Archive for the ‘Crab Orchard Lake’ Tag

FINDING POST-SPAWN CRAPPIE   Leave a comment

Southern Illinois lakes provide excellent crappie fishing during the pre-spawn and spawn. However, once the spawn is over, these tasty little critters seem to disappear.  Granted it is possible to find a few around tree stumps and other vegetation, but the numbers of fish just seem to decline after they finish the spawn.

On Crab Orchard Lake, you can pretty much go any where on the lake and catch crappie. Concentrate your efforts in the main lake, Grassy Bay and in the tributaries to the north of Route 13.  Fish anywhere there is rip rap, especially that along Route 13 where it crosses the lake on the north side.

On Lake of Egypt look to the shallow grass areas, points and small pockets as the water begins to warm. Early on it produces crappie because of the warming of the water from the power plant on the north end of the lake.  As the warm water filters down the lake, the fish also migrate along.

The fish follow the old creek channels and hold up on deep water stumps. They are often caught in 20 to 30 foot of water.  Many guys catch them out there year around.

Local anglers prefer 1/16th ounce jigs with a chartreuse head and red hooks. Other colors on the jigs are black/chartreuse, watermelon/chartreuse, red/chartreuse and Junebug/chartreuse.  Use the popular vertical pattern or cast to under water structure such as weeds and brush.  The later pattern is for those with a lack of patience.

With a heavier jig you tend to reel a little faster than with 1/16th ounce jigs. The idea is to reel slowly enough to stay in contact with the cover.  Crappie will not go down to get forage fish.  They prefer to look upward at all times and the angler who keeps his jig above them will be more successful.

Crappie move to deeper water and relate to the structure found there.   It can be submerged points, rocks, brush pile or ledges.  They find the depth of water that is most comfortable to maintain their desired body temperature.  Forage fish seek out water of their desired temperature.  Crappie usually congregate below them and move up to feed before returning to their comfort range.

Shallow water is where most anglers catch crappies, they move away to deep water structure in an effort to find their comfort zone. The forage fish they pursue for their livelihood seek out water that is comfortable for them.  Find the forage fish near the structure and the crappie should be below them.

 

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.

WATERFOWL HUNTERS ARE ADJUSTING THEIR TACTICS   Leave a comment

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The past ten years have meant a significant change for waterfowlers. The migration of geese and ducks changed and hunters had to adjust. The huge flocks of geese that once flowed into the southern Illinois refuges for the winter have diminished.

Birds still come but they are fewer and smarter. Ducks that did not stay long in the past are now flowing into grain fields and staying for the entire season. They once moved further south once the geese arrived.

Hunters now combine an awareness of the habitat and technological advances with hunting opportunities open to the public.

Many hunters seek both geese and ducks over flooded grain fields. They place goose pits on the edge of the fields and floating duck blinds out in the water.

Communication between guides and hunter as well as between hunters is important. Sometimes misunderstandings happen when it is one person’s turn to shoot and everyone does not get the message. Regardless, hearing protection is important to prevent hearing damage from muzzle blasts. Especially useful are electronic ear muffs that protect from muzzle blasts yet allow one to hear anyone talking. They are part of the technology for satisfying waterfowl hunting.

Today many of the birds hunted are local birds whereas a few years ago they were many more migrators. The locals are quickly educated as to the location of refuge areas. They quickly learn where hunting pits and clubs are located and avoid them.

Ducks present their own problem. As individual species are usually only present for a month or so, the hunters have to learn their locations and flight patterns quickly.

Both ducks and geese can become call shy as the season progresses and the hunting pressure increases on the migration path. Often call shy birds can be attracted to the decoys with a minimum of calling by a hunter.

Hunters put out decoys in an X-pattern which seems more natural. It sometimes requires up to 1,000 decoys of several types for goose hunting. Later in the season they might cut back to 80 to 200. Duck hunters will use 80 to 200 decoys.

A key to decoy spreads is motion. Using full-bodied dekes with motion stakes, wind socks, Robo-ducks and decoys involving bodies that represent feeding ducks diving like the real thing hunters present a more lifelike presentation.

Late in the season hunters change some of the tactics. Using fewer decoys they place them in a tighter pattern. This works well on public land.

Late season hunters on public land tend to quit calling as soon as the birds appear. You do not need to call as much. Continue the calling until the birds begin to look your way. Ducks need the noise to feel safe and locate feeding ducks. Once they are coming your way it is time to back down to a feeding chuckle.

In hunting on public land it is important to have the right set-up. That means keeping your back to the wind. Ducks, and geese, prefer to land into the wind. If the wind picks up to the range of 15 to 20 mph it becomes important to set-up in protected areas. Make your decoy set-up look realistic.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS CELEBRATION OF NATIONAL HUNTING & FISHING DAY   Leave a comment

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Each year on the fourth Saturday and Sunday in September 25,000 to 40,000 sportsmen and their families travel to the campus of John A. Logan College for The Southern Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day. They are attending an event designed to teach hunting and fishing skills as well as the ethics, safety and conservation issues associated with them.

Last year’s attendance set a record of 44,000 people attending this, the largest National Hunting & Fishing Day celebration in the nation.

This year’s event takes place on September 26 and 27, 2015. Admittance and parking is free. Food is available from a variety of venders on the campus at nominal prices.

This year Pappy’s Outdoor is the official title sponsor. Other major sponsors include Williamson County Tourism Bureau, Good Guys Motors, McDonalds, Black Diamond Harley-Davidson and the Friends of Crab Orchard.

Children’s activities include a youth goose calling contest as well as archery, shooting sports and fishing. Local sponsors provide the activities free. Volunteers provide instruction and adult supervision.

Dogs and waterfowl activities figure prominently in the celebration with demonstrations by dock dogs, agility dogs, retrievers, search and rescue dogs, police dogs as well as coon and fox hounds. Instruction on training and nutrition for dogs is also available.

The waterfowl calling series begins with the Don Gasaway Youth Goose Calling Contest on Saturday. A number of duck and goose calling contests attracting youth, professional and amateur callers follow during Saturday and Sunday.  They end with the Tim Grounds Southern Illinois World Open Goose Calling Championship on Sunday. A variety of cash and merchandise prizes are available to the contestants.

The High School Bass Fishing Contest involves individual as well as team competition in a fishing contest held on Crab Orchard Lake with the weigh-in held at the Celebration grounds. Area high schools can enter two boats with four anglers and two coaches. The coaches are in the boats but do not fish. The school with the heaviest total weight of bass wins a trophy. There is a penalty for any fish that die. The angler with the largest bass also wins a trophy. Other trophies go to second, third, etc.

Tents erected on the college campus will house some 200 venders. New this year will be an archery tent sponsored by Kevin’s Archery Center, Ava, IL. An adult and a youth shooting range will be inside along with a number of archery manufacturer’s representatives. Instruction will be available along with a chance to get questions answered.

Other activities include wildlife and nature art show, seminars on fishing, game preparation and outdoor cooking as well as a buck skinner’s village with tomahawk throwing area. Displays provide instruction and information about Taxidermy, ATV, RV, boats, deer antler measuring, trapshooting, archery, and a special fishing display.

The Outdoor Art & Heritage Show returns this year inside the college Gymnasium, Skylight Lounge and front lobby. It promotes participation in outdoor recreation through artistic, cultural, natural history, entertainment, and an expanded deer display. Exhibitors include artists, taxidermists, museums, collectors, authors, musicians, not-for-profits, and makers of specialty foods.

Vendors interested in participation should contact Ron Allen as soon as possible. Vendor space is limited and sells out each year. Ron is available at 217-725-7602 (cell), 217-787-8862 (home) or by email at allen92@comcast.net.

Free information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99. Information is also available online at VisitSI.com, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website. The e-mail address is info@VisitSI.com.

ILLINOIS SPRING BASS ARE QUALITY FISH   Leave a comment

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Largemouth bass are a dominant species in Illinois.  They are popular with anglers due to their fighting spirit and widespread distribution.  Both stocking programs and natural reproduction contribute to their being available in virtually all areas of the Land of Lincoln.

Three factors combine to create the bass situation we have in Illinois.  They are improved water quality/habitat, sensible regulation, and catch and release.

Perhaps more than any other species bass benefit from catch and release.  Anglers like to weigh their catch but can also accurately estimate the weight.  To do the latter, measure the length and girth.  Then take the length times the girth.  Divide that by 1200 and you get the weight.

It is not good to just catch, unhook and toss a bass back into the water.  As the water warms, they are likely to be on or near the spawn depending upon water temperature.  Water temperature can vary significantly.  The ideal temperature of the water habitat for the spawn is in the 60’s.

Spawning bass are a resource that are useable but do not abuse them during the spawn.  It is possible to catch bass during their mating.  They are not difficult to aggravate into taking a lure presented in the general area of the nest.  The smaller males aggressively protect the nest for the larger females.

The key is to set the hook immediately as soon as you feel the bite.  This keeps the fish from taking the hook deeply.  It allows for hooking the lip preventing injury.  Stress is the enemy of spawning fish.  Once you hook the fish land and release it quickly to prevent exhaustion.

If done correctly the sport of bass fishing presents no threat to the survival of the fishery.  You can enjoy catching a lot of fish and still allow them to reproduce for the future of the sport.

 

SPOT AND STALK CRAPPIE HUNTING   3 comments

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One of the late winter rites of passage is ice out crappie fishing.

Locating the ice out crappie is a matter of going where they should be and going where they are.  The latter probably requires electronic fish locators.  The former is a matter of experience in that you go where they were during past springs.

A good topo map is helpful.  Dark bottoms on the north side of lakes are a good prospect in that they get early sun and hold warmth.

Of the tow crappie species, the white crappie prefers the large open water.  Both species will suspend in relation to lake points, sunken islands, sand bars, creek beds and debris found in most waterways.  Both can and do inhabit the same water.

Both crappie species have roughly the same spawning habits, laying eggs in water 3 to 8 feet in depth, once the water temperature approaches the mid-sixty degree range near cover.

White crappies tend to like brush piles, bushes or sunken logs.  The black crappies like reeds or other weeds.  There can be a great deal of pre-spawn angling in channels and bays due to early ice out and the water being too cold for spawning.

Deep creek beds are a key to cold water crappie locations.  Begin by searching likely summer holding areas and then back track to the nearest deep creek bed.  Then follow the channel to the best available holding area.  On a large lake this can be a considerable distance.  Some creek beds are more promising than others.  One with wood in or near the creek bed is best.

Lacking any wood either visible or hidden try bends or intersections.  Sharp bends or intersections with roads and secondary channels often produce fish.

Good bays should have no channels, or at least not adequate ones serve well.  If all else fails try the deep water and fish deep.

Jigs are the bread and butter lure for cold water crappie.  A good assortment of leadhead jigs in 1/16th to 1/64th ounce in colors of white, black or yellow is good basic tackle.  Couple them with tube bodies of the same colors.  For the natural baits minnows and waxworms are best.

It is important to remember that the fish are very spooky this time of year.  If scared, they will stop feeding.  The best bet is to locate fish and then make long casts to the school with a slip float rig.  Make short pauses in the retrieve or about 30 seconds each.

Crappie strikes come as the jig begins to settle to the bottom of the length of line below the float.  Small floats are more sensitive and show very light bites that often occur.

Fishing for crappie just after ice out requires stalking to find them as well as a lot of hunting to find schools.  It is however very productive and provides time to unlimber that old casting arm and get rid of Spring fever.

 

CATFISH ARE THUMPING   Leave a comment

Catfish are Thumping

Catfish thump tasty morsels that anglers present to them.  Summer must be upon us.  It is the prime time for fishing for this muscle with fins.

A staple of southern cooking, catfish are also available in restaurants as well as local lakes.  But, it is more fun to catch your own.  Here are some tips for catching your own in Southern Illinois.

One top catfish producing lake is Crab Orchard Lake in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion.  According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the catfish population of this 7,000-acre lake is self-sustaining and has not required supplemental stocking to maintain the fishery.

The Crab Orchard Lake contains both channel and flathead catfish.  It also contains a good population of bullheads, a member of the catfish family that does not gain the large size of the others.

Fishing for catfish is a laid back type of angling.  The rigs are simple and the baits, although often smelly, are simple as well.

It is a good idea to remember that catfish like cover.  They are bottom feeders that hold around rocks and stumps.  Once one sets the hook, the fish will do its best to break off the line.  Veteran catfish anglers prefer a line that is of at least 12-pound test.

The tough line helps prevent the sandpaper-like teeth of the fish from wearing or weakening the line causing a break.  With high quality tough line, anglers can fish around rocky, stump infested, underwater terrain.

Most often the rig for catfishing is simply a baited hook suspended beneath a float, cork, bobber or whatever you call it.  Cast to a probable location and allowed the rig to sink to the level where you believe the fish are located.

Bait can be live or dead.  Popular baits include minnows, leeches, crayfish, catalpa worms, leaf worms, red worms, nightcrawlers, frogs, and cut bait.  Cheese baits, popular in the spring, are less successful in the summer heat.

During periods of overcast or drizzle, catfish cruise the flats in search of food the same as they do at night.  Under such conditions, a three-way rig works well.  Attach one swivel to the line that goes to the reel, the second to a drop line of about eight inches with a heavy sinker on the end.  Attach the third swivel to a line of about 30-inches with a hook and bait at the end.  The rig allows the bait to float just off the bottom a location popular with catfish.

There are catfish in most of the other southern Illinois lakes including Rend Lake where the above photo was taken.  Another popular place to fish for them is Little Grassy Lake a1200-acres body of water to the south of Crab Orchard Lake but still in the refuge area.  It produces many channel catfish on a regular basis throughout the summer.

Whether fishing from shore or boat, in the evening or morning, night or day, catfish are a marvelous fish for action.  They can be as finicky as any game fish, and yet do not require a lot of expensive tackle to pursue.

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