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Opinion: ROGER WILTZ: Northern pike can rebound

In this column two weeks ago, I was very upbeat about fishing conditions on our Lake Francis Case Reservoir. This related mostly to the phenomenal growth I'd observed in walleyes and smallmouth bass since last year. Now, I'm even more enthusiastic than I was two weeks ago. This relates to the appearance of a healthy northern pike population. I feel like a kid with a new toy.

While visiting with Dick a few weeks ago, the proprietor of Abby's at Pickstown, he mentioned the numerous northern pike we didn't see last year. Since bait shop proprietors are generally at least as honest as used car salesmen, I thought I'd like to see these pike for myself. On May 23, I caught two pike. On the evening of May 24, I caught another northern pike.

Seeing was believing.

Should the northern pike presence modify our fishing?

Jigs can be fished far more effectively when tied directly to the end of the line. However, northern pike can shear these jigs off with ease.

If the pike are as numerous as I think they are, consider using a fine wire leader with your jig. Personally, I'll go for more strikes and a few lost jigs -- at least for the time being.

Though it is probably wishful thinking on my part, I like to believe that I can accomplish something positive through this column.

I believe that most anglers up and down the Francis Case Reservoir from Fort Thompson to Pickstown read this column. It has been a long time since our stretch of the Missouri has been a good northern pike fishery. Please handle the northern you catch carefully, and release them back into the river. I've been amazed in the past at how quickly a pheasant population can rebound. Now, I feel the same way about northern pike.

The Nebraska Legislature recently issued a resolution encouraging its school boards to promote trap shooting as a high school sport. The Nebraska Game & Parks Commission also supported the resolution.

I'm guessing that local sportsmen, Friends of NRA, etc. could make this happen at no additional expense to the school districts. Keep in mind that they must get around the issue of guns on school property.

It can work. When my Tripp-Delmont history class shot muzzleloaders, we went out to the edge of town.

My congratulations to these open-minded lawmakers.

Late last winter I included an account of Charles Mix County Sheriff Charlie Coles in my column. The material had been gleaned from early accounts in The Lake Andes Wave, a very colorful newspaper during the '30s, and still is.

That column inspired a reader to send me his copy of "Verne Sankey -- America's First Public Enemy" by our own judge Tim Bjorkman.

I never knew that Verne Sankey, of Gann Valley, would rise to the unenviable position of being named our nation's most wanted. Verne, unquestionably, was a talented, likeable man. He began as a railroad man who rose to the rank of engineer. But bootlegging liquor proved easier and far more profitable, and ultimately took him too far down the wrong path.

One of my favorite anecdotes from the book recalls the time when the law finally learned of the Sankey farm and its Gann Valley location. In March 1933, they were going to raid the farm and take Sankey dead or alive. The police had descriptions of the inside from Denver's most prominent citizen who had been held for ransom by Sankey, but they didn't know where it was.

Things go wrong in March on the South Dakota prairie. The team of lawmen working the case were unable to charter a flight from Denver to Mitchell because of a blizzard, so they decided to drive.

Heavy drifts bogged them down just west of O'Neill, Neb., so they left most of their arsenal, locked in the car, and walked to town. In O'Neill, they boarded a train for Chamberlain that would leave them 20 miles southwest of the Sankey place.

Even though the federal officers were reinforced with local assistance, they felt inadequate with their revolvers and machine guns, so they borrowed a .300 Savage rifle in Chamberlain and three more rifles from the Kimball American Legion Club. Chances are those old Kimball Springfields have seen nothing but funeral duty since. As it turned out, no one was home at the Sankey place.

The Gann Valley years represented the only stability the Sankey family ever knew. The kids went to school in Gann Valley, attended church socials with their parents, and raised turkeys with their mom and dad when Verne wasn't away on "business."

Eventually, Verne was captured in Chicago and transported to Sioux Falls on a Milwaukee Road passenger train. He hung himself in the penitentiary at Sioux Falls immediately after he was delivered.

The book gives us a close look at America's war on crime in the '30s with its high-profile gangsters, J. Edgar Hoover and kidnapping, including the Lindberg case. The early days of the Argus Leader are touched, as is railroad transportation in South Dakota. Most important, the book gives us an up-close look at The Great Depression and The Dirty Thirties in South Dakota.

Mr. Bjorkman states that the two most defining elements of American History are The Civil War and The Great Depression. I personally agree.

I wonder how well the average American is versed in these two subjects. You'll want to own Bjorkman's book. Barnes & Noble will have it for you.

*See you next week.

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