Snow melt and spring rain could lead to an increase in the level and current on the Illinois River in time for the March 23-24 Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit season-opening tournament at Spring Valley.
At least that’s the hope expressed by new Spring Valley Walleye Club president Thom Matejewski and longtime MWC tournaments operator Dan Palmer, who is field events promotions manager for The Walleye Federation.
Fishing was difficult during the drought last summer and fall due to low levels and lack of current in the Illinois River, the hope is an increase in water flow and level will cause sauger to bunch up and be somewhat easier to find. Last year, in many tournaments on the Illinois River, up to half of the teams in the tournament fields were getting skunked.
With fish harder to catch and fishing pressure down last year, when the drought-stricken river started to fish more like a lake than a stream, perhaps some of the lunkers this spring will be easier to fool. Who knows!
The MWC Spring Valley walleye tournament is now under new ownership, but participants won’t see very many changes. Palmer said Bill Guerrini, Mike Hurless and the walleye club have been doing a great job of running the tournament for many years. And, Palmer said, the tournament remains important for the Illinois River fishery, since the fish brought in at weigh-in all are taken by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to the La Salle Lake hatchery, where they are kept alive and then re-stocked after being stripped of their milt and eggs to help raise more sauger.
One notable tournament rule change is a restriction to one presentation with two rods or to two presentations and one rod per angler. That will be consistent with rules in all the Cabela’s events, said Palmer, who’s also involved in events under The Walleye Federation umbrella including club events and Illinois Walleye Trail events from which winners qualify for the Cabela’s National Team Championship.
In addition, he’s a promoter for the new Cabela’s North American Bass Circuit, which is launching several two-state series’ including one with two Wisconsin and two Minnesota events; and the new pro-am National Walleye Tour, which has events at Port Clinton on Lake Erie, Green Bay at Sturgeon Bay, Wis., Red Wing,Minn., and Devils Lake, N.D.
La Salle Lake opener anticipated
* La Salle Lake is scheduled to open for fishing Friday, March 15 and be open 6 a.m.-dusk Wednesday-Sunday thereafter, said Ted Love. He is Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ site superintendent forIlliniState Park, which oversees Illini, La Salle Lakeand Marseilles Fish and Wildlife area (near the National Guard training facility north of La Salle Lake and north of the Exolon nuclear power plant).
Love said he has no more staffing this year than he did last year whenLa SalleLakewas open only Wednesday-Sunday. Fortunately dusk will come one hour later then than it has during the first week of March, because Daylight Savings Time begins March 10.
There was a shutdown at the La Salle Station nuclear plant for maintenance in recent months, so it’s hard to guess what the lake temperature will be when it reopens.
Love also said due to staffing concerns, hours at La Salle Lake are tentative after mid-August, when turkey hunting season begins at Marseilles Fish and Wildlife area; he said he will need to have a site tech at the hunting site. The staffing level for Illini and the two sites near the power plant continues to determine when, and which portions of, state properties will be available for public use.
Love said opening-day anglers usually can start catching stripers and almost always can catch catfish; as the power plant cooling lake warms, anglers start catching bass and just about anything else that’s stocked or might swim in the Illinois River.