Fishing

Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area

Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area

Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area is a peaceful recreation area outside Lincoln. With 208 acres of lake and 5 miles of shoreline, this fun U-Shaped lake has plenty of shade along the shore from nearby woodlands. There is abundant space to fish for catfish, walleye, and bass or to kayak, sail, and paddle board. Canada geese often stake their claim on parts of the water, making for entertaining companions on adventures out here. Yankee Hill has camping, picnicking, and hunting opportunities, and foxes, deer, rabbits, and coyotes can frequently be seen. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Yankee Hill WMA.

Little Salt Fork Marsh

Little Salt Fork Marsh

Little Salt Fork Marsh is the perfect place to visit Lincoln’s unique and rare saline wetlands. Saline wetlands are wetland and marsh-like environments with unusual salt levels from shale deposits dating back to when Nebraska and the Midwest were part of the ocean floor. Depending on the time of year, it’s possible to see migrating waterfowl out here. This place is a lovely host for a hike and serves as a public hunting ground. The Lower Platte South NRD owns Little Salt Fork Marsh and is adjacent to several properties owned by Nebraska Game and Parks.

Bluestem Wildlife Management Area

Bluestem Wildlife Management Area

Bluestem WMA is a sprawling 742 acres of land containing a large lake, beaches, trails, and woods managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Known for having catfish, largemouth bass, pike, walleye, and sunfish, this algae-filled lake is excellent for fishing. Boating and jet skis are welcome, and fishing boat rentals are available on-site if needed. The north end of the lake, near the woodlands, is filled with submerged tree trunks, making it a great habitat for fish. The habitats in and around the lake house many wildlife residents, such as waterfowl, pheasants, quail, and deer. The man-made lake and dam were established in 1963 for flood control under the public flood act of 1958 and continue to be part of the “Salt Creek Outlet Works Modification Project,” which assesses the need for water containment in dams.

Branched Oak

Branched Oak

Welcome to the largest reservoir in eastern Nebraska, managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Branched Oak was built on the old village of Crounse, named after the eighth governor of Nebraska, and still holds a few memories of what used to be there. The whole town was flooded in 1967 after residents moved out, and the reservoir construction was subsequently wrapped up in 1968. A marker in Area 6 points out this old town’s history. As a local sailing destination in the summer, this lake has a great marina for boating. For people wishing to fish, catfish and bass are commonly found here. It also becomes a popular spot to watch bald eagles and other birds, such as cormorants in the spring. Branched Oak hosts several trails through wooded areas, hills, and beaches and is open to horseback riding.

Conestoga State Recreation Area

Conestoga State Recreation Area

Conestoga State Recreation Area has a large lake with waterside trails and camping areas perfect for a weekend getaway. Try fishing, biking, or picnicking and nature-watching alongside the water. In recent years, the lake has had renovations to make the area more wildlife-friendly. In 2018, an Aquatic Habitat Program project removed much sediment from the lake and improved fishing access along the shoreline. This lake is also part of the Prairie Corridor Project, a planned prairie habitat tied together by a limestone bike trail connecting tallgrass prairies surrounding Pioneers Park and the Spring Creek Nature Center. Because Conestoga is located in the middle of the Prairie Corridor, this recreation area will serve as an important passageway between the two habitats. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages Conestoga.

Holmes Lake

Holmes Lake

With open waters and a winding path around Holmes Lake, hiking, walking, biking, and kayaking are all welcome here. This lake in the heart of Lincoln was originally built for flood control by the US Army in 1962 and named after George Holmes, a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission began the Aquatic Habitat Program here in 2001 to stabilize the sediment and repopulate fish within the lake. Holmes Lake has also been the site of other water quality improvement plans through the early 2000s, with great success. With excess sediment removed and cleaner waters, Holmes Lake has become a great place for aquatic life as well as recreation. It is a community hotspot with volleyball nets, an extensive playground, and pavillions equipped for summertime grilling. The south side of the lake also hosts Hyde Observatory, allowing Lincoln to have public astronomy shows.

Jack Sinn Wildlife Management Area

Jack Sinn Wildlife Management Area

Jack Sinn is an area of land and water designated by the government for conservation– also known as a wildlife management area, or WMA. It is owned by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and named in honor of a wildlife biologist who passed away in a plane crash while surveying the deer population in the area. This saline wetland is covered mainly by water, is home to many species of waterfowl, and serves as a good spot for hunting– particularly for pheasants. Conservation efforts have occurred here to preserve this ecosystem’s salinity and water levels. Other birds, such as American pipits and cliff sparrows, can be seen here during migration.

Killdeer Wildlife Management Area

Killdeer Wildlife Management Area

Killdeer WMA is an easy escape from the city. If you are looking to kayak, canoe, fish, or hunt, this forested lake is the perfect option. The name comes from the bird killdeer– a type of plover that likes to run, has a double black band around its neck and is known for its shrill two-syllable call. Although it is close to the city, Killdeer’s landscape gives it a serene, isolated, wilderness-y feel while still being close to home. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission owns Killdeer WMA.

Lower Platte River

Lower Platte River

Here, on the Lower Platte River, lies an access point for those hoping to kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or take a relaxing float down the river. Be on the lookout for least terns and piping plovers, as they love to nest and hang out on sandbars in the river. Piping plovers are a threatened species and rely on the shores of the Platte to breed, make nests, and forage for food. Pallid sturgeon, a critically endangered fish species, also uses the lower Platte to reproduce and live year-round. Deer and other native wildlife frequently visit the river to drink, so keep your eyes open! The North and South Platte Rivers start in Wyoming and Colorado and flow into Nebraska to converge and eventually join the Missouri River. Several access points are available to hop into or off the river, including one at Schramm Park and one at Louisville State Recreation area.

Mahoney State Park

Mahoney State Park

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park was first opened in 1991 after being acquired by the state in the mid-80s in recognition of State Senator Mahoney, who also served as Director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for over 10 years. The state park has served as a recreational area for people of all interests to go outdoors. Complete with hunting grounds, fishing, swimming, hiking, horseback trails, and even a minigolf course, this state park has something for everyone! While you explore, hike through the numerous forest trails, or climb to the top of the Walter Scott Jr. observational tower to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Platte River and surrounding grassland and riverine ecosystems. If you choose to visit in the winter, the hillsides are perfect for sledding. As you traverse these 650 acres of land, you can explore woodland, wetland, and grassland ecosystems teaming with wildlife.

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