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Enjoying a special THANKSGIVING WEEK



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Thanksgiving was a special time for my wife and me this year. We took our daughter and her three children to Branson, MO, which I deemed as a homecoming. You see, my wife and I have been traveling to Branson for nearly 20 years. It’s kind of become a home away from home for us. The scenery is incredible, there are wonderful shows, the shopping is impeccable (so says my wife) and, yes, there is some darned good trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo. I was in hopes that my grandson, Hunter would catch his first Taneycomo rainbow trout. Two summers ago, he caught his first Lake Michigan salmon and steelhead. So, this would be another thing to check off his bucket list. However, it was a total family vacation, so we tried to get everybody involved. We stayed at Timber Lodge at Welk Resort, which gave our 15-year old granddaughter, Maddysen and our 8year old granddaughter, Sadee the chance to use the indoor pool, waterslide and outdoor hot tub whenever they had spare time. While they swam, Hunter and I played games of pool and foosball. For my wife and daughter, Stephanie it was not having to work the evening before

Hunter with a nice rainbow trout taken on Lake Taneycomo over Thanksgiving. Photo by Steve Weisman

and all morning for the Thanksgiving feast. Instead, we all went to a traditional Thanksgiving buffet at the Welk Resort’s Stage Door Restaurant. During the stay, we enjoyed the Hughes Brothers Christmas show and Pierce Arrow, along with a trip to Mel’s Hard Luck Diner, a 1950s themed diner where the servers (in addition to their serving) take turns serenading their customers with popular songs and at this time of year Christmas carols. The entire crew even serenaded Sadee with a special song for her birthday! Letʟs go fishing

Ready for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet. Photo by Steve Weisman

Each year when I go to Branson, I always fish Lake Taneycomo, the first time with a guide. However, early on I met Mark Devore, a former classmate of Tim Milner, who taught with me in Estherville and who now works part-time at Fisherman’s Factory Outlet. Mark has been fishing Taneycomo for nearly 35 years and teaches fly fishing at the trophy trout streams of Dogwood Canyon owned by Bass Pro’s founder Johnny

Morris. It’s kind of nice to have your own built-in guide! I’ve also had the pleasure to strike up a good relationship with Phil Lilley, owner of Lilleys’ Landing (, which is a popular resort and marina on upper lake Taneycomo. For over three decades, Lilleys’ Landing Resort and Marina, which is nestled below the bluffs on the shores of Lake Taneycomo, has offered anglers with

some of the best trout fishing in the world, boats and pontoon rentals, fly and tackle shop, along with professional guide services. They also offer the comfort of modern, updated cottages, both lakeside and off-lake. On the water The only day that would work out for us was Friday. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday were sunny and in the mid 50s to 60. Friday, wouldn’t you know it, was 45 degrees with a threat of

rain. Sure enough our 5-hour fishing trip was filled with nearly 4 hours of intermittent rain showers and occasional downpours. We always rent a pontoon because of its great fishing platform to allow for casting and roll casting with a flyrod. Boy was I glad it had a bimini top up and ready! Even though we had rain gear on, it was nice to have that protection. At 48 degrees, it was still comfortable to fish. Turn to THANKS, Page 2B

Ice fishing open houses taking place BY STEVE WEISMAN OUTDOOR EDITOR

Know what’s funny? I find every season to be my favorite season. Spring, summer, fall and winter‌each of my outdoor activities fall into one of these seasons. How lucky can a person be! As each season moves toward its end, I may still be in that season’s activities, but I am also beginning to transition and think about the upcoming season. That’s where I am at right now, especially after the recent snow and cold snap. There’s still late, late season open water fishing (especially at Chamberlain, SD) and several hunting seasons going on, but in the distance (maybe not that far away), I can see it‌ice fishing is coming. Dave Genz displays a Boji gill taken last winter during From early November to the end of November ice fishing open houses the taping of an ice fishing show. Photo by Steve Weisman occur. Many of you may have already

attended one of them locally: Stan’s Bait and Tackle (Nov. 3), Clear Lake Bait and Tackle (Nov. 2-4), Kabele’s Trading Post (Nov. 10), or even headed to Sioux Falls for the Ice Institute (Nov. 9-11). There is one last one, the granddaddy of them all the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) presented by Clam Outdoors. I attended two this year. First, I went to Clear Lake on Nov. 3 and then went to Kabele’s Trading Post on Nov. 10. I was invited by Kevan Paul to present a seminar at the Clear Lake Bait and Tackle Ice Season Kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 3. Kevan gave me an easy topic, tactics for catching my number one favorite fish, “Boji Gills.� As I prepared my PowerPoint presentation, I was taken aback by the changes that I have witnessed in ice fishing over my 65 years of ice fishing. Just go into any of our local bait

shops or watch videos on You Tube, and you can see how ice fishing today is truly cutting edge! Look at this list: the high tec clothing, the refined fishing shelters, the fishing electronics, wide range of auger options, portable heaters, the specialized rod and reel combos, the variety of ice lines, the tackle and lures for each kind of fish. The list goes on and on! We are truly in the new age of ice fishing. So many great products, manufacturers and pro staffers out there to help anglers have the best experience possible. Where it all started What is truly amazing, though, is that all of this can be traced back to one man! Dave Genz, known as Mr. Ice Fishing, is the man who truly brought ice fishing out of the dark ages and into the modern age of ice fishing. Turn to FISHING, Page 2B

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Ice-anglers have a good number of different baits and bait styles available to them. One of the most popular and effective bait styles for ice-fishing is spoons. Look in the tacklebox of almost any angler who fishes through the ice and you’ll find at least a couple and probably quite a few spoons. Across the ice-fishing belt, anglers use spoons to catch a wide variety of fish. When it comes to walleyes, crappies, and perch, spoons are very popular and effective. Here are some ideas for selecting a spoon that will help put more fish on the ice. Spoons come in all colors, sizes, and shapes. You might wonder what the difference is in the various spoons, and if those differences really matter. They do! When the fish are hungry and willing to bite, they’ll eat just about anything you put down there. But when they get finicky, spoon shape, color, and action can be the difference between catching and not catching. Spoon size is a very important consideration. Remember that weight and physical size are two different things. You could have a spoon made of a lighter material be much larger physically than a spoon made of lead but weigh about the same. The BuckShot Rattle Spoon, one of the best spoons for ice-fishing ever made, is smaller in physical size than a metal spoon of a similar weight. Generally in spoons like the Buck-Shot, if you’re after walleyes, the eighth ounce size is probably as

Mike Frisch got this walleye to eat his Buck-Shot Rattle spoon under the ice. Photo by Bob Jensen

small as you would want to start with: The quarter ounce size is usually a good starting point. For perch and crappies, start at the eighth ounce size. If they don’t go for that, work smaller. Usually the sixteenth ounce size is as small as you need to go for perch or crappies, but you never know. Next consider color. In dark water, brighter colors are usually a good idea, but again, not always. In clear water a more natural color is often a good start, but you never know. Keep trying different colors until the fish show you what they want. Spoons that glow have been around for a long time. When they first came out, anglers wondered if a “glowing” spoon really helped catch more fish. I

had the same question, and it was clearly answered on a trip to Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota during a crappie boom that was occurring on Upper Red. I was with John and Duane Peterson from Northland Fishing Tackle and they were just starting to experiment with glow paint for their baits. Upper Red has very stained water: At the time visibility was less than a foot. We shined a little blacklight flashlight at the baits to make them glow, then lowered them into the water. The crappies really liked them, at least for about 20 minutes. Then, although we could see fish looking at our baits on our sonar, they quit biting. The glow had worn off. We recharged the spoons

and the crappies immediately started eating them. I’ve seen the same thing happen with perch and walleyes many times as well. Glow does help sometimes. Spoon action is another consideration. Some spoons fall straight up and down, others flutter. Sometimes the fish like a fluttering spoon, other times they like less action. Presentation may be even more important under the ice than it is in open water. Remember, the fish can really get a good look at your bait under the ice. Give them the bait they want they way they want it and you’ll be a more successful ice angler. To see new and older episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, fishing articles and videos, go to


Winterizing your boat, just as with any cleaning procedure should be done before moving to another lake and when putting your boat away for the season. This will help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species (ANS). Flush your outboard engine with fresh water using flush muffs (or a similar device) attached to the raw water pickup. Let the water thoroughly drain from the engine. Wash your engine with non-phosphate soap and rinse thoroughly. Disconnect your fuel hose and run the engine until it stops. Oil becomes acidic with the breakdown of engine metals; consider changing the oil before putting the boat away for the winter. This will help

to lubricate parts prior to storage (fall, in our experience, is a good time to get small engine work done, you can usually get the work done quickly and can sometimes find good deals as well). If you plan to use antifreeze to protect the block, use a non-toxic marine or RV variety such as propylene glycol. Use antifreeze that is rated at a lower temperature even if your winter temperatures are moderate. There is usually residual water in the block that will mix with and dilute the antifreeze. Using a solution rated for lower temperatures will protect your block even if it is diluted. If you have oil spills in the bilge, use an oil absorbent bilge cushion or sock to mop up the oil before draining the bilge. Once any oil spills are absorbed, clean and drain the bilge

with non-phosphate soap and water. Wash the exterior with non-phosphate soap and water. When you wash your boat, remove any mud, dirt, plants, animals, or fish. If your lake or river is infested with any ANS take the time to search for, remove, and destroy any hitchhikers you may find. This will prevent them from spreading to another watershed. Also take the time to clean and inspect your trailer. Apply water resistant grease to propeller shaft and threads. Change the gear oil in the lower unit. Iowa is home to a great number of amazing fisheries. We can help keep them that way by taking time to properly winterize and maintain our boats and motors. Remember that we are more than anglers…We Are Stewards. Tight Lines All!

THANKS, Continued from Page 1B Our plan is to head upstream a few miles from Lilleys’ and work the cuts and channels of Taneycomo, usually in 6-10 foot of water. Of course, trout rise to the surface, making dimples on the water. So, you often look for these telltale signs. Normally, the technique is using either fly rod with a tiny pink marabou jig tied to an eight-foot or longer leader and a strike indicator (small float) at the end of the leader. Often no bait is used, but sometimes a pink or other colored Berkley Trout Powerbait is used (unless you are in the trophy area-then no bait). The other option is using a spinning combination and a bobber to cast the same baits. The bite was slow, but we probably caught around 15 rainbows between 11-14 inches in length. Not big, but there are definitely larger ones out there. Mark’s biggest has been an eight pounder. As a grandpa, it was fun to watch Hunter figure out the technique and begin catching rainbow trout. Soon he was saying, “Grandpa, when are you going to start catching them!” To me, that made the fishing trip priceless. Oh, and as we got ready to

leave, Mark handed me a 7 weight fly rod that he had custom built. It was specially built for me! Awesome! He later texted me saying, “Casts like a dream…enough power to catch any North American species – provided they are under 20 pounds-lol!” What is really cool is that all of this occurs just two miles away from The Strip on the famous Highway 76, better known as the Country 76 or the Branson Strip! 0

Branson Landing

While Hunter and I were fishing, the gals went shopping on-you guessed itBlack Friday. Talk about crowds! Probably the coolest place they shopped was the Branson Landing located along the shores of Lake Taneycomo. The Landing is truly upscale and features a 1.5-mile scenic boardwalk with over 100 specialty shops, restaurants and places of entertainment. In the middle of the Square is the 7.5 million dollar water and fire dancing fountain that shoots 120-foot geysers all choreographed to light and music. Well, when Hunter heard that there was a Bass Pro Shop, I knew I was doomed. I tried to get out of it by saying

it was too busy, no place to park. Didn’t work! So, after the fishing outing, we headed to the Branson Landing. Yet, it was another fun family outing. Sadee got to go to Build a Bear and make her own stuffed reindeer, Maddysen got to get another ear piercing, Hunter got some much needed clothing at Bass Pro, Stephanie got to buy Xmas presents and eat at the White River Fish House, grandma got to Xmas shop and enjoy her family. As Hunter and I walked down the cobblestone walkway with stores on both sides, I asked him what he thought. “Pretty cool, grandpa!” Pierce Arrow was Friday night’s show. Their high energy quartet interspersed with a crazy, funny comedian turned out to be everybody’s favorite. Unfortunately, with a winter storm bearing down for Saturday night through Sunday from Kansas City to Des Moines, we decided to head home on Saturday. Amazing how long a 10hour drive can seem when you return home! Even though, we lost a day, it certainly a great Thanksgiving vacation and for my wife and me, it kicked off a most wonderful time of the year!

Jason Mitchell shares some varied patterns and locations for catching more crappie through the ice this winter. Photo submitted


Crappie inhabit so many different environments and ecosystems. What has always made ice fishing so much fun for me is the simple fact that each body of water will have its own personality. And that my friends is fun to figure out! There are some fisheries where we often find crappie on rock structure for example and yet other lakes or reservoirs where we find fish using locations that might seem unusual. Not only do crappie respond to the environment and structure (or lack thereof) but fish also respond to the fish community present. On lakes where there are a lot of large bass or a high density of walleye, you will notice some tendencies (burying in weeds during daylight or not using rock structure for example) but you will also notice differences if there are not the other predators present in high numbers. From Canadian Shield lakes to natural lakes across the upper Midwest, many of the predominant patterns are basin related or weed related. Good stands of green weeds like coon tail hold fish especially if those weeds are situated along a sharp break or off a point that is close to a basin or hole. Perhaps the most classic pattern involves suspended schools of fish that roam out over the hole or basin. There are so many great fisheries however where you can throw this knowledge right out the window. Past seasons, we filmed different episodes on fisheries that probably don’t follow the norm of what is so often preached about winter crappie. Targeting shallow lakes Shallow dish bowl lakes and lakes that lack classic structure often fish much differently. Case study is Lac que Parle in southwest Minnesota. We filmed an episode on this shallow fishery this past season, headquartered out of Watson Hunting Camp. This long shallow lake is perhaps 14 feet at the deepest but there is very little structure. The fish roamed along

vague contour edges that slowly dropped from the shoreline out into massive eight to ten foot flats. Finding fish resembled the hole drilling that is sometimes required to find perch over large expansive flats. Pods of fish seemed to follow lines where the goal was to just get over the flow of fish where you marked small schools of fish moving through in fifteen minute to half hour intervals. We have seen this vague pattern play out before on similar fisheries where the sweet spot wasn’t so much an individual piece of structure or even a magic depth. The fish seemed to roam an expansive edge where if there was one universal pattern, it was a distance from the shoreline. Might be 50 yards or 200 yards depending on the depth and taper of the bottom. That lesson is a lesson you can take to the bank on shallow, flat fisheries and the distance from the shoreline lesson just doesn’t apply to crappie. We have used that rule for figuring out perch and walleye movements on similar fisheries. Reservoir crappies Reservoir crappie patterns don’t get a lot of ink either. There are great reservoir crappie fisheries located in the Great Plains States of the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska and northern Kansas. Because these reservoirs often cycle much more with water levels, the fishing can be boom and bust but the boom years are special. Pipestem Reservoir and Jamestown Reservoir located in central North Dakota both offer solid crappie fishing. We recently filmed an episode on Pipestem Reservoir with guide Jerad Newgard. We have also filmed crappie fishing episodes on the upper end of Lake Oahe near Beaver Bay with Curt Reeff. Lake Oahe might be producing some of the best winter crappie fishing in the upper Midwest for fish over thirteen inches. Reservoir crappie fishing is often about reading structure if there is a defined river Turn to CRAPPIE, Page 3B

ICE, Continued from Page 1B Dave and I go back a long way to when he began to bring his ice fishing tournaments called Trap Attacks to West Okoboji in the late 1980s. He would always have his own Genz seminar the evening before, and never being a shy person, the first time I attended a seminar, I went up to Dave and introduced myself. Ever since, Dave and I have been friends, and my son and I fished the Okoboji Trap Attack several times. My indirect tie to Dave actually goes back years before that when I

bought my first Genz Fish Trap in the early 1980s and soon witnessed a sea of blue covered portable ice shacks (that fold over like an accordion or a clam) that could be seen across the frozen tundra. It all began in his garage in the late 1970s. Mobility now became the norm, and anglers could move all over and find the fish rather than sitting in one spot waiting for them to come by. Always a visionary, Dave kept the ideas coming. Working with

Vexilar, he came up with the Ice Box, which could hold a portable flasher. Still highly popular, it is now called the Vexilar Genz Pack. Then came the Winter Fishing System and the lures and tactics to seek out and find fish. The key word now became mobility and then there was the Genz cadence…even today, Dave continues to be the leader of the Ice Fishing Revolution. Each year more lures and baits come out. A humble man, willing to talk to anybody about ice fishing, Dave’s

goal is for ALL ice anglers to be successful. As I prepared my powerpoint, I realized that so much of my presentation was based on what Dave has taught all of us anglers over the years. His first time fishing Boji gills brought the same results as mine: a big goose egg. The locals cleaned up, but Dave’s first experience and my own first experience were the same. We had a great learning curve if we wanted to catch bluegills in the gin clear waters of West Okoboji.

Now, 40 years after moving to northwest Iowa, here I was preparing a presentation on that exact topic! For the past several years, I have been a pro staffer for Clam Outdoors, mainly because Dave Genz is our spokesman. The products are great and I enjoy the relationships I have developed with other pro staffers. However, my hope is that I can do like Dave and help others learn how to catch those clear water Boji Gills.





Stay safe as Iowa lakes freeze over DNR workers capture adult muskies in Mill Creek. Photo submitted

DNR updates given at Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Clubʼs fall meeting BY STEVE WEISMAN OUTDOOR EDITOR

On Thursday, Nov. 8, I attended the Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Club’s annual fall club meeting at Godfather’s Pizza in Spencer. Designated as DNR Night, fisheries biologists, district law enforcement and local conservation officers spent the evening giving the 100 or so members updates on their areas of expertise. One of the ones I found to be especially interesting…the movements of muskies in the Iowa Great Lakes. Jonathan Meerbeek, DNR Fisheries Research Biologist and his technicians have spent the past several years tagging and following the movements of newly stocked muskies and a handful of adult muskies. Although we’ve known before that muskies move around, what Meerbeek found this past summer was totally amazing. Meerbeek knew they were losing some muskies out of the Iowa Great Lakes going out of Lower Gar into Mill Creek, but get a look at these statistics. As a matter of fact, in 2017, they electro shocked below the overflow and recaptured 23 muskies that had left the lakes. Their size was 28.5 inches to 48 inches. Data also shows that muskies move downstream and leave the lakes at all

DES MOINES — The recent blast of arctic air is growing ice on lakes and ponds over much of Iowa. Anglers are starting to get out for the popular early ice fishing season. “Many of us can’t wait to get out on the ice each winter,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Ice fishing is a fun, inexpensive activity for anglers of all ages to get outdoors and avoid cabin fever.” The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of clear ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs. “Check ice thickness as you make your way to your favorite fishing spot,” Larscheid said. “Ice conditions change constantly and its thickness can vary across the lake. Trust your instincts – if the ice does not look right, don’t go out.” Early ice offers an excellent chance for success. If fish are finicky, cut a series of holes and spend 15 minutes at each hole. Use small baits and light line

Safety tips on the ice

A captured muskie is returned to West Okoboji. Photo submitted

times of the year and can get over the barrier in as little as 3.5 inches of water. This year’s high water gave muskies even more opportunity to leave. A total of 56 adult muskies were captured below Lower Gar in Mill Creek and put back into areas as far away as Emerson Bay on West Okoboji. Yet, some ended up right back down to the overflow. Whatʼs the answer? Well, the plan is to put a cable 20 feet on the upstream side that would emit an electric charge into the water with the idea of

keeping the muskies in the lake rather than losing them downstream. With DNR budgets tight and no extra money for $2,000 project, where will the money come from. Stan’s Bait and Tackle, located on the north edge of Milford, and the Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Club (IGLFC) are partnering on the project. According to Terry Thomsen, IGLFIC president, “Last spring Dennis and Travis Harmon, owners of Stan’s Bait and Tackle, sponsored the walleye opener’s big walleye category. With

the money that anglers paid to enter, they donated that money ($1340) to the IGFC. The board members think that the Lower Gar muskie project is a good place to put this money. As a board, we will donate up to $660 additional dollars to help complete the project.” The hope is that once the electric charge is going that the muskies will turn back and stay in the lakes. The DNR will monitor the situation and assess whether the charge is working and if not, what next steps need to take place.

Iowaʼs 2018 shotgun deer season is here DES MOINES — Deer hunters are trading in their bows for shotguns and body harnesses for blaze orange vests as the calendar turns to December with Iowa’s three main gun seasons on tap. And based on reports, it looks like hunting will be good, if the weather cooperates. “Our deer population is similar to last year and they are definitely moving right now,” said Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “The recent colder weather and rut activity have things looking positive for our shotgun seasons.” First shotgun season is Dec. 1-5, followed by second shotgun season Dec. 8-16. Late muzzleloader season is Dec. 17-Jan. 10, which it shares with the reopening of the bow season. The bulk of the deer harvest, and hunter participation, occurs during the shotgun seasons. The Iowa DNR expects about 60,000 hunters in each shotgun season, plus 30,000 in the late muzzleloader season. The traditional technique in shotgun season is to drive and post where some members of the group post the end of the timber, while other walk through driving deer towards them.

With all that activity in the timber, Harms advised hunters to keep safety at the top of their hunting plan. The hunting plan identifies where each hunter will be and how the hunt will unfold. The plan should also include checking the blaze orange and replace any that has faded over time. Hunters are required to wear one article of external solid blaze orange clothing: vest, jacket, coat, sweatshirt, sweater, short or coveralls. An orange hat alone doesn’t suffice. “You want to be seen by other hunters so it would be a good idea to wear more than the minimum amount of blaze orange required,” Harms said. Hunters will notice few regulations changes from 2017. The DNR has added a January antlerless season in four counties and new deer management zones near Harpers Ferry, Elkader and Seymour. Unfilled youth deer licenses are now valid for any remaining seasons, but are still mentor licenses and they must follow all other rules specified for each season. Iowa’s overall deer harvest across all seasons last year was 105,578 and the 2018 harvest should be similar. Report your harvest The deer is down, tagged and on its

way to the truck. But the harvest is not complete until the deer is registered; either online, over the phone or at a license vendor. Online, it takes just a couple minutes. Go to and click on the orange ‘Report Your Harvest Online’ bar in the middle of the page. From there, scroll down and follow instructions. Be ready to enter your tag’s nine-digit harvest report number. By phone? Call 800-7714692. The deer should be reported by the hunter whose name is on the tag…and it must come before midnight, the day after the deer is tagged. Reporting your harvest is important because harvest numbers are used to manage Iowa’s deer herd annually and it is required by law. Safety tips Hunters are encouraged to use safe hunting practices and to discuss the hunting plan so each member of the hunting group knows where the others will be at all times during the hunt. n Treat every gun as if it is loaded n Wear plenty of blaze orange n Be sure of the target and what’s behind it n Don’t shoot at running deer

Attention Deer Hunters

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Estherville Elks Lodge is collecting Deer Hides for the Veterans Leather Program. These donated hides will provide finished leather to recovering Veterans to be used in therapy kits and gloves for Veterans in wheelchairs across our nation.

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n No ice is 100 percent safe. n New ice is usually stronger than old ice. n Don’t go out alone - if the worst should happen, someone will be there to call for help or to help rescue. n Let someone know where you are going and when you will return. n Check ice thickness as you go out - there could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed. n Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness. n The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. n Bring along these basic items to help keep you safe: hand warmers, ice cleats to help prevent falls, ice picks (wear around your neck) to help you crawl out of the water if you fall in, a life jacket, a floating safety rope, a whistle to call for help, a basic first aid kit and extra dry clothes including a pair of gloves.

CRAPPIE Continued from Page 2B channel or creek channel present. When we filmed on Pipestem, for example, we found fish on the edge of the old creek channel where the channel swung close to the shoreline. Any curve or split has potential, and in the case of Lake Oahe, any flooded brush or flooded tree near or along the old channel can be worth checking. You can find brush or trees by drilling holes and using your flasher but the fast and easy way is to explore these locations during the open water season and use side imaging in a boat. Large trees will also sometimes emit a gas where you can actually see the large white bubbles frozen into the ice particularly at early ice before there is snow. Merritt Reservoir located in the Sandhills of Nebraska also offers the classic river channel submerged tree patterns but what makes Merritt somewhat unique is just how big and tall some of the trees are. We found crappies suspended off enormous cottonwood trees along the deep channels in water as deep as thirty feet. Many of these trees had been under water for several decades. Regardless of reservoir, any tree or bush near structure can hold fish and a good bush or tree is relative to what is available in the area. On some reservoirs where there are few bushes or trees underwater… any bush or tree near the channel is a really good tree or bush. On reservoirs where there is an abundance of bushes or trees underwater, the best locations have bushes or trees with horizontal branches or some type of crown. A lone tree stump with no branches can hold fish but a tree stump that still has branches is often better. As a rule of thumb on so many of the reservoirs we have fished, you don’t have to physically fish in the branches or right on top of the tree. If there is enough of a gap between branches, you can but we often catch more fish by drilling holes right next to the branches, five to ten feet to the side. Which side can be determined by how the channel runs and if there is current. What can be surprising in some reservoirs is just how much current can move through these spots. Obviously you have to figure out how high the fish are suspending. Most of the time, a good starting point is near the top of the crown for

the more aggressive fish. What often doesn’t get mentioned is how to fish the current. On many reservoirs, the current will pulse. That is the current will pick up and drop off. There might be an hour where you have a hard time picking up your lure on some reservoirs because the current is strong enough to push your lure out of the cone angle of your sonar. Then the current might lay down for an hour. This surge might happen every hour or every three hours. We often see an intense bite window right at the beginning or end of the surge. Sometimes, you have to just set up on good location and play these current windows. If there is a universal location that can really turn on for reservoir crappie… away from the old creek or river channels, that location is any valley or dip along the shoreline that funnels runoff at late ice. Look at the shoreline and look for the high banks, than look for the low bank in between where there is a dip or valley. Any terrain feature along the shoreline that focuses some runoff at late ice especially if it is near any flooded brush, trees or an old channel is a spot to mark. The later the ice the better and we often find crappie running shallow and often right under the ice. The beauty of fishing is there is no one size fits all formula for attacking every fishery. There is no rubber stamp pattern that can be applied everywhere. You can take the exact same fish and put that fish in a different environment and discover completely different patterns. So often as anglers, we can get in a rut where we learn a successful pattern in one particular ecosystem and then struggle when we encounter new water. Make a point this winter to figure out a fishery that fishes much differently than water you are much more intimate with and you will become a much better ice angler…I also guarantee that you will also have a lot of fun. Editor’s note: Jason Mitchell hosts the popular outdoor program Jason Mitchell Outdoors which airs on Fox Sports North on Sunday mornings at 9:00 am. More information can be found online at Follow on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.





Winter birds Providing feed for birds in winter can attract friends like these winter birds. Pine siskin (above) eat thistle and sunflower hears from tube feeder or the ground. The redbreasted nuthatch (right) eats small nuts from tray feeder and suet. The male purple finch (below left) eats black oil sunflower from tray feeder. The female eastern towhee (below right), rarely seen northern Iowa winters, eats mixed seed and fruit on ground. Photos by Michael Fredrickson


Turkeys are odd-looking creatures. With their bumpy red heads, hanging flaps of skin around their faces and large tails, wild turkeys are quite a sight. The odd parts of their bodies also have interesting names and purposes. Let’s look at some of the body parts that make a turkey unique. Whatʼs a snood? The snood is the fleshy flap of skin that hangs off a turkey’s beak. Scientists haven’t found any specific function for the snood, but it does fill up with blood and hangs over the beak when male turkeys are strutting and showing off looking for mate. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, females prefer to mate with long-snooded males. Also, males with shorter snoods will give in to males with longer snoods. Wattling along A wattle is a fleshy flap of skin under the turkey’s chin that some people may call a dewlap. The dewlap is more prominent in males than

females. Growing a beard A male turkey has a beard that hangs off of its chest. It is made of coarse, rough feathers. A beard is about 34 inches on a young male and can grow 10 inches or longer on a turkey that is at least 3 years old. Some tom turkeys have multiple beards. A small percentage of female turkeys (10-20 percent) grow beards, but it may be a genetic mutation. Caught with his spurs on Male turkeys have spurs on the back of their legs that are sharp and allow them to fight with other birds. Older, dominate turkeys fight off other males when trying to breed. Shake your tail feathers Turkeys typically have 18 tail feathers. Males have feathers with black tips, making them look shiny from a distance, and females have lighter feathers that allow them to stay hidden while incubating their nests. Crazy caruncles Caruncles are bumpy patches on a turkey’s neck. The caruncles may play a role in attracting a mate. The male wild turkey’s caruncles can turn blue, white or red when they fill with blood. I hear you Turkeys do not have external ear flaps like humans do, but they still can hear about 10 times better than people. They also have great eyesight, but they can only see in black and white. Your majesty Male turkeys have a bare head crown that is mainly white during the spring, sometimes with a red tint. Females have a feathered head. Read more educational articles like this at You can also keep up with the latest Dickinson County Nature Center happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Outdoor Connection Dec. 3  
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