Lake Rathbun

The weather check was on the first part of the week. None of it looked very good, and then on Tuesday the forecasts started to change in my favor. I was looking at Webster, South Dakota and fishing Waubay. I also looked west to Nebraska and thought of Lake McConaughy northwest of Ogallala, Nebraska. The one goal I have this year is to fish that big reservoir. My wife is from Sidney, Nebraska and every time we go out, I always remark that we need to get on that lake. It holds a lot of big walleye.

The plans started to unravel as the week moved along. By Wednesday, The forecast for Webster was turning against me with high winds starting Thursday evening and through the weekend. Lake Rathbun turned positive with the forecasts. This will then be the lake of choice based on the weather starting on Friday.

My wife and I drove over Thursday night and were on the lake by 6:30 AM on Friday morning. The wind was out of the southwest and was a bit brisk, but not strong enough to effect boat control. I headed to the southwest corner of the dam and started out in 5 to 10 feet of water. Nothing happened, so I moved out to 10 to 20 feet and S turned all the time. I tried to maintain a slow troll and just wanted the spinner blade to turn over gently. Nothing happened. I pulled in the bait and sprayed it with some walleye attractant. My wife sprayed hers with some crappie spray. We continued to work up along the bank. The wind picked up, but boat control was not a problem yet. We had been working now for 3 hours and just a few soft hits. The wind was not a factor yet, but it was getting a bit brisk.

I need to change the subject. I just hate big reservoirs. I know you can catch big fish on big reservoirs, but that does not change my attitude. The problem is the wind. Maybe it is because I fish in South Dakota a lot where there are big bodies of water. I have never been caught out on one of those lakes when the wind became so strong that only a battle ship could hold its own, but I have heard the stories. Plus, it always seems like I have to go so far to find the right area across an open expanse of water. When I was younger I was bolder. Smaller lakes and reservoirs are my cup of tea, and it is easier to find the structure. The disadvantage is the smaller bodies of water have a lot of pressure.

Now we will go back to the original story. We needed a break so headed back to the boat ramp to re-think our strategy. Plus the coffee had gotten cold, and I was hoping to meet some of the local fishermen. There’s always a local person by himself needing a hand with his boat. I always stop, help out, and get some facts about the lake. It just so happened there was a gentleman coming in with a nice stringer of walleye and a few crappies. He shared his experience, where to fish and how to fish. Our how was fine, but not the where.

After re-stocking our coffee, we headed to the new where. It was opposite on the lake where we had been fishing. Moving into 15 feet and back trolling against the wind, we had a nice slow speed on the outbound leg. We then let the boat drift on the in bound leg towards the shore. Back and forth, I tried to stay in 10 to 20 feet of water. We worked the area until 2 PM and picked up some nice size crappie and one walleye.

There is one important item when fishing Rathbun. You are required to call the hatchery and report any tagged walleye. The number is 641-647-2406.

We took the rest of the day off and went over to the new Honey creek Resort to scout things out and have dinner in the evening. It is an outstanding resort and is geared for the whole family.

Next morning, we were out early just as it was getting light. We went immediately to the spot where we had some action the day before. I stayed with a crawler and a spinner while my wife switched to a red and white jig tipped with a minnow. We worked starting in 5 feet of water and S turned out to 20 feet working our way up along the bank. It did not take long. We started picking up some pan sized fish that were keepers. By 11 AM we had our daily limit of walleye, plus a few crappies. Then it just plain shut down. The wind was light and variable at first, but picked up to 10 to 15 out of the west as the morning moved on. This was about the time we helped the local fisherman with his boat. He knew when to quit.

Rathbun is a really big body of water which is clean and fresh. We will certainly come back.

Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank.

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