Archive for the ‘Bass Fishing’ Tag

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.

 

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A PRIMER FOR CRANKBAIT FISHING   Leave a comment

As we move into fall fishing the selection and use of a crankbait takes a little thought. Many find its use too complicated and limit their selection to just a few baits.

In the tackle stores one finds countless types and colors of this lure. The variations involve many colors and bills or varying sizes.

As far as what crankbait to run when the selection is dependent on the depth of the fish’s location in the water column. Bass might be in two feet or 22-feet of water.  If fish are shallow it calls for a lure that runs shallow.  If they are deep then one with a larger bill is required to the lure run deeper.

The shallow running crankbait is often preferable for fish that are not aggressive enough for a spinnerbait to be successful. The crankbait is good for these finicky fish.

Some people trim the bill of a crankbait to make it run shallower. Others just switch to one with a smaller bill.  The main requirement of crankbait fishing is that the bait runs straight.  It means that you are getting its maximum depth and best action.

There is one exception to this rule. One can detune a crankbait if fishing along a dock and you want the lure to run underneath it.  You can detune it to run to the side.  But for most situations you want the lure to run straight.

There is a physical toll on the angler when fishing with crankbaits. The deep diving crankbaits can wear one out.  In an effort to counter act this physical tool anglers will use a 7-foot cranking rod for deep diving baits and a 6-foot 6-inch one for the smaller baits as well as tight conditions.  A rod with a flexible tip also absorbs a lot of the pull during a retrieve.  With a really stiff rod that pulls is harder on the angler.

To polish crankbait fishing skills go to a lake that has good crankbait potential. Take everything out of the boat except the bait and equipment related to crankbait fishing.  It forces one to learn the techniques necessary if you do not have any alternative.  It forces you to figure out how to catch fish with a crankbait.

Crankbait fishing may not be the easiest pattern to learn. But, it is a great tool that is productive once you learn how to use it.

SUMMER ON THE OHIO RIVER   Leave a comment

The Ohio River has a long and varied history. It can be the mother of commerce or it might turn against civilization with floods beyond imaginations.  But to the angler it can lead to tributaries plump with a number of game species.

Nestled beneath a large bluff on the Ohio River, is the Golconda Marina, gateway to Smithland Pool.  The marina is the entrance to the some 23,000-acres of recreational water that is the river and its tributaries.

Unusually wet weather swells the normally placid looking main channel with high water.  It is not so much the volume of water that crimps the fishing in this region; it is the junk that washes downstream during the high water.  It can make navigation dangerous as huge cottonwoods floating down from areas to the northeast can damage a boat and snag fishing gear.

Smithland Pool refers to the section of the Ohio above the Smithland Lock and Dam at Hamletsburg.  The pool is more than 72 miles in length.  The shoreline, numerous islands and deep clean water attract thousands of anglers each year.  They prowl the shoreline in search of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, sauger, striped bass, white bass and catfish.

Located in the town of Golconda, the marina offers overnight moorage, covered slips, boat rental, gas, diesel, shower facilities, mechanic service, and food.

Down river, the Smithland Lock and Dam is an exciting fishery of striped bass and hybrid striped bass.  These battlers are very challenging in the current of the river.  Anglers target these fish with big surface poppers, plastic jerkbaits and jigging spoons.  The fishing is best as the river is on the rise as well as when the water levels run about 35 feet.  Good locations for those looking for these scrappers are the heads of islands early in the morning and late in the evening. When the locks are open the stripers seek out the fast flowing water that washes bait fish through the dam.

Largemouth bass inhabit the river.  Generally the better bass action is in the feeder creeks just off the main river channel.  The brushy areas and stump fields of Lusk Creek are the most popular area for bass anglers.  The mouth of the creek is just a short distance from the marina and convenient to enter.  One just exits the marina cove and enters the first creek to the south.

The best summer fishing times are from dawn to about 9:00 a.m. and two hours before dusk until the light is gone.

During summer months, bass require a little finesse in lure presentation.  Slow roll spinnerbaits in standing timber of the old channel.  Following any rain, the creek tends to muddy up.  Then it is time to get out the salt craws.  Black, electric blue and chartreuse are the best colors.  Again it is good to fish the wood, any wood, which is just off the main channel.

Best known as a catfish factory, the Ohio has huge numbers of channels and blues.  Anglers present natural baits such as cut shad on the bottom near current breaks.  The best time to go catfishing seems to be when the water is rising or is at a high water mark.  The action seems to be best in about 10 to 18 feet of water and near the wing dams on the river.

For the bluegill anglers, the streams agree the best bet.  Good quality fish will take baits such as worms, pieces of shrimp, or crawfish.  Work the baits around the submerged tree tops and brush.

Crappie anglers jig with long poles back into the wood.  They “dip minnows” near the wood seeking big fish resting in the shade.  The key is to jig near visible cover.  The creeks have plenty to choose from.

Although the best known fishing locations are downstream from the marina, there are numerous feeder creeks to the upstream side.  In all the 51 miles stretch between Smithland Lock and Dam and the Saline River, there are 10 major and 12 minor streams entering the river from the Illinois side.  An additional 8 major streams and 5 minor ones enter the river from the Kentucky side.

FISHING TO AND FROM BOAT DOCKS   Leave a comment

 

 

With falls cooling waters the fishing around the relatively shallow areas of docks begins to pick up.

Most approaches to fishing boat docks focus on approaching from the open water. There is another kind of dock fishing, that of fishing from the dock.

Growing up in the 50’s we did all of our fishing from shore or a boat dock. Most of it was from boat docks on Clear Lake, a large spring fed body of water in north-central Iowa.

Dad knew some people who had summer cottages on the lake and would allow us to fish from their dock in the evening. When none of their docks was available there was always a commercial dock that charged a fee to fish from it.  It had a small restaurant that served great hot dogs and also sold nightcrawlers and minnows.  The last resort was one of the state or city docks available for free but often crowded with anglers.

The only real advantage of using the public docks was a chance to learn other people’s techniques for catching fish. It provided a youngster with a chance to see what worked and what did not.

The first rule I learned was that fish followed the edges of weed beds in search of forage fish that fed on the insects that called the weed home. Casting to the weeds sticking up out of the water would yield a bullhead or two.

From there is was a simple step to bobber fishing at about 18 inches deep in the more open water between the dock and the weeds. Stripers as we called them would take a minnow suspended below the bobber and give a thrilling bit of action.  These were actually small striped bass.

Blue gills and sunfish congregate around a specific dock piling and are easy to jig for by dropping a piece of worm on a hook. You just lower it down and bring it up.  Somewhere along the way a little sunny will grab hold.

Basic patterns came from experimentation and from old timers who would sit on the benches and tell a youngster how to catch fish.

Some of the fishing technique learned during those golden summer days was simple but often overlooked.

Most docks are private property. To gain access, one must get permission from the shoreline owner.  Not doing so is to trespass an offense that can result in a fine or worse.  A better choice is to find public docks or piers.  Many state parks have such facilities.

Choose a fishing location by observing the wind. Fish follow the forage blown toward shore.  Docks located on the downwind side of a body of water are a haven for forage fish and the larger predatory fish follow.

Night is a good time for catfish and walleye. Fishing from a dock at night can be a very pleasant experience.  The night time on a lake is one of peace and quiet.  It is a very relaxing environment.  Other good times for dock fishing are early morning and sunset.  Low light conditions cause fish to lower their alertness to danger.

The end of a dock is usually in the deepest water. But along its length are locations that attract certain species of fish, like the bluegill and sunfish.  They were in about 3 feet of water about half way down the dock.  They were there because no one looked for them there and they found food washed in from deeper water as well as shade from the sun.

Many docks have artificial and natural structure within casting distance. The secret is to find them and remember where they are for next time.  You find them by watching other anglers.  They will cast to their honey-hole locations.  If they cast to a certain spot more than once it is a sure tipoff that they have caught fish there on more than one occasion.

Being observant and paying attention to what others are saying pays off in dock fishing. One day while eating a hamburger in that restaurant at the commercial dock one guy was telling another that the best action he gets were catfish just off the 4th post on the dock.  He said he suspended a nightcrawler on a small hook about 18-inches under a bobber.  After the two of them had gone home, I moved to that location and did as the man said.  By the time dad came to pick me up, three 5 pound catfish were dancing on my stringer.  That spot would yield many more over the years.

There is no telling what was down there to attract those fish. Whatever it was produced fish for several years.

Over the dock fishing years a pattern in the use of tackle has developed. Use a casting rod to reach out away from the dock.  At the same time use another rod to drop a bobber and bait up close to the dock in hope of drawing a fish out from the shade under it.

Terminal tackle is simple. It consists of ultra light, but visible bobbers, a few different sizes of bait hooks, and bait, either minnows or nightcrawlers.  Cut the nightcrawlers into thirds to extend the amount of bait available.

REND LAKE AN ANGLERS DREAM IN SUMMER   Leave a comment

 

 

In the early days of the flooding of Rend Lake, following the building of the spillway, the bottom was relatively featureless. Construction crews piled much of the wood structure in a few areas, burned it or carted it away.

Later as coal exploration developed there were as many as 9 mines on the shore. Many dug under the lake to form mine shafts supported by construction called patterns.  Later as the mines ceased to produce they pulled the patterns and the bottom of the lake subsided forming an uneven bottom structure.  Fish of all species began to use that uneven bottom and the bass and crappie population exploded.

Probably one of the best known crappie lakes in southern Illinois is Rend Lake, a Corps of Engineers reservoir of 18,900-acres astride Interstate 57 in Franklin County.   For the past 3- years the lake has experienced high water in the spring during the crappie spawn.  This can be a blessing or a curse.  It creates lots of young smaller fish reducing the percentage of large fish in the population.  It does hold well for the future, as the significant numbers of crappie provides ample larger fish in the years ahead.

In the early days of the lake the Illinois state record black crappie came from here. The 4-pound 8-ounce record stood since 1976 until beaten in 2017 by a fish from Kinkaid Lake.

As word of the fantastic crappie fishery expanded people began to over harvest the fish. There was no limit in those days and anglers would fill coolers with fish to feed their families.  That had to change and did when a new biologist came to the area named Mike Hooe.  He was not a popular figure in the early days but today he is something of a hero.

The IDNR enacted length and creel limits in 2002 which continue to today producing a significant impact on the size structure and the population according to that D-19 Fisheries Manager, Mike Hooe. “Populations have improved dramatically and remain stable,” exclaims Mike.  The fish are in very good condition and fishing continues outstanding.  The thick fish are the kind anglers refer to as having “shoulders.”

Due to high water conditions the last 3 years in a row, there are more of the smaller fish than in years past. As a result the larger fish are beginning to represent a small proportion of the total fishery.   In future years those year classes will become the larger fish in the lake boding well for future crappie fishing.

The younger year class of which Mike speaks includes fish in the 6 to 8-inch class.   Crappies in the 10 to 12-inch class are abundant and average a half to over a pound in weight.  Creel limits on this lake are a total of 25 fish with not more than 10 fish exceeding 10-inches.

There are numerous fish attractors around the lake providing supplemental structure. Maps and GPS Coordinates are available online at http://www.mtvernon.com/newtourism/fishattractor/pdf.  The Corps and the IDNR received badly need funds in 2017 to add more.  Many local anglers and organizations placing their own fish locators supplemented these structures.  Mike Hooe recommends using electronics to locate any structure.

 

NIGHT FISHIING IN SUMMER   Leave a comment

Night fishing becomes important in summer for two basic reasons weather and recreational pressure.  The heat and humidity of the day is often oppressive.  The cooler temperatures of evening bring out feeding fish as well as anglers looking for relief.  Recreational boating pressures make the daylight hours less productive for fishermen.

As the weather fronts pass through they set off thunderstorms.  Usually a late afternoon situation, these storms present dangerous situations from wind and lightning.  When out in a boat or on shore, it wise to keep one eye on the horizon while fishing.  But, the fishing can be really good just before and just after these storms pass through the area.

During summer, a fish’s metabolism is at a high point and he feeds frequently.  The weather may be hot but there is a distinct lack of fronts going through to upset his lifestyle.  The lush vegetation provides ambush pints for fish to lay in wait and allow hapless minnows to come to them.  Competition for the forage from other fish is low, as the weeds tend to scatter fish of all species.

Surface water temperatures are warm and tend to be uncomfortable for fish.  Small fish generally inhabit it as they try to escape the big guys who are trying to eat them.  The larger fish are deeper in their comfort zone.

Night fishing is not all that productive right after sunset.  One can use those hours to get into position for the night action.  By getting into position, one can be sure of finding just the right location for the evening’s activities.  Know where all your tackle is in the boat so you can find it in the dark.

Once on the water at night, it is advisable to make sure the night vision is working.  Do not look at bright lights, as it will spoil ones night vision for several minutes.

Night fishing is comfortable from an angler’s point of view.  It is a time to soothe and heal. But, it also is a time when senses become more alert and fine-tuned to the environment.

Just be careful not to sit on a crankbait.

 

CONCEALED CARRY AND THE OUTDOORSMAN   1 comment

Kevin and his two pre-teen sons find a scenic camping location with a waterfowl in a remote location. As they pitch their tent, have dinner over an open fire and settle in for the night, four drunken teens announce their presence.  The location is a favorite drinking location for them.

The teens, embolden by their drinking decide to evict the family. As the discussion becomes more threatening and the teens encroach on the campsite.  Kevin pulls his pistol and points it suggesting that perhaps the teens may want to find another location.  They decide to leave rather than risk a shot from an angry father.

Once the invaders are safely out of sight, Kevin packs up his children and gear. They safely leave what could have been a very serious situation.

This parent protected his family thanks to his right to concealed carry.

Stories such as this spotlight the need for concealed carry for the outdoor recreationist as well as potential victims of crime in urban areas.

However, before you carry your concealed weapon on your next outing there is some precautions needed.

To begin with some states have laws prohibiting carrying while in the field. For instance a state might ban bowhunters from carrying a firearm in the field regardless of the reason.  Some governmental agencies prohibit handguns at all times on their parks and refuges.  Still other states do not recognize concealed carry permit from other states.  This is reciprocity.

If you are traveling from one state to another it is important to know the law in all the states through which you are traveling. Your permit might be valid in your home state and the destination state but you might be traveling through another state where it is not valid.

How can you keep up with the ever changing laws that might affect your carrying protection while in the field? One of the best sources of current information regarding concealed carry is the website of United States Concealed Carry Association (www.USCCA.com).

They also have an App there as well so that you can access the information on your phone while in the field.

One of the easiest ways to get information on reciprocity is the State Reciprocity Map (www.usconcealedcarry.com/travel/).

Another valuable website is the Safe Gun Travel site (www.safeguntravel.com/).

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