Warmer temperatures have returned this week and most of the outdoor enthusiasts I know are relishing that. Warmer, spring-like temperatures have set the stage for several things out here on the prairie:

» Return of the sandhill cranes.

» Fishing is picking up again around the region.

» Snow geese returning.

» Turkeys beginning their spring courting activities.

I heard my first crane calls on Tuesday of this week. I don’t care what Punxsutawney Phil says — the return of the sandhill cranes is the sure sign if spring for me.

The birds I heard and saw were the advanced scouts for the rest of the cranes to follow. By now, an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 cranes are in Nebraska. The main concentration at the moment is in the Kearney to Grand Island area, but the birds are stretched as far west as Lake McConaughy.

Up to 600,000 sandhill cranes will pass through Nebraska in the next few weeks. An estimated 150,000 to 160,000 of those birds will settle into our region, mainly between North Platte and Hershey. It is an easy drive west of town to see and hear this wonder of nature. I’ll have more about the cranes in my Sunday column.

Now for some fishing news from around the region:

Some trout are being caught along the west shoreline of Lake Ogallala and in the Nebraska Public Power District canal below the diversion. Salmon eggs and Power Bait are catching most of the trout. Anglers are also catching some trout below the Lake Ogallala dam in the North Platte River. Spinners and crankbaits are catching some nice trout.

Sutherland Reservoir anglers tell me that walleye activity is just beginning to pick up at the inlet. Small spinners and bouncing a minnow along the bottom may be the best tactics at this time. Fishing is very slow but they are there.

The same thing is happening at the Lake Maloney inlet. Walleye are moving up in the inlet now. Fishing is slow, but enough walleye are being caught to keep it interesting. Most of the walleye are small, under the 15-inch limit, but a few keepers are being taken home.

Ice is coming off the Tri-County Canal rapidly and that has opened up the opportunity to catch some walleye below the checks. Closer to Jeffery Lake, you might pick up a sauger or two. Drifting a nightcrawler along the bottom or a Lindy rig is a great tactic to catch these fish.

The snow goose or Light Goose Conservation Order season is underway. Lots of snow geese are showing up in valley. I think snow geese are a little tougher to hunt than Canada geese because they are less predictable. You have to cover a lot of ground to hunt snow geese feeding in harvested field and that means you have to put in some work getting permission to hunt where you find the birds.

Warmer temperatures means turkeys are beginning their spring mating season. I have seen a couple of toms strutting already. Winter flocks are breaking up and the toms will become very active.

Temperatures are forecast to be quite spring-like and warm for this weekend. Get out of the house and do some fishing, snow goose hunting or scout for your turkey hunt. Enjoy your time in the outdoors.

— Rick Windham

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