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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

Powerton producing hybrid stripers

February 20, 2010 at 05:00 PM

For a cold, snowy winter, there’s a surprising amount of fish-catching going on.

And not just through the ice.

Yes this is shaping up to be the best ice-fishing winter in a long time.

But for some anglers, it’s open water or nothing. That’s why they brave the cold to launch boats at Powerton Lake near Pekin, where an unfortunate lack of boat docks makes launching even tougher.

And while the buzz about Powerton isn’t the same as it was a few years back — when smallmouth bass were thriving — a handful of boaters have been out since last Monday’s opener.

They’ve been catching fish too, though hybrid striped bass have supplanted smallies as the best bet.

“They’re killing the hybrid stripers all over the lake,” said Mike Ward of Riverside Bait in Pekin. “They’re using large minnows, jigs, spinners and a lot of Panther Martins.

“We had a guy in the other day who was fishing off the bank and had seven of them that all went 5-6 pounds.”

Next best are catfish, with blue cats and flatheads hitting well on cut bluegill or cut Asian carp. The biggest flathead so far was a 42-pounder. That should change any day now, as we are due for a 60-pounder.

Speaking of fat fish, hard-core sauger anglers have been dodging ice on the Illinois River to wet a line.

Guide Jay Angel launched out of the Spring Valley Boat Club last Monday and caught a 17-inch sauger and 12 other smaller fish in just over two hours. “It was too cold to really stay out any longer than that,” Angel said.

Overall sauger are rated as good, though most are smaller fish.

The public ramp is open at Starved Rock State Park, but Barto Landing in Spring Valley is closed.

Ice has also locked up area lakes, which explains why the mainstay for most anglers remains ice fishing.

As expected for the mid-ice period, the bite is inconsistent. Most days late afternoon is your best chance to fill a bucket.

That said, mornings can still be productive as Reed and Melinda Cooling proved last Saturday at the Big 25 Club. The Coolings won the third leg of the Triple Crown of central Illinois ice fishing with 22.2 pounds of bluegill and crappie out of the club’s main lake.
They used a Vexilar to locate fish and then tied on Fat Boy ice jigs, plastics and waxworms.

“We probably drilled 15-20 holes and just kept moving,” Melinda Cooling said. “We had some really nice-sized bluegill and crappie.”

The Coolings earned $400 for the win and plan to spend that on a trip to Orr, Minn. in March. They visited the same area last year after winning a free trip with ice-fishing guru Dave Genz.

“My husband calls me a Genz stalker,” laughed Melinda.

The Coolings’ win made up for some disappointments on the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Just the opposite was true for Nate Eckhold of Peoria, who finished out of the top five after placing at Lake Camelot and Wildlife Prairie State Park.

Rounding out the top five at the Big 25 were: 2. Ryan Bradford and Craig Sherwood, 19.12 pounds; 3. Jeremy Stephens/Gary Schooley, 18.9; .4. Frank Bury/Mark Rosenak, 13.1; 5. (tie) Jason Schreiber/Rick Puckett and Tom Schultz/Shawn Johnson, 12.15.


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