Nebraska Fly Fishing

Fishing the Missouri River – “Niobrara area”
This area includes about 45 miles of navigable water from the Ft. Randall Dam to the head waters of the Lewis and Clark Reservoir and has 8 different access points on the Nebraska side of the river. A popular access point is the Niobrara boat ramp. It is located just North of the old Niobrara townsite and has a triple-wide concrete ramp. It is also convenient to get everything that a person might need to accommodate his weekend on the river. The Niobrara State Park is close by and has primitive and modern camping, cabins, horse back riding, scenic drives and hiking trails.

Niobrara is the most popular fishing area on the river system and has a large variety of species, catfish, sauger, walleye, northern pike, buffalo, carp, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass and crappie. One intriguing aspect about fishing the Missouri River is the vast numbers of different species of trophy fish that the river holds. On any given cast one might bring in a trophy bluegill or a smallmouth bass or a northern pike. The river is a challenging body of water to fish but can be very rewarding. If you are new to the river and do not want to endure the frustrations of the first few times out, contact Bruce Pitzer of the Missouri River Guide Service. Bruce can turn your first river experience into enjoyable memories.

In 1998 the Game and Parks listed the Missouri River as producing a total of 222 master angler fish. (Which could be anyplace on the River). There were 41 freshwater drum, 37 rock bass, 26 flathead catfish, 26 smallmouth bass, 19 northern pike, 17 sauger, 10 paddlefish, 7 goldeye, 7 shovelnose sturgeon, 6 walleye, 5 white bass, 4 common carp, 4 buffalo, 3 bighead carp, 2 blue sucker, 2 bluegill, 1 bigmouth buffalo, 1 channel catfish, 1 brown trout, 1 striped bass hybrid (wiper), 1 crappie and 1 largemouth bass.

Fishing Nebraska Lakes

Box Butte Lake
Location: 10 Miles North of Hemingford. Box Butte has 1600 surface acres of water at full pool. Box Butte is a irrigation reservoir so it has a severe drawdown during the summer months.There is one boat ramp and in extremely dry years it may be difficult to launch a boat. There is not any services directly on the water but there is near by.

There is good catfishing in the reservoir’s upper reaches in the spring, when shad, shad entrails and dead minnows are the top baits. Some catfishing continues throughout the summer months, then picks up again in the fall as the lake refills. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can be taken in areas of flooded timber in the spring. nightcrawlers, minnows, crawdads, plastic worms and crankbaits are bass fishing favorites. Worms, nightcrawlers, small minnows and leeches are also good perch baits.

Box Butte Reservoir is probably one of the most overlooked lakes in the state. It sets out in the Nebraska panhandle but it consistently produces numbers of trophy fish year after year. It is a great lake for panfish and also produces some of the big fish that require larger tackle. Many times Box Butte has had the most variety of different species of master angler fish in the state and generally is high on the list of total numbers.

Box Butte also holds the current state record for a 11 1/4 oz. pumpkinseed caught on 9-23-87 and a 4 lb. 7 3/4 oz. gizzard shad caught on 3-26-89. In 1998 there were 5 rock bass, 10 northern pike, 5 largemouth bass,5 yellow perch, 3 channel catfish, 1 walleye, and 1common carp that were turned in for master angler awards. In 1999 there were 10 rock bass, 4 northern pike, 4 yellow perch, 1 largemouth bass, 1 channel catfish and 1 bluegill that were turned in for master angler awards. In 2000 there were 8 rock bass, 7 northern pike, 5 yellow perch, 2 bluegill, 2 walleye, 1 largemouth bass and 1 common carp that were turned in for master angler awards.

Merritt Reservoir
Location: Located 26 miles Southwest of Valentine on Highway 97. Merritt is located on the Snake River and has 2,900 surface acres and a maximum depth of 106 feet with an average depth of 35 feet at full pool. Merritt is eleven miles long with 44 miles of shoreline. Boat ramps, camping facilities and restrooms are conveniently located around the lake. The only marina (Merritt Trading Post) is located at the northeast part of the main lake with cabins, electrical hook-ups, full service and is open year around.
Merritt is one of the finest all-around fishing lakes in the mid west. It has a very good selection of fish to choose from and they come in all sizes. There are walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, bullhead, white bass, channel catfish, northern pike and muskellunge. At Merritt Reservoir, the daily bag may include one walleye 15 to 18 inches and three over 18 inches of which only one can be over 25 inches.

Merritt was first in the state with channel catfish, and fourth in the state with walleye in the master angler program. Merritt also had the most variety of different master angler fish recorded in the state with 12 different species. With all the different lakes in the state that jump to the foreground for a year or two with good numbers of fish and good numbers of quality fish, Merritt is probably the one lake in the state that will continually to stay right up towards the top year after year after year.

Summit Lake
Location: 4 1/2 miles west 1/2 south of Tekamah, Nebraska

Summit is a 190 surface acre lake. There are only primitive campgrounds and motorboats are restricted to 5 mph. Fish species include catfish, bass, bluegill, walleye, northern pike and crappie. It is known as one of the better lakes in the eastern part of the state.

Striped Bass and Hybrids/White Bass (combined). No more than 1 fish over 18 inches in length, 3 fish daily bag. Crappie action starts early in the season around brushpiles and in the timber filled creeks. Big bluegills are also taken from the same areas. There are also good but overlooked populations of walleye and northern pike, and the people who target them usually do well in early spring. Bass action picks up in May and continues through the summer. The quality and quantity of bass is excellent as evidenced by the numerous bass club tournaments held at Summit. Big bluegill can be caught using worms or flies over the shallow flats in late spring and early summer. Catfishermen do very well at night during the summer. Fish close to the channel using liver, chubs or waterdogs. 20 pound channel cats are not uncommon. Summit is also one of the more popular icefishing lakes around. Fish around brushpiles for big bluegill, crappie and an occasional perch. In 1998 there were 2 striped bass hybrid (wiper) and 1 channel catfish that were caught and qualified for master angler awards.

Red Willow Reservoir
Location: 10 Miles North of McCook, Nebraska on Highway 83.

1,630 surface acres with 35 miles of shoreline. There are four boat ramps, two in the Spring Creek area. Another boat ramp is on the South side of the dam in the Red Willow area and the other ramp is on the south side, middle part of the lake. The Willow View camp ground has electric hook-ups and showers. Fish population include largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, white Bass, northern pike, catfish, wipers and walleye.

Fishing Patterns: Red Willow is known for its striped bass hybrid fishing. Largemouth bass can be caught in most of the coves and creek arms. In the spring fish the grassy banks, brush and laydowns with spinner baits, worms, jig & pig or craw-worms close to the banks. As summer approaches the bass will move away from the banks to the deeper water along the outside edge of the grassbeds, deeper trees and rockpiles that are in the coves and main lake. In the fall, fish the major points with crankbaits and the trees that are near the river channel with jig & pork frog or worms. Smallmouth bass can be taken on the face of the dam or the south side bluffs with crankbaits, small jigs and topwater baits. Crappie are usually taken around trees and brushpiles in the spring with minnow and small jigs. White bass and wipers are usually taken off the main lake points and humps during summer months on jigging spoons, crankbaits, and topwater plugs. Large walleye and northern pike are caught around the old roadbed that run from Indian Point towards the south corner of the dam and also the points and humps around the main lake using live bait during the hottest summer months. Red Willow has a 15 inch minimum length limit on walleye and largemouth bass and a 30 inch minimum length limit on northern pike. In 1998 Red Willow produced 220 striped bass hybrid (wiper), 157 largemouth bass, 53 northern pike, 16 channel catfish, 5 tiger muskellunge, 4 walleye, 3 smallmouth bass, 2 white bass and 2 flathead catfish that were caught and recorded in the master angler program.

Sutherland Reservoir
Location: 2 miles south of Sutherland on state highway 25

There are 3,017 surface acres of water with a maximum depth of 60 feet and an average depth of approximately 25 feet. The winter ice fishermen should use caution because of the heated discharge water from the power plant. On the North side of the reservoir a new 9 hole grass greens golf course has been built, the camping area will include trailer camping facilities with water and electrical hookups and a dump station.

Fishing at the Sutherland reservoir consists of yellow perch, white bass, channel catfish, walleye, striped bass, and rainbow trout. There is a 15-inch minimum length limit on walleye and largemouth bass. On August 8, 1993 Sutherland Reservoir gave up a 64 lb. 15-7/8 oz striped bass that set a new state record by almost 20 pounds. This fish is recorded as the second largest striper caught in inland waters.

Harlan County Reservoir
Location: The dam is 2 miles south of Republican City. The lake lays just south of Hwy 136 between Republican City and Alma.

The second largest lake in Nebraska. The lake has 75 miles of shoreline, and 23,100 surface acres of water at top pool. Corps of Engineers boat ramps are maintained at Methodist Cove toward the western end of the lake, and at Gremlin Cove at the east end. Two commercial marinas are available: Patterson Harbor Marina on the south side and North Shore Marina on the north side of the lake in Gremlin Cove. There are a total of 542 camping pads available at 9 established campgrounds around the lake. All established areas have grills or fire grates and picnic tables. All campgrounds have either flush or pit toilets, with flush toilets at Hunter Cove, Methodist Cove, Gremlin Cove and High Point Shelter. Electric hookups are available at Hunter and Methodist Coves. Both of these coves also have heated showers, and there is a coin-operated laundry at Hunter.

Harlan County has walleye, white bass, catfish, striped bass, largemouth bass, crappie and northern pike. There is an 18-inch minimum length limit on walleye and a 15-inch minimum length limit on largemouth bass.

Nebraska Fly Fishing Articles
Nebraska Fishing Guide
PDF guide from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Nebraska public fishing water guide

Nebraska Fly Fishing Maps
Nebraska lake maps
Cornhusker Fly Fishers
from Kansas Angler
Nebraska Fishing Reports
from Kansas Angler
North-central fishing reports
Northeast fishing reports
Panhandle fishing reports
South-central fishing reports
Southeast fishing reports
Southwest fishing reports

Nebraska Fly Fishing Forums

Nebraska Fishing Forum;f=2

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