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Illinois hunting and fishing

Catfish headline Powerton opener

December 27, 2009 at 01:54 AM

One of these days the Illinois flathead catfish record is going to fall.

While that probably won’t happen before the next record pumpkinseed is caught out of the Emiquon Preserve, someday an Illinois angler will top Jody Harris’ 78-pound monster cat.

And I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if that record comes from Powerton Lake, one of central Illinois finest trophy catfish destinations.

The earliest that could happen is Monday, when Powerton reopens to bank anglers. Fishing hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there should be a crowd on hand when the gates swing open.

But unlike years past, the main attraction is no longer smallmouth bass or white bass. For years those two species lured anglers from across Illinois to Powerton’s warm waters.

Heading into this year, biologist Wayne Herndon said the best fishing will likely be for catfish and for redear or bluegill.

First to the big cats. Herndon agreed there’s a possibility Powerton could someday produce a record flathead, though the largest he’s seen out of the lake went 60 pounds.

“It’s possible because they’ve got enough food and they like the habitat there,” Herndon said.

The other whiskered option at Powerton are blue cats, some of which will be topping 50 pounds this year.

“They are fat and hard to handle because they are so chubby,” Herndon said.

Look for several big cats to be caught in the next few days. Mid-January is a prime time for flatheads, with live bluegill fished in the warm-water discharge a good bet. Many anglers say afternoons are best for flatheads.

Live bait works well for blue cats, which will also take fresh cut shad or Asian carp and even balls of waxworms.

The next highlight at Powerton are bluegill and redear, which are rated as excellent. Anglers can expect plenty of shoreline action from plump redears of one-third pound or more and good numbers of 7½-inch bluegill.

Another hard-biting option are hybrid striped bass. First stocked in June of 2008, the hybrids started showing up in good numbers last winter and have been biting ever since.

Anglers are reminded the daily limit is 10 white bass or stripers per day and only three over 17 inches. This year there should be several stripers topping that size limit.

That’s the highlight for bass, though. The once-mighty smallmouth population is “a shadow of its former self.”

“The smallies are a problem this year,” Herndon said, noting 2009 was the second straight year of bad reproduction for bronzebacks. “Numbers were down in the fall population census and what’s there is mostly under 15 inches and a few legal fish (over 18 inches).”

Herndon said he’s uncertain what is causing problems for smallmouth bass, though he suspects the arrival of Asian carp is a factor. “There’s an issue with (Asian carp outcompeting) gizzard shad and I’m sure that’s affecting the entire fishery,” Herndon said.

He hopes to come up with some remedy to help smallmouths later this year. “I think smallmouth bass fishing there was super and I think it was good for the bass fishermen,” Herndon said. “There was a tremendous density of smallmouth and I think it can be there again depending on what happens with the forage base and some other issues.”

In the mean time, largemouth bass have been stocked and the bulk of those largemouths will be 14 to 15 inches this year.

All in all, that’s a good mix of fishing options at the Tazewell County cooling lake that typically provides the first open-water
fishing action of the new year for many anglers.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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

The demise of the smallies at Powerton is a “sore” subject with me.  I have been telling people for at least 3 years that the Smallies were on the way “out”.  Don’t know why it took so long for the news to become “official”???  I sure hope that Wayne can and does come up with a plan to fix the problem.  The bass that me and my compadres caught in the mid to late nineties was simply amazing!!  I sure wish those days will someday return as I would love to be able to take my kids there and relive the magic I experienced.

Posted by stream stalker on 12/27 at 06:23 PM

stream i totally agree with u there used to be a time when u could catch a keeper then 3 casts later catch another and be able to pick which one u wanted to keep these days if u catch a keeper u better head home to get it mounted cuz im afraid the olden days are gone…like so many other outdoor pursuits and u brothers and sisters know what im talkin bout (sore subject but what u gonna do?)

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/27 at 09:03 PM

Ive heard of Powerton and the big smallies there. What happened Jonn was it over fished? Or not managed well? Probably politics as usual. Take money from here to spend it in Chicago. Hate to here the news.
Frank J Harvey

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/28 at 11:54 AM

Several years ago it was nothing sort of phenominal smallie fishing. If you hit it on the right day it was possible for two good sticks to catch and release a hundred smallies. I actually had over a dozen fish jump in the boat one day when my neighbor joined me out there. In my opinion, this is not a case of overfishing but I think what is happening is that the cats are feeding on the nests of the smallies and they aren’t having a chance to spawn successfully. Went there a few times last year and caught smallies but had to really work for them.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/28 at 01:51 PM

Asian carp have invaded Powerton. Ya and there used to be decent walleye here also but no anymore.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/28 at 05:21 PM

i do respect everyones right to fish for what they want and i would like to see more smallies caught out of powerton also but as a true catfisherman i am a big upset to see so many big fish taken from powerton lake.. there are so many eater size fish(1-5lbs) that are perfect for the taking leave the big ones for the excitment..i was out there this year fishing with my 11 year old brother and he hooked up onto a nice 40lb blue and we got it in and then took a picture a realeased her to let her fight another day.. that is what the big fish are about..there are so many people that take the 15 and 20 lb fish thsoe are teh future of trophy fishing at powerton and they need to be protected. jsut like the large white bass are protected. i would just like to see a size limit put on the cats that would truly make is a great destination for BIG CATs and we probably would see the new illinois state record for a blue and a flathead come out of powerton

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/05 at 10:53 AM

We hit powerton monday jan 4.  they didn’t get the gate open until 9am.  Very disappointing start, but once we got our lures in the water our disappointment vanished.  We only fished for 2 hours and caught a half dozen striped/white bass over 5 lbs,  along with a few smaller ones and a pair of stray channel cats.  5 degree weather couldn’t ruin our good time.  All fish caught were caught, snapped, and released!  Cant wait to make it back to do it again.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/06 at 08:56 AM

I fish for smallies there few times a year. and what i see is many smallies going in live wells and on stringers maybe those fish shouldnt go on the wall and should go back in the lake replicas are out there and everybody has a camera

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/10 at 11:48 AM

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