WILTZ: Things don’t look too good for our Francis Case northern pikeNorthern pike are supposed to spawn just after ice out when the water is 34-40 degrees. It bothered me to catch pike that still held eggs in late March and early April as the water was already too warm. It bothered me even more to catch pike in late May that still held eggs. Seeing a pike comeback in Francis Case Reservoir is very important to me, and this was a bad sign.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
Northern pike are supposed to spawn just after ice out when the water is 34-40 degrees. It bothered me to catch pike that still held eggs in late March and early April as the water was already too warm. It bothered me even more to catch pike in late May that still held eggs. Seeing a pike comeback in Francis Case Reservoir is very important to me, and this was a bad sign.
I wrote to the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks about it, and I received a nice reply from Chris Longhenry, the department’s senior fisheries biologist.
Chris told me it is common for fish to absorb their eggs rather than spawn. This can happen for a number of reasons that relate to a prolonged disruption of their spawning behavior. Causes include fluctuations in water temperature and water levels, strong winds and even rain. These conditions certainly occurred at times in Francis Case this past spring.
I also asked if there was any pike reproduction at all in Francis Case this spring. Chris said he didn’t have a good answer, at least yet. They will know next year when the young pike hopefully show up in their surveys.
Chris went on to say that Francis Case has a habitat problem with regard to northern pike. Pike spawn on flooded vegetation where their sticky eggs stick to that vegetation. Because of the typical Francis Case fall drawdown, there is almost no underwater vegetation available for the spring pike spawn.
It appears to me that we need rising waters at ice out that flood grassy areas. This is something that we are not going to get most of the time. If I am interpreting Chris correctly, the future of our Francis Case pike looks rather bleak. Enjoy them while you can. I still wonder where all of our pike came from. When I asked GF&P last year, they replied that the Francis Case pike were always there. I don’t think so. I think we inherited them from the reservoirs above.
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On the morning of June 9, a group of men and women from around the country will be shooting their .45-70 Springfield “Trapdoor” rifles in a friendly competition. The event will be held at the Wiechmann Range, six miles north and two miles east of Wagner. Whether you shoot or not, you are certainly welcome. If you come in from the north, I’d suggest you take County 11 from Hwy 18. The competitive shooting will begin at 10 a.m., and I personally plan to participate.
Other than some Civil War Springfield muzzleloader rifles that were converted to .50-70 cartridge rifles by our government, the .45-70 Springfield “Trapdoor” (so nicknamed because of the hinged breechblock) was our nation’s first military cartridge rifle. They were introduced in 1873 and manufactured into the 1890s. These rifles saw service in the Indian conflicts including Custer’s “Little Bighorn” as well as the Spanish American War in 1898. National Guard units used them into the 20th century. Locally, the soldiers at Fort Randall carried Springfield “Trapdoors.”
If you enjoy antiques, and if you enjoy owning fine guns and shooting them, I strongly suggest that you acquire a .45-70 Springfield. These extremely well-made rifles can be had for a reasonable price as an excellent piece will run $750-$1,000. Because these rifles were made before 1898, there is no hassle with shipping or paper work. Also, the .45-70 cartridge is as popular today as it was 125 years ago. Loaded ammo, as well as components, is readily available.
I really enjoy trying to develop accurate reloads for my Springfield. The variables are almost endless. The weight, diameter, and composition of cast bullets are one area. What powder and how much is another variable. I have a friend who makes very accurate loads using small pistol primers. It is a science in itself.
Whether or not you shoot your Springfield, it is as handsome a rifle as I have ever seen, and it would look great on the wall of the den or trophy room. As an investment, the gun is rock solid. It wasn’t that long ago that today’s thousand-dollar rifle sold for $300.
Other than target shooting, taking your Springfield on a deer hunt would make for an outstanding adventure. Though we hear much about the great, heavy-hitting Sharps rifles of the plains buffalo hunters, most of the buffalo were killed with Springfield .45-70 rifles.
It might take you awhile to find a Springfield of your liking, but as often as not, Cabela’s or Leader Hardware will have one on the rack. I’d also suggest looking at Antiquegunlist.com as well as CollectorsFirearms.com. My own Springfield has a personal history as my grandfather purchased it in 1906 from the Chicago Sears & Roebuck store for $1.75.
What should you look for? The bore should be smooth and shiny. While the barrel was once blue, it will probably wear a smooth brown patina. The lock plate on the right side will bear an eagle holding arrows and olive branches in its talons. The words “U.S. Springfield” will appear with the eagle. This lock plate will probably still be blue.
With regard to an original finish on the wood, look for the cartouche. It is stamped into the wood just above the trigger on the left side of the receiver. It includes some capital letters along with the year of manufacture. If the cartouche is missing, the stock was probably sanded at one time. This lowers the gun’s value. The model is designated by the year, and is found at the base of the breech block. Mine reads “U.S. Model 1884,” and the cartouche reveals that the rifle was made in 1890. Though I’m no expert, I’d be happy to evaluate your prospective Springfield purchase.
I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to sell you something before, but believe me when I say the Springfield “Trapdoor” is a great investment that you’ll enjoy owning.
*See you at Saturday morning’s shoot. You’ll see some folks who can really shoot!