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Illinois hunting and fishing

Crowd, catfish at Prairie Park tourney

February 08, 2010 at 03:32 PM

Prairie Park placers

Largest fish: 4.27-pound catfish — Roy Bradford, Bushnell; 3.44-pound catfish — Nate Eckhold, Peoria

Catfish: 4.27 — Bradford; 3.44 — Eckhold; 3.03 — Jenna Wieda, Goodfield

Bass: 2.91 —Richard Archdale, East Peoria; 2.85 — Josh King, Pekin; 0.94 — Chad Supranowski;

Bluegill: 0.46 — Darron Birkel, Peoria; .46 — Justin Graham, Peoria; .45 — Chuck Blumenshine, Peoria; .44 — Archdale

Crappie: 1.99 — David Berry, Brimfield; 1.01 — John Jones, Pekin; .85 — Noah Durham, Bartonville


Nate Eckhold doesn’t look much like Secretariat. And he for darn sure can’t run 1.5 miles in 2:24.

But with one event remaining, Peoria angler Eckhold has a chance at winning the Triple Crown — albeit just the Triple Crown of central Illinois ice fishing.

After hooking second-place bluegill and crappie at Lake Camelot’s party two weekends ago, Eckhold landed a 3.44-pound catfish Saturday that was the second largest fish at Wildlife Prairie Park’s inaugural ice tourney.

Now Eckhold heads into this Saturday’s showdown at the Big 25 Club in Victoria looking to continue his streak.

“I’m not looking to lose, that’s for sure. But we got lucky at Lake Camelot and we got lucky here,” said Eckhold, 28, the only angler to place at both events. “Basically we walked as far away from the crowd as we could, drilled a hole and landed on top of a brushpile.”

Getting away from the crowd was no easy task, since 447 anglers turned out — lured by sunny skies and the chance to wet lines in a seldom-fished strip-mine lake.

Those who showed were not disappointed, as there were plenty of hungry fish under the ice. Eckhold and partner Ryan Bill wound up with 200 bluegill, 10 crappie, 4 bass and 4 catfish. Action was similarly good across the hard water, with many hauling out buckets half full of bluegill and crappie, plus an occasional catfish.

“They were biting as soon as we started fishing,” noted Chef Todd, who like most of the competitors fished the lake west of Taylor Road. Chef fished with Shane Stoddard of Brimfield, who was on the ice for the first time. Stoddard managed a nice 1.59-pound catfish, some bluegill and a few decent crappie (below).

Illinois hunting and fishing

The catfish were a surprise to some, though not to those familiar with the lake’s stocking history. The Department of Natural Resources has dumped channel cats in the lake for years to provide a good population for the youngsters who get to fish that lake.

No doubt there were numerous break-offs attributed to those fish. One that didn’t get away went to Roy Bradford of Bushnell. His 4.29-pounder was worth $750 as biggest fish of the tourney and biggest catfish.

Bradford caught his channel cat about 6 inches off the bottom while jigging a Swedish pimple rig tipped with a waxworm. “My ice-fishing buddy Mark loaned me this one,” Bradford said. “I guess I’ll owe him some money now.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

Illinois hunting and fishing

Here’s the rest of the top catfish finishers: 1. Bradford 4.27; 2. Nate Eckhold, Peoria 3.44; 3. Jenna Wieda, Goodfield 3.03; 4. Joe Grzanich 3.02; 5. Jeff Mullins 3.

There were also plenty of fish of more than 2.5 pounds, including the 2.69-pounder modeled by Kristin Shepherd of East Peoria (below) and caught by Chris Woolley.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Beyond that were several other impressive fish, including a pair of largemouth bass that topped the 18-inch minimum. Best was Richard Archdale’s 2.91-pounder, followed by Josh King’s 2.85-pounder (pictured below), which hit on a bright pink two-spot jig and a waxworm. “I had a few different people measure it to make sure it was long enough,” King said.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Because of the large crowd, event organizer Scott Carlson expanded the cash payout to the top three finishers for each species and the two largest fish.

Crappie and bluegill were also plentiful but smaller beyond the 1.99-pound slab crappie caught by David Berry of Brimfield. The best bluegill were a pair of
.46-pounders caught by Darron Birkel of Peoria and 14-year-old Justin Graham of Peoria.

Graham was ice fishing for the first time thanks to neighbor Orville Maxwell, who said he is the boy’s “adopted grandpa.”

“It was pretty fun,” said Graham, pictured below with Maxwell.

Illinois hunting and fishing

The fun continues Saturday at the private Big 25 Club, located 4 miles south of Victoria in strip-mine country. Organizer Tom Reynolds said he is preparing for a crowd of about 200 anglers.

Entry fee is $20 per two-man team, gates open at 7 a.m. and fishing is 8 a.m. to noon. Cash prizes will be paid to the top five finishers based on total weight of all bluegill and crappie. Minnows are not allowed.

“Our goal is not to sell memberships or to impress the public. We want to harvest fish,” Reynolds said. “If someone gets into them, we want them to keep going.

“We’ve got a nice population of 9- to 12-inch crappie in one lake and bluegill up to a pound.”

Given the hilly roads leading to the club and expectations of snow, Reynolds advises participants to arrive in four-wheel drive vehicles.

Snow or no snow, Eckhold and partner Bill will be there.

“We’ve got a special bait we call the Camy special,” Eckhold said. “It works on everything.”

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

I’m glad wildlife prairie park got some money, got mine too.  Sure i caught some nice blue gil but by the time i got there i didn’t get to choose my spot, people were cheating, no drilling til eight? that’s right they didn’t drill but they brought the water to melt holes to drop vexilars and other fish finders in so they could setup before everyone else.  Like i said, glad u got some money wildlife prairie park because you let way too many people on the lake.  Cutoff should of been at least a hundred and a half less.  It was like trying to find a parking space for the ice shanty. rediculous. next time restrict limit and police the event. not saying the winners cheated, didn’t have to “park” by them.  but it could have been better hosted and restricted.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/08 at 11:18 PM

Well this even was a good time.  But yes, it was very very disorganized.  Leading up to the event nobody at WPP had much of a clue as to when they open the gate, how many people were signed up, if there was going to be a restrcition to participants, etc…  We got there early, 5:45am, and had absolutely no problems w/ parking and got the spot ont the ice we wanted.  Yeggs, why do you have a problem w/ checking the water before drilling time w/ a fish finder?  I DID!  That’s not cheating one bit.  Anyway, the rules were very explicit no alcohol on ice.  Next thing I know everybody and there dog had beer.  At least they sold beer on the ice.  Must have been in the rules as a disclaimer. 
After getting permission my buddy and I did check out the lake on Thursday before the event.  No auger, no poles, just a Marcum VX-1.  There were tracks and holes EVERYWHERE!  When we left we were greeted by a guy that lives right there next to the pavilion.  Turns out him and all of his buddies fish there.  YEAH RIGHT, THE LAKE THAT’S RARELY FISHED.  WOW. 
Regarding the comment above that Eckold and partner caught 200 gills, what happened to following state rules.  25 creel limit per angler. 
Don’t get me wrong I had a good time.  It was their first event and I expect things to be a bit better next year.  At least I know what I’m up against now.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 09:23 AM

I paid that whopping $12.00 fee because I like to fish. I had a good time doing it too. I’ll admit it was a little crowded, but I was certain before I got there that I wouldn’t be fishing alone. I got there early and picked my spot. I didn’t drill or “check with electronics” until 8:00 am because those were the rules and I am a sportsman. If others cheated, I don’t care. I am not gonna finance my future with ice fishing contest winnings anyway. I caught some fish, thanked the Lord for my harvest, and then ate them. They were delicious. I will admit that I hope things are a little more organized next year. But I also know that there will be alot of people fishing and some of them will break the rules. As long as I do things correctly, I’m sure I will again enjoy myself.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 09:34 AM

Don’t plan on financing my future with ice fishing, not a long enough season in Illinois. I just didn’t like driving 45 minutes to a tournament i preregistered for 3 weeks in advance to find the the lake was so over crowded. I thanked the lord for my bounty of fish and ate them that same night.  I just don’t think dropping fish finders down holes before the tournament starts is right.  I got there at 7, woke up at 5 in the morning, drove an hour and bam, there were that many people there.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 10:45 AM

I had a good time.  Fish finders are way overrated.  Yeah, I could have told you there were fish in the lakes.  Some people just take this too serious.  Just get out and enjoy fishing.  That’s what it is about.  It was their first year, so I expect next year they will be more organized.  You were not supposed to bring alcohol, because they were selling it there.  You could bring it on the ice.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 11:14 AM

Auto5, nobody said Eckhold kept all the fish he caught.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on 02/09 at 11:26 AM

I didn’t know using a finder before 8am was against the rules to be honest, otherwise I would not have used one. I read the rules several times before the event, don’t remember seeing that.  We even had them printed off w/ us.

Lampe, good point.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 12:20 PM

I have known that “guy” who lives next to the lake for 40 years. His wife is/was a dear friend of William Rutherford. That “guy” and his friends, like me, have done a ton of work on that lake. Dating back to the days when Paul Newman would bring less fortunate kids out to fish there. You think those brush piles got in there by accident? 

I am glad the tourney was a raging success they really need to thin the gills out in there so they can get big like the Herman boys grow em. One last thing, the park ought to hold a mushroom contest in the spring. Those elk turds can sure grow some BIG yellows!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 12:36 PM

Thanks Tuna! Where can I buy an Elk?  LOL

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/09 at 12:51 PM

Maybe I’m just naive, this being our first tourney, but I thought it went well.  People started crowding us later in the morning, but what did anyone expect on a long, narrow strip?  I would assume that next year will be a bit more organized, as I made 3 calls to WPSP and had 3 different answers as to start time, when you would be allowed on the ice, etc.  I never saw where I could get a rule sheet until registration?  When I registered 2 wks ago there were only about 100 people signed up.  Even though it was fun to have our friend there who didn’t call til Friday, I guess I would say if you have a cut-off then stick to it unless you don’t get enough signed-up?  I heard that thurs there were 300 people so if that tells you anything?  Anyway, as I said we had fun, it was our first tourney, and I thought all went well (oh yeah - food running out?!) for it being the first year.  I’m sure constructive criticism will be useful for next time!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 05:59 AM

That’s great you’ve been apart of helping out w/ the lake.  I’m just saying it was false advertising the lake is rarely fished.  That part was very frustrating to us.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 10:22 AM

I fish at Wildlife Prairie Park all year. I have never been allowed to fish that lake.

auto5 you’re the biggest whiner I’ve run across lately on the internet. You are over-exagerating. I’m there all the time. The lake is hardly fished, and when it is…’s for a youth clinic!

The tracks and holes the day before were made by the Site Superintendent. He was checking the ice and seeing if the fish were biting. It’s the first time he’s ice fished, so I doubt if he put a hurt on them.

I hate fishing tournaments. I hope they never have another out there. You all should feel fortunate to have had the oppurtunity to have some fun and win a few prizes.

Lighten up Francis!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 02:46 PM

I won’t join you in the name calling stuff, but I do agree with a few of the other things you mentioned. I took “rarely fished” to mean “not open to the public”, and that was enough to interest me. I certainly wouldn’t call it “false advertising”, and it didn’t surprise or upset me that some folks, legally and with permission, had fished this lake. I hope whoever fished that lake before Saturday caught enough fish to make a nice meal for thier families.  I was just happy to have a chance to fish it myself. I also thought all the complianing about the number of fishermen allowed to take part was more than a bit childish. I don’t hate tournaments, although I will admit that they tend to bring out the worst in some people. I for one hope that the good people at Wildlife Prairie Park are willing to do this again next year. I would suggest that WPP staff talk with Lampe for some suggestions on improving a few details for next year. But I also would like to thank and congradulate WPP staff for a pretty darn good freshman effort.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 05:18 PM

Let me first say thank you to all of the fishermen that attended the event.  We are a struggling institution due to the state’s financial situation. We used this tournament to help with some much needed operational funding (since we have not seen any for 1.5 years from the state at this point).

This event engaged many individuals to our site that have not been previously here, and re-engaged many people that had not been here for several years, once again, thank you.

Please allow me to address a few issues mentioned…
1.  The cheating… sorry but there really is no way to effectively monitor those types of activities with a very limited staff.  You points were taken and we will address them the best we can for next year.
2.  Limiting the access.. Good point - then we will raise the price.  You tell me - which is better?
3.  Organization…Opening gate ect….  Points taken - we’ll do better next year.  Most things in life are a learning experience.  You learn from your mistakes and make the necessary corrections.
4.  The limited fishing issue… That lake is RARELY FISHED.  I FISHED THE LAKE one week prior to the event.  I wanted to check the ice thickness and see what I could catch.  I fished a couple hours and pulled out a few bluegills and a couple decent catfish.  I do understand that a couple others had fished the lake as well.  But I ASSURE YOU that the lake is RARELY FISHED.  Also note that none of the people that have previously fished that lake won anything….......
5.  Food running out - that was MY FAULT, as I was the cook for the day.  We cooked 6 gallons of Chili, 300 hamburgers and 200 hot dogs.  I really thought I had enough.  Once again - a lesson learned.
6.  Let me finish by saying thank you again for your cooperation and patience with an organization that is struggling through the tough times with the state.  We learned a lot, and will improve this event in the future.(also look to the future for additional fishing tournaments here with boat access at the park!)

Thanks again for your comments, as I do read them.

Jeff Rosecrans
Executive Director
Wildlife Prairie State Park

Posted by JRosecrans on 02/11 at 08:04 AM

I wasn’t whining, just sharing what I know.  More than one person told us they were out there fishing Taylor lake the Tuesday before the event.  One guy caught 11 catfish. 

I’m certainly not trying to bash the event.  We had a good time and will definitely return next year if WPP holds an event. 

We were concerned w/ the large numbers of participants that signed up before the event.  Once we got there is was no big deal.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 02:18 PM

Thanks for the good time J.  Did you get many to donate their catches to the park to feed the attractions (animals)?  Maybe next year, give a raffle ticket to anyone who donates?  Just suggestion, it’s for a good cause.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 07:17 PM

I too would like to thank everyone for coming out.  The turnout was great and of the 200 hundred people or so I personally spoke with, no one had a bad time.  A number of people did suggest that we find some additional parking and we are already working to improve in that area. 
    As far as having too many people on the ice, I am not sure I agree with you.  I thought it was a great thing that a community of fishing people got together and socialized on a beautiful day.  Maybe that’s just me. 
    As far as the cheating, as soon as I heard the first rumor that there was a potential problem I walked the entire lake talking to people and seeing if anyone had questions while looking for any evidence of foul play.  Not one person out of the hundreds on the ice gave any information or pointed out anyone to me as potential cheaters.  It is a shame that some people would go to those lengths but we will try to better address those issues next time. 
    I did the best I could with limited resources and am proud of the way it came out.  Sure we certainly had much to learn and will continue to do so; however the hundreds of happy people were enough of an answer for me that we were on the right track.
    P.S. Thanks coot for the fish donation for raffle ticket suggestion.  I think we will be doing that next year and possibly for the Spring and Fall tournaments.

Tournament Coordinator,
Scott E. Carlson
(309) 495-6717

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/12 at 12:32 PM

I thought it was great, considering it was the first. I expected poor planning/organization, but was really pleased at how smoothly most of it went. Raffle winners took forever to call off.  I had fun and would do it again

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/12 at 12:59 PM

Wildlife’s event was my first exposure to ice fishing, and I’m HOOKED!  I am a recreational outdoorsman, (woman, actually) and I am always in search of fun things to do outside, (hiking, canoeing, camping) especially in the winter months.  It’s a challenge to deter the cabin fever come January and February when you live in the midwest.  I hope Wildlife has another event soon.  I’ll be there!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/21 at 11:48 AM

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