Last fall we had friends tell us about fishing Johnson Reservoir at Lexington, Nebraska. Since it is only a 3 hour drive from Council Bluffs, IA we decided to give it a try. The state of Nebraska in the early spring had put out a list of the top Walleye lakes and this was one of the closest ones to us. The really good ones were way out in the pan handle of western Nebraska.
The weather had been horrible in the spring and fishing would not have been very good. Cold temps with lots of rain and wind in the central part of Nebraska would not make it worthwhile to make the trip. When we got into the first week of June, temperatures changed and there was a series of high pressure areas through the mid section of the state. We decided to give it a try and my wife, Pam, said she would come along. This is the advantage of being retired. You go when things look good. You do not have to wait for a weekend and hope you won’t get blown or rained off the lake.
The lake is really close to Lexington and the the town has a population of ten thousand plus. It is a good size community for central Nebraska. There is plenty of good restaurants and lodging is good plus there is plenty of opportunity to park a pickup truck with a boat. This is important for a fisherman that does not want to rough it. Read my book “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman,” available through Lulu and Amazon. In my old age I have become soft or I just like to have comfort when I go hunting or fishing.
We checked on line the availability of place to buy bait and there is only two. The first one is a gas station and convenience store. They have everything you need. The second is on the west side of the lake. They have good advice. You can always drive down to Elwood just a few miles south of the lake and they pride themselves selling Arkansas shiners. A smaller minnow with a streak of silver down the side. I have to admit this bait produced better results.
We drove out in the morning. On the west side of the lake is a fish cleaning station and a boat ramp that is really great. The facilities are owned by the state and you need to buy a Nebraska Park Permit. The permit is issued for each 24 hour period that you are on the lake. We had planned to fish the afternoon and evening, the next morning and then home. One permit was all we needed. The boat ramp is very good and you can launch from either side. The ramp drops quickly into deep water so there is no problem of getting the boat off and back on the trailer. I have fished alone at a strange lake before where the ramp was in shallow water and I have made a horse’s backside of myself getting the boat off and on the trailer.
The ramp is at the inlet from a stream for the lake. We were told to fish about 20 yards from the inlet and on the opposite of the lake. We were also told there was an 18 inch slot which is a really nice fish.
|There is Pam fishing diligently. What is amazing is when she pulls out a book and starts reading, she catches a lot of fish. The secret to taking you wife with you is a good motel, good food, and a good book to read while they fish.|
There must have been ten boats all jigging or still fishing from the dock. We found an opening and started fishing working jigs recommended by the bait shop. At this location we did not pick up a thing and decided to move over to the easterly shore line and work a drop off that weaved the length of the lake. The center of the lake is deep.
Boat ramp to the left, inlet to the right. When we first got here there must have been 10 boats.We did not see anyone catch anything.
Wind was south westerly and so the fishing as the sky clouded over picked up for us. We worked the red and white jig in eight to fifteen feet of water. We picked up fish. That part was good, but the walleye were in the twelve to fourteen inch range. This is a good sign which means they are spawning and the lake is reproducing. We also picked up white bass. Now, we both like the meat of white bass after you remove the red meat from down the lateral line. Here again the fish were small and we pitched them all back. As of the afternoon and evening we did not boat a keeper fish, but we were busy taking them off and putting on another shiner. A successful day is catching even if you don’t keep any.
As evening approached we pulled out and were both starved. Also, the shade from the clouds came and went and we got a little thirsty. Always take plenty of water.
Off the lake we headed into town and on the west side of the road is a Mexican restaurant. If you like Mexican food, it was outstanding. I do not remember the name, and it was not a chain, but the food was plentiful and really great. It is the first Mexican restaurant you come to, so you can’t miss it.
The next morning we hit the lake early and wanted to be off before the weather hit. The forecast was for rain and wind and at the time we put onto the lake there was northerly flow and we had a low overcast. We skipped fishing at the inlet and headed over to the east side of the lake and began to jig where we had caught fish before. It was still somewhat hot, but nothing like it been the previous day. Catch and pitch was what was going on, and then it totally turned off, and the temperature went down a little. This must have been the frontal passage and it was time to get on the road.
We got off the lake and covered the boat in the parking area and headed back to C.B. The timing could not have been more perfect and the rain began to pour and it came down in buckets.
We caught fish, but I believe this lake is fished really heavy as there is housing almost all around it. If you want white bass, this is probably one of your better choices.
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank.