The most popular area of the Illinois River for sauger and walleye fishing is between Henry, Illinois and the Starved Rock State Park.  The fish population is about 80 percent sauger, 10 percent walleye and 10 percent saugeye.

At the Spring Valley boat ramp, anglers drop their boats into the water and begin a day long quest.  The winter cold is forgotten and the heat of summer is yet to come.  But, the cool temperatures and high water will bring the big female fish back from down river.

When the water temperature of the river rises into the 50-degree range, the fish provide anglers with opportunities to catch big fish.  With the assistance of trolling motors, fishermen work lead head jigs just off the bottom of the river at about 15 feet as they drift with the current.  After drifting a significant distance they return working the same water upstream.

The warming water brings the big female fish back to the area in search of spawning areas.  Anglers begin catching 15 to 16-inch fish in the 2 to 3 pound class.

The basic rig is a three-way variation on the classic Wolf River rig.  The main line is tied to one of the three-way eyelets.  To another is a short drop line of about 8 inches with a 3/8th to ½ ounce jig which will bounce off the bottom.  The other eyelet leads to an 18-inch line and another jig and minnow combination.  Often a trailer hook is added.

In the warmer weather a 1/4-ounce jig is used.  Both jigs are in bright colors to better allow the fish to see them in the dark water of the river.  Blaze orange, chartreuse or pink are popular colors but others work as well.  As the water cleans up black, blue and purple begin to produce results.

Anglers seem about equally divided in their use of braided vs. monofilament line.  Most prefer the lighter 6-pound test line but some will go to 8-pound.  For the three-way rigs some anglers prefer 6 ½ to 7-foot rods.

During summer some anglers turn to trolling crankbaits 100 to 120 feet behind the boat on either lead core or monofilament line.  The lead core line keeps crankbaits down near the bottom.  Other anglers like to stay with the lead core line all year.

The rigs are trolled in slower moving water at about 14 or 15 feet deep.  The rods used are in the 5 ½ to 6-foot length with sensitive tips.  Out in the deeper water anglers switch to longer rods set wide and off from the boat.

Tournaments during the spring season produce sizeable amounts of money that is poured back into programs for the river.  Some 10 to 15 million fish are stocked into the river for the future.  The tournaments have always been catch and release since they began in the Spring Valley area.

This economic treasure to the area is in jeopardy from the advancement of the Big Head and Silver Carp.  Both are invasive species not native to the area.  The Big Head eat the eggs of the sauger. The Silver Carp devour the zooplankton upon which the sauger and walleye depend.



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  4. 15 inch fish weighing in at 5-6 pounds? I really doubt that

    • I think that was a typo. It should have been 2 to 3 pounds. You are the first one to catch it. You have a great web page too. Thanks for calling that to my attention. I will change the blog post.

  5. With the continuous growth and vast popularity of fishing, the bait industry is now worth more than $1 billion US
    annually.Fishing Bait is any type of substance that you would use to attract or catch a fish.Some anglers believe that the best fishing baits are the natural ones, such as shrimp, worms or bait fish, because they are more recognized by the fish.Natural Baits require high maintenance.Artificial fishing baits are man-made baits that are look, move, vibrate, and sometimes even taste and smell like natural bait. Sometimes they are easier to use and occasionally cheaper, which is why there is some preference. They are easier to keep and last longer than natural baits, which is a big advantage.

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