High water can disrupt fishing activities

Fishing during high water can be a challenge, like during irrigation flows on the North Platte River in the summer. Look for backwaters and protected areas where the fish hold up and rest out of the current.

High water and high flows in the area rivers and canals have caused problems in the region. The main problem that an angler faces is that high water changes their fishing spots or that normal fishing tactics are not working due to muddy water.

A question I get a lot during times like this is, “Where do fish go when there is a flood?’

I went to a couple experts I know to get the answer: Daryl Bauer, a senior fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and Mark Sexton, an analysis and bait tester with Berkley Pure Fishing. These guys have the answers!

“Where fish go in floods depends a bit on the environment in which they live. For example, fish in large rivers often migrate during high water events and at those times might move hundreds of miles,” Bauer said. “In fact much of that migration may actually be upstream and not downstream with the flood waters.

“On the other hand, in standing waters, lakes, reservoirs, pits and ponds, fish tend to move shallow, towards the shore when water levels rise,” Bauer added. “As a matter of fact, they often move right up into newly flooded habitat. They keep from getting washed away downstream by moving to those newly flooded areas, into cover and shallow water where they can escape the extra current.”

“Immediately after increased water flows enter a lake or pond, fishing might be tough,” Sexton said. “The runoff from heavy rains carries a lot of food with it, too. Fish will often run to the inflow area and gorge themselves. A day or two into an event like this, a lot of fish will move into whatever weedy areas they can find and just wait it out.

“I know you have really high water in the South Platte right now, and I know that the South Platte is also connected to Sutherland Reservoir and Lake Maloney,” Sexton continued. “That muddy water flowing into Sutherland’s inlet can shut things down for a while, but don’t give up. Switch to baits that rattle and make noise and fish slower. Fish still have to eat and they will find the bait.”

Another question that has been tossed at me recently is, “How do fish find what they need to eat when the water is muddy, like now in the flood?”

“Fish have other senses than their eyesight to find and capture prey. In fact for many of our predator species the lateral line is even more important than eye-sight in finding and capturing prey and the lateral line is even more important when reduced visibility impairs their vision,” Bauer said. “Here is an explanation of the lateral line and how fish use it: ‘Can You Feel Me Now?’ Fish will rely more on their sense of hearing to find and capture prey while water levels are high and muddy. So knowing that, to cope with high water conditions, anglers should plan to move shallow, right up into newly flooded habitat, fish cover, right in and close to cover. Slow down, fish with larger bulkier baits, easier for the fish to ‘feel’ through their lateral line, and fish baits that give off sound.

“Bright and especially contrasting colors (e.g. brown and orange, black and chartreuse) might also make it easier for fish to find baits in high and dirty water conditions.

“Another trick for catching fish in muddy, high water conditions is to use a bait that leaves a good scent trail in the water,” Sexton added. “There are predator fish, like northern pike and musky, that I’ve seen follow baits for a long time before trying to bite it.”

“I’ve seen these fish trailing a couple inches or less behind a bait and I think they are sniffing the bait just like a dog would before it eats something it’s not familiar with, Sexton continued. “Bait like Berkley Gulp — I had to get a company plug in — are a great choice in these types of water conditions. Fish a big bait and fish it slow. You’ll catch fish.”

WITO Field Day

The National Wild Turkey Federation has a program that is designed for women that would like to know more about the outdoors. It is called Women In The Outdoors.

Since it has long been rumored that husbands, sons or significant others may not be the best teachers/coaches on things like this, WITO offers women an opportunity to learn various outdoor skills in a friendly and non-intimidating, non-judgmental environment.

A WITO Field Day will be June 22 at the Tri-County Sand and Gravel operation near Elba. The event is open to women ages 14 and older. The organizers are inviting anyone who would like to attend to come and join like-minded women in learning new skills.

There will be sessions on basic skills with tools for minor jobs that need to be done, jazzercise, archery, gun safety and maintenance, trailer backing, kayaking, streetwise self defense and basic survival skills. You can choose up to three classes for the day. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the first class session begins at 9:30. Lunch is provided and all session are over by 5 p.m. Cost for the event is $55 per person.

To get more information, contact Peggy Griffin at 308-750-2018 or via email at pgriffin3wito@hotmail.com. Get your reservations in soon. These events have a tendency to fill up quickly. This is the furthest west event I know of for 2019.

Jim Conley Shoot

There is one day left for the eighth Jim Conley Shoot at the Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club. Today’s program is:

» Event No. 4 — 20 Gauge: Class purse ties divide, $10; Oklahoma 50’s, $15; two man team (each), $5.

» Event No. 5 — 12 Gauge: Gauge options; Class purse, ties divide, $10; Oklahoma 50’s, $15; two man team (each), $5.

» Event No. 6 — HOA: Champion HOA, $100; Custom Knife by Gary Bargell; a combination of scores: 28Ga +20Ga+ 12Ga+ .410 events.

» Event No. 7: HAA Honors Only; a combination of scores: 28Ga +20Ga+ 12Ga+ .410 and doubles events.

Shooting begins at 9:30 a.m. NSSA Rules apply to all aspects of this shoot.