Archive for the ‘Illinois’ Tag

CATFISHING ON ILLINOIS SANGAMON RIVER   2 comments

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The full river begins in McLean County and flows in an arc through central Illinois some 250 miles to join the Illinois River near Peoria.  The upper reaches of the river flow east into Champaign County, south through Mahomet, then west through Monticello and Decatur.  It then flows northwest along Springfield.  It is at this point that Salt Creek enters the river and together they flow into the Illinois River about 10 miles northeast of Beardstown, IL.

There is boat access along the course of the river and in particular in the parks bordering Lake Decatur, Rock Springs Conservation Area, Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park, Carpenter Park in Springfield, and the Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area.

IDNR fisheries staff finds the catch rates with electro-shocking efforts are generally low at most sites.  However, the site near Roby, in Christian County is a stand out.  All the catfish were less than two pounds but that represents a thriving population for years to come.

A sampling of fish in Salt Creek below the Clinton Lake dam produces catfish that are less than ten inches in length.  Prospects for finding catfish below the Lake Decatur dam are slim.

According to surveys done in the lower portion of the Sangamon River, it is more productive for the angler in search of big fish.  Studies sampling with survey nets and by electro-shocking in areas near Riverton, Springfield, Petersburg and Oakford were more encouraging.

They find the upstream sites at Riverton and Springfield more productive than the other two for both flatheads and channel catfish.  Riverton was the top for channels.  The largest channel catfish were 27-inches long and over 7.5 pounds.  The average channel catfish are 16 to 23-inches in length and 1.5 to 5-pounds in weight.

Trophy flatheads run from 17 pounds to 43 pounds.  The flathead catfish evenly spread across all size classes.  This is an indication of a large, healthy population.

Illinois is a catfish mecca.  The Sangamon River is just one.  Virtually every river contains at least some fish.  Summer is the time to catch them.

FISH HATCHERY IS PART OF FISHERY MANAGEMENT   Leave a comment

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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.

 

BASS IN MISSISSIPPI RIVER POOL 13   Leave a 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.

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.

 

FINDING FISH IN THE WINTER ZONE   Leave a comment

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While anglers in northern Illinois are fishing through holes in the ice, anglers in southern Illinois are still fishing open water lakes and ponds.

 

Mild winters allow southern Illinois anglers to fish all year around.  Granted the temperatures are colder than would be the case the rest of the year, the lack of ice permits both bank and boat fishing.  The key to this type of fishing is finding the fish.  Never does the old adage “Ninety percent of the fish will be in 10 percent of the water” seem more applicable.

 

By knowing at what depth other anglers are taking fish, you go a long way toward being a successful angler on a particular day.  Depth is particularly important during the cold months when game fish are less likely to move around.

 

Experienced anglers know that winter bass fishing success is dependant upon knowing the depth at which fish are suspending.  It is more important than ph, structure and other factors.

 

Other anglers on the same lake may not have much success.  Yet you can take good numbers and sizes of fish.  With the aid of electronics, you might discover that the big fish are down nearly 40 feet.  It might be that no one else is fishing even close to that depth.  This gives you the upper hand when it comes to catching fish.

 

For those without the electronics, a local bait shop operator is the next best source of information.  He can usually tell you how deep other anglers are fishing and their relative success or failure at those depths.  He usually will recommend particular lures or baits that are producing at this time.

 

Another question is where successful anglers are finding fish.  You can divide most lakes into three areas.  They are shallow areas with stained water and abundant cover, an area of moderate depth with less cover and semi-clear water or a deep area with little cover and clear water.

 

If you know the depth at which fish are most active then you can probably eliminate two of the three areas and focus on the remaining water.

 

ICE FISHING WOLF LAKE   Leave a comment

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There are two Wolf Lakes in Illinois.  This one is near Chicago just off of Lake Michigan on the Illinois/Indiana state line.  The other one is downstate.

Wolf Lake is a 419-acre lake in the William W. Powers Conservation Area located at 131st Street and the IL/IN state line.  Dredged and separated into different sections by dikes.  There are 5 different sections.  The maximum depth is 15-feet with an average depth of 5.91 feet.

Numerous drop-offs and weed lines provide excellent ice fishing opportunities.  There is a variety of species available including smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, bullhead, carp and yellow perch.

Entrance is from Avenue O at about 123rd street.  It is accessible from Interstate 94 and 90.  Ample parking is available in the winter a short distance from the shoreline.

Most of the better fishing areas are on the Illinois side.  Be sure you know what side your fishing as you need a license for the state in which you are fishing.  The state line is well marked.

A popular area for ice fishing is the cove at the south end of the lake just off 133rd street near the Ranger’s office.  The weed beds in the cove attract perch.  Other areas attracting fish include those with current.  The current flows through the dikes but it may make the ice pretty thin as it wears away the underside.

Basically the current flows into the Illinois side of the lake at the state line and the dead end of State Line Road.  It then flows northeast to the railroad bridge.  As it flows under the tracks there is a deep drop-off of from 5-feet to 14-feet.  It then flows southwest to the culvert dike, coming back up to 5-feet.  From there it flows west over the dam and into Indian Creek near the parking lot.

As the waterfowl season ends the ice fishing begins as the ice begins to thicken enough to be safe.  It continues as long as the ice is safe.  The park is open sunrise to sunset and there is no ice fishing at night.

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.

KIDS AND CATFISH   Leave a comment

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Aggressive feeding habits, fast growth and affinity for shore line structure make the catfish a natural for teaching young and old the secrets of fishing. This feisty battler enjoys a state-wide distribution due to its ability to prosper in almost any lake, river, creek or pond.  The ability to reproduce in hatchery settings makes the catfish a natural for stocking programs.

Raising catfish is not only for stock to aid in the management of healthy bodies of water, they are often required to re-stock lakes and rivers depleted by die-offs natural or manmade.

In Illinois catfish raised in the state mostly come in the form of non-vulnerable (8-inch in length) channel catfish. Some fingerling blue catfish obtained from outside, grow to the non-vulnerable size in the hatchery and are released elsewhere in the state.  The channel catfish program is a put/grow/take fishery.  Other larger fish from private purchases are usually the source for the put and take urban fishing programs.  The catchable size fish allow the participants to get the excitement of catching grown fish.

Creel studies show that anglers catch 70% of the fish at a size of about 1 1/2 pounds. The remaining fish probably succumb to natural mortality in nature.

The most commonly stocked catfish is the channel catfish. The readily reproduced subspecies is popular with programs to teach children the joys of fishing.  Numerous waters across the state receive fish in anticipation of fishing derbies for children.  Derbies are mostly the product of the efforts of local groups.  Others are part of governmental programs.

The most common method of catching channel catfish comes from using a small bobber (float) above a hook and small sinker about 18-inches. Minnows cut up pieces of other fish, cheese, nightcrawlers, chicken or turkey liver or stink bait.  The latter is often a mix of cheese, fish parts and secret ingredients whose name comes from the odor it usually omits.   Most any rod and reel combination works for catfish.  Most often the line is monofilament in the 10 to 12 pound class.

Channel catfish are an equal opportunity kind of species. Most fishing tackle and baits work in catching them.

Each year over a million children and adults in Illinois spend over 16 million days fishing in the state. Over sixty percent of those days are spent fishing lakes and ponds.  Illinois has more than 91,000 lakes and ponds.  There are some million and one half acres of surface water.  Most fishing takes place during the summer months.

 

TWO IN A DAY FISHING   Leave a comment

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When it comes to a good day, two Illinois public fishing areas are a good bet. Located about an hour southwest of St. Louis, Pinkneyville City Lake and the many lakes found in Pyramid State Park provide anglers a chance to fish either from a boat or from shore. Both methods produce good fish and one can hit both lakes in the same day.

The fishing is unbelievable at times. The area yields numerous six and seven pound largemouth bass each year. The lakes have a lot of fish between 3 and 5 pounds in weight.

Another positive is that the lakes have every kind of structure that a bass angler would want to fish. Deep shallows, weeds, lay downs, standing timber are all there.   It is perfect habitat for largemouth bass.

The shad forage provides anglers with clues to the whereabouts of bass. When the wind is blowing bass will bust the shad to the surface. Shad will sometimes school up big and the bass action is great.

Pinkneyville Lake is about 220-acres in size with the only boat ramp located on the south end next to a deluxe handicap pier. The lake was once a city reservoir and as a result it has both deep and shallow water areas. There is an old pump house by the dam and a spillway that has just one level. The lake level remains at a constant depth. There are two feeder creeks that empty into the lake and one that exits it at the dam.

The lake is just north of Pinkneyville, Illinois off Illinois Route 149.

You can fish Pinkneyville Lake in the morning and then move down to Pyramid State Park for the afternoon and evening. In the park you can go to four or five different lakes if you desire.

The reclaimed mine acres of Pyramid State Park contains 22 bodies of clear water that have been stocked in a way that gives some species a competitive edge. An information sheet from the park office at the entrance is very helpful in finding the kind of fishing you seek. In addition to largemouth bass there are stripers, walleye, muskies, northern pike, crappie, bluegill, sunfish and channel catfish. The park is open from a half our before sunrise until 10 P.M.

Boating is permitted but no rentals are available. There is a 10-horsepower limit on engines. Not all of the lakes are accessible to boat use. The secluded fishing opportunities on some of the lakes provide a unique fishing experience. Water depths vary from one lake to another with some being as deep as 70 feet.

To reach the park travel south from Pinkneyville (about 10 minutes) on Illinois Route 127 to Route 152 and then west to the park entrance.

Anglers from Missouri and Illinois enjoy a day of bass fishing in this area for a minimum of cost in food, license, fuel and time.

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