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 People should avoid Jigfest. You get exposed to all sorts of things you knew nothing about and then you have to try it for  yourself. Well, that’s how it was for me when @Steinstarted talking about the Sand Hills region of Nebraska and the “Dinner Plate” Blue Gills.

That Little seed he planted slowly germinated into a desire to go fish the Sand Hills. I started reading online and planing and plotting. Worried about crowds and not wanting to conflict with our Spring fishing, I decided on late September. I hoped for cooler / drier air and water temps that should lead to some agreeable fish.

I had decided on Valentine Refuge. 17 miles south of Valentine, NE. Lots of lakes on the Refuge and lots of species to try for.

I had planned to Go solo, but a younger coworker asked to tag along and I agreed. Safety in numbers right? Plus, I like company. 

The Hunt for species and the desire to catch a fish in All 50 States plays into this as well.

Thursday (9/24/20) was the departure date. We rolled out at 0545. Stopping for fuel and food. Rolling along at 5 Over. It took just shy of forever to get there.

i might have had to stop in Kansas to catch a fish or 17. I was hoping for SaugEye or Orange Spotted Sunfish, but I only caught Mo Mo, Creek Grouper, and LongEar.

 We set up our tents in a strange land at 9 PM. Almost immediately we were beset by a crazed pocket gopher. We appeared out of the darkness to squeak, hiss, and attack our shoes. I am Happy I wasn’t wearing Tevas. Ole 9 toe would be a terrible nick name to have to carry.

 We got up at 0600. We were on the refuge as early as legal (Sunrise-0734) and had lines in at 0810. Target Species #1 was Northern Pike. We were on Dewey Lake. 15 minutes, in my Chatterbait got smoked by a nice pike and the Curse was lifted. I got some good pictures and released it mostly unharmed. I was Thrilled that the monkey was off my back. (I hate Monkeys). 
 I sort of expected to catch a few more at that point, but that was the one and only Pike I landed. I hung a MUCH Larger fish not very long after the first one. It short lined me, but I was able to give it some line and had it on for 20 seconds or so before it swung the hook. That would have been a Heck of a Hero Shot.

My Buddy Logan tried for 3 hours to get a pike. Then he switched to a small one online spinner and got a small Yellow Perch. He threw back in that area and a LARGE Pike ate it. He had the fish on for a long time ; Air Streams are not great Pile taming rods, but he had gotten it boat side and was reaching for it when it rolled one last time and broke his 6 pound leader. 
 

We took our planned break for lunch and relocated to Watts Lake. It’s much smaller than Dewy and LOADED with panfish. No Pike. I was hoping for a Dinner Plate Gill, a Pumpkinseed, a Black Bullhead, and a Golden Shiner. Well, it was so heavily vegetated that’s it took all the fun out of the exercise. Every other paddle stoke dropped aquatic vegetation on your head and it was hard to get ANY bait through it. Logan got a bass on a hollow belly frog and I eventually found a could holes in the grass that I could get a small grub 10 inches deep where I started thumping gillage. Watching me catch decent gills wasn’t fun for Logan so we bailed to Duck Lake.

Duke Lake is 66 acres and had Good Numbers of bass and Good numbers of panfish. It also had Black Bullhead. It also had a few hundred Black Angus cattle blocking the road in. That took a while to work through, but once at the ramp, I really liked the look of the lake. It had a much friendlier amount of vegetation, but the same clear water. 
Logan chose shoreline and I headed out to a large field of topped out vegetation. Really early on, a very Nice bass decide to eat my Spro frog and I completely forgot about panfish. It was frustratingly random, but I got 6 bass between 3-5 lbs another > 2 lb bass and a handful of little ones on other stuff. I was stoked. Logan had struggled. He eventually switched to a wacky rigged worm and caught some small bass.

Saturday, we knew we had high wind coming. Forecast was 15-25 MPH with gusts to 40 MPH. We got an early start and targeted Pelican Lake for Tiger Musky and Pike. We Zero bites from the Esox family. 
we did find a pocket of clearer seep water loaded with smaller bass. I had put on an inline spinner for a Grass Pickerel, but only found small LMB. When the 500 acre lake started white capping we called it.

I knew we both had to work early on Monday and I decided that getting home at Midnight was a terrible plan. So we broke camp and tried a Creek in Valentine where I had a tip that we should be able to get a bullhead. What a crazy little creek! We each caught over 50 fish in 45 minutes. I caught Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Rainbow Trout, LMB, Pumpkinseed, Common Carp, and Black Bullhead. 
 

But the road home was long and winding. We high tailed it south. We ended up eventually finding a tent camping site in Grand Island, NE. Once again we set up in the dark and broke camp the next morning in the dark to start the 11 hour ride home. 
 

Great Experience! Great Scenery! At times, Great Fishing. I would love to do it again, but I want a minimum of 4 full days there. I would prefer 5. Just too much to try to do in a 2 day stay.

@Quillback I did see pheasant multiple times. And Doves. And Turkey.

@BilletHeadI also saw Canadian Geese, Wood Ducks, Teal, Mallards, Trumpeter Swans, and another half dozen duck species I could not identify. 
 

Coyotes sang. Owls Hooted. Hawks screeched overhead. Deer bounded by.. Racoons actually working for a living and muskrat in the lakes. 
 

it was a Beautiful place, but awful windy and gets way too cold for my blood. I’ll stick to the occasional visit. 


 

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Every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future. On twitter @Ham66

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Dewey Lake

lakes were a couple feet low. It’s been dry This year I was told.

Historic flooding in May 2019 ruined the facilities at Big Alkali..  Camping was primitive but free. 

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Every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future. On twitter @Ham66

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I forgot about the Yellow Perch in the creek.

common Carp are a huge problem for the Refuge Fisheries guys. The carp over populate and they have to net/ poison ALL the fish out and start over. It takes a few years for the lakes to get good again. 

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Every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future. On twitter @Ham66

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