Friday Flashback – April 29, 2009

4-29-09 these two seem impressed by Dad’s meager morel haul

As a mushroom hunter I’m not what one would term a success. A couple noteworthy finds over the years but generally speaking if I can hit double digits I’m lucky. Today’s flashback got it all done at once as noted below in a morel wrap-up from 10 years ago this week.

Originally posted 4-29-09

While approaching the entrance to Banner Marsh we spied a pair of mushroom hunters. From the looks of their grocery sacks (should use mesh bags by the way) it appeared that they were enjoying some success. A co-worker also reported finding around five pounds in the Wataga area this past weekend.

As for myself, I actually found a couple dozen during a few hours roaming Little John on 4/29. Fifteen good sized ones came from one spot including ten that were growing together in a clump. I’d never seen that many clustered so close together and considered leaving them so someone else might also enjoy the spectacle. Okay, maybe not. I did take a photo to share the find with others and then picked them so I could also share them with my family. Considering my past morel history, I guess it’s already a banner year.

Even I couldn’t miss this clump of ten morels 

Well, that’s probably as close as I’ll get to mushroom hunting this year as just too much other stuff going on. Definitely enjoyable roaming the woods but going to be spending time instead prowling the ball diamond as an assistant coach and if I do find free time I am one to choose fish over fungus. Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon Pitfall #5 – Expense

Fishing is one of those hobbies that can be as expensive and time consuming as you choose to make it. And when you find a crazy fishing hole there’s a little more leeway in making the investment.

Originally posted 8-22-10

This pitfall is twofold; time and money, both of which I typically have little to spare.

The two and a half hour round trip cuts into my time on the water and can make for a long day when I have an opportunity to leave early and stay late. Don’t get me wrong, I can still fish all day; it’s the next day where there are some occasional technical difficulties. I’ve also gotten spoiled by the proximity of my regular spots (roughly 25 minutes to Little John Conservation Club or Snakeden Hollow and less than ten minutes to Lake Storey). Sure, exotic locations have beckoned over the years but as far as day trips this distance is probably pushing my limit. And was it not for the insane bass fishing that took place down there last year I might not have made multiple visits (but that’s a discussion for another Potential Pitfall).

Travel also translates to money in fuel costs so even if I had routine chances to fish Emiquon I’d still spend most of my time closer to home. I usually pack a lunch but the occasional stop at the convenience store can also run up the tab. Of course, having complained about cost, I will admit that Dad typically foots the bill when we fish Emiquon together (once to the tune of nearly $300 for a replacement trolling motor as detailed in my April 22nd entry “Emiquon – Three Dollars A Bass”).

Finances can also be an issue if you prefer soft plastics. I’ve had days where the bass have run me through a fair amount of baby brush hogs, wooly hawgtails, wooly curltails and such. My Senko setup allows me to catch multiple bass on each bait before it eventually gives out but the dollars still add up on a good bite when paying around eight bucks for a ten pack. My advice is to find a knockoff imitation and see if it will work so you can save the pricey stuff for somewhere else. Along those lines I also leave the tungsten weights in my tacklebox and stick with brass or lead. I once calculated that while the tungsten weights were roughly ten times more expensive than conventional weights the naïve Emiquon bass of 2009 were easily ten times dumber than normal bass. Thus I still hauled in numerous fish and did not have to shed a tear when busting off on the occasional snag.

I enjoy fishing creature baits, finesse presentations and definitely a wacky rig but if I had my way I’d just as soon run into a crankbait bite at Emiquon like we did last fall.  As long as you check your line for abrasions, retie when necessary and keep an eye on your hooks you can just keep casting and catching at virtually no extra cost in time or money.  The chipped paint and scarred lips are simply the hard earned battle scars of success; which oddly enough leads right into Potential Pitfall #4. 

Having added another hour and a half to the round trip in moving to the Quad Cities back in 2014, the cost has outweighed the reward over the years. Maybe someday, but for now reminiscing will have to suffice. And speaking of, Friday Flashback coming your way tomorrow. Talk to you later. Troy

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Who doesn’t like a birthday party?

To celebrate two years of I’m unveiling a new blog banner with a “two” theme.

Two people, two fish, sometimes both in the same picture.

The thirty photos cover over 40 years of enjoying the outdoors spanning from 1971 to just a few years ago. Of course, each of the pics have a story, perhaps a blog series idea for 2020…

Of course, what would a milestone date be without a few of my good, old stats?

730 days

466 posts

Over 1,500 pictures

More than 60 firsthand fishing reports

Nearly 250 fish from almost 60 Top 5 Updates

Dozens of video clips

And how about Bigfoot, Rusty Staub, hot sauce, Leo Sayer, Bombo Rivera, Neil Sedaka, Buzz Capra, Super Sonic Burritos, The Meg, Yosh Kawano, Dick Butkus, OSO Lures, Dr. Hook, Shoe Goo and so much more.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, we now enter the “Terrible Twos” for this rambling project.

Who knows what’s in store? Not even me to a certain extent but that’s all part of the fun.

As Joe Walsh aptly sang, “They say I’m crazy but I have a good time.” Hey, that guy has made a few appearances on the blog too!

Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon Pitfall #6 – Wind

A 2012 shot of the family at a windy Emiquon

Emiquon features the tough and potentially dangerous combination of wide open water and a trolling motor only restriction (no gas motors even allowed on boats). This necessitates both some planning and some on the water decision making that can be a real dilemma if the bass are biting.

Originally posted 8-20-10

This one can really ruin your day; been there, done that, twice. My first trip to Emiquon on April 23, 2009 left me disturbed for quite some time as after all of the hype, the new fishing hole threw me a shutout. However, I was more disgusted with Mother Nature than The Emiquon Preserve. Following about an hour of distraction as whitecaps battered our eight foot johnboat and at times threatened to fill it up, Dad and I called it quits and headed home (Dad did catch four bass in the ugly conditions by the way).

A similar situation occurred on Friday the 13th last November as I got blown off the lake with a ten foot borrowed johnboat after landing a solitary 13” bass. On a couple other occasions we were able to withstand winds that were a little less nasty and hung around long enough to load up on the bass that were stacked up by the wave action. It was interesting, however, upon returning home to find that my equilibrium was off and I was still riding the waves as I sat in the recliner and later laid down for bed.

Such is Emiquon, a wide open expanse of water surrounded by virtually no wind breaks. Winds from the south or east get particularly bad as there is ample surface for the waves to pick up steam as they head towards the ramp and the western half of the lake that is open to anglers. A couple of my favorite spots require a roughly (and often rough) ten minute troll. As noted in Pitfall #7 this not only gives your batteries a workout, it also necessitates some planning. The wind can pick up in a hurry down there so you need to decide on how brave you want to be based on your watercraft, either sticking with the bite a long way from the ramp or playing it safe and moving closer to home.

I’ve learned my lesson and now find myself checking the wind forecast while keeping my fingers crossed for days before heading out. If you’re fortunate to find a moderate day, fishing can be a blast on Emiquon (about 12 mph is the limit for our setup). Typically, I get all wound up at home worrying about the wind and wind up changing my mind numerous times about visiting Emiquon. After all, a two and a half hour round trip for forty minutes of fishing gets a bit frustrating. Pitfall #5 also comes into play as part of this dilemma.

Halfway through our list and the Pitfalls keep on rolling into May. Hope you’ll continue to tune in. Talk to you later. Troy

Top 5 Update

Our leader continues to reel in some quality bass but it’s already a tall order for him to bump his weight as it takes a bass over four pounds to provide a boost. This one was darn close and in the interest of sharing pics and fish stories, always worth an update. I also have a note this week on some Banner Marsh video so read on.

Weight: 3-12
Angler: Jim Junk
Date: April 24
Location: Banner Marsh
Lure: Rapala Clackin’ Rap
Angler Comments: Nothing to cull but did manage this 3-12 while talking to a Conservation Officer.
Top 5 Weight: 20-13 (4-8,4-2,4-1,4-1,4-1)

First up, way to go Jim and thanks for keeping us afloat on Top 5 Updates. Last week I found that Jim wasn’t the only one taking a shot at that Fulton County fishing hole as noted below.

As I am always looking for some fish stories, I’ve found myself checking out a batch of YouTubers who chase some bass as their primary target. Trouble is, they are usually fishing in Texas or Florida or some other warmer clime where the bass come a little larger due to a more favorable year-round growing season.

But among the YouTubers I check out there’s a couple of fellows out on a cross country road trip they refer to as a “50 State Fishing Tour.” At present they are over 20 states into the project and just posted their Illinois outing. Originally they hinted that the destination would be Lake McMaster at Snakeden Hollow. I thought that was pretty cool as I first fished Lake McMaster back on July 1, 1987 several years before it was open to the public and a few years before it even got the name (shout out to my friend, Larry, who took me and Brent on an eye opening outing). Me, Dad and Brent have fished it since 1990 so I was looking forward to see how the guys did on our longtime stomping grounds.

However, they wound up shifting gears and hit Bass Pro Shops in Peoria before ultimately heading to Banner Marsh for some muskie fishing. Slightly disappointing but still rewarding to see them fish water that I have fished and where last Friday’s Flashback took place. I’ll leave it to you if you choose to check it out rather than being the spoiler alert guy. But for my two cents, some cool stuff at the link below from the SBFishingTV channel:

Emiquon Pitfalls continue tomorrow, hope you’ll tune in. Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon Pitfall #7 – Juice

Did I ever mention that Emiquon is a unique fishing hole?

Sure I did, nearly every time I wrote about it I referenced that fact. But it wasn’t only unique in regards to the phenomenal bass fishing. If you read the rules and regulations prior to hitting the water (as you always should), you found that it was also unique in different respects. Today’s pitfall explores one of those aspects.

Originally posted 8-19-10

As I worked my way through the list it made sense in my mind to have juice follow slime. But in this case, juice refers to the electricity needed to power a trolling motor. Most places I’ve fished over the years prior to encountering Emiquon rarely made me think twice about using up a battery. On farm ponds and strip pits I usually relied on a pair of oars anyway as it was often unnecessary and inconvenient to have to haul the extra gear. And when using Dad’s Bass Tracker on larger trolling motor only waters we typically have an extra battery, a spare trolling motor and the gas outboard in case of emergency.

Of course, the gas motor plan is out the window at Emiquon as they are not even allowed on your boat. On one outing last year we also discovered that our trolling motor was broken prior to launching which was frustrating at the time but really good timing in the big picture. That situation led us to routinely taking the repaired motor as a backup to the new motor that Dad purchased after a wild goose chase that day. In addition, we also take a spare battery.

The vast expanse of water can tempt you to wander a long way from the lone ramp. Throw in some wind and weeds and your setup can get a real workout. Thus it is important to make sure you have plenty of juice before setting out. I’ve seen several boats limping back to the ramp or even being towed and have worried at times that I was going to wind up in the same boat, so to speak. If all else fails, make sure to invest in a good set of oars in case you need to resort to manpower. However, by the end of a long day on the water I’ve often found that to be in short supply as well.

The next Pitfall is one of the major reasons you need a lot of juice. But before we get to that item we’ll take a break for another Top 5 Update so stop on by tomorrow for your fishing fix. Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon Pitfall #8 – Slime

In the early Emiquon days you encountered some weird stuff. It just wasn’t normal as items that would generally either go unnoticed or be taken for granted wound up being magnified when those fish turned on. Pitfall #8 is one of those things.

Originally posted 8-18-10

Although completely unrelated to Pitfall #9, Mr. Emiquon, slime just seemed like the logical choice for a follow up. The slime in this case typically covers the fish at most places, but Emiquon can be a little different than “most places.”

After a disappointing April outing last year, Dad and I didn’t get a chance to revisit Emiquon until the first week of September. Things worked out much more favorably as we witnessed the Emiquon we’d been reading about; dozens of bass, many on consecutive casts, both of us landing fish at the same time and a lunker for icing on the cake. Now this was more like it, hauling bass after bass over the side of the boat.

Of course, along with the bass came a fair amount of water that added up over time. Mixed in with this water was also a substantial dose of the bass’ protective “slime” coating. The unique thing was that when the bite turned on at Emiquon this mixture of fluids never had a chance to evaporate during lulls between catches.

On that particular day we had hit upon a crankbait bite so there was no need to dig around in the tacklebag that sat near my feet, simply retie when necessary and keep on cranking. Therefore, it came as a bit of a surprise to find that my work boots, pant legs and tacklebag were a slippery mess when the bass finally took a break.

I now place my tacklebag a bit farther away to avoid this “situation” as I hesitate to call this unexpected sign of success a “problem.” No, the real problem occurs at other fishing holes where my gear and clothing usually have ample time to dry out.

Sounds kind of weird, maybe, but flat out hard to explain unless you’ve been in those slippery shoes. No doubt a one of a kind fishing hole that left us shaking our heads every time we hit the water. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – April 24, 2009

Carly welcomes fans to the first ever high school state bass fishing tournament (featuring one of her cousins)

Which state was first in the nation to hold a high school bass fishing state tournament?

Read on for the answer to an event where me, Dad, Julie and our youngest daughter, Carly, had a lakeside seat for that very first weigh-in. However, we weren’t quite as close to the action as the high school angler and school we were there to support, Dylan Breuer and Canton High.

Below is the posting I compiled shortly after the event unfolded.

Rather than just learning history, a substantial number of high school students actually got to make history on April 24, 2009 as Illinois became the first state to conduct a high school bass fishing state tournament.

I had the good fortune of being in attendance at the well-organized Banner Marsh Sectional along with Dad, Julie (eight months pregnant at the time), and our youngest daughter, Carly. An added bonus was a kid from one of the Canton High School teams by the name of Dylan Breuer just happens to be our nephew (he’s the son of Julie’s brother, David).

While the day ended a bit on the windy side it was hard to complain in light of our recent bouts of rain and cool temperatures. It was a very well run operation especially for a maiden voyage. Teams fished from just before 8:00 am until 3:00 pm with the goal of bringing in a five bass limit (a twelve inch minimum length limit was in effect).

Dylan (above right) and partner Nick Wright (above left) were the first to weigh-in and their catch of 6.24 pounds wound up placing them ninth out of twenty one teams.  Dylan landed two of the three keepers including their big bass that tipped the scales at 2.65 pounds.

Depending on the efficiency of the weigh-ins at the other sectional sites, Canton #1 may have recorded the first catch in high school bass fishing history. Okay maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but at any rate, they were certainly the first in our neck of the woods. I am proud to say that I was there to see it happen.

The top three finishers at the sectional (Pekin, Farmington and Peoria Richwoods) moved on to fish the state finals at Carlyle Lake on May 8 & 9 which was won by West Frankfort. Farmington’s twenty seventh place finish was tops among the Banner qualifiers.

There you have it, a cool piece of bass fishing history with Illinois being the answer to the trivia question that led off today’s Friday Flashback. In the 10 years since this first ever series unfolded, many other states have joined the fun and multiple regional and national tournaments have taken off as well. However, there’s nothing like being able to say that you not only got to see it all get started but also had an angler in the mix. Talk to you later. Troy

Emiquon Pitfall #9 – Mr. Emiquon

This pitfall isn’t necessarily exclusive to Emiquon and if you’ve put in enough time on the water, well, you’ll know exactly the guy I’m talking about.

Originally Posted 8-17-10

No, that’s not him in the picture above.

Actually it’s me.

The picture was just the best I had available to represent this nefarious character.

In reality there is no specific individual named Mr. Emiquon. He’s really a collective identity for the unsavory types who ruin things for the vast majority who play by the rules. I’ve used this sort of term for years and simply substitute the appropriate body of water so there’s also been a Mr. Storey, a Mr. Bracken or a Mr. Mississippi.

Sites have limits and regulations set by those with the background and knowledge required to effectively manage and protect the resource. Emiquon is no exception other than having more stringent rules and regulations than most other bodies of water. I’ve never had a problem with any such stipulations. In my opinion, if you are responsible and do your homework, the rules should come as no surprise so grin and bear it or go somewhere else. But I’m not a meat fisherman, rarely use livebait and grew up accustomed to on the water propulsion via a pair of oars. Thus the old school and arguably over protective approach at Emiquon doesn’t really bother me.

Mr. Emiquon, however, usually sees things differently while failing to recognize that he’s part of the problem in the first place. Perhaps you’ve run into him somewhere in your angling adventures. He’s the guy who thinks he owns the lake (hence the name) and that the rules don’t apply to him. At worst he can be a recipe for disaster (exotic species, overharvest or accidents) or at the very least a nuisance to others who respect their fellow anglers and the shared resource.

Dad and I crossed paths with a pair of the latter persuasion last fall as they cut right in front of us in order to fish the end of a ditch. Sure it’s open water to all but we’d been sitting on the spot for well over an hour and there’s plenty of other good water to fish down there. In fact, reports cite as much as 16 miles of drainage ditches running throughout the lakebed. Numerous areas on the lake were hotspots last year so the intrusion within 30 feet of our boat seemed totally unnecessary. We made several casts within splashing distance of their boat which was sitting right where we had been fishing but Mr. Emiquon and his buddy never batted an eye or even acknowledged our presence. Finally, Dad and I took the high road and found another spot; completely ridiculous.

Technically, I guess it doesn’t have to be male anglers as there certainly could also be a Mrs. Emiquon. On that general subject, I did encounter a pair of young ladies this June who could have been in the running for the Miss Emiquon title. I spotted this fit, bikini clad duo a couple hundred yards away as they enjoyed an afternoon of sunbathing and fishing. Unlike Mr. Emiquon they apparently had no desire to fish near the guy with the funny hat although I kept an eye out just in case. As such, I don’t have any photos to accompany this posting. I suppose that’s probably for the best as it saved me having to explain to Julie how exactly these images would enhance my Emiquon Top 10 list.

Absolute proof that you just never know who or what you’ll see during a fishing trip. Some you hope you don’t see again and a couple others, well…

Talk to you later. Troy

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