NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 22 of 83

DECEMBER 2016 • NEBRASKAland 23 I t gets cold in Nebraska. Even so-called "light" winters, during which natives barely adorn a heavy jacket, had always been too cold and long for me. I've been with NEBRASKAland for 10 years, huddled in my home for all of these winters unwilling to venture into the cold for more than a few hours at a time. Until last winter. I fi nally decided I had enough. I needed to fi gure out why every serious ice angler was telling me how great their winter passion was. I had seen those people sitting on buckets on frozen water for years – those older, often miserable looking anglers holding a miniaturized jigging pole in one hand and their chin in the other. It looked awful. Little did I know these folks were having the time of their lives. My fi rst ice fi shing excursions were from stories for this magazine – my trip to Calamus Reservoir with photographer Michael Forsberg in 2008 with the Mares brothers and my covering of the Cork Thornton Ice Fishing Tournament at Merritt Reservoir in 2011. What I didn't know at the time was that the small bits of vital information I had kept from those trips would prove benefi cial down the line. THE START Besides my work-related excursions, I began dabbling on the ice two winters ago. I picked up a hand auger on sale ($25) at Scheels in Omaha and talked my dad, who is a consummate caster of crankbaits for largemouth bass on open water, into vertical jigging through an 8-inch hole. We used a few spare spring fi shing crappie jigs for our lures, unwilling to tip these yet with any sort of live bait. Our production was sporadic at best. We'd catch a few fi sh – bass, bluegill and crappie – but spent much more time cutting holes than fi shing. After just a few holes, we'd each choose one, and jig repeatedly until we got a strike. If we caught anywhere near half-a- dozen fi sh, I was elated. But we were also learning. Toward the end of the ice fi shing season, I borrowed a power auger from a friend, and dad and I cut about a dozen holes on a pond close to my home. Once we returned the auger, we kept these holes open for the remaining weeks by using our hand auger. During this time, my then 5-year-old daughter, Madeline, caught more fi sh than anyone. Her jigging pole remained in constant motion. I used her same jigging technique on our last fi shing day of the winter, adding one more aspect to make me feel even more comfortable: braided line. I was curious if I could feel fi sh just as well through the ice as I can with braided line in open water, and I quickly found that I could. Bluegill after bluegill came from the hole, and for the fi rst time fi shing over ice, I could feel my lure like I could when I was bass fi shing in the summer. For a second, I was comfortable. The fi sh were stacked into this area and they were feeding heavily. When I called my dad after my trip, I reported that I had caught 10, more fi sh than we had ever caught together. I was convinced it couldn't get any better. I was wrong. A PARTNER Kevin Greene of Omaha owns a landscaping business which keeps him working sunrise to sunset from the spring to the fall. I'd see him at Nebraska football parties at a mutual friend's house in the fall, and each time we were together we'd talk about fi shing. He had grown up in Connecticut and spent time fi shing on both coasts, mainly for saltwater fi sh, but ice fi shing appealed to him because, like me, he struggled through the gloomy winters. We had found brief refuge earlier in the winter by snowboarding together while our kids sledded, but a mid-winter melt took away our board One Way to Start A Personal Introduction to Ice Fishing Story and photos by Jeff Kurrus Opposite: Kevin Greene of Omaha shows a channel catfi sh caught on a tip-up through the ice last winter on a private pond in west Omaha.

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