Emiquon Pitfall #10 – Invasion

Emiquon has led a rather precarious existence from the outset due to its proximity to the Illinois River. As an angler, I had concerns about how long the incredible fishing would last in the face of a collection of natural and man-made challenges.

Originally posted 8-15-10

One need not look far in the regional outdoor news or for that matter even the national headlines to find reports of the latest scourge to hit the waterways of Illinois. Often grouped together as Asian carp, a pair of prolific exotics known more specifically as silver and bighead carp has currently invaded a number of the state’s river systems. There’s plenty of information out there on these fish written by those much more knowledgeable than yours truly. Therefore, I’ll leave the particulars and the debates to someone else.

Only a narrow levee separates Emiquon from the burgeoning population that now calls the Illinois River and the Spoon River home. You only have to look about eighty miles upriver to the Hennepin-Hopper complex to get a feel for the disruptive nature of some members of the carp family. This similar wetland/backwater lake restoration project was undertaken in the early 2000’s and by 2004 was open for limited public fishing. However, by 2009 the common carp had so significantly disrupted the habitat that a total rehabilitation was warranted.

I’m not big on gloom and doom (see global warming) but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see that the carp next door certainly have the potential to foul things up in a hurry. (2019 note: the Hennepin-Hopper complex is back in business with positive reports on the fishery, particularly for northern pike).

Nature does its thing when given a window of opportunity. For as long as I can remember I’ve been repeatedly punctured while wading through the natural hedge known as multiflora rose. More recently I trample the ever growing groves of garlic mustard in search of my already elusive morel mushrooms and spy the purple traps hanging around in local ash trees.

In addition, Dad and I had a strange day on Emiquon a few years later that was both puzzling and alarming.

From my 7/8/2013 Emiquon Report

Carp Flotilla – The lake was literally littered with carp carcasses in varying stages of decay. Everywhere you looked there were bloated floating brown and white fish of the common carp variety. For my money, any dead carp is a good carp on this relatively new restoration project so I can’t say it hurt my feelings. Unfortunately, the frequent splashing and thrashing meant that there were still plenty more of the lake wreckers still swimming. I will say that I do enjoy catching and fighting carp but overall they are just bad news in terms of lake health. Luckily there was some wind and the temperature was not typical July as I’m sure the place would have been really ripe. I’m not sure what to make of the whole situation but it was certainly a new look.

Now I realize that fish and fishing may not be the primary objectives of such restoration projects but they certainly play crucial roles. And the window of opportunity mentioned above leads me to the collective entity that makes up Potential Pitfall #9 to come your way tomorrow.

Having been out of the Emiquon loop for quite a few years now, I’m not certain how it has evolved other than recent years have seen a significant drop in water levels. There’s also been plenty of contentious debate to be found on the internet regarding management practices. I welcome any comments on the status and often think that the best way to find out would be a return invasion of my own. Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon Top 10 Pitfalls Revisited

(Note: please bear in mind that the following series of posts were originally composed in 2010 thus some of the specifics may have evolved, either for better or for worse.)

Kicking off the Emiquon at 10 celebration is the following introductory post to a series that I wrote during the second summer of Emiquon’s public access.

Originally posted 8-13-10

While The Emiquon Preserve has only been open to the angling public since April 20, 2009 and I’ve paid a grand total of eight visits, the spot has left quite an impression. As a result, I’ve decided to resort to the oft employed writing staple known as a “Top 10 List.” Following this Friday the 13th introductory post I intend to run down a list of “Emiquon’s Potential Pitfalls” over the course of the next couple weeks while working around some of my recurring items. Unlike many Top 10 lists, however, there is no particular order beyond what made sense in my head (thus there will be no accompanying drum roll sound effect as we near number one).

But, first things first if you happen to be unfamiliar with this relatively new and certainly unique Illinois fishing hole. The area was once a fertile and ecologically diverse Illinois River backwater until drained and converted to agricultural ground in the 1920’s. The Nature Conservancy began acquiring ground in the early 2000’s and eventually the now isolated lakebed was once again allowed to fill. The lake was stocked with a variety of fish species including largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, bluegill, walleye and even record class pumpkinseed sunfish (but those stories belong to someone else).

Well, the area opened to rave reviews for largemouth bass and I was fortunate enough to get a piece of the action on several occasions.

But “just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song, every rose has its thorn.”

Okay, while that’s the gist of the list I apologize for the bad Poison lyrics but sometimes I can’t help myself. If I haven’t lost you already, please stay tuned.

There you have it, the tease on what is coming your way over the next couple weeks worked in around Top 5 Updates, Friday Flashbacks and perhaps a fishing report if I’m lucky. Like usual, if you need a fishing fix stop on by. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Hey, we’ve got something besides a green fish this week, one with whiskers. And a good one at that, equaling the largest catfish submitted to date. Both by the same young angler.

Weight: 13-0
Angler: Teagan Mills
Date: April 20
Location: Private pond
Angler Comments: Caught on 4-pound test
Top 5 Weight: 13-0

Congrats, Teagan on an impressive catch that definitely required some skill and patience on that light line. Looks like the area weather is headed for a pretty stable run of warm temps so here’s hoping those fish will finally be able to get their act together and let us fool some more. I encourage anyone out there to join the fun and send them my way at troy@troyjacksonoutdoors.com.

The Emiquon at 10 celebration kicks off tomorrow, hope you’ll tune in. Talk to you later. Troy

Easter Weekend Fishing Report

Well, I managed to get on the water for a few hours over the holiday weekend. Good Friday was an unexpected quick trip to an area pond while Saturday found me playing fishing guide on an overdue outing. Neither day was particularly impressive but it’s not always about the fish so read on if you can relate to that concept.

Stats – Good Friday
Date: April 19, 2019
Location: Henry County, IL pond
Time: 4:15pm-5:30pm
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 62F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 5 bass
Lures:
ZMan Chatterbait (perch) with Yamamoto Zako trailer (Tennessee shad) – 3 bass
Bomber Flat A crankbait (baby bass) – 2 bass
Top Bass: 0-14
Top 5 Weight: 1-10 (2 bass)

Notes and Nonsense – Good Friday

Just going to go with a video recap below (SMALL BASS ALERT BUT A COOL RELEASE)

 

Stats – Saturday with Jayce

Date: April 20, 2019
Location: Knox County. IL public strip pit
Time: 3:00pm-3:45pm
Weather: Sunny/windy
Air Temp: 70F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: No bites

Jayce’s arsenal consisted of The Emiquon Special, Senko wacky rig and ZMan chatterbait with a Zako trailer

Notes and Nonsense – Saturday with Jayce

New Gear – Part of Easter came a day early for the kids as everybody got a new fishing pole upgrade (Jayce got two as I still owed him one from hid birthday last year). Zac, Jayce and Helena are now armed with Shakespeare spinning combos while Carly bumped up to a baitcasting rig as she already had the spinning combo covered.

Happy Easter with the next step up in fishing rod combos for our crew of anglers

New Tricks – Jayce decided to go all in on bass as he had success on Cinco de Mayo 2018 at the spot but Easter weekend 2019 wasn’t as friendly as it pitched a shutout. However, we managed to invest our time in learning about a couple new baits in a chatterbait and a spinnerbait. The spinnerbait is extra cool as it is a homemade model that Jayce received as a gift from Uncle Brent, a copy of his legendary Emiquon Special.

 

Old Habit – Many years ago when Dad was teaching his kids outdoor stuff, a stop at an area shop was often in order to grab a soda and a bag of chips. Well, apparently the day end treat left a mark. Our post fishing refreshments consisted of a Mountain Dew for me and some chocolate milk for Jayce while we shared bags of Sun Chips and Spicy Nacho Doritos.

As you see, all is not lost when the fish get lockjaw. And it is always a treat to hang with one of the kids in a one on one setting, tough to do very often. Two hours in a truck and another hour hiking and casting provide some great father-son time. We talked of Run DMC, listened to a poor Cubs performance, reminisced about past outings and Jayce made me a proud dad upon correctly identifying “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet after a mere handful of notes.

A good weekend in spite of less than impressive results. Always good to get some fresh air too with the weather actually being nice for two consecutive days, a rarity thus far in 2019. Here’s hoping it continues and helps to get the bite headed in a more active direction. Talk to you later. Troy

Happy Birthday, Emiquon!

Ten Years ago today, a new fishing hole opened up in Fulton County.

And, boy, what a fishing hole it was. A place known as The Emiquon Preserve or simply “Emiquon” to this fisherman.

Between April 23, 2009 and July 25, 2013 I made nineteen trips with several family fishing partners down to the spot located southeast of Lewistown, Illinois. During those outings I managed to catch my current personal best bass, watched my brother, Brent, fall a few bass shy of the century mark one evening, observed some head shaking behavior from other anglers while fishing with Dad, caught bass in 105 degree air and 90 degree water temps with Julie, helped a guy with a treble hook stuck in his thumb (bass attached as well) and the list of adventures just keeps going from there.

From that span of roughly four years, I managed to write over 50 blog postings on the site. If there is anybody out there in cyberspace who has written more about Emiquon bass fishing than yours truly, I have yet to find them. And, yes, I’ve certainly looked.

It’s hard to believe that for various reasons I’m now pushing six years since my last visit to the crazy fishing hole. A lot has changed down there according to the bits and pieces I have picked up in my routine wanderings on the web and most of it has not been for the better. But those are stories for someone more familiar with and knowledgeable of Emiquon’s current state than this blogger.

Nope, for this year-long tenth birthday celebration it’s simply a look back at some of the writings I that have submitted over the years. For starters, over the next couple weeks I plan on mixing in a batch of Emiquon posts amidst the regular features and hopefully a couple new fishing reports from this Easter weekend. This first series of Emiquon posts are a Top 10 list of Emiquon perils first submitted in August of 2010 after roughly a year of fishing the spot. In addition, several Friday Flashback posts will feature a look back at some of those initial 2009 Emiquon visits.

Hope you’ll continue to tune in for a look back at the phenomenon that was the Emiquon Preserve in those first few crazy years. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 26, 2014

 

Now this is when the Friday Flashbacks start to get more entertaining for me. Sure, it’s fun for me to reminisce about and revisit the old pics and log entries of some of my catches. But when I get to include a batch of fishing and outdoor companions, well, that just adds to the appeal in my book.

So, if you are sick of just seeing my smiling mug on Friday, hopefully the variety that heads your way as the Fridays continue to roll by will be just the cure.

This week features a Dad day with the kids at Little John Conservation Club.

Originally posted 5-2-14

An afternoon as a fishing guide/dad.

Last Saturday my wife, Julie, had some painting that she was working on around the house so it was my duty to get the kids out of the way.

Fishing sure sounds like a good fatherly sort of guided activity, right?

Anybody ever tried that one with an ambitious two year old, his four year old brother, seven year old sister and nine year old sister? It was a trip, but we all came through unscathed.

First up was bait which consists exclusively of waxworms when I fish with younger kids as they are bite-sized for bluegills and considerably less messy than dirt dwelling fish food. The gas station had them in stock but apparently they had been residing in the fridge for a while as close to half of each container was dead. As a result, I was able to talk the clerk into a two for the price of one deal and checked one task off my list.

Next up were five lunchboxes which Julie put together while I made sure we were rigged up with slip bobbers and had five poles in casting order. In addition to waxworms, slip bobbers are a must in my book as they allow small anglers to present their baits at just the right depth while less dangling line theoretically makes them a bit less dangerous while casting.

Of course, there was a stop on the way out of town for a drink and a treat at another gas station to help everyone survive the twenty minute trip without starving or dying of thirst. The nasty combination of soda pop, juice, beef jerky, chips and dip ran just over $25. I couldn’t help but recall the days where you just got gas at the full service station complete with a window wash and your folks paid cash to the attendant who dispensed change out of one of those cool coin changer belts.

All told we fished for maybe thirty minutes in the middle of some playground fun and a picnic supper followed by another brief visit to the playground.

The funny thing is I had the little guy, Zac, rigged up with only a casting weight in the interest of decreasing the odds of someone getting hooked. Well, Jayce and Helena thought that setup looked pretty good in terms of casting practice so they asked to go that route as well. In the end it was just Carly who was actually armed with hook and bait.

Zac proceeded to get repeatedly tangled in his line as he wasn’t quite getting the concept of reel the plug back in before attempting to cast back out. His superhero pole represented Superman but at one point would have been better suited to bear the markings of another comic book character. Aquaman would have been more fitting during a bout of frustration where he up and threw the whole setup into the lake. It was retrieved and time will tell in regards to any lingering effects (on both the pole and the little guy’s interest in fishing).

Jayce did a good job with his casting practice at one point launching his plug clear across a narrow chute into a tree branch roughly a dozen feet above the lake’s surface.  He also displayed a pretty good arm tossing rocks and raising the ire of his fishing sister who informed him that he needed to find a direction other than towards her bobber.

Helena was very impressive with her casting abilities as she fired her plug record distances out into the lake. She even put her tablet down for nearly the entire trip which I found almost equally as impressive.

Carly was our lone angler and came through for us with our solitary bluegill. Prior to her success she had wondered how “you and Uncle Brent catch so many big fish.” She even requested that I make a couple casts to try my luck but I came up empty. She was quick to point this out to her mother upon our return home, boasting that she had outfished Dad (if you read some of my reports you are aware that isn’t always hard to do).

Last Saturday also happened to be the eve of Carly’s First Communion and she had several questions, seeming more than a little nervous about the whole affair. However, after her catch she related that she had “asked God” to help her catch a fish and lo and behold it worked. I’m filing that one away for the next time I’m out in the midst of a cold front.

A good time was had by all and nobody fell in the lake so all was well. About the only moment of concern was some trepidation over using an outhouse but we got through it (I will spare you the details). Overall, it sure was good to get some fresh spring air and I love it that my kids feel right at home getting out of the house; must be doing at least something right along the way.

 

Okay, a little lengthy, but hey, what do you expect when talking about kids and fishing? Talk to you later. Troy

Lures of the Top 5

Well, every Monday when there’s some new fish to offer, the weekly Top 5 Update gives you their pictures. In addition, the details of the catch accompany the fish and typically include the bait that got the job done. As a bonus Top 5 post we’re going to take a more in depth look at the specific lures that are fooling our fish thus far in 2019. Pictures of all the winning lures along with some notes and stats below, so read on.

A range of color and trailer combinations in chatterbaits have been winners

Chatterbaits: 10 bass – Top Bass 4-2 Jim Junk – Top 5 Weight 18-9
Also referred to as bladed jigs, this lure type is a relative newcomer with origins dating back to 2004 but not experiencing a real sales explosion until a few years later. For our group in 2019 it has had the best start in terms of numbers and is pushing the 20-pound mark for a collective Top 5. Definitely a lure that you should give a go early in the season as a proven producer.

You won’t find the Rapala Clackin’ Rap on the baitshop shelves (read below)

Lipless Crankbaits: 6 bass – Top Bass 4-8 Jim Junk – Top 5 Weight 20-0
Generally a faster moving bait than most other cold water offerings and still makes me scratch my head at times on its early season effectiveness. No need to ponder though, just throw it. An interesting detail here is that Jim Junk’s now not so secret weapon happens to be a bait that is no longer in production (note: Jim gave me permission to reveal). The Rapala Clackin’ Rap is now the denizen of the online auction and there’s plenty of them out there if you are willing to fork over the bucks.

Strike King Pro Model Jig (pumpkin/green flake) with BPS Triple Ripple Craw trailer (pepper frog/hot orange)

Jigs: 3 bass – Top Bass 2-10 Troy Jackson – Top 3 Weight 6-7
Another cold water standby that can fool some big cold water bass, this one has taken a back seat to the faster paced and noisier offerings noted above. Certainly recommend having one of these tied on this time of year and don’t be afraid to throw it into some of the nastiest looking wood and/or rock in the fishing hole.

Booyah Blade spinnerbait (white/chartreuse) with twin tail trailer (smoke)

Spinnerbaits: 2bass – Top Bass 0-14 – Top 2 Weight 1-11
Not much to show for this old school lure that has kind of fallen out of vogue in the last 20 years or more. However, I’m a firm believer in them and when given a shot they still get the job done, just not as glamorous as some other baits. I would have to say more of a fall presentation for me but I still keep the faith of that 1980s kid who cut his bass fishing teeth on them and have had one tied on each time out in 2019.

BONUS!
Livebait: 1 bass – Top Bass 4-1 Jim Junk

A perfect example of the allure of “the real thing” along with reinforcing the fact that if you have a bait in the water anything can happen (Jim caught this entry while crappie fishing with a minnow). Jim also provided the pics below of what some of his Fulton County bass are likely eating so it’s no wonder that there are some darn healthy fish swimming down there.

Fulton County, IL forage – I want to catch something that’s eating that!

Such forage takes me back to 2014 and the initial year of the Top 5 as there was a Chicagoland area angler who used to prowl the banks of his local waters armed with large swimbaits. While the bites could be limited on such giant baits, when they came they were quite impressive as seen below.

Top 5 Flashback from 2014,  quality vs. quantity dilemma on large swimbaits. Your choice? 

Okay, all for today and hope that you enjoyed the rundown of these early season baits and perhaps found an addition to your tacklebox. If nothing else, I hope it got some folks a little fired up for some fishing as the local weather really took a turn for the better (may even last a day or two this time). And if you are fortunate enough to enjoy the benefit of a three day weekend, well, send your catches my way and go ahead and include a pic of the lure while you’re at it. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Well, I noted last week that one of our anglers was a catch away from hitting the 20-pound mark. Way to go, Jim Junk, that didn’t take long at all. And there was more than one quality catch for him since last update as reported below. However, the standard update structure lists our catches chronologically so first up you get the other guy who managed to get into double digits.

Weight: 2-10 (16.5”)
Angler: Troy Jackson
Date: April 6
Location: Knox County, IL public strip pit
Lure: 3/8 oz. Strike King Pro Model Jig (green pumpkin) with Bass Pro Shops triple ripple craw trailer (pepper frog/hot orange)
Structure: Weed edge/drop
Angler Comments: With less than ten minutes to go before I needed to start walking back to my truck, I finally got a quality bite on what was a slow morning. Here’s to those catches that save the day.
Top 5 Weight: 10-7 (2-10,2-3,2-0,1-13,1-13)

Weight: 4-1 (20”)
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: April 10
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Rapala Clackin’ Rap (red crawdad)
Angler Comments: Again, he almost jumped on the bank as I was beginning to lift the Clackin’ Rap out of the water. I saw his shadow before my lure, or him taking it.

Weight: 3-11
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: April 12
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Chatterbait (white)
Structure: Flooded path near deeper water

Weight: 3-12
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: April 12
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Chatterbait (white)
Structure: Point
Angler Comments: Hit the white chatterbait as I worked a point with a strong wind at my back.

Weight: 4-0 (20”)
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: April 13
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Rapala Clackin’ Rap (firetiger)
Structure: Submerged weeds

Weight: 4-1 (20”)
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: April 13
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Rapala Clackin’ Rap (firetiger)
Structure: Submerged weeds
Top 5 Weight: 20-13 (4-8,4-2,4-1,4-1,4-1) culls 4-0 and 3-12

A great start in spite of some temperamental early spring weather that currently has dumped a late batch of snow in the region along with sub-freezing temperatures greeting some this morning. It does look like better temps as the week proceeds but I’ll believe that when we see it.

I’m hoping to find some time to put together a piece on the lures that are getting it done for the 2019 Top 5, so stay tuned. If you get out there, send your fish (and a lure pic if you are willing) my way and we’ll take this two-man show up a notch. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashbacks – 4/14/99 & 4/12/14

Original log entry detailing a great start on 4/14/99 at Lake Bracken, just south of Galesburg, IL

Today’s post is proof that April can be a darn good time to fool some quality bass as they welcome increasing warmth and daylight while gearing up to make more bass. As proof I’m going to double up this Friday with a pair of four-pound duo days in Knox County, IL.

4/14/99 Lake Bracken gives up a 4-10 and a 4-0 (shots courtesy of my old disk camera as seen in lower pic)

The first fish story comes from Lake Bracken back in the time period when it was literally my backyard. And I caught this pair of bass within view of my house on Island Lane. Now that’s pretty cool, kind of miss those days when I could walk down the hill to the dock, toss in the two-man boat and start casting. On this day, that casting was rewarded with some rather instant feedback as I had two four-pounders in the log in under a half hour of launching the boat. Four pounders don’t happen every day for me, let alone two in one day.

Well, except for the second half of today’s flashback.

Today’s other fish story took place on some walk-in strip pits during the second year I had fished the area. Just so happened that the first of my pair of four-pounders on April 12, 2014 came from a spot that I named 2×4 Lake the previous year. Yep, in September 2013 it had given up two four-pounders in a span of ten minutes (another tale for another day). Several hours after the four-pounder on 2×4 I nabbed another on a spot I call Twin Lake.

4/12/14 – Knox County public strip pits produce a 4-0 and a 4-6

April 2019 hasn’t been quite as friendly in terms of quality bass although I have managed to find some decent numbers. Still over two weeks of the month remaining although this weekend does not look particularly favorable. Perhaps Easter weekend will hold another fish story to add to those that were featured in last week’s Friday Flashback.

And while we are on the subject of four-pounders don’t forget to tune in to Monday’s Top 5 Update. Just sayin’…Talk to you later. Troy

 

Top 5 Stats

A little lean on the contributions to this point for 2019 with only two anglers submitting catches. One angler’s numbers are just a bit more impressive than the other fellow. Read on for all the 2019 stats through this past Monday’s update.

2019 Totals (* = new record)
January = 1 bass
February = no submissions
March = 8 bass
April = 7 bass

Top 5 Weight by Month (* = new record)
January = 3-3 (one bass)
February = no submissions
March = 19-3 (4-8,4-2,4-1,3-5,3-3)
April = 13-1 (3-11,3-6,2-3,2-0,1-13)

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = 1 bass
Bank = 15 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight (* = new record)
Boat = 0-13 (one bass)
Bank = 19-12 (4-8,4-2,4-1,3-11,3-6)

Public vs. Private
Public = 15 bass
Private = 1 bass

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 19-12 (4-8,4-2,4-1,3-11,3-6)
Private = 0-13 (one bass)

The Baits (* = new record)
Chatterbait = 8 bass (Top Bass 4-2 Jim Junk)
Lipless Crankbaits = 3 bass (Top Bass 4-8 Jim Junk)
Jigs = 2 bass (Top Bass 2-0 Troy Jackson)
Spinnerbaits = 2 bass (Top Bass 0-14 Jim Junk)
Livebait = 1 bass (Top Bass 4-1 Jim Junk)

Monthly Top Bass (* = new record)
January
3-3 Jim Junk
February
No submissions
March
4-8 Jim Junk
April
3-11 Jim Junk

Top 10 Bass (* = new Top 10 all-time)
4-8 Jim Junk 3/28
4-2 Jim Junk 3/30
4-1 Jim Junk 3/31
3-11 Jim Junk 4/5
3-6 Jim Junk 4/3
3-5 Jim Junk 3/28
3-3 Jim Junk 1/1
3-3 Jim Junk 3/28
2-10 Jim Junk 3/29
2-3 Troy Jackson 4/1

Angler Weights
Jim Junk 19-12 (4-8,4-2,4-1,3-11,3-6)
Troy Jackson 9-9 (2-3,2-0,1-13,1-13,1-12)

Other Species
No submissions

Sooner or later this weather will straighten out and get those fish on a more consistent bite. If you get out there and reel ‘em in, drop me a line at troy@troyjacksonoutdoors.com with the details and a pic. Talk to you later. Troy