An excellent adjunct to the fall hunting seasons is fall fishing. Anglers do not have to possess boats and all that goes with them to enjoy some great fishing.
The key factor is finding an area with abundant shoreline access. Scout the area for clues as to promising locations of fish. Natural vegetation, manmade structures and natural structure are often keys to good fish habitat.
Most bodies of water have forage fish. They can be minnows, shad, shiners or any number of other fish and crustacean. The big predator fish movement follows the aquatic forage. In early fall, they tend to move into the shallows and coves to find warmer water. The predators follow them. The action seems to move near the bank.
Promising locations include such areas as may be windblown and those areas near the entrance to bays and coves. A good location is one made for an ambush.
Veteran boat less fishermen obtains maps of the areas they plan to fish. On the maps they mark the location of structure, vegetation and depths of water. They also search out natural situations such as overhanging branches, fallen trees, submerged timber and flooded brush.
Man-made structures also provide fish habitat. This includes marinas, docks, deriving platforms, rip rap, spillways and dams. One angler of reports he has an old refrigerator marked on his map. He claims to have taken some big bass off that appliance.
Areas where streams and rivers enter or exit lakes and ponds attract predator fish. They use the adjacent structure for concealment and then move to the faster water to feed. Eddies in rivers and streams serve a similar purpose.
Before embarking on a fishing trip along one of these shorelines, be sure to have the landowner’s permission. Assure him that you will respect his property, close gates and not break fences.
Also be sure to take all your trash out with you. It helps to carry a plastic garbage bag for this purpose. Pick up any other litter you might finds along the way. Leave the land better than you found it, and you will be welcomed back the next time.
As for your tackle, it is important to rig your equipment to match the targeted fish species. Bank anglers should use a rod stiff enough and line heavy enough to control your cast in the shoreline environment.
A variety of jigs, spoons, crankbaits, topwater lures and live bait rigs will cover most situations. A small tackle box is good so you maintain the ability to be mobile. A selection of lures smaller than 1/4-ounce are a good choice. Light color jigs are good as they are representative of a number of bait species.
Chest waders are a good choice for bank fishermen. Using waders allow allows the angler more flexibility as to where he can go along the shoreline. Bank anglers are usually most successful if they can quietly and efficiently cast to key locations for feeding fish. These areas may not always be available from land.
Patience is an important element in bank fishing. The angler must wait for the fish to come to him. The good thing about fall fishing is the fish are hungry and ones does not have to wait too long to be in feeding fish.
As the colors of fall become apparent and temperatures cool, the challenges to anglers also change. Early daytime temperatures can vary considerably from morning to evening. Cool mists appear as colder air moves across the water whose temperatures lag behind those over the land.
Some species of fish gorge on the forage base in preparation for a winter when they eat less often. Threadfin shad begin to ball up and many start to die, as they are unable to adapt to colder weather. Other forage moves into shallow water found near shore, in buck brush and the backs of coves.
Anglers often find larger fish in the fall. They have feasted on forage species all summer. In the southern Illinois lakes they have been active almost all year munching on shad and other forage. Anglers often find that they are catching fewer fish but the ones they find are often larger than they found last spring.
As an example, with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, bass leave the shallows to suspend some 6 to 12-feet down in the water column. They move back to the shallows in search of food but are more comfortable away from there. Crankbaits and spinners in the natural colors of crawfish and shad produce better results than the plastics the bass angler has been using all summer. Baits with gold and copper hues work well in stained water. In clear water blue, silver or white lures are better.
As fishing for warm water fish like bass and crappies slows late in the month look for action to pick up for walleye and muskies. The latter like colder temperature zones in the water column. September seems to be a transition month for fish and the anglers who pursue them.
Usually when one talks about Illinois catfish lakes, they are Channel Catfish waters. Baldwin Lake, in St. Clair and Randolph counties, does have a channel catfish population it is not the one producing large fish. The competition for food is too great in this lake. Catfish action here is with the Blues and Flatheads.
Blue catfish in this lake run from 8 to 60 pounds in weight. Sixty-three pound fish have been caught. Flatheads tend to be from seven to 30 pounds with 63-pounds being the largest caught. It is believed that 70-pound plus fish live in the lake.
The blue catfish feed on the extensive shad forage base and are most often taken by anglers using shad for bait. There both Gizzard Shad and Threadfin Shad are present. Both populations do well in the warm water of this cooling lake. Threadfin shad die in other lakes when the water temperatures reach 47-degrees and lower. As a result, some IDNR fisheries managers from other parts of the state will capture threadfin at Baldwin and transfer them to lakes in their areas.
The Flatheads also like the shad but will feed just as well on bluegills. Because of the flathead consumption of bluegills the bluegill population is just OK. No real large fish are caught. However, another sunfish is doing very well.
Redear sunfish have flourished since being reintroduced into the lake. They are about 10-inches in length at this time which has surprised biologists. The Longear sunfish and Bluegills are not doing as well.
Largemouth bass in the 3 to 5-pound range are present but they are not caught by anglers in any great numbers. Hybrid bass, a cross between white bass and stripers, were once a great species in this lake but they have not been stocked in the lake for a number of years and do not reproduce. Some hybrids are caught each year but not in large numbers.
Smallmouth bass were introduced to the lake and have adapted well. Today they are found all over the lake. When water is being pumped into the lake on the south end from the Kaskaskia River smallmouth tend to be attracted. If smallmouths are not present in that area you can check at the hot water discharge area. It is where water is pumped out of the plant in the north end of the lake.
The smallmouths are up to 5 pounds in size and 22-inches in length. Most are in the three to five pound class.
Most people tend to fish the north end of the lake near the levy at the hot water discharge in the fall and winter. Most of the south half of the lake is closed then as a refuge for migrating waterfowl.
Parking for levy anglers can be found in the northwest portion of the lake area. The boat launch is just south of the parking area.
Baldwin Lake is found in the Baldwin Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area. The 2,018-acre perched cooling lake is owned by the Illinois Power Company but is leased to the IDNR to manage for recreational use. Illinois Route 154 runs through the town of Baldwin. In Baldwin, anglers can turn north on 5th Street and travel 4 miles to the intersection of 5th and Risdon School Road just past the power station. Turn west and the park entrance is about a mile.
Square billed crankbaits and spinners in the natural colors of crawfish and shad produce better results than the plastics the bass angler has been using all summer. Baits with gold and copper hues work well in stained water. In clear water blue, silver or white lures are better.
If the weather continues to be warm, then Texas-rigged plastic worms should continue to produce. If the water cools try moving to crankbaits.
If the water is clear try a swimbait. This is sight fishing at its finest.
In weed choked bays and coves the use of a frog or weedless spoon is required.
Carolina rigged finesse worms work on occasion worked parallel to the shore over a changing bottom structure.
Many deer hunters see deer hunting as going to the same area each year and sitting in a tree. They hope for a deer to walk past and that they shoot straight. Successful deer hunting requires study of the quarry, its biology, and the effect that man has had on both.
White-tailed deer disappeared from Illinois around the turn of the last century. Reintroduced to Southern Illinois in the early 1930’s, reintroduction came in three phases:
The first deer came to southern Illinois and allowed to reproduce. The idea was to get sufficient numbers to allow the program to move to step II.
Step II involved the trapping and translocation of deer to a suitable habitat in other parts of the state. This was so successful that by 1957 some 33 counties opened to deer hunting. By 1975, some 98 counties had deer seasons.
Step III became the over population that has caused depredation of crops and homeowner landscaping. It also involves an increase in auto-deer accidents on area highways. By the 1980’s over population of deer in many areas of the state was becoming a significant problem.
In the 1990’s wildlife officials decided to stress maintenance of deer density that would be capable of sustaining deer hunting. It had to take into account the carrying capacity of the land.
Today there is emphasis in some areas to maintain trophy quality in the deer herd. But, deer hunting is more than just shooting a big deer. Deer hunters seek size and symmetry.
First is the preparation and anticipation of a hunt. Some say it is the most fun part of a deer hunt. Then there is the isolation of sitting in a cold treestand waiting for a deer to come past. Finally, there sometimes is the disappointment of being unsuccessful in getting a deer. To the deer hunter these are all part of the game.
Deer hunting is about leveraging experience and knowledge. All knowledge is cumulative. The more one hunts, the better hunter he becomes. The more he reads about hunting, he becomes a more informed hunter. The more videos about hunting he views, the more discriminating he is in selecting his quarry.
As knowledge accumulates, one sorts out valid theories to test in a specific type of habitat. One tests theories in the field. Then the hunter begins to develop his own theories and test them. That is how one becomes a better hunter. One can always learn if he just keeps an open mind.
This year, study your deer hunting area. Does it present the habitat that will attract and keep deer? If deer are present, why are they there and where do they regularly travel. By knowing why deer do what they do, one improves his chances of being able to be in position for that all important shot.
The huge expanses of public and private land available in southern Illinois attract hunters. The lack of overcrowding makes the area an excellent place to hunt. The Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations contains lists of all the public land hunting areas. It is available free from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices though out the state. It is also available anywhere place selling hunting and fishing licenses.
Fall fishing for white bass is just the opposite of the spring pattern. In spring they move to staging areas and then into the spawning areas of lakes and rivers.
As the water temperatures begin to fall below the mid-fifties the white bass seek deeper water at the end of summer. Generally they suspend over structure or on the bottom of creek channels. This is when vertical jigging comes into play.
White bass are a cousin of the saltwater striped bass and as such have much of a savage instinct found in their brethren. They hit light tackle and give the angler more than he can handle.
The average size fish taken by anglers tends to run about 3/4 of a pound. Some will go over 2-pounds.
Catching white bass is easy. Finding them is the tough part. Good electronics and the ability to use them are vital.
White bass are active fish that feed constantly. Whites prefer to spend their time in water deeper than 10-feet. But they often move into shallows to feed. Their favorite meal is shad. If the angler can find large schools of shad chances are white bass are near.
On warm days they tend to feed on the surface. Concentrations of seagulls pinpoint the location for the fisherman. At close range he can find them by spotting the splashing water caused by the feeding fish breaking the surface as they chase the shad. At times the fish will stay up for 10 to 15 minutes. More often they feed for only a minute or two and then dive back down to the safety of deep water. Usually they surface again a short distance away.
Later still the whites become more difficult to find. The easiest way to find them is to go where all the other boats are and join in the action. If you do not have someone else to follow it is possible to find white bass by trolling small deep-diving crankbaits. Begin in the mouth of the feeder creeks and work back up river until you find the fish. Once you find the white bass dig out the jig and minnow combinations.
Light tackle is a must for white bass. Small jigs are good with line in the 4 to 8-pound test range. Small tube jigs tipped with plastic grubs do a good job. The grubs should be ones with contrasting dark and light colors.
Perhaps the best rig at this time of year is the tandem rig used often by crappie anglers. Tie the main line to a three-way swivel. Next tie leaders of different lengths to the other parts of the swivel. Some good lengths are 12 and 24 inches. To each of these leaders tie a jig with a small minnow attached. With this rig one can fish on the bottom and also just off the bottom at the same time. It also allows one to set the hook when a fish hits one jig and then wait for another white to hit the second jig. The astute angler will notice the size of the bait fish and match his lure to that size.
Angling success tends to be dependent on year hatches. A year with incredible numbers can help carry the population over lean years. The best fishing in a particular body of water is likely to be about two years after a large year hatch.
Lake Glendale in Pope County tops the list for nice peaceful fall fishing locations in southeast Illinois. Pope County is one of the prettiest counties in the state during the fall color changes. The lake is located in the Shawnee National Forest and is part of the Lake Glendale Recreation Area. It is located three miles north of the junction of Illinois Routes 145 and 146 and about 25 miles south of Harrisburg via route 145.
The heavily forested area near the lake provides excellent campsites for the fall hunter/fisherman. Because the lake waters come from a heavily forested watershed, it is clean and clear. This makes it popular with swimmers, boaters and picnickers. Swimming is limited to the beach area only.
The lake itself is 80-acres with clean clear water and an abundance of vegetation that is home to some nice bluegills and channel catfish. The largemouth bass are present but only about 12 to 14-inches in length and below the 16-inch legal size limit for keepers. Regular stocking the lake has resulted in a steadily improving fishery.
There is a boat ramp at the northeast side of the lake and a 10 horsepower limit on motors. Anglers can access the lake from a variety of locations along the shore. Boat rentals are available.
For those wanting to fish additional waters, Sugar Creek Lake is located just west of Lake Glendale near Dixon Springs. The crappies, catfish and bass are good in Sugar Creek Lake. Shore fishing is good and boating is allowed with electric motors.
Outdoorsmen fishing and camping at these two lakes can easily take advantage of the ample hunting lands of the Shawnee National Forest. Deer, squirrel, quail and turkey are found there.
For the hunter/anglers who wants a quiet place to camp and participate in hunting or fishing activities these two locations are ideal. They are perfect for a day or several days cast and blast vacation. For more information contact the Lake Glendale Recreation area at 618-949-3807 or the U.S. Forest Service at 618-658-2111.