Archive for the ‘Rend Lake’ Tag

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.

 

CRAPPIE FISHING AND THE DOGWOODS   Leave a comment

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The blooming of the Dogwood trees signals the crappie spawning period.  The rest of the forest is full of dark shafts of wood rising toward the sun.  On them are small buds and the beginnings of green leaves.  The mantel of green will soon provide shade a plenty.

The sighting of the dogwood and red bud blossoms seems to explode on the scene just in time for the crappies to move in to shallows in search of bedding areas.

Veteran crappie anglers take to the water with long poles and ultra-light reels spooled with 2-4 pound line.  The long poles enable one to dip his offering into the flooded buckbrush where the big ones hide.  Spring is a time of rising water levels.  Most lakes are watershed or flood control lakes.

Jigs are popular offerings by crappie anglers.  They are usually tipped with a minnow (known around here as crappie minnows) or some brightly colored plastic lure.  White, black and pink are popular colors.  Hair jigs or marabou jigs also are popular.  One sixteenth or 1/32nd ounce jigs are the size of choice.

Remember that crappies are a predator fish that likes to feed on insects and small fish.  They relate to structure which conceals them until they can ambush there forage.

Do not work your offering too quickly.  Slowly work the jig in a bouncing motion to imitate an injured bait fish.  Work the offering around any area with wood, rock or concrete structure below the water level.  In some areas brush piles attract fish.  Wooden stakes driven into the bottom in groups also work well in attracting the crappie.  If no structure is visible from the surface, all is not lost.

Some people who put out brush piles hide them so as to have the honey hole to themselves and their friends.  A boat equipped with fish locators or sonar locates these areas and any fish present.

In late spring crappie will first submerged structure more frequently.  Early in the spring they tend to stay in more shallow water as the spawning season begins.  Early go to the shore and later to the deeper water.

If the fish quit biting suddenly move about 2-feet away and try again.  Keep that up for a little while.  If that does not produce results go back to the original location and follow the same pattern with a different color jig.

One old crappie killer technique is to use the scales as an attractant.  The angler scales one of the fish already caught and sprinkles the loose scales on the water.  He waits a minute or two and then begins working the jig in the same area.  The idea is that the scales simulate a bait fish and stimulate the crappie to begin feeding actively.

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.

 

RUSS BAILEY ON VIDEO RECORDING   Leave a comment

Russ Bailey and camera crew record the crappie action on Rend Lake for upcoming TV program.

Russ Bailey and camera crew record the crappie action on Rend Lake for upcoming TV program.

With more and more outdoorsmen and women recording their activities the quality of the recordings can vary significantly.  Videoing hunting or fishing action moments can be a rewarding experience to share with family and friends.

With a little patience and attention to detail everyone can produce a quality video.  Toward that end Russ Bailey has some advice.

Russ is a veteran videographer and crappie fishing professional from Ohio.  He has a television show making its debut this month on the Pursuit Channel entitled “Brushpile Fishing.”  Russ also has a number of crappie fishing videos available through sporting goods stores.

Recently at Rend Lake, IL recording a program for the television series Russ took the time to talk about the process of recording videos.

The discussion began with the choice of cameras.  Russ is very impressed with the Go Pro cameras that have burst upon the market in recent years.  He also indicates that he is using JVC cameras and has had much success.  The feature Russ likes on these cameras is the ability to monitor the recording with the use of the screen on the back of the camera.

Bailey pointed out that HD cameras have become cost effective.  Most Digital cameras on the market have the ability to take videos but they do have some limitations.  Most avid video makers will move up to studio models as soon as they can afford them.  Those prices are steadily declining in the market place.

Videoing on the water does present some problems.  Temperatures, water conditions, etc. do affect the end product.  For instance wind tends to cut out the voice recording.  It is also important to limit the use of the zoom function of a camera.  Russ recommends that if you must use the zoom function do so slowly.

In outdoor recording it is advisable to be aware of the position of the sun.  As with most camera work, be sure to keep the sun either behind the camera position or at best to the side.  Shooting toward the sun distorts the images and often makes them worthless.

For the angler it is important to make sure the camera is water proof.  After all you are on the water and accidents happen.  Speaking of being on the water, if you are alone you can mount the camera on a bracket attached to the boat and let it run.  You never know but what you might catch some great action that would not be the case if you have to dig into a camera bag.

Russ begins every recording session by taking a sample and playing it back.  It gives a chance to correct any problem that might arise.  He also makes sure to take extra batteries as video recording eats up a lot of power quickly.  If possible use a wireless microphone for each person in the video.

Once back home it is time to edit your produce.  There are a number of software products on the market and online.  You don’t have to start with an expensive on.  There is always time to move onto those in the future.  Often the camera comes with a disk that allows for downloading titles and step by step editing.

Russ recommends using background music to enhance your product.  It is important to use only music that is not copyright protected.  You can get such music off the Internet by Googling “Free Music.”

Finally, you can open a free “YouTube” account and place your video on it.  Then send emails to everyone you want to view it indicating that it is available on line.

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.

 

YELLOW BASS ANOTHER GAME FISH   Leave a comment

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Cruising on Rend Lake last weekend we got into a school of Yellow Bass. Since we were running spider rigs as well as one guy single pole jigging, it was really exciting for a few minutes.  There were fish on as many as three lines at a time.  As quickly as it began the action was over.

This small member of the bass family is a pan fisherman’s dream. It grows to a good size for a pan fish.  It is large enough to fillet, is good eating and a hard fighter.  The yellow bass reproduces readily and you can catch them by the dozens with no danger to the species.

Yellow bass are members of the Percichthyidae family that includes white perch, white bass and striped bass. Other names for yellow bass are barfish, stripe, streak, streaker and brassy bass.  It resembles the white bass with a forked tail and compressed body.

The longitudinal stripes (6) of which there are three above the lateral line and three below it. The lower three are not solid as with white bass.  Other differences from white bass are the lack of teeth on the tongue and the lower jaw does not protrude beyond the upper jaw.  Yellow bass have an olive green back, white belly and sides that are brassy to gold or silver.  When sides are silver they are often mistaken for white bass.

Generally 8 to 11-inches in length, yellow bass are not big in the weight classes. The world record is probably just over 2-pounds.  Anything in the 2-pound class is a giant.  Most weigh less than 12-ounces.  All of ours were less than a pound.

The life span of this fish is 3 to 5-years. Those that are 2.5 to 5 inches in length are yearlings.  By the third year of their life they have reached a length of 9-inches and change their feeding habits.

Prior to this point they feed on insects and small crustaceans. Later they change to feeding on small fish.  This accounts for their delight in taking our jig and minnow combinations.  Slip bobbers, jigs, twister tails and small spinners are effective in catching yellow bass.  The best live bait seems to be 2-inch minnows.  Other live baits include such things as wigglers, waxworms, spikes and pieces of nightcrawlers.  The jig/minnow combo is the most popular rig.  Small jigs are best.  The most popular are 1/32nd to 1/16th ounce jigs.

Ultralight tackle or long poles seem to be the ticket for getting in tight places popular with yellow bass. Two to 4-pound test line is best.

Yellow bass are usually rather dormant during winter months. In early spring they become more active on through until fall.  As the water temperature reaches 60-degrees the bass begin to spawn and are in the shallows over gravel beds, stony structures or other structure.

They are always hungry and put up a great fight. The best time to fish for yellow bass is early morning and late afternoon.  Adult fish cruise deep during the day and then head for the shallows to feed.  Yellow bass are a meaty fish even if they do not have length.

Do not hesitate to keep and eat these fish. They are prolific and are better eating than white bass.  In fact they taste something like a bluegill.

 

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