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Illinois hunting and fishing

Pastor Charles Everly, 76, of Pekin caught this 65-pound, 51-inch flathead catfish on Wednesday, March 11 at Powerton Lake. His son, Paul Everly Sr., hoists the fish.

Big Fish Fridays: Pastor Everly

March 13, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Big Fish Fridays

Welcome to the newest weekly feature on

Every Friday from now through the start of duck season we will be posting stories and pictures about big fish and the anglers that caught them.

To help make this happen, we need your help. And to sweeten the pot, we will be giving away prizes to readers who submit pictures and stories. Two lucky readers who submit a story and picture(s) will receive prizes in March, April, May, June and July. The first round of prizes are spinnerbaits and chatterbaits provided by Paul Clay of Dine-a-Mite baits of Chillicothe. Future prizes include catfish bait from Hoss’s Hawg Bait of Elmwood and a final grand prize of a rod and reel.

How can you submit stories and pictures? Simple. Click here.

Or send us an e-mail and we’ll handle the rest.

Stories can be from this year or from past years. The more details the better, though we will accept pictures with cutlines as an entry. Many of the stories will also be featured on our Big Fish Stories page.

So when you catch a big fish, make sure to send us your story and pictures. Until then, enjoy the stories.



The Good Lord provides. So says the Rev. Charles Everly of Pekin, who caught a 65-pound flathead catfish Wednesday evening at Powerton Lake.

“I had a big pole out with a bluegill for bait for whatever would take it,” the 76-year-old Everly said. “And he took it. Boy was he a fighter.”

Everly fought his flathead for 30 minutes before bringing it to shore. That’s the second monster pulled out of Powerton this week. On Saturday Jason Smavely of Mackinaw caught a 56-pounder. For bait Smavely uses Asian carp that he catches on waxworms.

Both flatheads are headed to the fryer at Everly’s Zion Baptist Church at 1320 S. Fifth St in Pekin. First up is a Saturday gospel concert that starts at 6 p.m. and features the Gospel Messengers, an old-fashioned male quartet from Decatur. “Our bluegrass gospel band will play first,” said Everly, who keeps busy preaching and singing when he isn’t fishing or cleaning fish. “The Lord’s a blessing, the Devil’s a fighting and I guess everything else is in good order,”

Everly figures he’ll still have more than enough fish left to fry for Monday’s noon prayer luncheon.

“We’ll probably have enough for our next Saturday too,” he said. “But I have had three different calls from some of my people saying, ‘Fry me up a pan of that.’”

Everly caught his fish on a large 10- or 11-foot rod and a heavy-duty spinning reel loaded with 30-pound test line. He borrowed the rod and reel from a friend, Larry Stepanski of Pekin. He used a bluegill caught out of Powerton as bait and had a 5-ounce sinker to keep his bait on the bottom in the swift current of Powerton’s hot-water discharge.

“There’s almost always a good current out there,” said Everly, who fished Powerton religiously. “It’s a rare occasion the current is not strong.”

Late February and early March is typically the prime time for big flathead catfish at Powerton and this year is proving to be no exception.

Everly is full aware of that and has a home-made gaff he carries to help land large fish. To land the 65-pounder he called on the assistance of another nearby angler.

Everly also catches good numbers of blue catfish out of Powerton, typically using just waxworms as bait. “They are averaging about 10-15 pounds and sometimes you’ll get one that will go over 30,” Everly said. “My biggest one was 38. That was when I had six that went 115 pounds.”

Below are my stories and pictures about Pastor Everly from the July 25, 2004 Peoria Journal Star.

Illinois hunting and fishing

A divine excuse to fish


The main reason for starting a weekly fish fry was fellowship.

But Pastor Charles Everly has a confession. Feeding fish to his parishioners at Zion Baptist Church in Pekin isn’t a completely selfless act.

“I figured if I could find some outlet for fish that had to do with the Lord that would be the best excuse to go fishing there ever was,” Everly said, a sly smile sneaking across his tanned face.

And Everly uses that excuse to the fullest, often venturing out with rod and reel four or five times a week.

Perhaps you’ve seen him prowling the bank at one of his usual haunts—Powerton Lake, Spring Lake or the Sanganois Conservation Area. He’s the older gentleman with a battered blue Toyota pickup, a 20-foot fishing rod and an uncanny knack for catching something when others can’t get a bite.

“I’m so crazy about this fishing stuff I even enjoy cleaning fish,” Everly said.

That’s good, since heaven Illinois hunting and fishingknows he had plenty to clean last year. Everly caught a 44-pound flathead at Sanganois one July day (pictured at right). Another productive outing produced a stringer of Powerton Lake blue catfish that weighed 50 1/2 pounds. While big fish have not been as cooperative this year, Everly seldom returns home without a bucket of bluegill, crappie, sunfish, catfish or bullheads.

“I just can’t get into that catch-and-release business,” he shrugged.

No doubt that traces back to being raised on a subsistence farm outside Hopedale. While on the farm Everly, 72, developed a lifelong love for fishing during visits to Mackinaw River tributaries with his grandfather.

“We’d fish for bullheads, bluegill, green sunfish and every now and then a catfish,” Everly said.

In the years since he’s never stopped fishing, according to his wife of 46 years, Luetta, who said “he was fishing when I met him back in 1956 in Chandlerville.”

Aside from his equipment, not much has changed for Everly when it comes to angling. He still fishes for the same species he did as a boy. He still keeps most of what he catches for the frying pan. And he still fishes from the bank - a source of both comfort and consternation.

Comfort comes from the fact he gets sore in a boat. “Plus I’m the world’s worst at backing up a trailer,” he said.

Consternation comes from the changes he’s witnessed at his favorite haunts. During an outing last week, Everly took me to several honey holes on the east side of the Illinois River - starting with a depressing visit to silt-choked Pekin Lake.

“This used to be my favorite place,” said Everly, who has spent 41 of his 48 years as a preacher in Pekin. “There’s no way to declare how many thousands of pounds of fish I caught out there in my younger days.”

But Pekin Lake was so dry last week Jesus would have been hard-pressed to fill a net, let alone to catch a keeper. Any talk of a proposed multi-million dollar U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restoration at Pekin Lake only makes Everly shake his head.

“The problem I see with a lot of these places is that if something needs fixing, (the government) feels they need to mount a big expensive program to restore it instead of trying something small to make it better,” Everly said later after a visit to the weedy south end of Spring Lake.

Everly knows all about small measures in the face of large problems. Before undergoing open-heart surgery in 2000 he visited Haiti more than 150 times to perform missionary work. Yet while that poor country shows no sign of improvement, Everly counts those trips among his finest moments.

“You can’t believe the joy I’ve had with that ministry in Haiti,” he said.

Everly exudes similar joy while fishing. Blue catfish are his current favorites, but even tiny bluegill earn big smiles.

Seeing his “tackle box” made me smile. Nearly all his gear was contained in a small brown pill bottle. His fishing system is similarly simple, aside from the 18- to 20-foot rods he prefers. Everly’s typical rig consists of a bobber and two short leaders tied about 6 and 12 inches above a sinker. At the end of each leader is a No. 6 hook baited with 7-10 waxworms.

While simple, the Illinois hunting and fishingset-up catches virtually anything that swims. During our trip, Everly caught bluegill, green sunfish, catfish and a healthy 15-inch smallmouth bass (at right) he released while calling the fish “a Powerton gar.”

“The only thing they’re good for is tangling up your line,” said Everly, as devoted a catch-and-eat angler as you’ll meet. “I am the self-appointed fish frying champion of the world,” he added later.

As for those fish fries - scheduled to run Sept. 11 through the week before Memorial Day - Everly believes there’s plenty of precedence for mixing angling and religion. For proof, he cites the disciple Peter’s actions following the resurrection of Jesus.

“Some people make a big deal out of how Peter went fishing after the resurrection, how he turned back to his worldly ways and dragged others with him,” Everly said. “I always say, ‘He met the Lord out there when he was fishing.’

“So a lot of times when I go to the fishing hole I meet the Lord. I always say I can get more prayers answered at the end of a fishing pole than in any other position.”

Amen to that Pastor Everly.



EDITOR'S NOTE: Look for Big Fish Fridays stories every Friday at Prairie State

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Not trying to get anyone in trouble, but isn’t it illegal to use game-fish as bait?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 12:20 PM

A shame he couldn’t let the big ones go so everyone else can enjoy catching them.  How does he think they got that big.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 12:59 PM

To SPeacock;
I think that using panfish from the same location that you are fishing from is OK. Check with your 2008 Illinois Fishing Information guide Page 2

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 01:36 PM

It is legal so long as the fish are caught in the same waters you are fishing.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on 03/13 at 01:43 PM

Why be upset with a man who eats his catch, or better yet is providing it to his congregation?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 01:51 PM

It hurts to see someone killing my babies (smallies) even if he is feeding his church congregation. I hate to see someone/something killing the brown fish besides the summer water temps. How offensive to say that they are only good for tangling line. Last time i checked it is the catfisherman that are responsible for the tangles and snags. I pulled 400 yards of braid and mono off the bottom in one outing. I lose lures because of the “wise” ol’ catmen. on a typical day i lose @ least 3 lures everytime out. I pull in rigs and all so i know they are just discarding their stock piles around the lake. When was the last time anyone found bass fishing junk around the lake? That’s what i thought! NEVER.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 06:02 PM

saddest thing is i really like Mr. Everly. I know some of his family and have helped him many times fill a bucket-o-gills. he is a good guy and i am sure he doesnt throw his stuff down. Even had to switch his UL once cuz i couldnt use it his way, it’s awkward.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 06:05 PM

The article states he released the smallmouth.  So, not sure what the big deal is there.  The man is an old timer, like my dad.  They just don’t understand or don’t want to understand the concept of catch and release.  My dad has a fit when i throw fish back. 
I agree with a previous entry, I would have thrown that big old flathead back. I am sure it has been in the lake a long time.  Plus, I think the big ones don’t taste very good.  One thing is for sure, the only thing that ends up in a landfill with the pastor, are the fish bones.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 06:33 PM

In response to the small slayer, ....
“last time you checked” ??!?!?! boy, I bet it was tough measuring 400 yds of line you pulled from the bottom where all those smallmouth hang out. And in a “typical” day, I bet there are very few “wise ‘ol” catfishermen who lose lures high in the tree that consumes your lures by the trey.
  You dont find bass “junk” around your lake because any sally can hoist in a big bass with little more than an ultralight setup. A big cat will put ALL of your equipment to the test, and win many times…..for real.(personally, I like to bass fish with a crappie rig and four lb test so I can feel honerable and fair when I land it)....
...I would be honered to fish beside pastor Everly!
KUDOS to the wise pastor Everly!! I guarantee he has forgotten more about fishing than the small slayer will ever know.
....If you want to eat it, KEEP IT.If you dont, thow it back. There is no shortage of fish, just animal rights, tourney guys, and people who cant catch ‘em.  PEROID

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 08:37 PM

Just to clarify, as stated in the story, Pastor Everly did release the smallmouth bass in the picture.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on 03/13 at 08:45 PM

pabst1blue…I would disagree with something you said.  There is a shortage of fish in many places. I think that is why you see so many folks who are so passionate about catch and release.  I live about 25 miles outside of Chicago.  The only time I can catch a good amount of fish is 1.  if it is the first day of inland trout, or 2. I go to the cooling lakes.  The forest preserve lakes are barren.  Yes, they have size limits and the amount of fish you can keep, but these aren’t always followed.  It would be nice if we could have IDNR everywhere to enforce these limits, but fiscally, that isn’t gonna happen.  Hence, many people preach catch and release.  I catch an release about 90% of the time.  Heck, with as much as I spend on fishing gear, bait, tackle gas, would be cheaper for me to jusy buy them at the store.  However, I love the sport of it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 09:36 PM

yea, Get the IDNR involved,what a bunch of loosers there.Just tring to justify their jobs,

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/13 at 10:51 PM

Great comment Illinoisbonecollector, couldnt agree with you more.  Bubby, you cant convince me or anyone down state that the Chicago area is not taken care of first and formost. ...the best money can buy. Some of the top waters in the state are in your back yard. Every outing cant be a banner catch. its called fishing, not catching. try switching colors.  1 ...inland trout are not native to Illinois, ...2 ..cooling lakes are new too.
Maybe they will come out with a vending machine that will spit a fish out (for a small fee of course) at the local fishing holes so no one will have to worry about luck and those pesky bad moon phases. Personally, I never have any trouble catching fish from north to south, and even the little bitty creeks in between. there are good days and bad days. of course, I dont trout fish unless they were just stocked and hungry.  what would be the point?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 02:30 AM

What an interesting story! I can’t believe the size
of those monsters. What a thrill it must be to see
one rise up from the depths into the net!
  As far as table-fare goes, though, I would be leery of those old fish. Power-plant lakes are high
in mercury levels, and un-safe for consumption.
Feeding that to the flock might be dangerous; unless
you’re trying to bring them to the lord a little
quicker. Just a thought.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 08:31 AM


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 10:21 AM

Pabst, i used your ego to measure the line, because apparently it’s pretty large as well. Do you think your so much better than everyone else because you use 4 lb test? I call using light line on a 4lb fish unethical, if it takes you 5 times longer to land the fish. Number one killer of fish, stress. Yes i do realize he let the fish go, as i was there. If he kept it, i would have let Mr. Van Zant know about it. No question. I have done it before and i’ll do it again.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 11:52 AM

Almost forgot, you are so spot on there pabst. There are SOOOOO many trees that you can lose a lure on at Powerton. Get a clue dude. Sounds like you’re a 15 year old or a hopeless drinker.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 11:57 AM

pabst1blue - Interesting, us upstaters get all of the funds and we have some of the best waters around.  What a joke.  Give me some facts and figures to back that up and I will believe it.  So far I have found 2 people on this blog who have no idea what they are talking about, pabst1blue, illinoisbonecollector.  But I think we have all seen their ignorance in previous blog entries.  Also, who if you have plenty of six pound bass where you live, good for you.  Ours where I am will never be able to get that large.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 02:31 PM

ha ha ha. Good post illinoisbonecollector.  that has got me a good laugh. i live by one rule with fishing. fish were made to eat. period. they all taste good, so eat whatever kind of fish you want. smallmouth aint on a pedestal, neither are muskie or trout. theres billions of fish in these waters, they were put here to eat. period.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 08:50 PM

Catching and eating 6lb bass is stupid, fulton!
They have the best genes, strongest lines for breeding and you don’t need a six pound bass to fill your belly, unless you are a fat ass!  Eat the smaller bass and help keep the larger bass for breeding, not breading!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 09:39 PM

By the way, good for you pastor on your catch.
That is one monster cat, and I bet it was a major challenge to land it!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 09:46 PM

Well, nobody ever said fulton was smart. Yes eating a 6lb bass isn’t very smart.  But according to him 6lb bass are abundant.  So, hey good for him…Not!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 10:48 PM

6 pound bass have the best genes and strongest lines for breeding?? did you just pull that out of thin air? I will eat as many 1,2,6,and 8 pound bass as i want. theres way more of them out there than people think, and to get bent out of shape by deciding which ones to keep is a waste of energy.  Why clean a 1 pound bass when it could grow into a 6 pound bass?
let people do what they want to do and dont think your way is the only way.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/15 at 08:23 AM

No it wasn’t pulled out of thin air, it is a fact.
Just like any other animal that survives to grow that big, they have better gene lines.  I totally agree that fish are meant to eat, it just makes sense to eat the more moderate sized fish to keep the population strong.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/15 at 08:39 AM

they should probably call this website the illinoisbonecollector show.  About every story I see he has a comment on.  I just read an hour ago on his 26 blogs on those birds that you don’t hunt for antlers but several blogs later you claim to be a trophy hunter chasing only mature bucks.  Which one is it, now ya know everything about fishin. Dont sound like smallie knows it all sound like you do.  doc you are right, fish are made for eatin but keep the small ones and let the big ones grow but what do I know.  Meantime I am going fishin.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/15 at 10:00 AM

Good point shedhead, illinois bone collector talks out of both sides of his mouth, maybe because it is full of 6 lb bass!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/16 at 09:58 AM

ahh if i had my choice id tail hoook a smallie and use it for musky bait.. i get tired of the smallie facist everywhere that think smallies are the only and greatest fish in existance. sorry i dont get excited about a fish that hardly ever gets to 5 lbs in this state. and good going pastor if jesus can feed his congregation fish so can you. ohh and for the whiners who cares bout catch and release at powerton all the fish are stocked in there anyway

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/19 at 07:32 AM

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