Category: Family Outdoors

2017 Wrap Up – Partners

Today we look back at who I spent time with in the boat or on the bank during 2017. And these days it’s not too surprising that I happened to be related to every one of them.

Now, when I initially thought back on 2017, I found myself thinking that I had been rather selfish in my fishing with nearly all of my fishing time spent flying solo chasing those darn bass. There’d been plenty of requests to tag along from the kids which didn’t materialize for various reasons, such as a reluctance to get out of bed at 4:30am. It is also a tough sell on a long day as I selfishly like to put in more than a few hours, particularly when hitting my old stomping grounds as they require about a two hour round trip.

Okay, enough of the excuses, gonna look to boost time on the water with some fishing partners as part of the Resolutions posted for 2018.

And, actually, when looking back there was a lot more of that quality family time than I initially thought, just look below.

May 27 and May 29
Got the kids out on these two occasions on a pothole of a pond near Coal Valley, IL. Aquatic weeds and limited bank and casting access provided some challenges but we reeled in a decent amount of fish.

June 2 and 3
A family camping trip to Little John produced the regular multi-species quest and our brood have taken to the hobby like a fish to water. A good bunch and fun to watch them practice and hone their skills. Next up, consistently baiting your own hook and talking off your own fish.

June 25
Went exploring with Carly and Jayce for a change of pace after our Coal Valley spot let us down. They were all about a change of scenery and we found some cool access and a handful of fish on the Hennepin Canal in Colona, IL.

July 8 (3.5 hours, 17 total bass, 5-0 and 3-5 Top Bass, 12-4 Top 5 Weight)
The lone trip with Dad for 2017 produced a decent quantity of bass and though it took a while we also posted two real solid catches. This outing was featured in a return to a retro fishing report entitled Lake Lowdown. Look for a revisit to this format at some point in 2018.

July 8
After the “serious” bass outing for me and Dad, we were joined by my boys, Jayce and Zac, for some panfishing amidst some goofing off. A great time with lots of good photos and some video footage that I hope those two youngsters will appreciate more and more as they get not so young.

July 15 (5.50 hours, 15 total bass, 7-3 Top 5 Weight, 1-6 Top Bass)
On the heels of the successful outing for me and Dad, I did the brother fishing trip with Brent to see if we could pull off another one. We struggled a bit as can happen during the “Dog Days” of summer, fishing longer but still coming up a bit short on quantity and a bit more short on quality.

September 17 (6.75 hours, 27 total bass, 8-3 Top 5 Weight, 2-9 Top Bass)
A very comfortable and successful fall drawdown day on the “home lake”, Lake Storey, with my brother, Brent. Even wound up with a toothy fish as can happen, just another reason that this is probably my favorite fishing hole. We even made a pact to split time in both ends of the boat so nobody could claim they got “front ended.” 27 total bass was a very good day and you’ll have to ask Brent who wound up on top despite equal time in the generally advantageous front of the boat position.

That does it for another look back at 2017 as I await my next shot in 2018. Plenty of fun with some fishing buddies but must say that a couple are missing on the list. Definitely need to get my wife, Julie, out there as well as our oldest daughter, Helena, who is content to observe her younger siblings getting it done. However, I got some inspiration from an NCAA football stunt last season to provide a little competitive incentive in 2018. Stay tuned for the reveal in a future posting once spring kicks into gear.

But wait, I am not yet finished with 2017, as once I get on a roll talking fishing…One final project headed your way. Talk to you later. Troy

Boys’ Afternoon Out

My boy, Jayce, has been itching to go fishing since last year but our latest plans have been foiled by the topsy turvy nature of Mother Nature. First up was a cancelled icefishing outing two weekends ago as the ice deteriorated to unsafe conditions. Then last weekend ended just a day before some balmy February temps rolled in.

Well, with one sister spending an overnight at Gramaw and Papa’s and the other sister on a shopping trip with Mom and a friend, it was on for some father-sons time. Today was forecast for 50 degrees and hit the mark late afternoon so me, Jayce and Zac decided to use our guy time to hit a local pond. Here’s some pics and notes on how it all went down.

Probably should know better, but these guys are pretty convincing

Preparations and Provisions – Before we hit the water we had to grab some waxworms and replenish the split shot that I could not find in our tackle. Oh yeah, that also turned into a couple grape sodas, a batch of Sour Patch Kids and a bag of Hershey’s Cookies and Cream Drops (some of both of these items later became fish food when tossed into the fishing hole). In addition, we spotted some discounted fishing shades on the rack so both of these guys now look like cooler fishermen.

“Wind from the east, fish bite the least” proved true on this day

Fishing Lessons – I got to impart some fishing knowledge as a dad is prone to do, actually expected to do.  We learned that the old adage “wind from the east, fish bite the least” was right on target for this outing.  I also pointed out what has long been a sound that is synonymous with fishing as we identified the call of the red-winged blackbird (boys also left them some Sour Patch morsels).  Not anything uncommon or generally worth even a passing glance to most but a very significant bird to me, my brother and Dad as an integral part of the soundtrack of strip mine and farm pond fishing.

Rockin’, rollin’ and fishin’

Trip Tunes – Of course, we had to jam to the radio on the ride and I had the boys singing the old Foghat tune “Slow Ride” to kick off the trip. Unfortunately, they later made me stop at that Chumbawamba piece entitled “Tubthumping” as we scanned the presets. I pondered if a drinking song was appropriate but then figured that they had no clue, anyway. And, after all, my Foghat cut ain’t exactly about a Sunday drive. Later, “Mr. Brownstone” (the clean version) by Guns N Roses and AC/DCs “Thunderstruck” graced the airwaves with a couple oblivious, smaller versions of me just rocking out, clueless of the lyrical content.

My fishing buddies


Jayce on our prospects in the cold murky water: “We’ll probably just catch moss and crap.”

Zac when messing with how much force he could exert on the digital scale: “Whoa, I pulled it to 9 pounds 19 ounces!”

With shade, wind and sunset moving in, I told the boys that my fingers were getting cold so time to pack it up. Jayce replied, “Yeah, I can’t feel mine either.” I was proud of the guys as they were too busy having fun to worry about numbness.

That first quote from Jayce pretty much summed it up and I can’t say that I was the least bit surprised. After all, it’s early March and the water had a murky off colored look, can’t imagine the fish were real fired up at this point. So, it was off on a run to the border for some takeout grub since we had no fish to fill our bellies.

Refueling after some fresh air with eight cheesy rollups, nacho fries and some kind of bowl

As you can see, even without a bite, these young boys and their not so young fishing guide always know how to have a good time. Talk to you later. Troy

Black Friday Outdoors – Quincy, IL

So, Black Friday found our family in Quincy, IL visiting with Julie’s mom. Never one for shopping on a regular day, let alone the biggest shopping day of the year, I was game for Julie’s suggestion that we get some fresh air along the mighty Mississippi River. Besides with lunchtime temperatures in the mid-70s, who in their right mind would want to be cooped up in a mall? An outstanding bit of nature, The River did not disappoint during the few hours we spent roaming and exploring.

First stop was a stretch of river walk just north of the Route 24 bridge between a couple dining establishments called The Pier and The Dock. This area featured several docks and a boat ramp. Along the way we skipped rocks, threw logs and found a pumpkin floating in the river. After fishing the pumpkin out of the water we had a great fun rolling it down the boat ramp back to its watery home.

Next up was Quinsippi Island which was accessible via a one lane bridge and featured a log cabin village, playground area and “secret trail” through the timber to the river’s edge. My boys called the river bank under the towering railroad bridge, “The Beach” and we enjoyed writing in the sand and discovering interesting animal tracks (some real and others imagined).

The road to Quinsippi Island

Toss in imagination…and some hot lava, or snake pit, or alligators…

And how about these raptor and T-Rex prints Zac “found”

Cool view of the “Mighty Mississippi”

Fun to watch the river do it’s thing

Zac points the way to some deer prints on “the beach”

The final bit of sightseeing was the Villa Katherine, a “Castle on the Mississippi” built in 1900. We were just in time to work in a tour of the site which proved to be quite interesting.  Further information on this landmark on the National Register of Historic Places can be found here.

Villa Katherine overlooks the Mississippi and is the current home of Quincy’s Tourist Information Center 

A look at the interior reflecting pool from the second floor balcony

Mississsippi River view from second floor of Villa Katherine

Quincy River Ramble Rating: 5.0 Marshmallows (scale 1-5 Marshmallows with 5 being tops, rating is average of six family member votes)

Location: Along the Mississippi River in Quincy. IL
Attractions: Bonansinga Drive River Walk, Quinsippi Island, Villa Katherine and “the beach” which was actually just a stretch of sandy bank exposed by low pool conditions.
Hiking/Trails: paved riverside trail off Bonansinga Drive, auto/pedestrian bridge to Quinsippi Island and unmarked river access on Quinsippi Island

Family Poll: What did you like most about Quincy’s Mississippi River stops?
Helena: “Walking on the dock, the pumpkin roll and Grammy showing me how to skip rocks.”
Carly: “The random pumpkin floating in the river and the log cabins.”
Zac: “The beach where we wrote our names and saw raptor and T-Rex prints.”
Mom: “The Quinsippi Island cabins, wish they were open for a better look.”
Dad: “The various river views and watching the kids simply enjoy some fresh air via a combination of random objects and imagination.”
Jayce: “I liked the beach and hated the part when we had to leave.”

Definitely a worthwhile bit of outdoor activity on an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving Friday. Much different than what thousands of others were up to as evidenced by encountering maybe ten people along the way. It was rewarding to hear my boy, Jayce, ask if we could come back after being told it was time to hike back to the vehicle from “the beach.” I told him that we have one of these, meaning a river, back home. Same mighty one, in fact. Talk to you later. Troy

Happy Birthday, Zac

Today our youngest hits 6 years old so a big “Happy Birthday” to Zac.  All boy, with a penchant for dirt, sand, water, fish slime, mud, ashes, basically anything that will eventually necessitate a bath or change of clothes.  Although, rather frequently he still doesn’t wear clothes…

Anyhow, the boy digs the outdoors and typically provides plenty of entertainment for the rest of us with more than a few head shaking moments mixed in.  Particularly “entertaining” was last weekend’s camping trip bathroom break as I told him to just go behind the tent.  I later discovered that he apparently found it “entertaining” to actually water the tent instead of the trees.  The shirt in one of the pics above mentions good, old “Mr. Potato Head.”  More apt would be an arrow pointing up to little “Mr. Knucklehead.”

I’ll finish with a snippet from the original posting entitled “An 8-12 Keeper” that I submitted as a blogger on the Prairie State Outdoors website announcing our new arrival.

“Zac has already got his first fishing pole courtesy of Papa.  In fact, he got a fishing pole before he ever got a name as we drug our feet on the latter task for about sixteen hours.  Going in, we didn’t know boy or girl and I never liked naming a kid until you’ve actually seen ‘em.  It just took a while to figure out what name he looked like.”


Love you, Z, and talk to you later.  Dad

Happy Birthday, Carly

July is crazy in a good way as today we celebrate the second of four family birthdays, featuring our younger daughter, Carly. The following is an excerpt from an original posting back in the early writing days before officially becoming a blogger.

“Our top story is the latest addition to our family. Weighing in at 6-13 and measuring 19” in length, Carly June Jackson arrived at 6:28 pm on July 9th. Mom and baby are doing just fine. Big sister is also adjusting fine so far. Papa Jackson has again seen to it that she left the hospital with a fishing pole. This one is a Disney Princess model to go with Helena’s Mickey Mouse combo.”

Early bluegill on sister’s pole                                 Camping and air mattress destruction

Cheesing over bluegill                                                          Typical windy day at Emiquon, typical Carly 

Carly called this shot on a Senko                                                           Carly the cook enjoying camping cuisine

So, these days Carly has left the kiddie combos behind for a standard fishing rod received as an early birthday present as reported here a couple weeks ago. She has always been quite proficient wielding a fishing pole and possesses the best drive and dedication among our bunch when it comes to chasing some fish.

May 2016, me and my girl taking in our favorite girl band

She also lets me listen to “my” music on the way to the fishing hole as it has now become “our” music with a girl who can ID acts by ear such as Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Heart, Journey, Ozzy, ELO, Pat Benatar, David Bowie…you know, good music. She can also tell you which Beatle is on vocals most of the time without three or four guesses. And how many other eleven year olds know who is generally regarded as “The Fifth Beatle?”

Love you, Miss Carly, and talk to you later. Dad

Happy Birthday, Helena

So, we’ve got us a teenager under our roof as our oldest, Helena, officially meets the criteria today.

Helena meets bass (kept it small, less intimidating)                                     Helena meets fungus


Easter Sunday Fulton Co. fishing                    Color coordinated panfishing and love the barefeet in all the goose crap


The destruction of camping air mattresses begins

As kid number one in the chronological order there were many firsts as Julie and I took on the role of parents, still remember it being a little intimidating leaving the hospital and shortly thereafter walking into the house with a kid.  No real clue on actually being a Dad although I had a good role model.  Pretty much just hit the ground running, realized that the world didn’t revolve around me anymore and thanked my lucky stars that I married a wonderful lady who I have since addressed as “Mama.”

Found this write-up from the early outdoor writing days to share 13 year later:

“Julie and I welcomed Helena (second “e” pronounced as a long “a”) Grace Jackson to the world at 6:22 pm on July 1st.  She weighed in at 7-4 and was 20 inches long.  Here’s some statistics from the family record book for comparison:

Largemouth Bass Record        8-4   (only bass larger than our kid)
Channel Catfish Record          13-8  (three catfish larger than including 7-14 and 7-12)
Carp Record                          19-4  (Helena would be 24th on the list)
Muskellunge Record               7-14  (two muskies tied at this weight are larger)
In addition, all of these top fish would be longer than our little girl.”

Note: that muskie record stated above is bigger now…and so is that little girl.

Love you kiddo.  Talk to you later.  Dad

Happy Father’s Day

What can you say about the guy who taught you how to cast, tie an improved clinch knot, work a Rapala, row a boat, set a 220 conibear, clean fish, skin coons (don’t know the last time I actually used that skill), make bankpoles, locate a treed coon dog (never any good at that one) and a multitude of other handy skills?  And then there were groundballs, free throws, bunts, slam dunks (Nerf hoop), Cubs fandom…Oh yeah, also the importance of a good work ethic, providing for your family and spending time with your kids.

Well, not enough time to tell it all here so instead you get a collection of headlines describing a handful of outdoor related adventures with my ultimate mentor.  All classics in one way or another, and some a bit dumber than others.  Perhaps, one of these days I’ll get around to “the rest of the story.”  In the meantime, don’t try some of these at home or anywhere else for that matter.

Lake Storey Produces Odd One-Eyed Bass

Man Witnesses Muskie Caught On First Cast

Live Opossum Release Caught on Video

Anglers Narrowly Escape Monsoon On Beefy’s Creek

Trio Wrangle Record Catfish into Five-Gallon Bucket

Father Revives Unconscious Son Following Alleged Bigfoot Encounter

A Tale of Two Easter Bass

Coon Bounces Off Man’s Head And Terrorizes Youngsters

Duo Post Lake Storey Walleye Record

Men and Children Survive Hunting and Trapping Trip in Abandoned Shed

Father’s Prank Results in Son’s Near Heart Attack

Local Creek Produces Bankpoling Species Record

Mysterious Creature Caught By West Central Illinois Trappers

Trappers Report Rare White Hawk

Father-Son Outing Produces Possible Emiquon Bass Record

Trapper Overcome With Laughter As Cohorts Topple Into Icy Creek

The list (and potential foolishness) could go on and on.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Talk to you later.  A fellow Dad and one of four reasons you are a Dad.

According to Alice Cooper…

I considered some theme music for this posting but wasn’t sure how to do it or if there were any sort of copyright hang-ups.  So instead it’s up to your imagination for the background music featuring Alice Cooper’s classic #7 hit “School’s Out” which debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart forty five years ago this week.  With a catalog that contains today’s anthemic theme song, the anti-drug composition “Hey Stoopid”, uncharacteristic ballads such as “You and Me” and “How You Gonna See Me Now” and rock standards like “Be My Lover” and my personal favorite, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” you just can’t go wrong with a dose of Detroit rocker Vincent Furnier (no he was not born Alice Cooper).  Diverse, not overly serious and a stage persona second to none make Cooper a legend.

Anyway, school ended Tuesday afternoon for the kids (Julie got a couple day head start), so in my book it is now officially summer regardless of the date.  I asked around to see what was on the agenda and the list included swimming, hiking, camping (Lake Storey and Little John Conservation Club), fishing (Carly wants to add a catfish to her species list) and some sand volleyball.

Personally, I’m looking forward to no more 6:15am wakeup calls for four kids in order to depart at 7:20am for the girls and 7:40am for the boys.  Most days I’ll only have to make my own breakfast and Julie won’t have to have two or three sack lunches packed.  However, there’s still plenty of duties and chaos that comes with four youngsters but hopefully a little less rushed than the last nine months of weekday mornings.

So, “Out for summer, out ‘til fall” and here’s looking forward to plenty of outdoor adventures before that old back to school routine sneaks up on us again.  To get June headed in the right direction I’ve got more than a few catch up postings headed your way including some fishing reports and a park review over the next several days.  Beyond those, who knows…Hope you’ll take a peek and talk to you later.  Troy

Happy Birthday, Jayce

Our oldest boy, Jayce, turns 8 today so Happy Birthday wishes to an entertaining and thoughtful outdoor buddy.  To celebrate the day in an outdoor way, here’s a collection of images and a favorite story about one of my main men.

Bassmaster Tourney at 15 days old                                     Drooling over bluegill

  Papa’s little trapper                                                     Releasing Uncle Donnie’s catch 

Two bluegill make for one big grin

Some great pics, great memories and looking forward to more.  However, gonna be tough to top the following fish story that we shared last spring.  But that certainly doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying.

Last June during a family camping trip Jayce and I were chasing panfish on a Little John Conservation Club lake with decent success by casting to the boils of a bluegill school we periodically observed rippling the surface.  I’d row over within casting distance and “Bang!” we were reeling ‘em in until the school dipped below the surface only to reappear elsewhere on the lake and the chase was on to row over and repeat the process.

We were having a ball as Jayce was plucking them from “the herd” as he described it when surprisingly a fish of a different color went airborne shortly after the bobber went under and another catch, this time a bass, had pretty much hooked itself.

Now all fish are cool when you fool ‘em and I try to heap on the praise with each one the kids reel in to congratulate them on a job well done and to help feed the sense of accomplishment.  But when it’s your boy’s first bass, well that’s cause for a little extra celebration in my book, especially for a sensitive young fellow who needs a bit more of a confidence boost than his siblings.  We had a time and, of course, took a couple pics to show Mama upon our return and eventually Papa the next time we saw him.

Back at the campsite I encouraged Jayce to tell his Mama about our day, letting him do the honors on his “special” catch.  As he related the tale, he said that he was so happy when he landed the bass that he “almost cried.”

Me too as I type up this post nearly a year later.

Happy Birthday, love you buddy and look forward to some more time in the boat (especially once you get the hang of rowing).  Talk to you later.  Dad



Unsung Outdoor Hero

Mom (in blue, right of center) with a bunch of her crew

While there’s no pictures of this outdoor MVP holding a big bass or posing at the tailgate with a load of fur, there’s no doubt that Mom was highly involved and played the crucial roles behind the scenes.

Kind of like, well, being a mother.

Travel Planner – Traditional Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend camping trips for a family of six required an incredible amount of attention in terms of food, clothing and gear especially when some of the crew weren’t very big.

Cook – Equally adept with campfire, Coleman stove or kitchen, Mom always provided plenty of grub whether traditional fare or a wide variety of wild game.  Normally you’ve gotta be leery of a cook who won’t eat their own meal and while Mom elected to forego the wild game portion of the menu after prep, I guess it was just the unselfish motherly quality of making sure there was enough to go around.

Cleaner – Creek mud, grass stains, fish slime and various other interesting outdoor grime tracked into the house on kid or clothing was yet another unenviable task (by the way, Dad should probably just count as a fifth kid in some of these items).

Physician – Bites, scrapes, cuts, bruises and so on were ailments that fell under her care and were dealt with in the effective manner a good mother possesses.  Poison ivy was another nemesis for some of us kids that generally succumbed to Calamine but ran rampant a few times.  In those cases, mom was chauffeur to the clinic.

Zookeeper – Corralling four youngsters can be rather taxing no matter indoors or outdoors but our backyard also provided lodging for coon dogs and even some coons way back when.

Photographer – Thinking about it now, there’s an understandable reason why mom isn’t in that bunch of outdoor photos that used our backyard or driveway as a backdrop.  You see, once upon a time there were no timers, let alone selfies, on what were actually, and strictly, cameras so somebody had to sit it out and push the button for the subjects to bask in the glory.

Plenty more stuff, of course, but I’ll leave it with one final bit that will always convey that Mom knew how important time spent outdoors was for this kid.  One evening back in the early 80’s while I was in high school, the catfish were really biting at Lake Bracken on a school night.  Well, you can’t just walk away from a situation like that so I end up pulling in the driveway with my three years younger brother, Brent, in tow, a bit after 11:00pm.  At this point we’re finally both a little worried about how this is going to go down with Mom and Dad.  Mom is awake, of course, and pulls me aside saying, “In the future, try not to keep your brother out so late.”

Thanks, Mom and Happy Mother’s Day.

You know, the mother of my kids has remarkably similar motherly qualities…weird.  Happy Mother’s Day, Julie, and thanks for all you do in getting us outside.

Talk to you later.  Troy