Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Of gobblers, muskie and surging sauger

March 26, 2009 at 08:27 PM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering if the full-strutters I saw at close range Tuesday will be so cooperative come April 13.

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Gobblers are gobbling, forsythias are blooming and crappie are biting. What a fine time to be outdoors. Tell me again, why is it I like winter? ... Is there a better bank fishing spot than Spring Lake? This week the channel catfish started hitting in that shallow Tazewell County lake, crappie had already been going on and off for weeks and a few fat-bellied bass even emerged. Best of all, you can sit in your car and keep warm while tending your rod. ...  On Wednesday Congress gave the highest level of protection to 2 million acres in nine states. That means President Obama’s first conservation measure gives wildnerness status to almost as much land as George W. Bush set aside in his entire tenure. That’s good news. The bad news is we’ll have to wait for another Republican president before anyone can set foot on the protected soil.

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Looks like organizers of the 23rd annual MWC Walleye tournament may catch a well-deserved break. While the Illinois River is still flooded, anglers are catching some nice sauger heading into this weekend’s event at Barto Landing in Spring Valley. Rumor is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may hold levels stable through the weekend, which would help. Weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday start at 1 p.m. and spectators are asked to park at Hall High School and ride shuttles. ... Sauger action is good enough that Baitshop Bob at Riverview Marine speculates it till take 33-38 pounds to win the two-day tourney. “They’ve been catching some fat females that are dropping eggs, so they might have hit it just right,” Baitshop said. “One guy said his hotspot was three cornfields up river and eight rows in.” ... Peoria’s chapter of Ducks Unlimited has its banquet Saturday at the Knights of Columbus hall on Radnor Road. Doors open at 5 p.m. Call (309) 678-5445. You can spend all day talking about ducks if you first attend the Friends of Sanganois Fish Fry Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sanganois office.

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Eyebrows were raised when David Meyer first proposed bringing archery into physical education classes at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria. No longer. Meyer has 60 kids on his first-year archery team and many will compete Saturday in Springfield at the National Archery in the Schools Program’s state tournament. The lone District 150 archery team may have a shot to contend for a title. ... The Tri-County Catfish Association starts its season Saturday with a tournament from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. out of Pekin. Other tourneys will be April 18, May 16, June 13, July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 12 and the Classic Oct. 3-4. Entry fees are $55 per boat. Call Al Mittelsteadt at (309) 241-1582. A circuit may also be starting in Banner/Liverpool. ... Speaking of tournaments, top fish in last Saturday’s Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail event at Spring Lake was a 43-incher caught by Ron Rodak of Oak Forest. He was trolling the large flats on the south end of the north lake in the afternoon when the fish hit. Hmm. Think that might be a decent spring pattern for Spring Lake?

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Look for the proposed nine-day late-winter deer season to become a reality in January. But word in the woods is a proposed fourth day added to the first gun season (on a Monday of all days) won’t happen. ... Maybe you saw the story about whooping cranes dying out west due to a lack of blue crabs at wintering grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The flock is down to 249 birds and will likely drop lower during migration. That’s a sad reminder that the “experimental flock” that passes over Illinois might prove to be pretty important before all is said and done. ... Our Neighbor Ash sez he felt responsible for the ailing whoopers until he learned his indulgence at Red Lobster had nothing to do with Texas’ blue-crab shortage. ...  Former Illinois Central College hoops coach Carroll Herman called with a good question about the announcement of proposed boat launching fees at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. As he noted, the Corps already charges a fee. A new $3 fee will be levied only for ramps the state maintains.

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If you have a desire to hear Chef Todd in action, he will be cooking pork chops and hot dogs Saturday and Sunday at Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville. Likely more significant is the fact all lures at Presley’s will be 20 percent off today through Sunday and all rods and reels are 10 percent off. There will also be a seminar Saturday at 10 a.m. about Humminbird fish finders.  ... Make sure to ask Chef Todd about his trip to Lake Storey last Sunday when he was on the net as Evan Didway of Pekin caught a 48-inch muskie. Chef caught a toothy critter too — a little fella that looked like he’d just been dumped out of a hatchery truck. ... Speaking of monster muskies, the 51-incher with a 24-inch gut caught by guide Colby Simms on March 9 at Kinkaid Lake is a lake record but likely fell two pounds shy of the 38-pound, 8-ounce state record from below Lake Shelbyville. ... Parting shot: Get your 2009 fishing and hunting license now. New licenses are needed by April 1. Now might also be the time to ponder a lifetime license, what with fees likely to increase next year.

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