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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Illinois hunting and fishing

Fishing is on fire

April 07, 2010 at 07:37 AM

You just never know. For days people had been telling me, “Fishing is on fire.”

With my normal luck, by the time I got out Monday afternoon, the fire would have burned out.

Not this time. Instead the warm, windy afternoon produced a red-hot outing. And all the best fishing came in this bay, which is actually a finger that runs north-south off a large, deep Peoria County strip-mine lake.

Illinois hunting and fishing

At first I tried for bass, as did fishing partner Gordon Inskeep. I was throwing a white Paul Clay chatterbait and Gordon was throwing a chatterbait (until he lost it) and then a tube. He outfished me big time on bass. But I did manage to catch a 19-incher off the west bank, with the wind sweeping past me.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Then Gordon had to leave and I kept fishing, trying a shallow flat with little luck (one bass, one big redear). Finally I walked back into the bay pictured above and tried for bass. Something kept hitting my chatterbait. But when I went to set the hook, there was nothing there. I figured I was in a school of big redear or bluegill, since the hits were hard.

So I started throwing a white-and-tinsel tube jig. Bam. Crappie. Bam. Crappie. Hmmm.

For the next 45 minutes I caught a crappie on nearly every cast. Fish were about 8-10 feet off shore. All I had to do was let the jig drop and they would nail it. The only other time I remember crappie hitting that hard was a few years back at Hennepin-Hopper when Chef Todd, Mark Coons and I sacked up a bunch on anything we had that was pink (even big pink flukes).

I didn’t need pink on Monday (thought I had plenty with me). Most of the time I was tipping my jig with a small Berkley Gulp Alive minnow. Most of the fish were 9.5-11 inches long and most were fat (and full of eggs, as I found later in the fish-cleaning shed at home). The best of all was the 14.9-incher pictured below (which I am calling a 15-incher and which weighed 1.75 pounds).

Illinois hunting and fishing

That big crappie made my day. When it hit I thought it was actually a bass since it was head-shaking on its way to the bank. What amazed me was just how much bigger that one fish was than the other crappie. I took this picture of the big guy with an 11.5 and an 11-incher just for reference.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Anyway, I called family members of the lake owner and they went out and filled three-quarters of a five-gallon bucket with crappie and bluegill (which evidently moved into the bay after I left, since I did not catch any while I was fishing).

Next up is a fish fry this weekend. That and a return visit to the same bay sometime soon. Will fishing still be on fire after last night’s rain, lightning and thunder? There’s only one way to find out.


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