Month: August 2020

Friday Flashback – August 20-25, 1985

Inside of an old green spiral notebook are a series of fish stories dating back 35 years. Those stories begin on January 19, 1985 and run through August 25, 1985 in a collection of 64 fishing log entries. The timeframe covers the latter half of my senior year in high school and the following summer.

Today’s flashback features the final three entries in the logbook and reinforces why I am glad that I took up the practice of documenting fishing. Things like the fishing partners, the fishing holes and the fishing habits are a treat to look back on and reminisce.

In terms of fishing partners in these last three log entries, the two fellow anglers were a couple of my best high school buddies. The August 20 entry notes John Junk, a friend since our sophomore year in high school and sports opponents going back several years prior. The fishing partner on August 21 was Jeff VonDrake, a friend going back to middle school. Many memorable fishing trips with those guys back in the day and just a few hijinks, on and off the water. Probably for the best that some of those were not documented for posterity, however.

Fishing holes in these entries consisted of the dynamic duo of Lake Bracken and its entertaining spillway. 35 years later I no longer have access to those spots but I do have plenty of memories to last a lifetime. It is also interesting to note the mention of “The Clubhouse” as the lakeside venue no longer exists having burnt down in January of 1987.

Fishing results were not stellar during that August week 35 years ago but no matter. It’s just fun to read of doughballs, chicken liver, poppers, Mann’s Jellyworms and Mister Twister jigs. A much simpler and less expensive time in bait and tackle.

What is also fun is reading the beginning of the summary for the August 25 entry, the final fishing trip documented for 1985.

It reads,

“I went out by myself for about 2.5 hours in a steady downpour…”

And thus, my fishing for 1985 likely ended. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to head for college shortly after that final trip. I suspect that new chapter in life put fishing (or at least logging any trips) on the back burner for the remainder of 1985.

Here in 2020, reading that last entry, I envision an eighteen year old kid rowing across Lake Bracken on that rainy summer day pondering a wide open future. High school behind, college, employment, adulthood and more ahead. A romantic vision, perhaps. More likely I was pondering whether I should throw a worm or a crankbait.

Makes for a good story, though. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

The Monday Top 5 Update is back thanks to the return of one of our young anglers.

Weight: 2-4
Angler: Landon Hannam
Date: August 21
Location: Private pond
Lure: Jig with a craw trailer
Angler Comments: I had only been fishing for about fifteen minutes and I had made a bad cast and backlash so I was just reeling it in and then the fish hit right up at the bank.
Top 5 Weight: 2-4

Way to go, Landon, and welcome back for 2020. Always enjoyed your reports last year and hope you get a chance to add a few more this year.

Looks like a heatwave on the horizon but the shot at a fall feeding frenzy will be here before we know it. Warm or cool, keep sending me those fish when you get out there and get some bites. Talk to you later. Troy

Lake Storey Report – August 22

As best I can recall, I first fished Lake Storey in the early 1970s with Dad and it’s always a treat to get back on that old hometown fishing hole. This trip actually involved several “missions” and limited fishing but always a good time back in The Burg.

4:55pm – first bass, mission accomplished and the rest didn’t get much bigger.


Date: August 22, 2020
Location: Lake Storey – Knox County, IL
Time: 4:40pm-6:40pm
Weather: Partly cloudy to sunny/breezy to calm
Air Temp: 85-81F
Water Temp: Forgot to check
Totals: 3 bass
Lures: Blue Glimmer Spinnerbait – 2 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: not applicable
Top 5 Weight: Nothing at 12” or better

Notes and Nonsense

Mission One – Dad’s boat had not been out of the garage since my trip to Lake Storey last October. As a result, it had attracted a fair amount of clutter from Christmas décor to toys to Mom’s original childhood highchair. Under Dad’s direction, we were able to get the stuff relocated. Mission accomplished.

Mission Two – The boat batteries needed charged and the tires required a dose of air in order for the boat to be road and water ready. We hooked up the chargers as we cleared the clutter and Casey’s came through with a working air pump. Mission accomplished, barely (see Mission Three below).

5:05pm – another smallish bass that lives tight to the wood in the background

Mission Three – I figured that while I was in town and the boat was ready that it was worth an evening peek at Lake Storey. My first casts came at 4:40pm with the intent to fish until sunset. However, the partial charge on the batteries as we cleaned the boat nearly left me out of juice after two hours. Thus, I called it quits on fishing at 6:40pm and spent the next forty minutes or so limping back to the ramp from halfway down the lake. Maybe not my brightest idea to roam so far but I did land the third of my three bass down there by Cannon Hill. Mission accomplished, just enough juice to run the boat up on the trailer.

Weeds weren’t bad, fooled a few bass and plenty of reminiscing in the relative solitude

Mission Four – This whole pandemic thing has obviously had a profound effect on things that we may have previously taken for granted. One of those things has been the regular visits with my folks. So it was great to hang out on the patio and shoot the breeze for a few hours before and after my brief Lake Storey visit. Mission accomplished with plans to get the whole crew included on a visit soon.

I bill this thing as an “outdoor” website but a fish story always involves more than just the fish or the time on the water. And a trip back home for a visit with an old favorite fishing hole, its wily inhabitants and my folks never disappoints. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – August 25, 2005

It looks like 2005 was the “Summer of the Creek” as me and Dad made a trio of trips to what we called “Pat’s Creek” in July and August. Nothing like a wade on a warm summer day and in this case, rain or shine. No better place to fish in the rain either. If you are doing it right you are going to wind up soaked anyway, so what’s an added downpour.

Original log entry from the outing

Below is the brief, original entry from the trip posted back in September 2005.

August 25 – Dad and I hit Pat’s Creek and emerge soaked to the bone following a steady downpour and a walk through a saturated cornfield. However, the fish were cooperative, leaving our spirits much less dampened than our bodies. Final results were fifteen fish made up of six species and three new carp for the record book. Tops was my 7-3 which set a new record for Pat’s Creek by one ounce as it unseated Dad’s catch from May of this year. The fish also sits as Top Carp for 2005. I also managed a 5-9 while Dad landed a 4-5.


Not even bad weather can rain on a good time and some good fishing with a good fishing partner. Talk to you later. Troy

Strip Mine Report – August 8

With no fish submitted for a Top 5 Update this week, I will instead use Monday to catch up on an overdue fishing report. For this outing it was back to some old stomping grounds that I had neglected since mid-May to see if the bass had missed me.

Date: August 8, 2020
Location: Knox County, IL strip mines (3 lakes)
Time: 6:15am-11:50am (5.00 hours fishing)
Weather: Partly cloudy/breezy to windy
Air Temp: 66-81F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 25 bass
Lures: Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 14 bass, Booyah Buzzbait (snow white shad) – 4 bass, Strike King Vibra Shaft Spinnerbait (blue glimmer) – 4 bass, Senko wacky rig (white) – 3 bass
Top Bass: 2-3 (Blue Glimmer)
Top 5 Weight: 9-3 (2-3,1-13,1-13,1-12,1-10)


Trip Lyric
“When the lights go on at Wrigley Field, I’ll be coming home to you.”
Don’t Wait on Me – The Statler Brothers (1981)
As this trip occurred on August 8, it was the anniversary of the first Cubs night game at Wrigley Field on August 8, 1988. While that game got washed out in the fourth inning, my fishing trip went off without a hitch.

Lucky Cubs shirt comes through in the late innings

Notes and Nonsense

No Panic When Tannic – Typically during this time of the year I can get a productive sunrise topwater bite, especially when I have some cloud cover and light chop on the water. Both of those conditions were in my favor just after dawn to start this trip. However, the first two lakes that I fished were unusually tannic and the bass in those tea colored waters just never turned on to my topwater offerings. But adaptation is the name of the game in dealing with the numerous variables that a day on the water offers. In this case, the commotion of a lipless crankbait was a winner in the dingy conditions.

Did get a few on a buzzbait including the exciting strike below


Winning Wind & Water – While I did manage a respectable haul of twenty one bass from the less than ideal stained waters, I just couldn’t find much in the way of quality bites. Only three of those nearly two dozen fish made the twelve inch mark and Top Bass to that point was a long and gaunt 1-13. I then pinned my hopes on a final stop to take me from late morning to noon on a spot that I hoped had some cleaner water. My hopes were realized in terms of water clarity and I also benefitted from an uptick in the wind which added some surface chop. Those conditions on this particular lake often produce a solid spinnerbait bite regardless of the season. In my final hour and fifteen minutes, the lake came through with four bass ranging from 1-10 to 2-3, all on my old faithful Blue Glimmer spinnerbait.

Blue Glimmer spinnerbait – 30 years old and still getting it done

A struggle at times, but in the end, a good day on the water. Much needed too as it was my first legitimate shot at the bass since the Fourth of July (did have a late July lunch hour pit stop in southern Illinois on the return from a Georgia work trip). In addition, it was a brief but welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of work, the daily upheaval related to this confusing pandemic and the steady, confounding stream of unrest and bickering seemingly everywhere you turn.

By the way, I understand that The Statler Brothers later substituted “When they put a dome on Wrigley Field” to address the fact that the lights had finally came on at The Friendly Confines. Here’s hoping that the following lyric will not need to be altered in future renditions:

“When they unfurl Old Glory and no one stands and cheers.”

Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Name Game

If you have roamed the woods, waded through creeks or wandered around fishing holes, perhaps you have also taken to naming some of the areas along the way. For me, some names represent physical landmarks, some pertain to geographical orientation and others have a bit of a backstory. The collection of waters at Snakeden Hollow fall under each of those criteria and more.

For starters, some already had designated names from the outset back when the site went public in 1990. Spots like Freshwater Lake, Lake Victoria, Northwest Lake, Finger Lake, Beaver Lake and Bearclaw Lake have stood the test of time.

Others such as Piedmont Lake, Upper/Lower Twin Lake and Goldenrod Lake came strictly from my imagination. As did the following list of lakes which include a bit history for today’s post.

Sewaqe Lake

This lake lies below a water treatment area that borders a portion of Snakeden’s northern boundary. This name falls under the landmark category and I still find its appellation appealing although it sounds rather disgusting. Unless, of course, you know the rest of the story.

Lake Dolomieu

This one just has a kind of fancy ring to it. As a guy with a biology degree, this name allowed me to pay tribute to Linnaean taxonomy, binomial nomenclature and the species that calls this lake home. This hard to find lake is chock full of smallmouth bass which bear the genus/species designation of Micropterus dolomieu.

Locust Lake

I first “discovered” this secluded spot in 2009 as Lake McMaster was undergoing a drawdown to allow for construction of overflow structures. At that point, Locust Lake was accessible on foot across a portion of the dry Lake McMaster lakebed but nowadays would require a portage. My choice for a name arose from a portion of the bank that is covered in a grove of locust trees.

Loon Lake

While the name brings to mind a group of aquatic birds with distinctive calls, there’s a bit more to this story. On March 26, 2007, I found myself standing near a nameless lake talking with two other anglers. It is rare to ever see another fisherman in the inner reaches of Snakeden, much less for three of us to actually converge at the same remote location. The other anglers, who were not companions, were quite a pair. One of the individuals was exploring via a decked out bicycle customized for Snakeden. He was also without a shirt on what I found to be a rather brisk spring morning. The other fellow had some bizarre purple topwater lure hanging from his rod that looked to have been made in shop class many years prior. So, “Shirtless Guy” begins to passionately and more than a bit colorfully ramble about the lake’s lunkers stressing that perseverance was the key to fooling those wily bass. “Industrial Art” simply nodded along as the strange purple plug bounced away on the end of his rig.

As we parted ways, it entered my mind that Loon Lake would be a fitting name for the fishing hole. For one thing, it would serve the purpose of an homage to wildlife. In addition, it would honor those anglers who are a bit off center as I also had to chuckle at one of “Shirtless Guy’s” final comments. On this day, I’d brought along a video camera to film some of my exploits. I was toting it in a carrying case over one shoulder along with my tacklebag while also lugging a tripod in hand with my fishing poles. As our conversation wound down and I mused about this pair of oddballs, “Shirtless Guy” asked, “So what’s up with the tripod?” Touché.

Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – August 14 & 19, 1985

I always have fun reminiscing as i put together one one of these weekly flashbacks but I will admit that I have been looking extra forward to this one. Funny how some things seem just like yesterday from 35 years ago while others indeed seem like a long time ago.

As today’s original log entries note, “Bru, Joe and I” went on a pair of August outings. For those who don’t know Bru and Joe, well, I am going to tell you a bit about them. For those who do know Bru and Joe, well, you know that they are indeed a pair of memorable characters.

“Bru” and “Blue” having a discussion

Bru is Gary Bruington, longtime Galesburg Silver Streaks baseball coach and stellar GHS athlete in his day (Dad told me all about Bru’s abilities as I was growing up). Bru’s 1988 Silver Streaks claimed the state baseball title in dominating fashion (I was fortunate to be in the stands in Springfield that day) but our story occurs a few years prior.

Not only was Bru a great coach and teacher but he also served as a mentor to a teenage kid who had been bitten by the bass bug. Bru gave me my first spinnerbait and I remember marveling at the size compared to my old standard Beetle Spin offerings. He also showed me how to rig a Texas rigged worm. And Bru would take it a step further in inviting me out on Knox County’s Oak Run to show me just how to fish such a presentation (outfishing me about 10-0 on the two trips included in this post). Now, that is a not only a good coach but flat out a good man.

Our Oak Run outings also included some water skiing which was extra entertaining with Joe in tow. Joe Dennis is the toughest dude that i have ever met and has the Golden Gloves boxing cred to back up my assessment. Joe was also one to talk some good-natured trash among friends (and a little less friendly to some opponents and the occasional sports official). In the good-natured trash talking regard that made Joe and Bru two peas in a pod. This made the water skiing quite a spectacle as Joe constantly ran his mouth while Bru navigated in a manner seemingly aimed at dumping or perhaps killing Joe. I kept my mouth shut, enjoyed the show and crossed my fingers that Bru wouldn’t treat me in the same fashion.

Joe, me and some teammates in our younger days

I have more stories about Joe Dennis than likely anybody I have ever met. Rivals growing up, temamates later, good friends and even fishing buddies, quite ride. Joe wound up in Alabama for college and still resides down that way. It’s been quite a few years since we crossed paths, sadly at a GHS andLegion temmate’s funeral and happily at Joe’s induction to the GHS Athletic Hall of Fame. No matter the years, we don’t miss a beat and the tales start flowing.

Like the time Joe got ejected during our inner city Churchill-Lombard Junior High basketball rivalry.

Or the time Joe got the boot against Moline High School. I was right behind him and an opponent who began mouthing off as we lined up for an inbounds play. I believe I even told the fellow that he’d better watch his step but did he listen? The kid had been asking for it, was kind of annoying over the years.

Or in junior high when Joe and his fellow linebacker, Bobby Jackson, convinced me that my quarterbacking days were over. Just not worth the beating they threatened and effectively dished out.

Then there was the bench clearing altercation with the Farmington Legion baseball squad.

And the Peoria Spaulding High School baseball fiasco (neither of the above were instigated by Joe but always a good teammate for me to locate when push came to shove).

Oh yeah, there was the time Joe and I got technical fouls down at the Morton High School gym when getting a “homer” job by the officiating crew. It was my lone career technical while Joe would eventually end up getting tossed after one of the officials disregarded Joe’s request to mop up a slick area on the floor. The ref said something along the lines of “Clean it up yourself.” Joe responded in kind by telling the ref to do something himself and it kind of went downhill from there.

Yes, we also caught a few fish over those high school years with Joe always having “The Glove” in tow. A leather work glove as the fellow who could whoop pretty much anybody didn’t like to handle our fish.

Geez, I guess don’ t get me started. Quite a pair of guys sharing today’s flashback and memories to last a lifetime. Talk to you later. Troy


Top 5 Update

A couple more bass join the collection. One represents a location previously unseen on the Top 5 while the other is from a consistent collection of waters that just keeps rolling with some quality bass.

Weight: 1-3 (13”)
Angler: John Kirkemo
Date: August 6
Weather: Mostly sunny with intermittent clouds
Water Temp: 77-80F
Location: Dawson Lake (Moraine View State Recreation Area)
Lure: Wacky worm
Top 5 Weight: 7-11 (1-15,1-13,1-6,1-6,1-3)

Weight: 5-5
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: August 7
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Texas rigged Senko
Angler Comments: Had a couple hours this morning so hit Banner. One bite and one bass.
Top 5 Weight: 25-4 (5-15,5-5,4-14,4-12,4-6) culls a 4-4

Way to go guys, getting it done during the dog days of summer. Keep up the casting and keep the catches coming our way. Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Lake McMaster

August 8, 2020 look across Lake McMaster 

On the heels of last week’s look at “The Big Lake”, it’s time to take a closer look at the fishing hole that has since been dedicated as Lake McMaster (click here for that story).

Data (per IDNR website)
Location: Knox County, IL
Directions: South off of Route 167 just east of Victoria, IL (marked with sign)
Size: roughly 165 acres
Maximum Depth: 65 feet
Boat Ramp: Yes
Recreational Use Restrictions: – Waterfowl Refuge or Hunting Area (all use other than waterfowl hunting prohibited from 14 days prior to duck season through the end of the central zone Canada goose season).

August 8, 2020 look down the parking lot to the ramp

In addition, here’s a cool link to some IDNR fishing info specific to Lake McMaster.

And, for fun, how about some additional Lake McMaster muskie info.

The muskie has long been known as “the fish of 10,000 casts”. However, the Illinois DNR stocking program has done much to increase the odds of hooking a muskie before an angler reaches that old mark. Lake McMaster is among the Illinois fishing holes that have resided on the muskie stocking list dating back to an initial IDNR stocking in 1991.

At one point, a 54” muskie from Lake McMaster in 2006 stood as the longest muskie officially recorded in Illinois. My recent search around the internet did not find any catches in the interim that have dethroned that verified catch although I did find another 54” fish reported from Lake County in 2016.

That 54” fish is among at least five 50” muskies to come from Lake McMaster. Per one report, this placed Lake McMaster as third on the list of lakes producing the most muskies reaching the coveted 50” mark.

I’ll wrap up our look at Lake McMaster with some recent pics and a little family history.


Certainly an interesting lake and no doubt that there are plenty of anglers out there more knowledgeable than myself who have gleaned more of its secrets. In fact, I have not been on Lake McMaster since 2013 instead choosing to do my Snakeden fishing on the collection of less crowded interior walk-in fishing holes. Perhaps one of these days I will take the plunge to put it back in the rotation.

Plenty more Snakeden stuff to come in future weeks. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – August 1995

For anyone reading this who was around 25 years ago, think about the degree to which your life has changed since 1995.

In my case, there were a lot less responsibilities on my plate. Life, at that point, basically consisted of going to work and goofing off. The work schedule consisted of four twelve hour days followed by four days off. So, while the work days left limited free time if one chose to sleep (which I did most of the time), the off days were like a mini vacation every week.

Some of that “vacation” time was spent fishing with some other fellas who also had limited responsibilities. Creeks, ponds, lakes and a spillway were our destinations and as evidenced by the slideshow below, a good time was had by all during August of 1995.

Talk to you later. Troy