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home : news : local   May 24, 2016

5/20/2012 8:01:00 AM
Expo teaches more than 600 children the art of fishing (Slideshow)

Volunteers at the Kid's Fishing Expo educate participants about the various types of fishing lures.NewsTribune photo/Amy Flanery
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Volunteers at the Kid's Fishing Expo educate participants about the various types of fishing lures.

NewsTribune photo/Amy Flanery
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OUTDOOR NOTES this weekend:


NOTE: Send your outdoor notes, nature photos (hiking, scenic, flora, fauna, game and fish) and ideas to; or

OUTDOOR NOTES this weekend:

The annual Kids Fishing Expo will be 9 a.m.-2 p.m. today (Saturday)atBaker Lake,Peru,

Other items on this weekend’s outdoor calendar:
May 19- LakeThunderbirdopen bass tournament

May 20- Walleye Chicago 2nd annual spring fever tournament out of Hennepin

May 20- Il Valley Catfish Trail tournament out ofAllen Park,Ottawa 

Fishing report, May 18-19:

Thom Matejewski,Spring Valley
On Saturday, 5/19, he said the white bass fishing and sauger fishing was much improved, with fish being caught in as shallow as 1-2 feet of water; catfish on night crawlers in backwaters; sauger on Twister jig-and-minnow combos. He personally had been catching crappie at Lock 9, Tiskilwa.

On 5/16, he reported:
Illinois River:  with a lack of activity on the river this week due to high water (and good crappie fishing elsewhere) I don't really have a report as far as fishing goes, but  the river is expected to be back at normal pool by friday and fishing should be picking up.

EVERGREENLAKE: crappie and saugeye fishermen are both doing well. Crappie early and late in the brush, and suspended 12' down midday. Saugeye are being caught off the points dragging a jig with a crawler along the bottom and off the flats with slip bobbers with leeches. Bass fishing is doing fair on buzz baits early and late in the day, and soft plastics midday. Musky are spotty, with most coming off of fast trolled crank baits.

HENNEPINCANAL: crappie are doing fair, with a few large fish being caught off of slip bobbers with minnows. …  few walleye are being caught at the whistles (large culverts) with minnows and split shot rigs. Bass are good off spinner baits and soft plastics.

MENDOTA ANDKAKUSHALAKES: catfish doing well off crawlers and stink baits in the evening. Crappie and bluegill are lots of numbers, but mostly small fish. They are being caught off wax worms and red worms.

SMALLMOUTH ALERT, CAUTION: Smallmouth fishing in local creeks is picking up, most being caught off jigs and twister tails and small Mepps spinners, "but remember smallmouth is catch and release only until June 16th," said Thom Matejewski. 

Clint Sands,Lake Shabbona reports, 5/19, a.m.: Walleye and Stripers on weedlines using crawlers and leeches.  Crappie still spawning. He sent photos for the fish and game post of angler with a big hybrid striped bass; anglers with a few legal walleye as well as one 22-inch, 4.10-lb. walleye from 5/17

Gary Gapinski, north La Salle bait shop owner, 5/18, a.m.: reported a 17-pound catfish caught on the Illinois River more than a week ago while the Illinois River was going up; customers catching sheephead (freshwater drum) after the Illinois River went down, and customers heading to Hennepin Canal after bluegill;

Darrell Culjan, Utica, 5/19, a.m.: Said they're catching a lot of drum and catfish on the river, and "stripers are spotty." He figures the water temperature is near 70 degrees due to the warm, sunny days. Before the flood, sauger were being caught near "the power lines" near Hennepin, so he figures that's a spot to check.

5/18 DNR weekly report:

Hennepin Canal bluegill ... fair-good and spawning on wax worms or red worms; crappie ... fair-good on minnows or jigs; channel catfish ... slow-fair on crawlers and dipbaits; largemouth bass ... slow-fair on crawlers & crankbaits; smallmouth bass ... slow-fair on crawlers & crankbaits; bullheads ... no report; walleye/saugeye ... slow; Report Garfield Stier Co. (NewsTribune editor note -- fishing at Lock 11, Tiskilwa, Saturday evening seemed slow, personally as well as according to anglers there. Some bass, bluegill caught. Water still slightly stirred up)

Lake George: bluegill ... slow-fair on wax worms; crappie ... good on minnows and small jigs; channel catfish ... slow-fair on dip baits & crawlers; largemouth bass ... slow; Hybrid stripe bass ... slow; Walleye/saugeye ... fair on dew worms & jigs; muskie ... no report

Powerton Lake: reopened May 16 after levee maintenance and repair: Channel catfish ... remain fair on cut baits, crawlers and dip bait mostly in cooler end of lake towards intake; Blue catfish ... slow-fair on cut baits; Flatheads ... slow-fair on cut bait & dip baits; Smallmouth bass ... slow. Summer Hours 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

Lake Bloomington: The 635-acre lake is algae stained but still o.k. for fishing; water is in the upper 60's in the morning to low 70's in the afternoons. Crappie ... Fair to Slow; and the spawn is about done and requires more patience to catch them. Bass ... Fair to Slow; in both creeks on jigs and crankbaits. Bluegill ... Good; on small tubes and spinners. Hybrid Stripers ... Fair; with some surface action taking place, they are where you find them pushing bait to the surface and into small coves and pockets. Catfish ... Fair to Slow; along breaks at coves on shad and cut baits. Walleye ... Slow to Fair; with a few caught on jig/minnows. NOTE: The lake does have a boating fee and a 40 hp limit. The Bluegill limit is 25 fish a day with no size restrictions.

Amy Flanery
Lifestyle Editor

Delight and awe covered the faces of audience members at the live fish demonstration taught by volunteers from Illinois Department of Natural Resources on Saturday during the 14thannual Kid’s Fishing Expo at Baker Lake in Peru.

Children and parents alike were in awe of the giant flathead catfish hoisted up from a tank by fish biologist Ken Clodfelter. Laughter filled the tent when the fish was replaced with a giant splash, soaking the nearest spectators. The demonstration also included a frog, four kinds of turtles, a bluegill and a long-nose gar.

More than 1,200 adults, children and volunteers converged upon the park for the event, according to one of its founders, Tom Wall of the Better Fishing Association. More than half that number were children registered for the event. Wall said that didn’t include families who just came to the lake to fish and didn’t register for the Expo.

According to Bob Applington of La Salle, a BFA member and I & M Canal volunteer, the lake was stocked Thursday and Friday with plenty of hybrid bluegills and catfish. Applington spent Saturday frying more than 350 pounds of fish brought in for folks to sample. Volunteers filleted separately any fresh catches that were brought to them, so the young fisherman could eat it.

“That’s what a kid likes,” Applington said. “You ate what you caught.”

BFA president Barry Welbers of Spring Valley said he was pleased with the turnout of more than 600 children.

“We’ve had higher in years past,” he said, “but that’s a good number.”

Welbers said there were eight stations for the children to visit, each teaching a different fishing skill: choosing the right bait, selecting a rod and reel, fly tying, knot tying, casting, safety, identifying a fish and cleaning a fish.

“It’s a complete beginner’s course in fishing,” Welbers said. “From there, they can build on those skills.”

John Dixon of La Salle brought his four-year-old son to the Expo for the first time Saturday and watched him learn to cast at one of the stations.

“I thought it was great,” Dixon said. “The first time he cast out, he got it.”

The Dixon children concluded their afternoon down at the lake with their own fishing rods.

That was 10-year-olds Madeline Dixon and step-sister Cheyenne Breeden’s favorite part.

Breeden spotted what she identified as a “huge catfish” and declared that she was going to try to catch it. Had she caught anything yet?

“Almost, but it got away.”

That didn’t matter, though. She was still having fun.

For those not quite ready to take their skills to the water, there was a tarp “lake” stocked with felt fish to practice on. The felt-fish lake and the IDNR fish identification station are the most popular of the Expo’s activities, Welbers said.

“The live fish is always a very popular display,” he said. “It’s usually the last one we shut down.”

The Kid’s Fishing Expo is produced by the cooperative efforts of the BFA, the American Fisheries Society, IDNR, Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary Club and Peru River Rescue Squad. Volunteers also were provided by Peru Volunteer Ambulance Service, Peru Police Department and Peru Emergency Services Disaster Agency. Sponsors included the cities of Peru, La Salle, Oglesby, Spring Valley and North Utica. Several local businesses contributed to provide door prizes and free hot dogs at the event.

According to Welbers, more than 100 people volunteered their time to make the Expo happen.

“It’s very labor intensive, and we’re very grateful for all the volunteers that came to help,” he said.

The Expo was founded to teach children the skills they needed for the annual Kids and Teens Fishing Tournament at Lock 14, Wall said. Since the Expo began, the number of children catching fish at the tournament increased from 20 percent to 80 percent. Registration for this year’s tournament will be 8-9 a.m. Saturday, June 9. Fishing will be 9-11 a.m., with prizes and trophies awarded 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Children ages 15 and under may participate in the tournament. There is no charge.

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