The most desirable fall conditions for sauger and white bass have not yet developed on the Illinois River, which means the same sort of slow-fishing report from Illinois River experts such as Cajun Culjan, Utica bait shop operator:
The fish biting most readily on the river are drum and catfish, and until water temperatures drop, the water “turns over” and current picks up, the white bass and sauger bite isn’t improving. Eighty-degree days did nothing to drop the river temperature, and some heavy rains late in the week didn’t add current to the river, not even at the creek mouths.
“It’s all going right in the ground,” he said of the recent rain.
Spring Valley Walleye Club outgoing president Thom Matejewski says he’s not hearing of anyone catching white bass, which is worrisome considering theories on the long-term effects of invasive Asian carp overpopulation of the river. Hopefully worries are proved wrong.
He said people still can catch a sauger here and there when conditions aren’t perfect.
“I just had this conversation with my neighbor. I told him, ‘What do you think, they starve when it’s warm?’”
Some volunteer boat captains who caught a few sauger during the Take A Veteran Fishing event the walleye club hosted in late September caught them shallower than they do during cold-water, sauger-tournament time. He said they may well be in 5 feet of water rather than the deep break lines. They’re likely not schooled up. They may be pursuing more rapidly-trolled or retrieved lures than usual and smaller lures and baits than seasonal sauger anglers might try.
He suggests trolling, drifting or casting shallow, changing baits, then trying deeper.
He heard of some crappie being caught near pilings near Jonesville (near the Vermilion River mouth), and he personally had fun in recent days catching scrappy little smallmouth on the Green River.
At Lake Shabbona, Christian Deutsch of Shabbona Lakeside said minnows are the ticket for crappie in the fish cribs. Some anglers are catching muskies on big bucktails and big Shad Rap plugs.
But the No. 1 fish and most aggressive in recent days has been catfish. He said they’ve been taking nightcrawlers, cut bait, just about anything. Deutsch said one anger was trolling with small Rapalas and caught channel catfish off and on all day.
Julie Farrell of the bait supplier in Ottawa says she hears the panfish action has been picking up at farm ponds and club lakes.
NOTE: Anyone planning a crappie-fishing trip to any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundments should call ahead about parking rules, campsite closings, etc., due to the U.S. government shutdown of “non-essential” services. (See AP story in the News section at www.newstrib.com/outdoors).
PREDICTION: Due to lateness of seasons and warm water this fall, this angler figures crappie action may well be at its peak up and down the Hennepin Canal the same day (Oct. 19) when catch-and-eat trout season opens at the lagoon (6 a.m.) behind the Hennepin Canal park office. Utica does not stock trout for the fall season, only spring, Culjan notes. Barring a freeze, there's no reason to think crappie will stop biting on the Hennepin Canal when November arrives.
REMINDER: Fishing conditions change rapidly. Try new things, different spots, depths, presentations. And just because people are saying the crappie bite hasn’t started, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy minnows. You never know and you don’t want to be unprepared.