish cleaning station will not be in operation.



» Flying WILD Educator Workshop, Elkhorn Valley Museum, Norfolk


» Family Fishing Event, Terry’s Pit, Terrytown

» Growing Up WILD educator workshop, Southeast Community College, Lincoln


» Southeast District Birding Day, Indian Cave State Park (SP), Shubert

» Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Archery Series, Platte River SP, Louisville. Also May 9 and 16


» Growing Up WILD educator workshop, Ruth Staples Child Development Lab, Lincoln

» Start of Cornhusker Trapshoot, Nebraska Trapshooting Association grounds, Doniphan


» Outdoor Educational Rendezvous, Niobrara SP, Niobrara


» Take Pride in America Day, Verdon State Recreation Area (SRA), Verdon

» Mystery at the Mansion, Arbor Lodge SHP, Nebraska City

» Family Fishing Event, Red Willow Reservoir SRA, McCook

» Living History, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (SHP), Fort Calhoun

» Lilac Walk, Arbor Lodge SHP, Nebraska City, until May 19