Archive for May 2014




Perhaps one of the more recent developments in boat fishing is also one of the oldest.  It is fishing from a kayak.

As the water warms from early spring sunshine, phytoplankton and zooplankton begin to appear in the very shallow water.  Be it either a lake or pond, the nutrient rich skinny water attracts hungry bluegills.

Due to water depth ranging in the inches, most anglers disregard this fishery or fish it only a little from shore.  Boats have difficulty reaching the backs of coves where most of the fish are feeding.  Kayaks are an exception to the rule when fishing such water and dropshoting is a productive method of fishing.

When man first crossed over the Bering Strait and began to settle in North America he brought with him a craft made of animal skins stretched over a wooden frame.  This one man craft was fragile and no doubt cost some people their lives.  But it was light and portable.

Today’s kayak is made of manmade materials and is much safer.  Usually constructed of fiberglass they are heavier but still much more portable than other watercraft.  Some even have portable carts that allow for wheeling right up to the launch site.  Some like the Hobie are for fishing, with live wells and rod racks, etc.

Dropshoting is a finesse presentation that is also known as controlled depth fishing.  It is particularly effective for suspended fish like the bluegills found around the boat docks and in coves.

This pattern is particularly effective with light line regardless the type of rod and reel combination.  For flooded brush fishing a long rod with four to 6 pound line is best.  In jigging situations from boats stationed over a brush pile shorter rods can be effective.

Rig the line by tying a Palomar knot in the line, about 18 inches from the end, with a very long tag end.  You tie the Palomar knot doubling the line and form a loop three to four inches in length.  Pass the end of the loop through the hook’s eye.  Hold the standing line between thumb and finger, grasp loop with free hand and form a simple overhand knot.  Pass the hook through the loop and draw line while guiding loop over top of eyelet.  Pull the tag end of the line to tighten the knot snugly.  Do not trim the tag end.

To the end of the line (on the tag end) attach a sinker.  This can be a split shot sinker, but remember to tie a small overhand knot to the very end.  It helps to keep the sinker from slipping off the end when caught in brush or rocks.

Thread a piece of nightcrawler onto the hook.  Once dropped into the water the worm and hook float above the sinker.  Thus as the rod tip is moved, the action is applied to the bait not the sinker.

You can cast, jig or drift this rig.  The key is to move slowly.  The idea is to wiggle the bait, not jerk it.  Cast it out and let the bait sink.  Watch the line float, twitch it and watch it float. Give it a shake occasionally which will cause the worm to twitch.

Bluegills later will relate to vertical structure such as sticks, trees and other vegetation in the water.  On hot, sunny days they will seek out areas shaded from overhead light.  This can be under docks, or a tree hanging over the water.

Kayaks allow anglers to sit comfortably.   In real skinny water, you can move over brush and rocks.

Topside water-tight compartments permit stowing gear and rod holders.  Additional gear can be attached using bungee cords.  Modern craft are stable unlike the old fashioned kayak.

Cruising around coves we may tend to spend more time looking at the wildlife than actually fishing.  But, you can catch a number of nice bluegills or a few crappies.

CARLYLE LAKE BASS   Leave a comment

Whiskered Bass also inhabit the good bass habitat

Whiskered Bass also inhabit the good bass habitat

Three species of “bass” inhabit the tailwaters below the Carlyle Dam.  The three are Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and White Bass.

The 26,000-acre impoundment that is Carlyle Lake can be located on Illinois 127 and US 50 at the midway point between Interstate 64 and Interstate 57 in Clinton County.  The 15-mile long lake is 3.5 miles wide.  The deepest part is 40-feet deep.

The most popular fishing location for shore anglers is the tailwaters area below the dam.  Often anglers are almost elbow to elbow along the shoreline on both sides.  The least pressure is during the week.  Weekends are busy all year.

With a regular stocking of fingerlings of largemouth a number of very successful tournaments have returned to the waterway.  Although the best bass fishing is in the oxbow lakes, adjacent to the river current, largemouth bass are in the entire waterway.  They like the abundant woody cover to avoid the current.  Local anglers report commonly catching fish in the 3 to 5 pound class.

Habitat development by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has brought the smallmouth back from the brink of elimination.  The best locations are north of the Carlyle area but some fish are finding their way down to the tailwaters below Carlyle Dam.  Fish in the 2-4 pound range are usually in areas with rock or gravel bottoms.  Look for them in the slower water.

The lake areas are usually home for white bass.  But in the spring the greatest numbers of fish make spawning runs up river until a dam blocks their path.  Fish in the 10 to 15 inch class provide some valuable eating.  Look for them in the grave bottom areas with swift running water of the tailwaters.

AROUND THE GILLS   Leave a comment



The Bluegill is easily recognizable by the blue or yellow green coloration, six to eight dark vertical bands down the sides and dark opercula flap behind the eyes.  During spawning season a male may also have a bright yellow or orange on his throat or body.  Fish in darker water tend to lack the bright coloration.

Scrappy fighters, the aggressive behavior of the bluegill is an indication that they do not remain in a body of water by intelligence.  They attack baits two times larger than is capable of fitting in their mouth.

The best populations of this feisty fish are live in clear, well-vegetative lakes.  They are adaptable and also are be found in murky swamps and turbid streams.  However, they do not reach their greatest numbers and size under such conditions.  They do best in water in the 50- to 80-degree range where they feed on aquatic insects and larvae as well as arthropods and crustaceans.  The best area for good growth contains only about 20- to 40-percent vegetation.

Big bull gills are often line shy as well as bait wary especially in clear water.   In Illinois quality size fish are 7 to 8 inches in length.  Eight inch fish usually are about 3/4 of a pound and 9-inch fish will run up to 1 1/2 pounds.  Eleven-inch bluegills probably are about two pounds.

Four stages growth determine the ultimate size of a fish.  One is the growth rate as a juvenile.  The second is the age of maturation.  Their growth rate as adults and age at death are the final two.  A change in any one or more of these factors alters the eventual size of the fish.  Gills in Illinois live about 5 or 6 years on average.  The average fish caught is about 1/4 pound.

May is a great month for bluegill fishing due to the first spawn of the year taking place around the time of the full moon.  Bluegills are colonial spawners in which males build nests in colonies.  They compete for the best nest sites in the center of the “beds.”  The female then chooses the males closest to the center of the colony because it’s protection from outside egg predators such as largemouth bass.

Shoreline with little wind action is a favorite location for bedding bluegills.  They build nests in one to eight feet of water.  The depth is dependent on water clarity.

Water temperatures vary from year to year and thus affect the time for the first spawning activity.  The best water temperatures are in the mid 70’s.

Bluegills begin reproducing after one year and the female lays about 18,000 eggs which hatch in four to seven days.  The spawn continues until September.  The fish move onto the spawning beds for three days prior to the full moon phase and remain for three days after it.

Lakes with strong largemouth bass populations produce great bluegill populations.  The bass keep the bluegills thinned out so the right percentage grows into the big fish anglers seek.

Anglers employ a stealth approach fishing the outside nests first and then work your way into the colony.  If you cast into the middle first it is possible to catch fish but the action most likely will be short lived.  The fish become leery of any unusual activity surrounding their nests.

Minnows are the most productive bait for bluegills.  Other baits include pieces of nightcrawler, red worms, mealworms, leeches and crickets.  Tackle such as small jigs, spinners and mini-crankbaits are popular with fans of artificial lures.  Small number 10 or 12 wire hooks and split shot come in handy when the action is heavy. Very small bobbers are best, as is light monofilament line.

Twelve to 15-foot poles make good weapons for the panfish warrior in the bluegill wars.   They allow you to place a bobber and bait directly over active beds.  If the bobber moves, raise the pole directly up and swing the fish toward you.




May is a time to explore the area creeks and streams in search of some off beat fishing holes. With a little planning and careful walking, the fisherman can find water that is his and his alone. It is a wonderful time as the greenery bursts upon the woods.

Stream walking can be as simple as moving up and down the shoreline to find a seemingly better spot, or wading to another location for better placement of bait.

Stream walking is fishing in it most elementary form. It is cheap, simple and safe. Prices for the tackle vary but seldom go over $100 and the equipment is useable for years with little upkeep.

Stream walkers do require some specialized equipment. First among these are waders. The best ones are chest waders. In hot weather, some people prefer hip boots, but to get into deeper water requires higher protection. It is probably a good rule of thumb to stay in water below what would be up to the tops of hip boots.

Another good protection is to wear a belt around the waist of chest waders to slow the flow of water into the waders due to a misstep. Wear the belt outside the waders and with the suspenders that come with them. The sole purpose of the belt is to keep water out of the legs of the waders.

As with all fishing, it is important to wear a good skin blocker to protect the skin from cancer causing rays of the sun. A wide brimmed hat also helps with that protection. Polarized sun glasses help protect the eyes from the glare of the sun off the water and aid the angler in seeing fish.

One carries the rod and reel in one hand and often a wading stick in the other to test the water depth. Any other tackle can be placed in the pockets of a fly fishing vest or in a daypack, like the kids use to carry books to school.

Some of the things that might go in the bag are a pocket knife, hooks, and sinkers, lures, a camera and film, hook removers, and a sandwich or other snack, pop or water.

Taking to the water know where you set foot. Walk slowly. Try to avoid committing yourself to a full step until you have felt the area ahead of you with a probing toe or a walking stick. Walking slowly also keeps one from creating unnecessary wake or disturb fish by making noise.

Stream walking is stalking fish. One tries to find likely looking places for spotting fish and then casting or otherwise presenting bait to the fish in an attempt to entice him.

Travel upstream to avoid disturbing resting fish with silt stirred up when someone walks in the water. It also helps control the amount of sound disbursed from the angler walking over rocks and debris on the bottom.

Never wade in rain swollen water or in open water when there is the possibility of lightning strikes. Know the water in which you step. In river systems the bottom constantly changes. An area that was shallow may now be deep. An area that was once clear may now contain logs and trees.

After a heavy rain, or when backwaters are otherwise flooded, the angler might be able to get back into water rarely fished. There is no telling what one might find in an area previously thought fished out. Flooding restocks some of these areas every time they get flooded.

Fishing takes time, patience, and skill. Wading is a challenging method that sometimes yields great rewards. In any event it can be quality fishing time.





The return of warm weather inspires anglers to dig out the rod and reel. The entire family can all take part in bluegill fishing. The many public fishing areas of southern Illinois provide ample space to enjoy an uncrowded angling experience.

The bluegill’s habit of racing one another to a worm dangled beneath a bobber endears it to every angler from novice to expert. Children need to catch fish regularly on their first exposure to angling in order to help maintain their interest. It’s flat, compact body enables the bluegill to maneuver in weedy areas as well as open water.

Although the best populations of bluegills are in clear, well-vegetative lakes, they are adaptable to most any water conditions. The ideal water is clean, deep, and has a PH of 7.2. Most of the area waters meet that standard. In the less desirable waters they will not reach the greatest numbers and size.

The body of a bluegill is seldom more than an inch thick. They have a dark olive-green back with dark blue vertical stripes on the sides. The breast of males are bright red-orange with the female being a dull yellow. The chin and lower portion of the gill cover is blue, hence the name bluegill.

Bluegills are at their best when water temperatures range between 50 to 90-degrees.

They will feed on aquatic insects and larvae as well as arthropods and crustaceans. A scrappy fighter, the aggressive behavior of the bluegill is an indicator that the species does not flourish in a body of water because of its intellect.

Spawning appears to be closely related to the full moon phases, with fish moving onto the beds for about five days prior to the full moon and remaining their for a like time thereafter. Fish can still be located after that time on the same spawning beds later on during the secondary spawning activities of the later weeks.

During the spawn, males scrape a depression in the bottom of the body of water. They build nests on sand and gravel bars near shore in about 12 to 40 inches of water. Bluegills prefer less turbid, shallow shorelines around weeds and other cover.

The male guards the nest with vigor. They will strike anything that comes into the area. The action can be so active that bubbles appear on the surface. It is this aggressive action and its predictable occurrence that makes bluegill a good fish for teaching youngsters to fish.

Bluegills school according to size. Catching small “gills” is easier because they lack experience despite their aggressive behavior. Schools of small bluegills appear near all kinds of structure in shallow water all day. Some good location might be boat docks, overhanging trees, fallen logs and shallow patches of vegetation adjacent to deeper water.

The big bluegills isolate themselves from the small fish and tend to stay in deeper water. They are more selective in what they eat and are less aggressive.   They will cruise the open water feasting on bugs and minnows. Big gills suspend in water of from 10 to 30 feet. They stage near drop-offs along the outside edge of shallow water and in the deep water. They can be located by fan casting.

An often overlooked bluegill location is where open fields extend to the shoreline. The insects from the fields blow into the shallow water of the shoreline. A summer shower will also wash insects and worms into the water at the same location. The big fish learn early to wait there to be first in line for dinner.


%d bloggers like this: