• Photo Showcase: Lake Wanahoo opens
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Two lakes, one old, one new, opened Saturday to fishermen and boaters.
The old one, Zorinsky Lake in Omaha, holds water once again since the discovery of zebra mussels in 2010 led to its draining. The lake, now zebra mussel-free, reopened with a ribbon-cutting and festival put on by the City of Omaha, Army Corps of Engineers, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and other agencies.
The new one, Lake Wanahoo, attracted anglers and recreationists who lined up in vehicles before 8 a.m. to inaugurate the 662-acre reservior on the north edge of Wahoo, Neb. Many towed fishing boats, defying overnight rain and chilly morning temperatures to try out Nebraska's newest state recreation area.
The lure of a big, new fishing hole in eastern Nebraska has been the buzz of the local outdoor recreation community for months. Lake Wanahoo, roughly 30 minutes from both Omaha and Lincoln, is two miles long and is the largest new body of water in eastern Nebraska in years.
Jason Jurgensen of Omaha arrived after lunch to fish with his two sons, Ben, nearly 3, and Zachary, six months. Jurgensen said he was eager to see the new lake.
“It's really nice,'' he said, after preparing a pole for Ben to hold. They fished from a fishing pier on the west side.
“Oh, dude, you've got to keep the pole down,'' he told Ben. “You've got to keep the line in the water.''
At Zorinsky Lake, kids could bounce on inflatable castles, climb rock walls, play golf and shoot arrows. And although no boats had entered the lake as of early afternoon, lovers of Zorinsky Lake reveled in the fact that their recreation area once again was a full-service lake.
Addison Krebs was there. “It feels nice that it's reopening, finally,” the 15-year-old boy said. “We walk around it all the time, and me and my dad fish here a lot.”
He's the kid who first found a zebra mussel, stuck to a beer can, at the lake while collecting cans with his Boy Scout troop. Now an Eagle Scout — his project involved a trash pickup outing at the lake and an educational session about zebra mussels — Addison wants to wet a fishing line again in his beloved lake.
“It was sad to see it get drained,” he said Saturday while attending the festival, “but I'm glad that it's reopening.”
Col. Bob Ruch of the Army Corps of Engineers told an audience of about 50 that draining the 255-acre lake accomplished the objective. “There's no zebra mussels left in the lake,” Ruch said to cheers.
Karie Decker, who heads the state's invasive species program, said a cadre of certified inspectors will deploy to Nebraska lakes on a rotating basis this year to examine boats for the presence of zebra mussels. The shelled creatures look vaguely like a pistachio. They can multiply rapidly, drive off fish populations and attach grotesquely in huge numbers to water pipes, buoys, boat motors and any other hard surface to which they can cling.
To the west, the new 1,777-acre Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area features picnic shelters and a four-mile walking and biking trail of limestone. The recreation area also contains mowed walking trails through prairie grass, camping pads for tents and recreational vehicles, fishing piers and a boat ramp built to handle three vessels simultaneously.
The reservoir is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, blue catfish, crappie, northern pike and walleye.
About 60 boats were on the water by midday, according to Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials. They expected to count 1,000 anglers before the day ended.
Roger Kuhn, game and parks director, said he had seen people with full buckets of crappie. Anglers reported catching and releasing nice-sized bass, but under the 21-inch limit. One angler caught and released a couple dozen northern pike; all northern pike must be returned to the lake.
“You don't have to watch boats on the water too long before you see the fishermen bringing in a catch,'' Kuhn said.
Bob Fulton of Omaha brought a bicycle to try the lake's four miles of crushed limestone trails.
“I don't know where I'm going,'' Fulton said. “I'll just go where it leads me.''
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