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The good news in the Illinois Valley has been great weather — and perfect conditions for outdoor pursuits such as fishing.
Intermittent days of steady rains followed by clear, cool weather haven't necessarily meant perfect conditions for catching fish.
For instance, Buster Culjan at the Utica bait shop offered a familiar refrain for the fishing prospects on the Illinois River: "High and dirty, catfish and drum."
At the shop at Shabbona, a staff member said he hadn't been hearing good reports about bluegill or crappie fishing. However, he said the "muskies are hitting hard" and so are the bass.
Pat Stier at Garfield Stier in Sheffield said she hadn't heard much about fishing in the deep, clear strip mine lakes at Mautino's State Fish and Wildlife Area, but had heard about people catching (and buying bait for) just about everything else on the Hennepin Canal. She said people are catching bluegill, bass and catfish, with stink bait, crawlers and chicken livers selling for the cats.
Yours truly lived last weekend by the old adage, "Work before play," and wound up fishing in the rain on the canal in the Tiskilwa area. Since it began raining as soon as I showed up, I tried fishing under bridges, rather than fishing the usual structure — such as the locks, pilings, fallen trees that were out in the open and would have resulted in a thorough soaking for me. (What a wimp!).
Anyway, after more than an hour and only a few nibbles and no fish trying all depths for crappie or bluegill under the bridge downstream from Lock 11, I drove upstream toward Wyanet and fished under another bridge. On my first cast, putting a mini jig and waxworm near two iron bars protruding out of the water, I tied into what I at first thought must have been a foul-hooked carp, since I couldn't turn the fish around. After several minutes, I discovered I had a 25-inch catfish, rather skinny, but a hard fighter — especially on ultralight tackle. Since I had no net and 6-pound test, I had to wear him out and lip him (or her, perhaps).
So I had a good outcome on that fishing outing, although I wouldn't consider it a success to catch zero bluegill, zero crappie, one small sunfish and one overly aggressive catfish that sucked in a tiny jig. Also, though it worked for that catfish, I figure the blue and white jig I had on must have been a terrible color choice on a rainy day.
For example, this week Stieger's bait shop says the fishing is slow for crappie, slow to fair for bluegill on waxworms and fair for catfish on prepared baits at the Hennepin Canal.
The DNR's sources report good fishing for catfish on the Mississippi River in the Savanna area, good fishing for several species on the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area, and so on.
A very thorough report from the Rock River at Dixon is likely to be quite similar to the fishing opportunities on the Fox River at Dayton.
A different source for the DNR provided a report for Shabbona that differed from a report received by this reporter.
The DNR's sources listed fishing as fair at lakes Evergreen, Bloomington and Dawson immediately following the rains early in the week, but fishing for almost all species was listed as "good" at Clinton.
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