Regional Reports-Midwest

Johnson Lake

If you enjoy catching white bass-the pencil-striped scrappers that slam a jig or spinner with the authority of a smallmouth and fight almost as hard-you should plan to spend a bit of your fishing time at the inlet of Nebraska's Johnson Lake. The icing on this fishing cake can be a hookup of a wiper weighing better than 10 pounds. The whites and wipers begin to move into the running water at the inlet to the 2,800-surface-acre reservoir south of Lexington in late April, and the fishing action normally peaks by the middle of May. Brad Newcomb, district fisheries supervisor for the Game and Parks Commission at Kearney, says the Johnson Lake white bass fishery has been one of the most stable in the state. "Our fall net survey showed a good number of whites over 12 inches. It was the highest number in this length class we've had for the past three or four years," says the biologist. "There is also a really good year-class of wipers in the lake that will run between 12 and 15 inches and of course some that will weigh better than 10 pounds." Fishing guide Dan Ferguson, who lives on Johnson and has fished the lake for over 20 years, says, "I use a light spinning outfit and tie on a pair of jigs-one on the end of the line and one on a dropper. I usually use a one-eighth-ounce jig on the end and a one-thirty-second-ouncer on the dropper. The tandem jig outfit is far and away the most popular rig for the whites, as well as wipers that show up with them. As for colors, I like white or chartreuse." Almost all of the fishing at the inlet is from shore and it's not unusual on a weekend in May to rub elbows with fishermen standing next to you. There is some fishing to be had from a boat at the mouth of the canal as it runs into the reservoir, but it doesn't produce as well as the canal itself. The statewide daily limit on whites, wipers and stripers in combination is 15, with only one fish over 18 inches allowed in the bag. The possession limit is two daily bags. Contact: Lowell's Bait and Tackle Shop (308-785-3117); Brad Newcomb (308-865-5330).