Archive for the ‘Freshwater Fishing’ Category

STRIPER FISHING   Leave a comment

Are you looking for reel screeching runs from a big brawny fish that is sure to break tackle? The striper is hard to beat.  For anglers in a number of Illinois lakes these transplants pay big dividends in fishing action.

The striper is a saltwater relative of the white bass.  It resembles the white, but is more elongated and less compressed with a nearly straight back.  The color of the striper is a dark greenish to bluish on top with sometimes a brassy tinge that becomes lighter on the sides.  The underside is silvery.  Most prominent are the seven to eight narrow stripes along the sides going lengthwise giving rise to their name.  Weights vary, but generally they reach about 5 pounds by their third year.  Anglers are now catching fish in the 20 plus range.

Originally a salt water fish that returned to freshwater only to spawn, the striper became popular with freshwater biologists in the 1940’s. When Santee Cooper Lake in South Carolina became an impoundment it trapped some stripers that had gone up the river to spawn.  The fish thrived in this freshwater environment as they gobbled up the numerous shad of the lake.

Biologists taking note of the situation began to stock them in other large freshwater lakes in the eastern U.S. The successful stocking efforts created a new fishing opportunity for open-water anglers on large reservoirs.

Stripers do not usually reproduce naturally in fresh water and require restocking by local state fishery departments. Myths about stripers depleting populations of other game fish are false.  Biological study or surveys have established this fact.

Feeding on gizzard shad, they provide a service to the other populations of game fish in that they are the only predator feeding on the larger shad which are too big for other predators. Adult stripers eat primarily shad and do not eat spiny fish like black bass, white bass, or crappie.

One key to locating stripers seems to be stable water levels.  In the early days, local anglers caught some of the stripers, but not consistently.  The marauding schools moved up and down the lakes.

Although stripers spend most of the year roaming deep open water in pursuit of shad, they seem to be fond of the dam tailwaters.  Anglers move in and cast both lures and live bait into the fast moving waters.

Heavy bass gear will work for these fish.  A medium or heavy rod and bait‑cast reel with 15 plus pound monofilament line will work well.  A 7 foot rod with a flexible tip is a good choice.  The flexible tip allows the fish to grab the bait without meeting with a lot of resistance before they are safely hooked.

The fish’s voracious eating habits allow it to gobble up the bait before the angler is even aware of the strike.  They hook themselves.  The bait on a 2/0 to 4/0 circle style hooks seem to be the most popular.

Some stripers will take topwater lures such as the Cordell Redfins trolled in the early morning hours.  Later, one can move up close to dams and locks to cast large jigging spoons and Sassy Shad.  One ounce jigs with plastic bodies in pearl or white seem to work well.

Electronics locate the large schools of fish as they chase the shad.  Once a school is located, anglers either jig or trolls lure or live bait on downriggers.  The jigging is more exciting and productive.

Downstream from dams or locks rip rap banks attract stripers.  The gizzard and threadfin shad are attracted to the plankton and algae in the rocks.  The stripers follow them in and feast on the shad.

Basically, the striper will go anywhere that there is a current break and a good food supply.

Fishing for stripers is an exciting sport and if you decide to keep a couple, they are excellent eating.

 

Advertisements

CATCHING ILLINOIS CATCHABLE TROUT   Leave a comment

Each October, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks rainbow trout into lakes around the state.  While they refer to this program as the catchable trout program, to some the term catchable does not apply.

While some anglers will quickly catch their limit, others will fish all day for a fish or two, perhaps none.  The highest percentage of fish taken comes on opening day.  All too soon anglers catch the most stupid fish.  Catching then becomes more challenging.

Trout taken early are the more aggressive feeders that have learned to muscle out the other guys.  They seem to take just about any bait presented leaving the more shy fish.

Trout react to temperature of their surroundings.  They move to locations within the lake that are most comfortable for them.  It could be a particular depth or a cove where the water temperature is ideal.

They prefer a temperature range of 56 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit.  When water temperature reaches the 80 degree or higher level, fish die.  Trout also prefer water with a pH in the range of 5.8 to 9.5 which is a range between acid and alkaline. Most southern Illinois lakes have a pH of 7.5.

Catchable trout are hatchery reared fish.  They grow up on a diet of trout pellets.  When released into a lake or pond they continue those hatchery feeding habits for a few days.  These adaptable little fish soon adopt the wild trout feeding habits and maintain them until caught by an angler.

This adaptability means that the angler must also adapt his patterns to continue to catch the fish.

Early on the trout will take spinners and marshmallows.  Even Velveeta cheese spread placed on a very small hook suspended about 18 inches beneath a small float.

After a few days, anglers must switch to live bait.  It is at this point that worm dunking becomes popular.  Rainbow trout have about 2,500 taste buds.  That compares with about 9,000 in humans.  Trout are one of least selective feeders.  However, they soon turn to only baits that contain tastes commonly found in living tissue.  They seek out live baits such as mealworms, red worms, maggots, minnows and nightcrawlers.

Pieces of nightcrawler on a number 10 hook are very effective.  About one third of a nightcrawler can be skewered onto the hook making the bait last longer.

Fresh from the hatchery fish tend to feed within the top foot or two from the surface.  Late season fish become bottom huggers.  Slip sinker rigs tipped with nightcrawler seem to be most productive.

In the late fall weather can also be an indication of fish location.  On a windy day, it is advisable to fish with the wind in your face.  Most of the catchable trout locations are lakes with relatively featureless bottoms.  Structure such as drop offs and points become the only thing to which the fish can relate.

On opening morning, these catchable lakes often have anglers standing elbow to elbow.  However, if you can wait a day or two, the lake you may find a more normal trout fishing opportunity.

For a list of waters open for the taking of catchable trout, contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources regional office near you or the site superintendent of a park listed in the Illinois Fishing Information booklet published by the IDNR.  The booklet is available wherever fishing licenses are available and on line at http://www.il.gov.us.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS NATIONAL HUNTING AND FISHING DAYS CLELEBRATION   Leave a comment

 

An estimated 30,000 people will flood onto the campus of John A. Logan College, Carterville, Illinois over September 23 and 24.  Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a southern Illinois tradition for the past 30 years.  The purpose of the event since its inception has been to introduce the public to the outdoor experience and ethics.

The huge crowds mean the two hundred plus vendors will present everything from food to hunting and fishing equipment for sale. Each year the vendor space expands due to increased demand.

Fishing activities include weigh-ins for both the popular King Catfish Contest and the High School Team Fishing tournaments. Fishing experts on a variety of species will present seminars for anglers from all levels of expertise.  The 5,000 gallon Bass tub contains a variety of Illinois fish.

A myriad of dog demonstrations include retrievers, foxhounds, coon dogs and pointing dogs. Other dogs include search and rescue dogs, agility dogs, and dock dogs.

The “dock dogs” display is one of the most interesting to visitors. There is a competition by the “pros” for the longest distance covered by a jumping dog and in between contests other dog-handlers can train their dogs in the sport.

Popular activities in the Kids Village sponsored by McDonald’s restaurants of southern Illinois include such things as fishing and nature seminars, BB gun shooting, and archery shooting. Children fish for stocked fish in the campus pond and win prizes such as bicycles.

Another popular activity at Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a variety of waterfowl calling contests. Held each year they attract callers from across the nation to compete with the best of the best.

Waterfowlers compete in the popular waterfowl calling contests each day beginning with the youth contests and winding up with the World Open contest on Sunday afternoon. Contestants compete for pride, money and merchandise.

Archers can shoot in a field archery course set up on the campus. A smaller target range is available in the Archery Tent.  Dick’s Sporting Goods, sponsor of the tent, will have free drawings every hour.

In the Deer Tent the “Tucker Buck”, the largest non-typical buck ever harvested in North America is on display. Also the Tennessee state record typical buck is on display.  Inside the college the Illinois state record Hybrid Black Crappie, caught at Kinkaid Lake this year will be on display.

Artists, taxidermists, and other artisans display their work in the campus gym. Food venders are available across the campus.  Recreational vehicle (RV) and boat dealers will also be displaying their products.

Make plans now to attend the 30th Anniversary of the Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days September 23 -24, 2017.  You and your children do not want to miss this one.

 

FALL HUNTING IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS   Leave a comment

Fall hunting trips bring out the hunter in all of us.  Just such a trip to southeastern Illinois is an excellent idea for an extended weekend or even just for a day afield.

Excellent wildlife habitats and thousands of acres of public access land, make southern Illinois a paradise for the hunter.  The combination of state, federal, and county lands provide hunters with more than 400,000 acres in which to pursue game and enjoy the outdoors.

Weather and habitat conditions during the hunting season affect wildlife.  Farm production schedules’ do also affect the presence of game in certain areas.  If the crops have all been harvested the game may move to another area.  Game is usually common in and around the agricultural fields.

Although not abundant, quail are present in larger numbers than most of the rest of the state. Quail like areas with a good mix of row crops, small grains, legumes and grassland.  Land connected by wooded fencerows and forest edges is best.  Turkeys also like this type of cover and they are much more numerous.

Illinois deer population owes its numbers to programs that brought back their numbers from a time when they were devastated by over hunting. The programs began in southern Illinois.  Deer like grain crops but seek those fields located next to heavy edge cover and forests.  They like to feed in the fields and feel more secure in the heavy cover as they rest.

Rabbits prefer the abandoned farmsteads with their mix of row crops, small grain and shrubby fencerows.  Southern Illinois contains probably the largest numbers of cottontail rabbits. Old pastures and forest edges provide the right combination of open areas with an overhead canopy that protects them from flying predators.

Fall hunting trips also provide sportsmen with an opportunity to wet a line in one of the many lakes and ponds of southeastern Illinois.  Such adventures are Cast & Blast trips.

For a complete listing of the public lands of southern Illinois check the IDNR Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations available wherever hunting licenses are available.  It is also on line or from the IDNR offices around the state.  The booklet lists the properties, the game available and any special site-specific regulations that apply.  It is fall and time for hunters to trek to base camp in southeast Illinois.

 

FALL ACTION AT REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Fall comes later to southern Illinois.  But it is still a great time of the year.  The trees change colors weeks after the northern part of the state.  Chilly nights often give way to a hot clear sky during the day.  Fall is a study of contrasts for the hunter and angler.

The fishing for crappie is terrific on Rend Lake during fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter it continues, anglers willing to brave cooler temperatures continue throughout the fall.

Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the state park boat ramps exit at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north on the road.

The fourth quarter of the year in southern Illinois is a great combination time in the Rend Lake area.  There is archery deer season beginning the first of October and yet fishing action is still great.  By the third week in November the duck season begins and still the fishing continues.

Fishing into December is not unusual. But, the main focus is waterfowl hunting and the firearms deer seasons.  In early November hunters enjoy rabbit and quail hunting as the Upland Game seasons open.

The quail hunting is for wild birds. Rabbit hunting is with beagles. If you have never experienced the beagle hunt is it worth doing just to see those little dogs in action.  There is commotion everywhere.  It is just a fun thing to do.

Fall is actually a great time of the year for the outdoorsman. He can pretty well do it all.

A fisherman need not necessary to get out on the water as early as might be the case in the late summer. In the fall one can usually have breakfast and be on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

Deer hunting can be on both public and private land. The ample public land available in southern Illinois provides many deer hunting opportunities.  Private land hunts are for quality deer hunting and clients enjoy some pretty spectacular results.

 

LURES FOR FALL CATFISH   Leave a comment

It is no secret that catfish will eat almost anything. Anglers are adding the artificial lures to their arsenal of more traditional catfish baits.  There are the plastics impregnated with attractants.  And then there are the chemical mixtures of both natural foods and various other ingredients.  Even crankbaits and other hard body lures are coming into use.

Both flathead and channel catfish will attack artificial lures.  Beginning in late summer as the water temperature gets into the 80’s and low 90’s channel catfish move to the shallow water up tight against dams.  The flatheads move to the deep holes.  In both of these areas, catfish will take an artificial lure.

Using bass fishing techniques to catch flatheads, a fisherman begins by trolling with a trolling motor on his Jon boat.  By trolling over holes modern electronics help him spot fish on the bottom.  Experience says flatheads about to go on a fall feeding spree.

Look for structure in the holes.  Submerged trees, rock structure or any other kind of “home habitat” that flatheads are known to frequent.

Bounce jigs right on their nose.  Use a 2 ounce jig with a salt craw attached.  In order for the fish to take it the jig has to be right on him.  Not being a bottom feeder by nature, the flatheads eyes are located to find food slightly above it.

Late summer also means low water conditions on most rivers.  Cats, be they flathead or channel, seek out deep water, fast running well oxygenated water, or both.  Beneath most dams are deep holes created by the water cascading from one level to another.

Anglers have long known that casting up under the dam they can catch fish.  But, few try it with a small jig.  A 1/8 ounce leadhead with a dark plastic grub body will do a good job enticing channel catfish.

With care, the shore angler can catch nice cats, holding in the highly oxygenated water found below dams.  One needs to exercise extreme care in this fast flowing water with all the washed out holes.

Over on the Ohio River flowage, some anglers use crankbaits to catch fall cats.  They get their boats right up in the shallow water at the dam and then cast floating Rapalas.  The river flow helps to provide action to the lure.  The #13 and #18 are most used.  Blue is the preferred color.

The use of artificial lures to catch catfish is relatively new. But we will probably hear more about them in the future.

 

FISHING WITH CANE POLES   Leave a comment

 

We often refer to the basics of fishing as a rod and reel and some terminal tackle. Yet there is nothing more “basic” than fishing with a cane pole.  To many it began a fishing career and a lifetime of fond memories.

Today’s fishing poles and rods come in a seemingly endless variety of lengths, materials and shapes. Yet, they all owe their beginnings to the cane pole.  Early anglers simply chopped down a bamboo or river cane stalk, tied a line to it containing a fishing hook baited with an insect or worm.

Back in the “stone age” when I was a youngster, my grandmother introduced me to the pleasures of fishing with a bamboo pole on a tailwater below the Mitchel Dam in northern Iowa. I was probably about 4 or 5 years of age.  We only caught one fish that day but it was a bass of about 6 or 7 pounds.  We did put it on the scale but I have forgotten just how much it weighed.

That summer I was allowed to fish with the bamboo pole at a creek on her farm and in the horse tank where she released some bullheads. It was a great summer.

Anglers can use a cane pole out of a boat, from shore, or from a dock. It works in rivers, streams, creeks, ponds and lakes.  Its limber nature allows one to notice the slightest jerk from a fish.

You can keep the short line tight with a couple of sinkers and when a fish nibbles, one just jerks straight up. Jerking quickly is best.  But, don’t try to rip their lips.

The angler with a cane pole has to contrive to catch fish within the limit of the poles’ reach. That reach is only the length of the pole and line, less the distance from the butt to the grip.  Without a float (bobber) this distance could be as much as 20 feet.  But, as the bait sinks, the distance gets less due to the bait swinging in a pendulum fashion back toward the angler.

Without a float, the angler can lower the pole until it is horizontal with the surface of the water. That will place the bait roughly 10-feet deep.

A cane pole requires an angler be stealthy when approaching fish due to the limit of their tackle. He must read shoreline water and know where to find fish.  The shoreline also tells them what kind of bottom to expect.  Different species of fish like different bottom structure.

Cane pole fishermen might look for short stretches of rocks and gravel. Or for largemouth he might pick the weedy shoreline in low places where black dirt and vegetation is visible and where areas off shore are over grown.  The vegetation might be lily pads, coontail, cattails and rushes.

Areas below bluffs would be perpendicular and go to a depth beyond reach. It is vital to find areas of modest depth reachable by this equipment.  It serves as home to forage fish upon which game fish can feed.

Use care to avoid spooking the fish in clear water situations.  Shallows containing lots of emergent vegetation or weed beds provide the angler some concealment and a better chance of getting closer to fish.

The kind of bait used or strength of line varies according to the angler’s preference and species he is seeking.

For some it is fun to return occasionally to cane pole fishing and meet the challenge it presents. Such anglers experience the peace and tranquility of a type of fishing many of us grew up experiencing.

 

%d bloggers like this: