Sunday, August 25, 2013

New lifer hunting in Illinois

This is a post I never took the time to write, so I'll post something temporary as a placeholder.  I've been continuing my new lifer search in central Illinois.  A good spot I found is Sandy Creek, which is across the Illinois River from the town of Henry.  I've caught and seen dozens of species in this creek, and recently I caught my first smallmouth buffalo from one of the deeper pools.  It was quite a fight on my 12 foot crappie pole rigged with 4 lb line.  Expect to see a few more lifers from Sandy Creek in the future, because I know they're in there!

Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) - new hook & line species #112

My other adventures have taken me to the eastern side of the state.  My micro searches have been tough with the hot weather and stagnant murky water that often occurs as a result of it.  Periodic rain is crucial for keeping these streams clean and clear.  One of my trips took me close to Kickapoo State Park, where redear sunfish have been stocked in some of the strip mine ponds.  I found a nice quiet spot on a side channel of Sportsman Lake to fish for sunfish.  After a few expected bluegill, I caught my first redear!

Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) - new hook & line species #113

More exciting material coming in future posts!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Illinois River backwaters

And we're back!  I've moved to Peoria, IL to start a new job.  I'll miss Madison and the fishing around south central WI, but now it's time to look forward to what's next.  Peoria sits on the Illinois River, which is in rough shape but also offers some new opportunities.

Illinois River cons - Asian carp invasion (silver, bighead, common, grass), perpetually muddy water, and limited shore access, especially at its lock and dams.

Illinois River pros - Cool backwater spots, good populations of species that will be new for me (smallmouth buffalo, black buffalo, longnose gar, skipjack herring, gizzard shad, river carpsucker, highfin carpsucker, grass carp, goldeye, redear sunfish), and a DNR that has a positive view of native species and is currently reintroducing alligator gar and redspotted sunfish (among others) to the river.

Today I met up my friend Brad from work to check out some Illinois River backwaters south of Peoria.  I was hoping to encounter some of the species listed in the pros section above, especially the buffalo and gar.  We encountered muddy water, some amount of submerged wood, little to no vegetation, and lots of mosquitofish and minnows hanging around the shoreline.  Every so often we would see a gar surface for a breath of air.  They looked like shortnose and spotted, not longnose or alligator.  Fishing was slow.  Worms on the bottom produced one bluegill and one largemouth bass.  A small silver and orange Mepps spinner caught this small spotted gar.

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)

Unfortunately, despite a few hits and momentary hookups, Brad wasn't able to get a gar to shore.  Expect to see a picture of him holding one in the future though!  On the way home, we stopped at the Powerton Cooling Lake in Pekin.  I set up Brad with my micro gear and he quickly caught a big female mosquitofish.  He is now officially a microfisherman, haha.

Western Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)