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Illinois hunting and fishing

Looking back: Alabama Rig rules haven’t changed

December 20, 2012 at 11:32 AM

The State Journal-Register

Editor’s note: The rules regarding the use of the Alabama rig in Illinois haven’t changed since this story came out last January.

Fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it is still illegal to use the Alabama rig on lakes that have pole and line only fishing regulations unless the rig is modified to have only two hooks.

So, was the Alabama rig just a flash in the pan?

“We were deluged (with questions) last November and December, but we have heard absolutely nothing since from anglers,” Stephenson said.

Read about the Alabama rig feeding frenzy, including a story linked below about an Illinois business involved in supplying parts for the popular rig.

From the archives:
Jan. 9, 2012

It’s the hottest thing in fishing, right now.

Trouble is, it’s not always legal.

The Alabama Rig allows anglers to present up to five lures at once, and it has plopped into the consciousness of the Illinois fishing community almost overnight.

“An angler form Effingham called me and wanted to know if he could use it,” says Dan Stephenson, Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist and administrator. “When he first called me about it, I was Googling it at the same time so I could see a picture of it.

“It was all new to me three weeks ago.”

The Alabama Rig is an “umbrella rig,” with five wires emanating out from a single lead lure.

Lures attached to the end of each wire give the appearance of a whole school of baitfish.

YouTube videos show happy anglers reeling in up to three bass at once.

But the rig may not be legal on lakes with rules limiting anglers to two poles and two hooks or lures per line.

On lakes with the two pole two lures per line, such as Lake Springfield, the Alabama Rig is not legal.

How the Alabama Rig fits into Illinois fishing regulations has sparked discussion and caused confusion among anglers.

“A lot of people have questions about it,” says Rod Cooke of the Sangchris Bass Club. “A lot of guys are using it and probably don’t even know it’s illegal. They probably don’t even know about the two-hook limit.”

Stephenson said Illinois Conservation Police officers know about the Alabama Rig and have issued mostly warnings to anglers using it on lakes with the two-pole rule.

Cooke says some clubs are not allowing the rig’s use during tournaments.

The rig is legal on some lakes, such as the big U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lakes like Shelbyville, Rend and Carlyle.

It also is allowed at Kincaid Lake and Lake of Egypt.

Anglers can use it on the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri, but not between Illinois and Iowa.

The Alabama Rig is legal on the Ohio River.

Check the 2011 Illinois Fishing Information booklet under site-specific regulations.

There are ways around the regulation, Stephenson says.

If the angler clips the hooks off three of the lures or replaces those lures with spinning blades to attract fish, the rig is legal.

“But they can only have two hooks (or lures),” he says.

Stephenson said the two-pole rule has been in place for years, mostly to preserve lakes as sport fisheries and not commercial fisheries.

It is an issue that is not going away.

Stephenson says a manufacturer is creating an Alabama Rig for muskie fishing in Georgia.

He called seeking information on Illinois muskie lakes and where the use of the rig would be allowed.

He said fisheries administrators are meeting Jan. 31 to look at the two-pole rule and seek answers to questions about the Alabama Rig.

“What are the biological problems?” Stephenson asks. “If you do catch three, four or five fish at once they might beat themselves up, or it might take longer to get them off the hooks.

“I can see that as being a concern in July and August,” he says. “That’s about the only reason I can think of we’d be against them biologically.”

Any rule change would take a year to wind its way through the administrative rules process and likely not take effect until April 2013.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

Related stories

Illinois company in midst of Alabama Rig feeding frenzy

Ron Stevens of Lure Parts Online is in the middle of a literal feeding frenzy right now. His company is selling parts for the Alabama Rig, the hottest thing in fishing right now.

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