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ice fishing

Catching panfish through the ice, like this bluegill at Lawrence Youngman Lake in Douglas County, is a great way to spend a winter day.

You know I love ice fishing. While folks shuffle around all bundled up, grumbling about how cold it is, I am grinning from ear to ear because it means we have ice and I will be ice fishing for the next few weeks.

However, there is one thing about ice fishing that makes me cringe every winter — the “catch all they can, and can all they catch” attitude that too many ice anglers tend to have.

Fish are nutritious to eat and pulled through an ice hole and prepared fresh, they are delicious — the best! We absolutely should maintain a tradition of harvesting some of our catch and enjoying a feast of fresh fish now and then.

What bugs me is that I still see too many photos of buckets of fish, piles of panfish, and too many anglers going back to hot ice-bites and slaughtering fish day after day, trip after trip. We have documented tens of thousands of panfish harvested through the ice from Nebraska waters in just a weekend or two. Repeatedly, we see “hot” perch, bluegill or crappie fisheries fished down in a matter of weeks.

I have said it before, will say it again, stunted panfish populations occur a lot less frequently than some anglers think; the real problem is that panfish populations are fished down by anglers — ice anglers.

Now I hear from some people who say the rules allow this or that, and “we aren’t doing anything illegal.” That may be true. However, consider that fisheries regulations are always a compromise of biology and politics. While restrictive harvest regulations, even on panfish, would be appropriate to produce and maintain quality fishing on some waters, we cannot implement such regulations if there is a crowd of anglers screaming that they are too restrictive.

So, you can expect me to crawl up on this soapbox with some frequency: Angler attitudes have changed a lot in the past 30 years or so. They need to change more, especially on the ice.

For those who get tired of my preaching, read my blog, “Barbs and Backlashes,” at There you will find a video of another angler’s opinion on this topic.

Daryl Bauer is the outreach program manager in the Game and Parks' Fisheries Division. Contact him at Read his blog, Barbs and Backlashes, at


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