Category: Fishing Holes

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

Snakeden at 30 – Boots, Bikes & Boats

It’s all what you want to make of it when opting for a Snakeden Hollow adventure. Boots, bikes, boats and beyond are among the possibilities when chasing some fish around the former strip mine ground.

Overall, the site presents a wonderful opportunity for an angler to get away from the crowd. For one thing, there’s not a real big crowd to begin with most of the time. Even on the big lake, Lake McMaster, it is usually not too crazy beyond some weekend days. And as far as the walk-in lakes, there is ample room to spread out amidst the vast collection of fishing holes.

It’s all a matter of how much exercise one wants to get as it can take some work. There are a fair amount of spots just off the interior walk-in roads and many more accessible via a series of typically mowed lanes. Beyond those areas things can get a bit wilder with hikes through tall weeds and lakeside navigation requiring one to be part mountain goat.

Of course, there is a great deal of tantalizing shoreline terrain that is inaccessible on foot. You know, those areas where your fishing mind says, “Sure wish I could get over there.” But where there is a will, there is a way. I have seen several watercraft caddies of varying design used by anglers to drag a boat in to get “over there.” My primitive foray into such transport recently broke down but it was fun and productive while it lasted. Time will tell whether I continue to pursue such stunts in the future with a rebuild.

 

I’ve covered many miles on those old strip mine lakes over the last 30 years. Trolling, rowing, walking, pedaling, a little climbing, a bit of falling, lots of sweating…it’s all part of the fun. Oh yeah, a bit of catching along the way as well. But that’s another chapter in the “Snakeden at 30” series for another day. 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