Archive for the ‘illinois department of natural resources’ Tag

FISH HATCHERY IS PART OF FISHERY MANAGEMENT   Leave a comment

Fish Survey 0007

Most anglers have caught small bass.  But never have they seen anything as small as the bass on view one day last spring.  The biologist at Little Grassy Fish Hatchery near Carbondale, IL was showing a bass hatched 3 days earlier. The little rascal is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  Not what you call a keeper.

Very few people are ever able to find such a fish in the wild.  When bass are so small they do not even feed.  Instead, they live off the yolk sac and just sit on the bottom of the body of water in which they hatch.  As they sit there, the male bass watches over them and will stay with the tiny offspring for the first few weeks of their lives as protection from predators.  The protection is necessary in the wild, as bass do not lay as many eggs as some other fish.

Small bass stay on the bottom for a few days until they begin to feed on the Zooplankton in the water.  Then they begin to move around.  In the hatchery, this is a sign to move them to a different area. There they are fed and cared for in immaculate conditions resulting in a greater survival rate than could be possible in nature.

Little Grassy Hatchery is one of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hatcheries producing largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish and walleye stocked into the lakes and ponds of the state.

Each year thousands of fish reach fingerling size, bagged in plastic bags, oxygen added and they shipped out to locations all over Illinois.  With the exception of the channel catfish, the all fish go as fingerlings.  Channel catfish remain at the hatchery until they reach 8-inches in length, usually about a year.

Channel catfish are spawned in the hatchery and fed a high protein fish food.  Each breeding pair of catfish produces one to four pounds of eggs.  The hatchery usually can produce two spawns per year with a total production of approximately 2 million eggs.  They spawn around the first of June and by October have reached a length of four to six inches.

During the colder winter months, catfish do not feed and therefore there is no growth.  But the following spring they begin to feed again and by July first they are up to the 8-inch length so popular with anglers across the state.  These fish go to put-n-take ponds on state property and forest preserves.  Many of the fish go to local municipal ponds and lakes providing fishing fun for families.

Little Grassy Hatchery is located near Little Grassy Lake southwest of Marion, Illinois in Williamson County.  Little Grassy Lake is part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The hatchery belongs to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Visitors are welcome and most of the action occurs from mid-May through July.  They have a variety of fish in various stages of growth and spawn.

The water bill for an operation the size of Little Grassy Fish Hatchery would be out of sight if one had to depend upon city water.  The hatchery has a cooperative water agreement with The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge to take water from Little Grassy Lake at the spillway, use it, clean it and return the water to the lake.  It works out very well for the production of fish for Illinois anglers.

 

SUMMER ON THE ROCK   Leave a comment

Edit 0001The 155 miles of Rock River that flows through Illinois from the Wisconsin state line to near Rock Island on the Mississippi River divides into three basic habitats for fish.  They are tailwaters below dams, lake or sloughs above dams, and the main channel or side channels.

A very comprehensive booklet on “Fishing the Rock” is available from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices in the area or on line at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov.

Below each of the seven dams, the tailwaters are accessible for fishing.  The various parks, both state and local, also have boat launches and bank fishing with most having handicap piers.  The water is usually rough and turbulent due to the flow over the dam.  Fish congregate in the oxygen rich water.

In the channels is the deep, swift water that lacks structure other than large rocks and deep holes.  Between the main channel and the side channel is that part of the river containing debris and stumps.

Above the dams are the lakes and sloughs with their slow running water.  The oxygen level is lower and the fishing usually not as good.

The best fishing locations seem to begin at Oregon Dam.  A bait shop in Oregon, Illinois at the dam is a good source of tackle, bait and information about the river.

There are several boat launch areas on the western side of the river in Castle Rock State Park and on the eastern side at Lowden State Park.  The river yields such diverse species of fish as northern pike, walleye, bluegill, white bass, smallmouth and largemouth bass.  It is renowned for the ample population of channel and flathead catfish.

Camping and picnic areas are available in the state parks.  The various towns and cities along the rivers course also have motels and cabins available.

As you travel further south the river widens and as a result it is often rather shallow.  The shallows still have deep holes where fish seek refuge from the summer heat.  They are often the home of some big catfish.

“Fishing the Rock” is a great idea from mid-May to the snowfall in the beginning of winter.

 

MULTI-SPECIES FISHING ON REND LAKE   Leave a comment

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The vast expanse that is Rend Lake (19,000-acres) can be a challenge for anglers.  Twenty five years of fishing the lake teaches one that the largemouth bass, yellow bass, crappie and catfish (channel and flathead) that prowl these waters offer excellent angling possibilities.

Located on Interstate 57 about 6 hours south of Chicago and two hours east of St. Louis this reservoir sprawls through parts of Franklin and Jefferson counties.  Owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers and managed by them in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, it is a major fishing location in southern Illinois.

Camping is available in the several Corps campgrounds as well as in the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.

Numerous parking areas, boat launch ramps, picnic, and camping areas are open to the public in search of sampling the excellent fishing opportunities.    A Visitor Center at the dam on the south end of the lake provides information about the lake, the dam and recreational activities available.  Traveler’s information is available on the local radio at 530 KHz or by telephone at (618) 435-2765.  The Corps website has additional information on line at http://www.mus.usace.army.mrl/rend/.

Marina services are available at two locations.  On the west end of the dam is the Rend Lake Marina.  In Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park on the northeast part of the lake is the nationally famous Rend Lake Resort.  Bait and boat rentals are available at both locations.

The best fishing for crappie is near one of the stake beds of other wood structures placed in the lake by both public agencies and private citizens.  There are probably hundreds and no one know exactly how many.   Other structures such as old road beds and building foundations attract such fish species as catfish and largemouth bass.

For the bank angler almost any location along the many miles of the shoreline is suitable for fishing.  Recommended are areas along creek channels for crappie anglers.  Jig and minnow combinations produce best results.  Bass anglers like soft plastics in the shallows early in the day.  Then they move to the channel ledges in mid-day.  For catfish, the old slip bobber with a worm works well on almost any piece of structure in this catfish factory.  Stink bait also works in this catfish factory.

If the water is flowing over the dam spillway, the fishing in the tailwaters is usually good.  If the water is over the spillway the lake level is at a 410 feet.  If it is flowing through the notch in the spillway but not over the top, the lake is at 405 feet.

 

ILLINOIS CATCHABLE TROUT PROGRAM STARTS SATURDAY   Leave a comment

Kid B&W   Catchable trout fishing takes place in some 50 lakes and ponds across Illinois beginning on October 18th. For a complete listing of the sites check the website for Illinois Department of Natural Resources at http://www.dnr.iillinois.gov. Except for a few exceptions, anglers must possess an Illinois Fishing License and an Inland Trout Stamp. Specific license information is also available at the above website. Illinois is not often described as a refuge for trout anglers. The extreme heat of prairie state summers usually causes a die off of stocked trout from various private and IDNR stocking programs.  The release of catchable trout generally occurs in the fall and spring for a short lived trout fishing season. A cold water species, rainbow trout cannot tolerate water temperatures exceeding 70-degrees. In Illinois summer water temperatures reach 70 to 90-degrees. In some deep lakes a process called stratification takes place. When this occurs, the top 20 feet or so contains layers of water with equal amounts of oxygen and with the same temperature. In summer that layer has enough oxygen for the fish but it is too warm. In about the next 20-feet the temperature drops rapidly to 39 degrees and the oxygen runs out.  In the bottom 20 feet or more the temperature is 39 degrees and there is no oxygen. There are instances where some trout survive in that middle layer with just enough oxygen and cool temperatures. They find food in the cool water layer or take short trips to the upper layers to feed before returning to the cooler water, a thermal refuge. For this reason the stocking of the catchable trout does not take place until a few days prior to the opening of the season. Anglers use light line on light rod and reel combinations.  They thread a piece of nightcrawler or worm on a small light hook and suspend it beneath an adjustable float.  The bait is usually suspended about 18-inches beneath the float.  But, by using an adjustable float one can experiment until he finds the depth at which the fish are feeding. Other popular baits include cheese, wax worms, minnows, red wigglers and just about anything else the mind can imagine.

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.

CARLYLE LAKE BASS   Leave a comment

Whiskered Bass also inhabit the good bass habitat

Whiskered Bass also inhabit the good bass habitat

Three species of “bass” inhabit the tailwaters below the Carlyle Dam.  The three are Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and White Bass.

The 26,000-acre impoundment that is Carlyle Lake can be located on Illinois 127 and US 50 at the midway point between Interstate 64 and Interstate 57 in Clinton County.  The 15-mile long lake is 3.5 miles wide.  The deepest part is 40-feet deep.

The most popular fishing location for shore anglers is the tailwaters area below the dam.  Often anglers are almost elbow to elbow along the shoreline on both sides.  The least pressure is during the week.  Weekends are busy all year.

With a regular stocking of fingerlings of largemouth a number of very successful tournaments have returned to the waterway.  Although the best bass fishing is in the oxbow lakes, adjacent to the river current, largemouth bass are in the entire waterway.  They like the abundant woody cover to avoid the current.  Local anglers report commonly catching fish in the 3 to 5 pound class.

Habitat development by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has brought the smallmouth back from the brink of elimination.  The best locations are north of the Carlyle area but some fish are finding their way down to the tailwaters below Carlyle Dam.  Fish in the 2-4 pound range are usually in areas with rock or gravel bottoms.  Look for them in the slower water.

The lake areas are usually home for white bass.  But in the spring the greatest numbers of fish make spawning runs up river until a dam blocks their path.  Fish in the 10 to 15 inch class provide some valuable eating.  Look for them in the grave bottom areas with swift running water of the tailwaters.

SPRINGTIME IN THE CEDAR   Leave a comment

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Spring mornings in southern Illinois are often wooly with the mists off the water.  But, they are for fishing.  No more so than on Cedar Lake near Carbondale, Illinois.

Originally envisioned by Wayman Presley as a private lake for land development, Cedar Lake never got off his drawing board.  The city fathers of Carbondale, determined that it was more important as a water source for the growing college town.  They took over the project.  The end result is a deep clear lake with no development along the shoreline and water that the citizens of Carbondale now consume.

Started in 1973, this lake is nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, four miles southwest of Carbondale.  Cedar Lake reached full pool by 1975.  The shoreline belongs to the City of Carbondale and the U.S. Forest Service.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages the fishery.

The awesome hills and cliffs enhance the fishing experience.  To those who have fished Canadian shield-lakes, the surroundings will look familiar.  The lack of development on the shoreline, rocky bluffs, and towering hills make one think of the unspoiled past frozen in place on this lake.  Wildlife abounds in the woods that come right up to the water’s edge.  Bass are the most popular species taken, but bluegill, crappie, catfish and a few walleye also prowl these waters.

Largemouth bass fishing in Cedar Lake is good with numbers of legal size and trophy bass.  There is a 14″ – 18″ protected slot length limit.  Harvest of bass less than 14 inches appears to be almost non-existent according to IDNR studies of the lake.  The daily creel limit on this lake is five bass under 14 inches and one over 18 inches.  Anglers are encouraged to harvest the bass less than 14 inches to improve the overall condition of the population.  Thinning out of the smaller bass increases the growth rate and body condition of the remaining fish.

Largemouth bass take such crankbaits as Pop-R and Rat-L-Traps.  During the first half of the month, the bass are usually just completing their spawn.  Although the females are not actively feeding, the males are protecting the nests.  They guard the nests until the fry hatch and for several days later.  This makes the males very aggressive and they will attack lures presented to them.  Fish are off drop-offs and ledges, the basic structure in the lake.

Early in the month bass will be in the shallows and bedding areas.  The smaller fish seem to be shallow and the larger fish in deeper water.  Later in the month they move around the points and break lines leading to deep water.  Springs best fishing seems to be in about 20 feet of water.  For those deep fish, try a plastic worm at about 25 feet.

Crappies tend to be off structure in 12 to 14 feet of water.  They begin to school up near major points, drop offs, and creek channels.  They can be quickly located by trolling small crankbaits through the areas over structure.  Areas with good cover are best.  Minnows and small jigs are the preferred baits, with the average fish running 8 to 10 inches in length.

Bank anglers do well with bluegills.  May is usually the first and best spawning month for this species.  Early in May, they will take mealworms and red wigglers.  Red wigglers and crickets are the ticket later in the month.  Suspend the bait is beneath a very small float for the best action.  Most fish come from about 6 feet of water early in the month and get deeper as it wears on.  By the end of the month they could be as deep as 15 feet.

Channel catfish prowl the shorelines in search of food and a place to spawn.  Bullheads, a catfish sub-species are here as well.  Worms and nightcrawlers are the favorite food of these fish this month.  If the weather is unseasonably cool, then dip-bait, a cheese based lure can produce results.  In warm weather, the results are not so consistent.

Most fishing on Cedar Lake is from boats with access in a number of locations.  There is a 10-horsepower limit on boat motors.  For more site specific information on regulations, contact the U.S. Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest, Murphysboro, IL 62966.  The phone number is 618-687-1731.

 

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