You won’t fish many places where you can catch two bass on one lure. The Emiquon Preserve is one such place.
Peoria area fishing prospects: West
You can find many things in abundance at the Emiquon Preserve near Havana.
Bass. Vegetation. And water.
Some might argue there’s too much of all three. Certainly there’s too much water right now, as a flooded parking lot can attest.
All that water could create real headaches this spring at what is widely viewed as the best bass lake open to the public on the west side of the Illinois River. Since
opening last June, Emiquon has wowed anglers with amazing numbers of bass, occasional keeper crappie and even two state-record pumpkinseeds.
But there’s bad news for those eager to get out on the 4,600-acre Emiquon early this spring. Due to high water, parking is very limited and anglers are urged to avoid parking on Illinois Route 97/78.
The Nature Conservancy is pumping out of the lake and plans to build four parking areas, boat ramps and docks later this summer. The sooner the better for lake regulars.
That’s because sampling last fall showed a huge population of bass 12-16 inches long. “By the end of the summer those fish should be moving toward 14-18 inches,” fisheries biologist Rob Hilsabeck said.
Beyond bass, Emiquon has plenty of crappie, bluegill and pumpkinseeds — if you can get past the bass and find them. Anglers are reminded gas motors are not even allowed on boats and you must obtain a free, season-long permit at Dickson Mounds Museum.
High water also created access problems at Banner Marsh last year and could do the same this spring, though pumps have been running since January and all roads are presently open.
Bass fishing remains a highlight at Banner, though more of the focus will likely be on the Main Access. Samples showed 10 percent of the bass there were over 18 inches compared to 7 percent at East Point and Bell’s Landing accesses.
“That’s the best body condition I’ve seen for bass in the Main Access in several years,” Hilsabeck said. No doubt local fishing coaches will want to take note of that since Banner will again host one of the area’s prep bass fishing sectionals on April 23 (below is a picture from last year’s sectional taken by Adam Gerik).
Crappie numbers are best in East Point while the other two areas have more legal fish but lower densities. All three offer muskie over the 42-inch legal minimum.
Just down the road, 250-acre Canton Lake offers a prime destination for channel catfish and flatheads and blue cats pushing 20 pounds. Crappie density there is down some, but quality may well improve.
Double T also has a good population of bass around 18 inches, as you might expect of a lake with a 21-inch minimum size limit. That limit may require tweaking if bass body condition declines any. The lake also has a limited population of big crappie up to 13 inches and is a more popular destination for muskie anglers, most
of whom troll the deep strip lake.
If you enjoy catching lots of crappie 7-9 inches long, two destinations worth considering are Lake Storey near Galesburg or Little Sister Lake at the Fulton County Recreation Area near St. David.
Since it was rehabilitated two years ago, Little Sister has seen a crappie population boom. To thin down numbers of those 6- to 9-inchers, there’s no limit on crappie or bluegill. For bigger bluegill try Lakes 3 or 3 1/2 at the Fulton County site.
Lake Storey also has plenty of crappie and fish should be slightly larger this year, many pushing 8-9 inches with occasional slabs up to 2 pounds. Storey is also a prime destination for long, relatively skinny muskie up to 50 inches and for walleye. “If you talk to people who know how to catch walleye, they’ll tell you it’s a good lake for them,” biologist Ken Russell said.
Crappie are improved in Lake McMaster at Snakeden Hollow, which shows more fish and better sizes than in recent memory. For the best bluegill at Snakeden, Russell advises fishing Lake Victoria or Northwest Lake for plump fish weighing one-half to three-quarter pounds.
Farther afield, 95-acre Argyle Lake and 27-acre Gladstone Lake are both good crappie destinations. Argyle also has a strong population of channel catfish and the potential for big saugeye.
Spring Lake (277 acres) near Macomb has a low density of bass but does offer a good chance at lunkers of 5-7 pounds. The lake also has plenty of small crappie and good catfish action.
Finally, it will be interesting to see what all this high water brings to Illinois River backwaters like Anderson Lake, Rice Lake and Duck Island.
All three offer good catfishing as a rule and are expected to provide better action for crappie, bluegill, white bass, bullheads and even bass thanks to several years of flooding.