Archive for the ‘Blue Catfish’ Tag

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.

FALL CATFISH IN LAKE BALDWIN   Leave a comment

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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.

CATFISH ACTION IN AUGUST   2 comments

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Summer sunshine in August is often a sure sign that the fish will not bite during the day. Most anglers switch to night fishing or at least early morning and late evening. That is not the whole story.

If you adapt your program you might catch some nice fish.

In southern Missouri and Illinois, fishing 90-degree water calls for a change of tactic. These southern lakes and ponds contain smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill and some assorted sunfish.

I recently was introduced to a new pattern for these suspended cats.

Lakes and rivers experience a thermocline effect in the water during the hot summer months. The water below that level lacks adequate oxygen for most species of fish. As a result most fish suspend above the thermocline which is usually at a depth of about 20-feet.

The thermocline is a band of water in which the temperature is 5- to 10-degrees cooler than the water above. Below this band the water is even cooler. The fish will be in the water above the thermocline all summer but tend to hang close to it.

Catfish are usually at about 20-foot depth and with other species above them. They relate to any structure at those depths. For instance humps and sunken islands attract catfish. These fish are active in hot weather contrary to popular belief.

The shad in a lake will be in the top section of the water column driven there by white bass. Seagulls fly over the shad breaking the surface. It is the presence of the birds that alerts fishermen to the presence of potential action. Below the white bass is where the catfish lurk.

All the traditional catfish baits and lures will work in August just as they do the year around. Channel catfish will take almost anything but the blues and flatheads prefer live bait such as a sunfish or shad. It is important to place the bait/lure at the right depth. The slip bobber rig is a good choice to keep the bait off the bottom. In the case of crankbaits one can count down to a desired depth before retrieving the lure. A deep diving crankbait trolled at 2-miles per hour should run at about 18-feet down.

Crankbaits in shad imitation shapes and colors work in clear water. In rivers work the slack water behind structure as well as hollowed out holes in the bottom. There is more current above them and less down deep in the hole. In river situations you probably will have to travel more to find schools of fish.

As for color in the use of crankbaits adjust according to water clarity. Murky water calls for orange, chartreuse or yellow fire tiger baits. In clear water you can use blue or the more natural colors including brown and black.

 

TIPS FOR GROUND POUNDERS   2 comments

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By following a few guidelines, one can have a great day in the outdoors as a ground pounder.

Tip 1 No matter what the gear or the bait for that matter, the key to catching fish from shore is to find structure and vegetation in the water. Fish follow pathways along and around structure. They will follow one type of structure to another.

Tip 2 Seldom will fish cross large expanses of open water. It makes them vulnerable to predators. If an angler eliminates the large expanse of open water, he reduces the search area.

Tip 3 One good choice is an area where two or more kinds of structure meet. This could be where weeds meet each other, a fallen tree or rocky area. Areas around rocky points, dam faces, or jetties can also have vegetation near by that will attract fish. Other good locations can be where feeder streams or canals bring in warmer water, oxygenated water, and wash in insects from flooded areas upstream. Creek channels provide pathways between structures. Fish often use old creek channels when they move from weeds to brush or shallow water to deep water.

Tip 4 Deep water drop offs are popular with fish. It allows them the security of deep water and yet the opportunity to move up into the warmer water of the flats to feed.

Tip 5 More good locations along the shore are partially submerged trees or those that have fallen into the water. Stump fields, logs and broken tree branches that have fallen into the water will attract fish. Vegetation such as willows, cattails, weeds, and lily pads provide food, shelter and a place of safety to fish.

Tip 6 Bait can be a major factor in shore fishing. For smaller species, such as bluegill and crappie, live bait is best. The bait can be small minnows, and pieces of night crawler. The amino acids in live bait are an attractant to fish coming out of a long winter of minimal activity. They also will be feeding on zooplankton and insects found in or near vegetation.

Tip 7 For the larger predator fish, such as bass, an artificial lures are popular. When working a lure through and area it is important to work it through. Fan cast a dozen or so times. Retrieve the lure at different speeds and work it in different depths.

Tip 8 Be flexible and portable. If a given location is not producing in 15 minutes, it is time to try another one. Go where the fish go.

 

TIPS FOR BANK FISHING   1 comment

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To the casual observer bank fishing can amount to just sitting in a lawn chair, sipping a soft drink and listening to the ball game on a radio or stealthily working the shoreline in search of feeding fish. Regardless by following a few simple rules one can have a great day in the outdoors.

The key to fishing from the bank is finding structure and/or vegetation in the water. Fish follow pathways along and around structure.  They will follow one kind of structure until it intersects with another.  Seldom do they cross large expanses of open water.  It makes they feel vulnerable.  If an angler eliminates those large expanses of water from his pattern, he cuts down the amount of water he explores thus improving the odds that he will find fish.

It is smart to fish areas with two different kinds of structure intersecting. This can be where weeds meet a fallen tree or rocky area.  Areas around rocky points, dam faces, or jetties can also contain vegetation that attracts fish.

Other promising locations are where feeder creeks or canals bring warmer water, oxygenated water and washes in insects from flooded areas upstream. Creek channels provide pathways between structures.  Fish often use old creek channels as they move from weeds to brush or shallow water to deeper water.

Deep water drop-offs are popular with fish. It provides them security of deep water yet allows the opportunity to move up into warmer water of flats to feed.

Additional locations along the bank include such areas as those with partially submerged trees or trees that have fallen into the water from the bank. Vegetation such as water willow, cattails, weeds and lily pads also provide food, shelter and a safe refuge from predators finny or on two legs.

For those in search of smaller species, such as crappie, sunfish and bluegill live bait is best. The bait can be small minnows and pieces of nightcrawler.

The amino acids in live bait are an attractant to fish coming out of a long winter of minimal activity. They also feed on zooplankton and insects found in and near vegetation in the water.

The larger predatory fish, such as bass, artificial lures are popular. When working a lure through an area it is important to work it thoroughly.  Fan casting a dozen or so times is a popular method to cover lots of water.  However the most productive areas tend to be closer to shore as opposed to those out further.  The water closer to shore is warmer and more likely to have structure.

When working artificial lures it is wise to vary the speed or the retrieve and the depth at which the lure might run.

It is important when working water from the bank to remain flexible and portable. If a given location is not producing any strikes or bites in 15 minutes, it is time to try another one.  You have to be where the fish are located.

BASS AND CATFISHING ON LAKE SPRINGFIELD   Leave a comment

Blue Catfish 6-inch

For an urban lake, Lake Springfield is large, well-developed and well stocked.

This capitol city lake is a 3,866-acre lake with 57 miles of shoreline. There are few lakes in the state of such size that boast such a high population of largemouth bass.  The density as well as body condition of the fish is good creating an excellent fishery.  The bass are typically more heavily bodied per length than is found in other bass populations statewide.  Bass in this fishery average 16-inches in length while statewide the average is more like 14 to 15-inches.

The City of Springfield and the IDNR work together in managing the fishery. The lake is located on the south side of Springfield.  Shore fishing is available in public fishing areas, rip rap areas and there are a number of boat ramps.  There is a 25-hp motor restriction.

Large populations of gizzard and threadfin shad provide the bass with an excellent supply of forage. In the colder weather the warm water areas of the lake provide excellent fishing.  Spring is a good time to fish the lake as the summer season means heavy recreational boating, skiing and wave runner use.  The warming water of this power plant lake provides action earlier in the season than other Illinois lakes as well as an almost continuous feeding season.

In addition to the large amount of riprap there is a considerable amount of underwater structure and vegetation. In addition the water quality in the lake is better today than in the past 25 to 30 years.

The bass most often will take plastics or jerk baits.

The lake’s channel catfish and flathead catfish fishery is near the top in ranking statewide. Anglers report catches of channel catfish of 1 to 10-pounds.  Angler reports fish weighing up to 50-pounds are common.  Blue catfish supplied by a local catfish organization are doing well in the lake with fish of 3 to 57-pounds caught.

Additional fishing for such species as white bass, bluegill, sauger, walleye and crappies is available.

FISHING MISSISSIPPI RIVER POOL 13   1 comment

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The Mississippi River extends the entire length of Illinois varying fishing opportunities in the various pools formed by navigational dams. For bass fishing probably the best pool is Pool 13 which extends from Lock & Dam 13 near Fulton, Illinois upstream to Lock & Dam 12 near Bellevue, Iowa.  On the Illinois side that includes the Illinois communities of Savanna and Thomson.  The pool begins just upriver from Clinton, Iowa.

Pool 13 is 34.2 miles in length with a surface area of about 30,000-acres. Much of the shoreline is contains scenic overlooks.  There is stretches of rip rap along the major channels and in the tailwaters.

Numerous state and municipal boat ramps off of Illinois Route 84 which parallels the river provide easy access to the river. Many more are across the river on the Iowa side.

The locks & dams create a somewhat stable water level. The pool is a combination of river and lake habitat which leads to a development of good marsh and aquatic habitat.  It begins with the turbulent water of the tailwaters below Lock & Dam 12.  As the waters approach the next Lock and Dam them becomes a large open lake.  In between are deep main channels for navigation.  Off from it are a number of side channels, slow moving sloughs, backwater bays and lakes.

What establishes it as such a good fishery are the size as well as the diverse structures and habitats.   Bass become aware of the volume of water passing thought the pool.  As it increases, the fish move into slower side channels and backwaters.

There are extensive areas of emergent vegetation. Pondweed and coontail dominate the submergent vegetation.  Lotus and water lily make up the floating vegetation.

The smallmouth bass and largemouth bass display different habitat preferences this time of year. Smallmouths tend to stay in a one-mile radius.  As the spawning season approaches they will move into the tributary streams or other rip rap areas.

Largemouth, on the other hand move more readily. In spring they are in the areas adjacent to open water and those with a warmer water discharge.  As the backwater bays warm from the sun’s rays, largemouth bass move to them.

There are numerous bait shops in the quad-cities area which will provide updated information on the fishing action.

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