Archive for the ‘threadfin shad’ Tag



Our best fighting fish is a pretty apt description to anyone who has ever hooked one.  These shad eating machines prowl a number of Illinois waters providing excitement for any angler who is lucky enough to hook one.

A wonderful fighting fish, this transplant to Illinois waters spends most of his day roaming deep water in pursuit of threadfin shad.  Stable water conditions, clear skies, and the presence of shad cause this wolf of the water to move into more shallow water and dam tailwaters.  Once there, their presence is visible by the action on the surface.

Stripers will force shad to the surface and then crash the surface as they goggle up the hapless bait fish.   In tailwater situations the striper takes advantage of the injured shad that wash through locks and over dams.  Most stripers and hybrids bite on live threadfin shad or skipjack.  Some people have good luck with cut bait while others prefer artificial lures.

The Illinois State Record is 31 pounds 7 ounces for striped bass and 20 pounds .32 ounces for hybrid striped bass.  The average fish from these species range from 2 to 15 pounds.

Most anglers refer to both the hybrid striper and the pure strain fish as “Stripers.”  The hybrids are not able to reproduce and have some different physical features that make identification possible.

A saltwater relative of the white bass, stripers resemble them in appearance but have a more elongated and less compressed body.   Stripers have a more straight back and they are dark greenish is color on top with a brassy tinge that becomes lighter on the sides.  The underside is a silver color.

The most prominent feature is the presence of seven to eight narrow horizontal stripes along the sides which leads to the name striper.  The stripes on the Hybrid are less distinct and definitely broken.   The first stripe below the lateral line is distinct and complete to the tail.  Hybrids tend to grow faster making them popular for stocking.  Hybrids can reach 5 pounds by their third year.

These imports are present in some 28 waterways and lakes of the Prairie State.  They consist of three subspecies: striped bass, hybrid striped bass and striped/hybrid striped bass.  Regardless of where in the state a fisherman lives, he is but a couple of hours away from a striper fishery.

Historically, the IDNR has had problems meeting the stocking needs for this fishery.  Today they are able to produce a reliable good quality source of fry.

State hatcheries are involved in the production of striped bass and hybrid striped bass using fry purchased from out of state.  Currently Illinois stocks both striped bass and hybrid striped bass.

The best angling opportunities center on following the shad.  Both threadfin and gizzard shad are the primary food source for all three subspecies.  Many are caught incidental to fishing for other species.  Catfish anglers will often catch them in the spring using chicken livers fished near the bottom of a lake.

Most fish are caught trolling shad or shad-like imitation baits.  Both live bait and cut bait from shad work well.  The use of electronic fish locators allows the angler to locate schools of shad.  Then the angler knows at what depth to troll his offering.  Shore anglers look for points and deep water flats near current.  Current is a chief locator to find stripers.

Perhaps the best cure for fingers numbed by the cold and the chill of cold winds is the screech of a reel paying out line.  The sound of the reel means striper on the other end of the line.



Striper0003_edited-1Crossing the Ohio River last week from Kentucky to Illinois, the stained water from spring flooding up river reminds one of how important clean water is to fishing it.

Smithland Pool is a bass factory.  But, finding clear water is the key to success in catching them.  Clear water might be in any of a dozen different locations.

Smithland Pool is a 72 mile long section of the Ohio River up river from the Smithland Lock and Dam.  Completed in 1980, the dam backed water up and caused the level in the creeks to rise 12 to 15 feet.  The result was a 27,000 acre fish heaven.

There are 10 major streams and 12 minor tributaries that enter the river from the Illinois side alone.  From the Kentucky side there are an additional 8 streams and five tributaries.  Because these tributaries and streams are spring fed, they tend to be clearer than is the main river.

The amount of fishable locations in Smithland can be a bit over whelming.  The key is to choose a creek and study it.  The amount of standing and fallen timber is frustrating.  One can work the river and creek bends that contain deadfalls or a divergence of vegetation growth.  The changes in water color are important to the way bass feed. Bass prefer the clearer water.

Leaving from the Golconda Marina, anglers often move right into Lusk Creek only a few yards down river.  It is just north of mile 890.  Because of its proximity to the marina, the fishing pressure, in the creek, is heavy.  It does produce a lot of good fish.  The combination of clear water and cover attract the threadfin shad from the river.  The shad then are the forage base for the bass.

Crankbaits, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits will all work in Lusk Creek.

Dog Creek just north of the dam on the Illinois side of the river allows anglers to go way back in there, if you find the right way.  There are a number of dead end feeder creeks.  One needs to stay with the current.  It is possible to go 3 or 4 miles back to an area full of lily pads.  Throw spinnerbaits and buzzbaits in such colors as shad and blue gill colors.  A red Mud Bug works well on occasion.

Below Golconda are Barren, Bay and Grand Pere Creeks.  Anglers flip and pitch to the standing timber and deadfalls.  Spinner baits and crankbaits are a good start for active fish.

Slow presentations of plastic worms and jigs, often find fish the less aggressive fish.  The slower presentations work well in root systems.

Fishing the main river in June the water is clearer.  It is possible to find stumps in the clear water of the main river that are 10 to 12 feet down.  Tossing a Pop‑R over those stumps can lead to taking a lot of good fish.

Moving north from the dam, some other popular areas for bass anglers are the channels on the Kentucky side of the river.  They run between the shoreline and such islands as Stewart’s Island, Sister Islands, and Pryors Island.  The channels receive a lot of pressure but a lot of good fish come from there.

Slow rolled spinnerbaits and salt craws are popular lures.  Favorite colors seem to be black and chartreuse.

Although the most popular areas are south of Golconda, Love Creek and the Treadwater tributaries to the north are good areas. The same lures used in other areas of the pool work here as well.



When cold temperatures hit anglers have to fish deeper for those largemouth and smallmouth bass.  With this technique, they can catch some nice bass as well as an occasional sauger or bluegill.

The float-n-fly presentation is popular with winter anglers plying the deep water structure of large lakes and rivers.  It works best in water in the mid- to low 40’s.

In such waters the threadfin shad swim in circles and twitch erratically as they fight for life.  The predator species take advantage of the situation by eating the easily captured bait fish.

Using 8 to 11 foot spinning rods or fly rods, anglers are able to present the light terminal tackle great distances from the angler.  These rods allow the angler to fish very light line of less than 6 pound monofilament.  Monofilament line, and a good flexible rod, permits the fisherman to play large fish because of the stretch in the line.  The flexibility of the rod allows the angler the ability to lift the fly from the water on the back cast.

The typical terminal set-up involves small float (½ to 7/8-inch long) mounted on the line 8 to 13 feet above the fly.  The practitioners of this style of bass fishing do not like the slip float and use only a slight weight if any at all.

The fly is usually a tiny-feathered fly that will pulsate below the surface as a dying shad imitation.  Duck feather flys work best in the cold water.  Weights of the flys vary from 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce.  Colors tend to be combinations of chartreuse, white, pink, blue or gray.

Fishermen suspend the fly on monofilament line about 8 feet under the bobber to begin a day on the water.  If the water has some wave action, the float will provide some action the fly beneath it.  Once cast out, allow the float to bounce on the waves.  If no strikes from a fish, then one reels in about 5 feet of line and allows the rig to float once more.  Repeat the action until a fish strikes the fly.

In a calm water situation, the angler can provide some action on the fly by moving the rod up and down.  Allow the float to sit for a few minutes before repeating the action.

The depth up or down can be adjusted depending upon the location of the fish.  Trim the fly to parallel the bend of the hook.  The slimmer profile gives the lure a more subtle action.  Scent applied to either the body or head of the fly results in varying degrees of success.

Some of the larger fish will rise from the depths to mouth the fly and not move.  In this case the float will lie over and the angler should set the hook immediately.

The float-n- fly is most effective in clear water that is between 38 and 48 degrees.  Bluff banks, rocky points, sloping rock or clay banks are the first areas to probe with the rig.  It is most effective in areas of a lot of rock.

Regardless of how the float-n-fly rig is presented, it is an effective way to entice those big predator fish from their winter homes deep in the river or lake.  It is also a great break from those winter doldrums between waterfowl season and pre-spawn bass action.

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