These shad-eating machines prowl a number of Illinois waters, providing excitement for any angler lucky enough to hook one. (April 2009)
Steve Pallo, fisheries chief of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says striped and hybrid-striped bass are our best fighting fish. To anyone who has caught one that seems an apt assessment. These shad-eating machines prowl a number of Illinois waters providing excitement for any angler lucky enough to hook one.
Most stripers are caught by trolling shad or shad-like imitation baits.
The Illinois state record is 31 pounds, 7 ounces for striped bass and 20 pounds, .32 ounces for hybrid striped bass. The average fish from these species range from two to 15 pounds.
Three€„subspecies -- striped bass, hybrid striped bass and striped/hybrid striped bass -- swim in 28 Prairie State waterways and lakes. Regardless of where a fisherman lives, he is only a couple of hours from a striper fishery.
Historically, the IDNR has had problems meeting stocking needs for this fishery, but today they are a reliable, quality source of fry.
All three state hatcheries involved in striped bass and hybrid striped bass production use fry purchased out of state. The LaSalle hatchery produces hybrid striped bass, the Little Grassy hatchery produces striped bass and the Jake Wolf hatchery produces both species. This year, they plan to obtain fry from a private hatchery in Arkansas and raise them to release size.
Illinois stocks striped bass and hybrid striped bass at a rate of five to 10 2-inch fingerlings per acre. (Continued)
Angling opportunities center around following shad. Both threadfin and gizzard shad are the primary food source for all three subspecies. Many are caught incidental to fishing for other species. Catfish anglers often catch them in the spring using chicken livers fished near the bottom of a lake.
Most fish are caught trolling shad or shad-like imitation baits, but live and cut shad work well too.
After using an electronic fish locator to find shad schools, anglers must decide the correct depth to troll. Shore-anglers look for points and deep-water flats near current, the chief way to find stripers.
Striped bass hybrids have been stocked in LaSalle Lake since 1990 and have fared quite well. Stocking continues at an annual rate of five to-10 fish per acre, and a strong forage base provides ample food supply for the fish.
Stripers range from 7 to 11 pounds, according to IDNR survey records. Most striper action comes in the early spring and late summer when the water is cooler.
Spring anglers like to use chicken livers fished near the bottom, but as the water warms, they begin deep trolling with shad-imitation crankbaits. The average depth of the lake is about 25 feet, but there are some 70-foot holes. The bottom of the 2,050-acre lake is mostly clay, and the only structure is extensive riprap along the shoreline.
The lake is closed to fishing from Oct. 16 to March 15 each year to provide refuge for migrating waterfowl. During March and October, the lake is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Located south of Seneca, LaSalle is a cooling lake owned by Exelon. To reach it, take Interstate 80 to exit 97, cross the Illinois River to Maxon Road and follow the road to the LaSalle Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area.
Fishing is permitted from either shore or by boat. No boat rentals are available. There are no motor restrictions. Other site-specific restrictions and creel limits are posted at the boat ramps.
Anglers should be aware that this is a perched lake -- formed by levees that rise above surrounding land -- and when winds increase, the high waves can be dangerous. There are no areas to safely beach a boat other than the ramp, and in windy conditions, it may be difficult to return to the ramp.
Most fishing is done on the portion of the lake close to the boat ramp. The structure consists of several dikes creating a current. The ends of the dikes attract shad and subsequently stripers. The south shore riprap in front of the ramp and east shore directly across from the ramp are good locations.
Boat operators should stay out of the restricted area that is marked by orange buoys and observe the no-wake area restrictions.
The daily creel limit of 10 fish is permitted of which up to three can be over 17 inches in length. No bait is available in the area, so anglers are advised to bring it from home. For current lake conditions, please visit www.windycityfishing.com/forums.
For lodging information, visit http://www.discoverourtown.com/IL/Utica/Lodging-4233.html. For guide service, call Jay Angel at (815) 739-7030.
Heidecke Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is in Grundy County about an hour southwest of Chicago. Built in the late 1970s, it was once a cooling lake for a now-defunct generating station.
The 1,995-acre lake has produced 12 state records and receives annual stockings of striped bass hybrids. Although pure striped bass have not been stocked since 1994, the few that remain are very large. Fish as heavy as 40 pounds have been caught in the IDNR survey nets, but the average hybrid striper weighs about 2.26 pounds and is roughly 17 inches long.
The lake is open to fishing from 6 a.m. to sunset from April 1 until 10 days before the opening of the North Zone waterfowl season. A concessionaire at the boat ramp offers bait, tackle, ice, food and soft drinks, as well as boat and motor rentals. There are no motor horsepower limits, but all boats must have a working gas-powered motor. Boat operators tend to troll open water in the north arm of the lake and work the shoreline.
Bank-fishing is permitted on the east side near Dresden Road and is handicapped accessible. Shore-anglers may also use portions of the center and east dike.
For more information, call (815) 942-6352. For guide service, call Jay Angel at (815) 739-7030. For overnight accommodations, contact the Super 8 Motel in Morris at (815) 942-3200 or www.Super8.com.
This 5,000-acre cooling lake in DeWitt County is three miles east of the city of Clinton. A number of site-specific regulations apply due to designated fishing areas, safety concerns and the seasonal closing of the entire portion of the lake betwe
en the DeWitt County Highway 14 bridge and the Illinois Route 48 bridge. The closing is in effect from Oct. 10 to March 31 each year to provide refuge for migrating waterfowl.
Clinton was one of the first lakes to receive hybrid stripers in 1978. Pure striped bass were introduced in 1991. Today, pure stripers range in length from 17 to 32 inches, although none have been stocked since 2005. Hybrid striped bass, though still present, are fewer than pure stripers. Prime locations for both species include submerged bars, riprap and the spillway area.
Boating fishermen should pay attention to the weather especially if winds exceed 15 mph. Use care in avoiding shallows and underwater hazards. Site-specific regulations are posted at the boat ramp and other frequently used locations.
Bait is available at Mike's Tackle World in Decatur, (217) 423-0730. Accommodations are available at the Ramada Limited, 355 E. Hickory Point Road in Decatur, (217) 876-8011, or www.ramada.com for reservations. For guide service, call Steve Welch at (217) 762-7257.
Lake Mattoon is about eight miles southwest of the city of Mattoon in Shelby, Coles and Cumberland counties. The 1,000 acres of water has an average depth of 11 feet with a maximum of 31 feet. The city of Mattoon charges a user fee and public launching is available. No boat rentals are available. There are no restrictions on motor size.
Fishing ranges from good to fair with a wide range of sizes of striped bass hybrids caught each year. Fishing pressure is lighter than the more popular striper lakes. The few fish caught in the IDNR fall surveys average 11 or 12 inches long. Fish kills below the spillway indicate a wide variety of hybrids are found in the lake. Fish up to 20 inches long have been found. Best locations are on the flats and points.
Bait, tackle and guide information is available at Prairie Outfitters, 930 18th Street in Charleston, (217) 348-6770. Local accommodations may be found at the Super 8 motel at Interstate 57 and the Route 16 exit.
For more information, contact the motel at (217) 235-8888 or www.Super8.com.
Striped bass were stocked in 1983 and subsequent population surveys indicate it has been a kind of roller coaster ride. The 2002 catch rate was one of the highest, while the following year was one of the poorest. As a result, it's difficult to estimate the size of stripers in this lake. There are no hybrids.
A 10-year-old boy caught the Illinois state-record striper in Sangchris in 1994.
The lake is located about 14 miles southeast of Springfield in Christian and Sangamon counties. It consists of three arms with the middle arm being the warmest due to water from the power plant being pumped back into the lake. The 2,165-acre lake features boat ramps but no boat rentals. The shoreline is undeveloped, thus there are no bait, tackle or food concessions.
The best months to fish are December through April, but fish are caught year 'round. During the prime period, fish are usually found in 15 to 17 feet of water following shad that are seeking warmer water. The most recent surveys have found two year-classes of fish. The younger class fish average 5 to 7 pounds, while the older ones average 15 to 17 pounds. The fish seem to grow about 3 pounds a year depending on shad reproduction and survival. No fingerlings were stocked in 2007, but they were stocked in 2008, which will add another year-class to the population.
For bait and tackle, call Big Red's at (217) 820-9674) or Jim's Live Bait and Tackle at (217) 787-1951 in Springfield. The Springfield area has numerous motels and nearly all national chains are represented. For guide service, call Dan Vinovich in Pekin at (309) 347-1728.
All along southeastern Illinois, the Ohio River flows gently toward its meeting with the Mississippi River at Fort Defiance. Although striped and hybrid striped bass are found along the entire length of the waterway, it is perhaps one of the most underutilized waterways in the state, producing 3- to 10-pound striped bass and 8- to 10-pound hybrids.
Smithland Pool, behind Smithland Lock and Dam, is the largest pool. The area immediately below the lock and dam is one of the most successful striper fisheries. Most anglers lock through the dam after launching at Golconda Marina. Other ramps are found at Old Shawneetown, Cave in Rock, Tower Rock, Elizabethtown, Rosiclare and Barren Creek.
The fishing is best when the water is at normal pool and moving well. In high water, turbidity affects the fishing adversely, as do low-water conditions when the current flow is too weak. Water levels can be obtained from www.CorpsLakes.US, the Corps of Engineers Web site.
For fishing information, contact Golconda Marina at (618) 683-5875 or www.golcondamarina.com. The marina is closed from Nov. 20 to March 1 each year.
For accommodations, call Bear Bank Cabins at (618) 672-4249, Willowbrook Cabin at (618) 672-4815 or Barren Creek Cottages at (618) 683-4004 or go online to www.southernmosttourismillinois.com. For guide service, contact Darrell VanVactor at (270) 395-4204 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Jackson County's 1,800-acre Cedar Lake is not what one would think of as a striper lake. That would be a mistake. Nine stockings of striped bass between 1990 and 2007 have established an up-and-coming fishery. IDNR surveys are incomplete at this point as they did not focus on this one species. Anglers have reported taking fish ranging from 5 to 23 pounds.
One of the attractions of the lake is a wilderness setting. Owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the city of Carbondale, the shoreline is void of development save a couple of boat-launch ramps and related parking lots. Local lake maps purchased at area bait shops show the main channel. What little current there is in the lake flows along it and attracts stripers.
Follow Illinois Route 51 from Carbondale about five miles to Cedar Lake Road and follow the signs to the parking lot. Guide service is available from Al Nutty at (618) 694-4897) or www.kinkaidlakeguides.com.
Bait may be obtained at Cooksey's Marine Sales & Bait Shop (618-993-3366), one mile south of the Williamson County Airport on Illinois Route 148. Motel accommodations are available in Carbondale. For information, check with the Carbondale Convention & Tourism Bureau (800-526-1500) or online at www.cctb.org.
Located in the Baldwin Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area, this perched power plant lake contains hybrid stripers that grow very fast because of the heated water and a large population of gizzard shad.
The 2,000-acre lake provides water to cool generators at the power plant about three miles north of the Randolph County community of Baldwin. Presently living in these waters are two year-classes of hybrid stripers. The 2002 year-class c
ontains some 5- to 6-pound fish, and the 2006 class are in the 6-pound range.
Although fishing is rated fair at this time, the next few years promise some good fish. Fishing from boats, with motors of 50 horsepower or less, is permitted. There is a boat ramp at the north end of the lake. No rentals are available. Shore-fishing is popular from the levee along the north end of the lake.
No concessions for bait, tackle and food are available on-site. But the items are available in Baldwin.
Illinois' striper fishery is alive and well. It is presently an underutilized fishery on some lakes. Those who partake of this opportunity recommend it highly.