Tag Archives: Daryl Bauer

Turn a Crappy Day into a Crappie Day

June 11, 2018 by
Photography by Doug Meigs
Illustration by Mady Besch

Nebraska is home to an abundant crappie fishery. During the spawning season in late April, anyone can feel like a pro fisherman while catching a mess of black or white crappies (two species found throughout the state) when the bite is aggressive.

But locating them year-round can be tricky. With knowledge of how the seasons affect crappie migration and feeding, you too can pull slabs in the heat of summer, on a cool autumn day, through the ice, and even right after ice out, says Daryl Bauer, an experienced crappie angler and fisheries biologist for Nebraska Game & Parks.

When the ice is just coming off the lakes, look for them in shallow coves, he says. The shallows retain the warmth of the springtime sun better than the depths do. Look near submerged structures: logs, bushes, or reeds. Crappies love bulrush, Bauer says. Don’t forget that the crappie is a predator. For bait, nothing beats a plain old minnow, though jigs are a popular choice as well. He says crappie can take crankbaits bigger than most anglers would think. You might just hook a nice one while bass-fishing in shallow coves. You will see they aren’t just “paper-mouths,” they can strike like bass.

Later in April, crappies nest and spawn. Bauer applies his same fishing strategy from ice-out: shallow coves and structure, but expect less roaming. Look for areas protected by the wind. Canals and docks are a safe bet. They are not typically difficult to find this time of year—look for truckloads of anglers standing shoulder to shoulder on the shoreline. It is not hard to catch your limit quickly on the right day. (The 2018 possession limit for panfish—including crappie—is 15.)

In the summertime, the weather heats up, but the crappie fishing doesn’t. Nice ones can still be caught, though. Bauer suggests fishermen to seek drop-offs and deeper portions of shallow coves and nesting areas. The crappie follow their prey out into open water. Food is abundant for crappie, so they can be difficult to catch when dispersed throughout a lake. During the summertime, it may be easiest to use a boat to track them. The crappie may roam or suspend this time of year. Wind makes fishing unpredictable.

The fall is similar to the summer, except that crappies are even more likely to school closer together and they tend to suspend. Fall is also the second-most active season for crappie. Cover as much water as possible. Bauer says that Southerners have success trolling for crappie during summer and fall; however, the technique isn’t widely known in Nebraska. “It would work,” he says.

Winter gets interesting. Ice is the great equalizer. Ice fishermen have access to more water than boatless shore anglers, Bauer explains. It will be easier to access the deeper areas where crappies tend to school up and suspend. Therefore, drill and jig deeper areas on the edge of shallows that are productive in spring. The ice protects the water from winds, so fishing is more predictable. If you don’t have a sonar device to put you on crappies, move around and drill a lot of holes. Fish the bottom until crappie are located, then fish above them for the best results. Bauer says you might not get any crappies, but if you do, you’re on the school. Ice fishing gear is nice, but he says you can fish the ice just fine with a normal rod and reel.

From ice-out through the winter, crappie fishing is productive in Nebraska waters. Bauer knows from experience (and from the scientific data). He publishes Nebraska Game & Parks’ annual fishing forecast, which includes suggested waters for targeting crappie (and other game fish). He identified Wehrspann Lake in West Omaha and Wanahoo Reservoir near Wahoo (west of Omaha) among the state’s top-prospective crappie waters for 2018. Find the full fishing forecast on the Game & Parks website.

Visit outdoornebraska.gov for more information.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of OmahaHome.


Stalking Stocked Rainbow Trout

December 27, 2016 by
Photography by Doug Meigs and Bill Sitzmann

When the weather gets cold in Nebraska, make room in your kitchen for rainbow trout. Catch them from the shore before the lakes freeze over, and catch them through a hole in the ice (once a safe layer of ice has formed).

ice-fishing-2Many anglers will catch their limit in less than an hour. When the bite is hot, parents will be pulling fish off of children’s hooks faster than they can drop a line into the water. Daryl Bauer, a fisheries biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission since 1988, says there’s plenty of trout to catch in select Nebraska waters throughout the winter.

Bauer’s words were proven true by the crowds of anglers lining the banks at Standing Bear Lake this past fall. The number of anglers reeling in trout was almost as incredible as the number of darting and jumping trout visible from shore.

Game and Parks generously stocked rainbow trout in Standing Bear Lake, Benson Park Pond, Century Link Lake at Mahoney State Park, Lake Halleck, Hitchcock Park Pond, and Towl Park Pond. The commission intended to stock 265,000 trout statewide this fall and winter.

The trout are stocked from the Grove Lake Trout Rearing Station in Royal, Nebraska, where they are hatched and fed a specially formulated feed. Bauer says the feed is “not just junk food. It produces quality meat. These are quality fish.” The trout are raised until they reach about 10 inches in length, at which time they are ready to be stocked and caught. Bauer says it takes about 10 months to produce trout of this quality. When all is said and done, it costs about $1 to raise each trout. Funds come, in part, from fishing licenses. So, if you are licensed, you’re paying for trout.


Catch them while you can, because Game and Parks does not intend for them to last after the winter. Bauer says trout are cold-water fish. He says Standing Bear will not be cold enough for the trout to survive in the summer. “If there’s any [trout] surviving in the summer, they will perish.” Bauer says that almost all of the trout are caught, and studies of tagged fish at Standing Bear show that 85 percent or more of the trout are being harvested before the water warms up.

Catching trout from the shore and through the ice is simple. Bauer tells anglers to keep in mind that these fish have been raised in a hatchery their whole life. “Their idea of finding feed is swimming around and waiting for someone to drop pellets on their heads,” he says. Bauer says that varieties of Berkeley PowerBait “smell an awful lot like the pellets the trout are reared on.”

A spinning reel with 6- to 8-pound test line is ideal, and the same rig can be used for both shore and ice fishing if you don’t have ice fishing gear. Bauer says his grandpa used his open-water rod through a hole and pulled fish through the ice. “You just have to stand a little further from the hole,” Bauer says.

Visit outdoornebraska.gov for more information. OmahaHome