Johnson Lake, NE

Johnson Lake, Nebraska

While most lakes on Central's supply canal are canyon lakes, Johnson Lake was originally a natural depression or low-lying area when construction began in 1939.

Named for George E. Johnson, Central's chief engineer during construction of the hydro-irrigation project and general manager from 1935 to 1946, the lake serves as the regulating reservoir for the Johnson No. 1 and Johnson No. 2 Hydroplants which are one and six miles respectively downstream from the lake on the Supply Canal. The lake, which covers about 2,500 surface acres, is one of the most popular recreational lakes in central Nebraska.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission leased 50 acres of land adjacent to the lake in 1945 and created what is now the Johnson Lake State Recreation Area, the heart of a four-lake complex on the Tri-County Canal system.

Fisherman discovered the lake almost immediately after it was formed. Power boats, virtually unknown in central Nebraska before the hydro-irrigation project was built, became more numerous on the lake in the 1950s and water-skiing soon became a popular recreational activity.

The cabin development at the lake began with a few small structures either built on-site or hauled to the shore to serve as simple fishing huts. Larger cabins soon followed and the 11-mile shoreline was virtually lined with cabins by the late 1960s. There are now almost 1,000 homes and cabins at the lake.

The lake also features a swimming beach on the southeast side of the lake, public boat ramps, and a variety of concessionaires. An 18-hole public golf course is located below the dam on the south side of the lake. Marinas and other concessionaire provide a full range of services and supplies at Johnson Lake.

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Johnson Lake Fishing

Johnson Lake Fishing
Species of game fish in the lake include white bass, walleye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, striped bass, largemouth bass, northern pike and drum.

The lake is best known for white bass and walleye fishing, yielding hundreds of "Master Angler" fish over the years. The best time of the year to catch white bass is during spawning from the late April to mid May. After spawning is over, white bass are most frequently found along the shoreline and near the outlet canal on the northeast side of the lake. From mid-summer to late September, the white bass move into deeper water in pursuit of shad and other small fish.

Walleye fishing is at its best in the spring when they spawn near the rocks on the dam's face. In late May and June walleye can be found on the flats and areas where the lake's bottom drops off into deeper water. There is a 15-inch minimum length at Johnson Lake on walleye and largemouth bass.

Johnson Lake Camping

Johnson Lake Camping
Two campgrounds, with both primitive and modern camping facilities, provide access to day-use and overnight visitors.

At the Main Area on the southeast end of the lake, the Commission operates a campground with gravel pads, complete with electrical hookups. There are also showers, restrooms, a dump station and an up-to-date fish cleaning station. The swimming beach is nearby.

Across the lake, the South Side Inlet Area offers another gravel camping pads with electrical hookups and modern restrooms. The fishing pier here is readily accessible to the handicapped. This area also has a boat ramp and fish-cleaning station. The North Side Inlet Area is available for primitive camping and has another handicapped accessible fishing pier, drinking water and vault toilets.

Gallagher Canyon SRA, offers access to the 400-acre lake, and primitive camping is allowed on the 24-acre state area. Both Elwood Reservoir, south of Johnson Lake, and Plum Creek to the west, between Johnson and Gallagher, are wildlife management areas operated by the Game and Parks Commission. Elwood has 579 acres on the l,330-acre lake, while Plum Creek has 158 acres on a 320-acre lake. Both offer good fishing and hunting in season. Camping is not permitted at Elwood WMA.

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