First, this week’s imaginary fishing report:
Who knows when or if it would ever happen, but if a riprap break wall ever is built separating the Illinois River channel from a sunken island and present-day shallows upstream from Starved Rock Lock and Dam, that would be good news for largemouth bass fishermen who have boats seaworthy enough for the river.
This week a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers source at an open house at the lock and dam’s Illinois Waterway Visitors Center said a sea wall would protect that shallow area from boat and barge wakes and from big wind-blown waves that roil and disturb a mile-long shallows upstream from the dam.
She said if the riprap wall were ever built, it would allow aquatic plants to take hold and survive in a bigger area and for a longer period of time than now, when they mainly emerge during drought or if there’s work being done at the dam.
Specifically, she said the shallow areas and the weeds and plants would be possible spawning ground and provide cover for centarchids.
The DNR folks at the meeting confirmed my deduction that that means the sunfishes — bluegill, bass, crappie.
So, imagine if you will, being able to fish in those shallows and along the inside of that riprap, for crappie, bass and panfish. That would be a nice development for river anglers who usually have some down time in mid summer when they aren’t catching the usual river predators: sauger and white bass.
Also, said DNR’s Lynette Mick and Doug Carney, members of the sunfish family usually don’t have successful years for breeding unless there are big spring floods that get into the river’s few remaining backwaters and stay there for a while.
Fortunately, sort of, the big, long-lasting spring flood this year is likely to have created a decent year for new largemouth bass and other sunfishes.
Typically the Illinois River rises and then falls again so quickly that the floods cause their damage and the waters recede before there's much benefit to the fish. Those water-level fluctuations also prevent aquatic plant growth.
Julie Farrell at B&B Bait in Ottawa distributes bait throughout northern and central Illinois and says unfortunately she hasn't been having any sellers come in saying the fishing is so great at any one site that they need more bait than usual. She has been hearing some good reports for panfish angling on farm ponds.
As for the river, the report's about the same as it has been the past several weeks: some catfish and drum being caught and a sauger, walleye or white bass here and there. Spring Valley Walleye Club's website concurs, with various locations, such as the Utica and Interstate 39 stretches listed as poor for sauger fishing, and Hennepin High Lines and Mertel's areas listed as poor to fair and the Peru Flats listed only as fair.
Water levels on rivers and streams remain low. Water temperatures cooled down in the past week but are likely to ratchet back up, with an 88-degree high forecast Friday and one day with a high forecast around 90 next week.
Shabbona should remain a decent destination for a fishing outing, as the lake is rather deep and remains cooler than many others.
The water level in many lakes and rivers is low; some spots in rivers such as the Rock near Rock Falls recently were too low for boating.
The DNR hasn't updated its Illinois River report since Aug. 29, so subtract a couple of degrees of water temperature, but has some good tips for fishing for the various species in the river between Peoria and Dresden at http://www.ifishillinois.org/fishing_reports/river_processor.php?water_id=15011