Archive for the ‘Crappie Fishing’ Tag

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.

 

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.

 

CONCEALED CARRY AND THE OUTDOORSMAN   Leave a 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/).

THE LEAN MEAN FISHING MACHINE   1 comment

When man first crossed over the Bering Strait and began to settle North America he brought with him the kayak. It was nothing more than animal skins stretched across a wooden frame.  The fragility of this craft no doubt cost some lives.  But it was portable and could portage ice pressure ridges.

The kayak is no longer a means of transporting people across arctic waters or down raging rivers. Anglers are turning to the kayak as a lean mean fishing machine.

The modern kayak is for all waters and particularly for the angler in search of quality fishing time. They come in a variety of lengths and widths and made of a variety of plastics, nylon and fiberglass.  Some are best for running fast river currents while others will stand the rigors of ocean travel.  The seating also can vary from one placed on the bottom of the hull to those with a mesh armchair like apparatus.

Kayaks will never replace the bass boat for travel and stability. But there are places where the fishing kayak reigns supreme.  This might come in backwater coves, bayous or a farm pond.   In other words they are great for “skinny water.”  Kayaks come in a variety of models with relatively low price tags that make them an affordable option for the crappie angler.

Tournament anglers are turning to kayak divisions in such events. They compete in their own divisions.

Modern kayakers have adapted many of the features of power boat angers to their crafts. There are mini-power pole units just like the normal size ones.  Water tight storage areas, live wells and pole racks can aid in the storage of tackle and rain gear.

Today’s kayak constructed of manmade materials is much safer. Some are even available in inflatable models.  Their crafts are more stable thanks to wider beams and built in floatation systems.  Topside water-tight compartments permit the stowing of gear and rod holders.  Additional gear can be attached using bungee cords.  For the angler there are kayaks with live wells and numerous racks for additional rods.  It is usually heavier than its predecessor and some even have carts that allow one to wheel the craft right up to the shoreline.

The inflatable kayak provides a “luggable” aspect to construction. Usually constructed of PVC-vinyl they have a reinforced underside.  They are ideal for quick trips after work.  Once the fishing trip is over, the inflatable can fold into an easy loading rolling travel bag with a high capacity hand pump or an optional powered one.

The addition of comfortable low profile chairs with mesh seating allow anglers to sit comfortably while fishing skinny water and gliding over brush, weeds, snags, laydowns and rocks. The ones have decks wide enough to allow for the fly anglers to stand up to cast while maintain stability.

Kayaks allow one to have access to bodies of water that hold fish, but do not have boat ramps such as a farm pond or a small creek. It also allows one to access waters beyond small openings in the reeds or that would otherwise require portaging over shallow riffles.  Skinny water is often over-looked by those who do not want to get weeds and junk in the props of their motorized craft.

In addition to the ease in preparation for a day on the water, they are relatively maintenance free and there is no fuel needed. They are easy to transport in the bed of a pick-up.  Anglers find that they end up going fishing more often even if it’s only for a couple of hours after work.

The lack of mechanical power limits the speed and range of the craft. If fish are not biting in one spot it may mean reloading the kayak and driving to the next honey hole.  Another limitation is they do not allow one to carry as much gear as would be the case with a larger craft.  Stability may become an issue.  You will never find one as stable as a bass boat.

Despite the practicality of the modern kayak, one still needs to consider safety precautions on the water. The PFD (life preserver) is mandatory on some waters but essential for all water.  It is important to go out with at least one other person for safety’s sake.  Kayakers need a certain level of physical conditioning and ability to swim with confidence.

It is also advisable to have clothing that dries quickly. A dry bag can be stored on board either in below deck compartments or on deck with the use of bungee cords.  The dry bag also doubles as a storage compartment for valuable electronics.

Regardless of its limitations, the kayak is a lean mean fishing machine.

CRAPPIE FISHING ON OKMULGEE LAKE, OK   Leave a comment

The 40-mile drive south from the hotel in Tulsa to Okmulgee, OK makes causes one a little ambivalence about the success of a fishing excursion. Thunderstorms have been hitting the area for days causing flooding and stained water conditions.  But there may never be another chance to fish this area and to fish with pro angler Mike Taylor, a local resident.

MIKE TAYLOR

This lake and the surrounding area experienced a rather colorful past and now is a mecca for anglers.

Since the Civil War it has been the capital of the Creek Nation and in fact takes its name from the creek language. English the name is “boiling waters” after a spring and creek flowing through area.  Early settlers engaged in farming and coal mining.  In 1907, oil became the basis of the local economy.  It attracted light industry.  Today the business section is attractive to businesses in the construction, retail trades, health care, accommodations and food industries.

Fishing is important to this part of the state as economic and recreational assets for resident and visitor alike. The states many rivers and the reservoir lakes on them provide extensive fishing opportunities.  The few natural lakes are limited to oxbows and playa lakes which are dry much of the year.  Extensive stocking and management activities of the wildlife agency provide anglers with the chance to fish numerous species.

After meeting at a local parking lot, we head for the boat ramp located near the spillway on 800-acre Lake Okmulgee. The weather continues to threaten but no rain fall as yet.

Mike explains that we will first fish some structure that often produces fish. If that is not satisfactory we will move to fishing boat docks.  The rigs we use are a standard pan fishing rig of two hooks usually fished straight down on light line.  This rig is popular with live bait but we rig them with small jigs and plastic bodies.

The upper jig body is a Bobby Garland SwimR in a monkey milk color. The lower hook is a black and white baby shad from the same company.  We begin by fishing about 10 to 15 feet deep.  Medium sized crappies take the lures almost instantly.  The all take only the upper jig.  A couple of larger fish bite, as does one really large one that gets off right at the boat.

Bobby Garland Monkey Milk Jig and Okmulgee lake Crappie

Mike explains that if fish are not biting to his satisfaction in a few minutes he likes to try another location. Moving to a nearby boat dock the action remains the same.  Mike decides to move to some structure off the end of a boat dock belonging to the client of his construction business.

It is a short trip to the location but the fishing is not very good there. The sky is darkening as Mike gets a telephone call from one of his pals, fishing for bass on Dripping Springs Lake, a few miles to the west of us.  He tells us that a big storm is heading this way and he is off to the ramp.

As a last ditch effort we head to the spillway area near the boat ramp. The spillway is an interesting structure constructed of blocks rather than poured concrete.  Built in the WPA days it is a rather imposing structure that is as sound as a dollar.

We fish the area briefly before the rain begins to fall. Then it is off to the ramp to load the boat and then into town for some great Mexican food.  A brief but very satisfactory crappie fishing trip comes to an end.

REND LAKE SUMMER FISHING   Leave a comment

The big predator fish of Rend Lake provide plenty of angling action for those who plan their activities. District 19 Fisheries Manager for the IDNR describes the lake as “a catfish factory.”

In early May catfish, both Flathead and Channel, action begins to heat up as they move into the spawning mode. Just when it happens is dependent upon the water temperatures.  Warmer temperatures make the spawn begin earlier and it could begin in April.

On Rend Lake, once the catfishing begins it usually will continue all summer right into October and November.  It is at that point that the water begins to cool and the fish become less active.

Rend Lake has an abundance of Channel Catfish.  Well known fishing guide, Todd Gessner maintains that if one is fishing for channel catfish, most of the action will be with fish in the 1 to 1 2 pound size.  Occasionally you are going to catch fish in the 8 to 12 pound range.

Most of the catfishing anglers are hook and line fishermen who fish with nightcrawlers, cut bait, or dip baits. However, some anglers like to jug fish.  This consists of a short line attached to a plastic bottle (soda or milk) and a baited hook with a nightcrawler on the other end.  Jugs are tossed into the water and the anglers sit back to wait.  At some point one or more of the jugs will move about quickly in the still waters.  Often it will be in a different direction from the other jugs.  Then it is time to crank up the motor and go retrieve it.

On hotter days, Gessner recommends going out on the lake in a boat and drift fishing. He will use a throw net to catch shad for bait.  Todd can keep this up all summer long.  He finds these patterns very productive.

Most of the Flathead Catfish come from fishing jugs and trotlines. Occasionally one hears of a fish taken with rod and reel.  Gessner’s guide business does not get a great deal of call for Flathead fishing.

Another popular predator species in Rend Lake are the bass.  Most numerous are the Largemouth Bass but the lake does have Stripers as well.

The Striper fishery is dependent upon proper spawning conditions and water level of the lake. Some fish wash over the spillway.  There does seem to be an increased number of better fish found below the dam.

The fishing down there is basically shore fishing. The fast water comes over the dam and down the chute into a wide area where the water slows.  A good bet according to Todd is casting a small spinner bait or white twister tail to see just what you might catch.  It seems that just about every species found in the lake are in that small still water basin.

Consistently catching Stripers is a very iffy prospect. The fish need high water so that they can move into the river upstream of the sub-impoundment according to Mike Hooe.  Getting the right water level at the right time is not always possible.

Todd reports that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources did stock some 13-inch Stripers hoping to improve that fishery. It will be interesting to see if that leads to more anglers catching fish.

Largemouth Bass in Rend Lake in the 2 to 4 pound classes with a few 8-pound fish weighed in during bass tournaments.

As the summer heat begins fishing becomes very difficult during the day with temperatures in the 90-degree plus area. Gessner proclaims that his business slows down significantly and generally involves just the real hardcore anglers.  They divide up the day, go out for only about four hours in the morning from dawn to about 10 a.m., and then find some air conditioned place to wait out the heat.  About 4 o’clock they will return to the water until about 8 p.m.

Rend Lake is an excellent fishery with good water quality.  The vast expanse of the lake is broken up with brush and old timber in the northern reaches.  It is there that most of the fishing action seems to take place.  For more information about guide service and accommodations contact Todd Gessner on his cell phone at 618-513-0520.

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