Outdoor notes: Willow Creek SRA birding hike; Spring crappie fishing; Family Nature Club in Norfolk

Willows and Wings birding hike is May 19 at Willow Creek SRA

LINCOLN, Neb. – 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 citizen science 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, off 547th Avenue, at 6 and 9 a.m.

This event is a partnership of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Northern Prairies Land Trust.

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


April and May are the best months to catch crappies

LINCOLN, Neb. – Anyone looking for a fun springtime outdoor activity will find it in fishing. April and May are a great time 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 shortly after ice-out as they seek protected areas where the water may be warmer. Bays and coves protected from the wind are crappie habitat, especially where there is some 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 ice-out will continue to hold fish right 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 baitfish are permitted, a small, lively minnow suspended underneath a small bobber is a good option, but 1/64- to 1/16-ounce jigs in a variety of shapes and colors also will work. Marabou jigs work well, or choose one of the variety of small plastic bodies. Consider using a bobber above jigs, as well, especially to slow down and tempt nonaggressive 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.


Nebraska Game and Parks to host Family Nature Club in Norfolk

LINCOLN, Neb. – Norfolk-area families are invited to engage in natural play outdoors at Family Nature Club.

Family Nature Club is scheduled May 24, June 4, June 25, July 2, July 30, Aug. 6 and Aug. 20. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Outdoor Classroom at the Northeast District Office in Norfolk, 2201 N. 13th St.

At the Outdoor Classroom, participants can climb a tree, dig for bones, make a sandcastle, turn over rocks to learn what lies beneath, build a fort, or slide into the mud pit.

“Everyone needs an evening of unstructured old-fashioned play,” said Jamie Bachmann, a wildlife education assistant with the Northern Prairies Land Trust. “Bring the family and enjoy or revisit childhood the way it should be – a little dirty.”

Contact Bachmann for more information at jamie.bachmann@nebraska.gov or 402-370-3374.