Category: Fishing Holes

Prowl the Canal – June 25 & July 2

The past week found me on the Hennepin Canal on two occasions as my fishing exploration of the historic corridor continues. Both locales were spots I’d seen previously while on bike rides, but those trips had not seen me wet a line. On the latest trips it was time to bring along the fishing gear to see what would happen.

Stats
Date: June 25 and July 2, 2021
Location: Hennepin Canal – Henry County, IL
Time: 6/25 (7:35-8:50pm), 7/2 (7:40pm-8:55pm)
Weather: Sunny to partly cloudy/calm both days
Air Temp: Mid-80s
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 8 bass (3 bass on 6/25 and 5 bass on 7/2)
Lures: 5” Yamasenko wacky rig (pumpkin with black flake) – 3 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- (rainbow) – 3 bass, Strike King Squarebill crankbait (sexy shad) – 2 bass
Top Bass: 2-13 (Senko on 7/2)
Top 5 Weight (only 4 bass at 12” or better): 6-14 (2-13,1-11,1-9,0-13)

June 25 at 7:35pm – best I could muster, courtesy of a Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

Notes and Nonsense

June 25 – The first stop had a modest amount of open water which can be a tough summer find among the stretches I have checked out thus far. However, bank access presented some challenges which is another standard canal feature. I fished four or five areas of access and found only three small bites.

July 2 at 7:53pm – Top Bass at 2-13 on a wacky rigged Senko

July 2 – Several “keepers” were caught from another area featuring a fair amount of open water. In addition, the water had some better depth than most stretches of the canal. This allowed me to toss the Strike King Squarebill crankbait and fool a couple decent fish. But it was the Senko wacky rig which once again came through for the Top Bass of the evening. The 2-13 fell one ounce shy of my canal personal best and further proved that there are some quality bass that call the waterway home.

July 2 at 8:30pm – Top Bass Runner-Up at 1-11 on a Strike King Squarebill crankbait

So, what have I learned from my four Hennepin Canal adventures to date?

1. The overall quality of catches has been a pleasant surprise. Previously, I never viewed the local sections of the canal as a regular destination but results and social media posts have opened my eyes.

2. Casting is key as is generally the case in bass fishing. There’s lots of vegetation where the bass can hide or wait in ambush, but that vegetation can also ruin a cast with many lures. Accuracy and repeated casts (at varying angles if possible) have been keys to success.

3. A bike is a bonus as stretches of open water can be few and far between at this time of year. Pedaling cuts down transit time and gets you away from the easy to access spots at the scattered parking areas.

4. While I have several topwater frogs in my tackle backpack, I have yet to put any of them to use. Fortunately, my other presentations have kept me busy with bites, but I do need to see if I can entice some quality strikes from beneath the plentiful surface vegetation.

The evening outings have been a fun way to work in a few weekday casts and I have been pleased with the action. There’s plenty more water to explore so I suspect that I will be back with some future reports as I continue to “prowl the canal.” Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – June 27, 1996

The evening of June 27, 1996 at the Lake Bracken Spillway was like night and day for a group of carp anglers. The carp that called the spot home were sometimes an odd bunch. Some days, you could see several swimming below the surface from high atop the ridge as you looked down into the pool. And then not even get a bite.

Other times, no fish were to be seen from above, but the bite would be well worth navigating the tricky path down to the promised land. Of course, that was also part of the fun. From the sneak peek from up top to the tentative steps needed to maintain balance when armed with a couple poles and cooler of beer to the slight hop for the last step on the dirt descent to The Spillway, it was always an adventure.

On this trip, the carp chasers consisted of myself, my brother, Brent, and our friends, John and Lisa Junk. Us three guys had established ourselves as some solid carp fishers with a dozen years of experience at The Spillway dating back to high school. As for Lisa, well, she had been designated “The Carp Queen” following an impressive 1994 performance when she outfished the guys.

However, even Lisa’s 1994 success would pale in comparison to Brent’s domination on this trip. All told, he caught over thirty pounds of carp, easily outdistancing the rest of the crew. In fact, neither John, Lisa nor I caught a single carp. I’ve never seen anything like it. Quite odd as we were all using the same bait and fishing The Spillway was akin to the old fishing in a barrel adage.

 

All these years later, I still don’t have a true explanation for the discrepancy in fish catching. Sure, Brent is a skilled angler, but the rest of us are no slouches. The best I can come up with is that while Brent was more than willing to assist with hauling any of the gear, beverages and supplies down the slope, he always left the beer alone. For the rest of us, I’m not sure that we would have traded in our cold ones for a couple carp back in the day. Speaking for myself, I believe I was simply content to knock back a few and enjoy the show. Talk to you later. Troy

Citizen’s Lake Revisited Pt. IV

Spanning a channel between the north and south sections of Citizen’s Lake is a bridge. Back in 1990, the bridge resided elsewhere in Warren County and was slated for eventual demolition. However, regional fisheries biologist, Ken Russell, was on board to get the bridge relocated rather than removed. While I was aware of the proposal, I had no idea what the bridge even looked like, let alone the prospect of actually relocating such a structure.

 

The plaque above notes that the dream became a reality in 1992. Later, in 2016, the bridge from the 1890s was dedicated as “Ken Russell Bridge.”

 

It’s been a fun walk down Memory Lane in revisiting a bit of the history of Warren County’s Citizen’s Lake. My aim for the blog has always been to educate, entertain and escape. Hopefully, this collection of posts was able to cover all of those bases. Talk to you later. Troy

Citizen’s Lake Revisited Pt. III

I must admit it was kind of cool to see myself in a local paper during the Citizen’s Lake rehabilitation project. Honestly though, what was even cooler was hanging out with that other guy in the above photo.

Fisheries biologist, Ken Russell, was the primary caretaker of all of the local fishing holes where I cut my fishing teeth. By 1990, I would guess that he probably had twenty-five years of fisheries work on his resume.

And you talk about still going strong at that point?

Sure thing, as the Illinois taxpayers got their money’s worth out of that man. His work ethic was unmatched and he gave me a work out during the month or so that I had the honor of being his sidekick. His grasp of his craft was incredible and I was always impressed with his willingness to answer any question I had as we traveled between fishing holes on the roads of West Central Illinois.

 

Prior to the Citizen’s Lake project I had been able to work with Ken on a couple other occasions as a volunteer fish dipper during some electrofishing surveys. Thanks to a mutual friend at the Galesburg Park Department where I worked college summers I was able to get those evening gigs. Once upon a time, that mutual friend told me that Ken ranked me as his second best fish dipper of all-time.

Seems that Ken was a popular subject for the local papers

Who was the best fish dipper, you might ask?

Of course, it was that mutual friend. I still take it as a feather in my cap, you may take it as you wish.

Talk to you later. Troy

Citizen’s Lake Revisited Pt. II

In today’s post we take a look at the initial stages in the overall process of the complete Citizen’s Lake fishery rehabilitation. The rehabilitation project actually accomplished a pair of aims. For one, the lake was to be enlarged via digging and dredging with the fill dirt being used to expand the nearby highway to four lanes. The highway construction project, in turn, allowed for a “do over” on the fish population that was suffering due to an infestation of the common carp.

To begin the rehabilitation, a valve on the overflow was opened in order to drop the water level. Inevitably, some of the fish population would escape through “the tube” as noted by fisheries biologist Ken Russell in a newspaper interview at the time. Electrofishing was then employed in order to salvage any remaining desirable fish species. During electrofishing, a current is delivered into the water which effectively stuns those fish in proximity. While stunned the fish generally float up to or near the surface where they can be captured with a long handled dipnet. The “shock” does no lasting damage and in most cases you have to be pretty adept and quick with the dipnet to capture the fish before they regain their senses.

The primary species that we salvaged for relocation was the largemouth bass. I believe that some crappie and bluegill were also collected along with a solid individual walleye. The latter was likely a transplant from the Mississippi River as the species was not intentionally stocked in the lake. I do not recall if we rescued any catfish as they are not as susceptible to the shock. Their smooth skin makes them more elusive than their scaled counterparts in a fishery.

Once collected, the salvaged fish were held in a fish truck loaned out from the Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery in Tazewell County. Those fish were then relocated to several area waters. If memory serves me correctly, these included Lake Storey, Snakeden Hollow’s “Big Lake” (now known as Lake McMaster) and possibly Gale Lake in East Galesburg. What I do remember though, was that it was pretty cool taking the fish truck home at the end of the day and then getting to drive it back to Jake Wolf the following morning.

Once we had done our best at collecting our quarry, Vice’s Fish Market out of Oquawka, Illinois arrived to harvest the common carp that remained. This was done by seining with a large net and it was quite a bounty. The visual image of several truck beds filled nearly to the brim with slimy, squirming carp still brings a smile.

 

Along the way, a couple local papers showed up during the time that we worked on the project. I was able to snip one of the articles from the Galesburg Register Mail while Ken Russell was kind enough to grab me a couple from the Monmouth Review Atlas. I will always be grateful for those gifts as the old yellowed pages sure mean a lot to me all of these years later.

More on the project to come so I hope you’ll stop by as the reminiscing continues. Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Records A to Z

For the “Snakeden at 30” grand finale, we take a look at the record book. Below is a breakdown of the largest bass caught from 26 different lakes on the site over the last 30 years.

But first, let’s get a little background on the data.

Some bass are more impressive than others.

Some lakes on the list didn’t exist when Snakeden went public.

Some lakes no longer support a fish population.

Some lakes have “official” names while others are my own creations. I didn’t use either in the list, gotta leave a little mystery.

Disclaimer: The list above and the slideshow below include only myself and a couple fishing partners with all catches verified. Certainly other anglers have bigger and better fish stories, so take the list for what it is worth, just my two cents. Over the years, I have received numerous reports, weights and photos from fellow anglers which would rewrite portions of this record book. However, those are not tales for me to tell. But I will say that those submission include bass up to seven pounds.

The slideshow to follow features pics of the bass on the record book list with a few exceptions. No pictures exist for five of the bass on the list, all of which are under the two-pound mark.

 

And with that, “Snakeden at 30” comes to a conclusion. Fun for me to reminisce on the past catches as I’ve meant to compile such a list for quite a few years. And although the list features 26 different lakes, there are still others that have no established records. In addition, I lost a bass on one of the lakes this year (fittingly Lake X) that would have shattered the established record. Sounds like I need to compile a 2021 fishing to-do list.

In the meantime, back with a couple more Citizen’s Lake posts. Talk to you later. Troy

Citizen’s Lake Revisited Pt. I

Thirty years ago today, I had just finished up a six month temporary job with the Illinois Department of Conservation (now IDNR). While originally hired to work at Knox County’s Snakeden Hollow, I actually started my term at Big River State Forest near Keithsburg, Illinois. And for my last couple months I was put out on loan to regional fisheries biologist, Ken Russell, as there just wasn’t much going on at Snakeden in those early days.

One of the jobs that I got to assist with was a total rehabilitation of Warren County’s Citizen’s Lake. The fishing hole north of Monmouth, Illinois had become overrun with undesirable fish species, primarily the common carp. Thus, it was in dire need of a “do over”. The process involved draining most of the lake, salvaging any desired fish species, eradicating the remaining fish population and then proceeding with restocking once the water levels had risen.

 

For a guy with a biology degree and not long out of college, it was a fantastic experience. Thirty years later, I thought it was a good time to combine a return visit with some memories and newspaper clippings from the project. Today’s intro will be followed by a several more posts from a Warren County walk down Memory Lane. Talk to you later. Troy

More Lake Storey Stuff

I try not to get too carried away in my fishing reports in order to keep the length of the posts fairly readable. Sometimes I succeed but most times they are still probably too long for current attention spans. Such was my dilemma with the latest Lake Storey trip so I figured it was best to split it up. Part II to follow after an important correction in the interest of literary accuracy.

Correction – I strive to get my facts straight in my posts but sometimes my useless knowledge gets a bit cloudy. Therefore, I would like to point out that my reference in a social media post direct from Lake Storey stating “Ever read that Winnie the Pooh ‘Blustery Day’ book?” was an error. There is indeed no “Blustery Day” book as it was actually “a 1968 animated featurette based on the third, fifth, ninth, and tenth chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh and the second, eighth, and ninth chapters from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne” per Wikipedia. Admittedly, never much of a Pooh fan anyway so not entirely disappointed in my misstatement but felt that it was important to clarify after some post trip research proved me wrong.

Additional Notes and Nonsense

Lucky Hat – I’ve had some hat trouble this year causing a late season scramble for another lucky fishing lid. While the whole hat fiasco is a concept for a future post, this time I left the floppy hat on the bench. The wind was just too much for the model I’d recently brought out of retirement and the lack of a chinstrap was also a concern. Instead, I went with the baseball cap of my favorite squad hoping it would bring me some luck. As it turned out, me and some decent bass were on the same page. In contrast, the guys who get paid to wear the Cubs cap are sure missing something regarding that factor called “chemistry.” Something just isn’t right on the North Side and it goes deeper than the strange, abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Bought this one recently with a Lake Storey plan

“I love it when a plan comes together” – Col. John “Hannibal” Smith

Woke – In the initial report, I mentioned picking up a new Strike King Wake Bait for several specific Lake Storey areas. The lure above was a winner with a couple bass on a couple of those precise spots.

Devoured – My Top Bass of the trip left no doubt that it was intent on a meal as my crankbait wobbled past. The pictures above show that the lure was completely engulfed to the point of not being visible in profile. This was a cause for concern in extracting the bait but fortunately the trebles were not embedded in anything vital. In fact, there was no bleeding and the bass looked to be in good shape as it swam back into the depths (see clip below).

Lakeside Chat – I had texted my friend and fellow Lake Storey angler, John Kirkemo, shortly after I got on the water and he mentioned that he may stop by later for a visit. John dropped in mid-afternoon and we had good chat on a stretch of dry exposed lakebed. We text or email fairly frequently so it was good to have an in person (socially distant) chat. Turns out the timing was kind of cool too as I managed to hook my Top Bass after our visit while John was still within sight. He even shot a few pics of my fish from his vantage point which I have included in a post catch slideshow below.

 

Time will tell if this is the final first hand fishing report for 2020. I do have a couple more vacation days that I have to use and I aim for catching at least one November bass so we’ll see. Got some other stuff to keep the blog rolling though so hope you’ll continue to stop in for a look. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – Oct. 21 & 22, 2010

I’ve long been a fan of the fall drawdown at Lake Storey just north of Galesburg, Illinois. From a fishery management standpoint, I support the practice 100%. Part of the concept is to leave the shoreline cover high and dry which diminishes the hiding places for smaller prey fish. This gives the predators a much better shot at a meal and helps to promote a healthier overall population structure. And sometimes those larger predator fish let their guard down. Dad and I found a handful of such quality fish including one that was something extra during a couple trips in October of 2010.

Originally Posted 10-22-10 as part of “There’s No Fish in Lake Storey”

Such is the mantra I’ve heard from frustrated local anglers for as long as I can recall. I’ve been there too. But over the years I’ve come to learn a thing or two about one of my regular fishing holes. Good things can happen when you put the odds in your favor as evidenced by the 10 pound 2 ounce walleye pictured below. This trophy decided to stick up for Lake Storey when it nabbed my Bomber Flat A crankbait (baby bass) as I cranked and bounced it off the bottom in about six feet of water.

October 21, 2010 at 12:29pm – a 10 pound 2 ounce Lake Storey walleye

Now I won’t pretend that I’m a walleye fisherman as Dad and I were actually pursuing bass but there’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Stable weather, the fall drawdown, a windblown point, relatively deep water nearby, early afternoon, direct sunlight, stained water and a few scattered rocks littering the area were an appealing, and in this case, successful combination. Throw in the fact that I’ve always viewed Lake Storey as a “crankbait lake” with a nod towards black and orange color combinations on whatever you’re throwing and it can certainly add some confidence to casting. Of course, maybe I’m overanalyzing but that is one of the extremes we anglers sometimes find ourselves dealing with during the highs and lows on the water.

October 21, 2010 at 1:34pm – Dad with a 1-7 on a spinnerbait

Originally Posted 10-23-10 as part of “Lake Storey Report”

With Snakeden closed to anglers and limited time to spend on the water, Dad and I chose Lake Storey for our destination on October 21. True to form, the trip reinforced much of what I detailed in my September series on fall fishing. Here’s a look at our day on the lake.

New Walleye Record – If you saw yesterday’s entry you know that being in the right place at the right time put a 29” ten pound walleye in the boat. The running dialogue kind of went like this, “I’ve got a good one, I’m not really sure what it is, oh man, that’s a walleye, do you think it will go ten, I think it will go ten, that is a brute.” The fish eclipses my old personal best, a 7-14 from Lake Storey on 10/2/08.

Okay, what the heck, a second picture of the 10-pound walleye

Top Bass – We did manage to add another bass in the three pound range to the record book. The fish hit on a textbook spot as I reeled my spinnerbait up to and over a partially submerged tree before letting it fall on the other side. It’s great when it works like that though I will admit that we also tried this approach on several other pieces of structure where we came up empty.

October 21, 2010 – Top Bass at 3-4 on a spinnerbait

Yet another rewarding fall trip as we try and squeeze in those last few bass before putting away the gear for the year. You can’t beat the icing on the cake when it’s a ten pound walleye but I guess I shouldn’t be overly surprised. For as Dad made his way across the parking lot after launching the boat, I saw him stoop down to pick something up. It was a penny, heads up. He commented on the fact that he hadn’t found one for a long time and speculated that we would indeed be in for some good luck. And while I wouldn’t argue against anyone describing the walleye as a lucky catch, they all count in my book.

Posted 10-24-10 as part of “Lake Storey Report Two”

Initially, I’d planned a trip to Emiquon but reconsidered after the forecast called for winds in excess of fifteen miles per hour. I just don’t have access to a boat (minus an outboard) that can hold up in those conditions. Besides I could only manage a half day trip and it’s not worth the drive. Instead we stayed closer to home risking going to the well once too often by hitting Lake Storey again. Things weren’t quite as successful the second time around but we did manage to add another good fish to the record book.

October 22, 2010 at 3:18pm – Top Bass at 3-11 on a spinnerbait

Top Bass – My 3-11 came off of some brush sticking above the surface in less than two feet of water. The previous day I’d had a fish nip the trailer of my spinnerbait as it approached the structure. Then seconds later as I came through some branches I saw a flash near my bait. At that point, I made the mistake of setting the hook too soon, pulling the lure away from the fish and sending my spinnerbait flying out of the shallow water. I should know better but sometimes the excitement gets the best of you. Anyway, I figured the spot was worth a return visit the next day and as the above photo shows, we were not disappointed.

October 22, 2010 at 4:31pm – Dad with a 1-7 on a spinnerbait

Totals
Dates: October 21 &22, 2010
Location: Lake Storey with Dad
Time: 9 hours fishing
Totals: 11 bass, 1 walleye
Lures: Quad Shad or tandem spinnerbaits (white or white/red) – 7 bass, Bomber Flat A (baby bass) – 2 bass & 1 walleye, Vicious Fishing Muskrat (green pumpkin) – 1 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- (unknown) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 3-11 (Troy – Quad Shad spinnerbait)
Top 5 Weight: 11-3 (3-11,3-4,1-7,1-7,1-6)

Bomber Flat A crankbaits (baby bass pattern) – my favorite walleye lures when I go bass fishing 

As always, our bass fishing trip was strictly catch and release, walleye included. Fooling that toothy critter with Dad on board was pretty cool. We’ve got quite a collection of fishing memories but that catch ranks among my favorites. All of these years later, I wonder if that fish ever got fooled again and made someone’s day. While not what I was targeting, a walleye that size in Illinois is pretty special. If it wasn’t the Lake Storey record at the time, it had to be darn close. We’ll never know, but since I’m the guy telling this fish story…Talk to you later. Troy

Snakeden at 30 – Changes

Thirty years is a long time to be acquainted and the changes certainly add up over the years. When a relationship is close during such a term, those changes just kind of happen, you take note and then they just become part of the landscape. However, when you look back over a span of three decades, well, things kind of add up. For better or worse, change is part of the game.

I could probably write a book on Snakeden Hollow but not today. Instead, you get the rough draft, abridged version in a video of some of the changes along with a couple things that remain the same.

 

Indeed, here is to some more Snakeden adventures. Talk to you later. Troy