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Illinois hunting and fishing

Josh Shelton of Peoria (right) and a friend hoist a 67.2-pound flathead catfish Shelton caught and released at Powerton Lake last Wednesday.

Powerton pumping out catfish

June 20, 2010 at 01:28 AM

Trophy flatheads

Powerton Lake is one of many top flathead fishing destinations in Illinois. But arguably the two best flathead waters in Illinois are Sangchris Lake near Springfield and the Rock River. Like Powerton, Sangchris is a power-plant lake and produced a 76.5-pound fish caught by Mark Blough in April of 2008. Despite last year’s fish kill, the Rock River still has its share of big flatties, including a 43.16-pounder during a tournament last weekend. Other worthwhile spots include Clinton Lake, the Mississippi River, the Hennepin Canal, Lake Shelbyville and Lake Springfield.

Jason Grider is getting plenty of practice weighing huge catfish.

The new proprietor of Riverside Bait in Pekin figures he’s come to grips with at least a half-dozen catfish of 50 pounds or greater this spring.

The largest arrived Wednesday evening in the back of a hatchback driven by Josh Shelton of Peoria. That huge flathead catfish tipped Riverside’s certified scale at 67.2 pounds,

“That thing was a monster,” said Grider, who this year took over the business started by his father, Tom. “They just keep bringing big ones in.”

Such is the advantage of being located near Powerton Lake.

Though Powerton is no longer a must-fish hotspot for smallmouth anglers, the 1,400-acre rock-lined cooling lake is one of Illinois’ finest trophy catfish destinations. Strong current throughout the lake, abundant baitfish and artificially warm waters allow catfish to grow fat fast. Evidently catfish are better able to withstand the lake’s extreme summer temperatures than other species.

This spring has been particularly productive, thanks mostly to big-bellied blue catfish. Stocked in 1999 from Arkansas, blue cats have been steadily adding weight every year since their release.

The biggest so far was a 57-pounder Grider weighed last week that was caught by an unnamed angler who was fishing with shad guts. That’s just one of several fish over 50 pounds this spring, including a 55-pounder caught by Peorian Dewey Banks in early May on cut Asian carp.

Those weights are right on schedule according to fisheries biologist Wayne Herndon, who years ago predicted we’d see blue cats approaching 60 pounds by 2010.

Oddly enough, flatheads had been fairly quiet until recently. Most years at Powerton you’ll see a few flatheads pushing 50 pounds caught from February to mid-May.

While that didn’t happen this winter, there’s apparently no cause for worry based on Shelton’s catch. His fish is the largest reported from Powerton since Pastor Charles Everly caught a 65-pounder in March of 2009.

Other flatheads that likely topped 60 pounds include a 48-incher caught by Brian Slayback of Canton in February of 2007 and a 67-pounder biologists netted in 2006. All of those huge fish came out of Powerton’s discharge. That’s also the area from which Jonathan Cleveland (pictured below)recently caught a 38.2-pound, 42-incher.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Baits, however, have varied widely. Cleveland fished a nightcrawler, Slayback tight-lined cut bluegill, Everly relied on waxworms and Shelton floated a large golden roach shiner.

Obviously, Powerton’s flatheads aren’t finicky. But Grider said Shelton relies on big shiners. With good reason. In addition to the flathead, he also caught a 17.6-pound northern pike out of Spring Lake this spring.

While he kept the pike, Shelton released the flathead after taking pictures.

“Most people eat these things, but I try to encourage them to throw them back,” Grider said.

That’s a sensible decision. Powerton reopened to anglers in 1984 after being rehabilitated, so that 67.2-pound flathead could be almost 30 years old. A fish like that has the potential to eventually top the state record of 78 pounds, or at least to make a lasting impression on anyone it encounters.

“Josh said the fish gave him about an hour fight,” Grider said. “It was real yellow, almost like a bullhead. Just a beautiful fish.”

Understand, I’m not one who preaches catch-and-release very often. If you buy a fishing license you can keep legal fish.

But a fish this old and this big is an extreme case. So if you’ve already got a freezer full of meat, take pictures and let that swimming muscle go to provide a thrill for somebody else.

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

VERY VERY nice flatheads, congrats on the catch, depending upon the lb test you used, call the IGFA and ask for the catch and release record for flathead, i know the 10 LB test record for catch and release is only 48 inches. ( they do catch and release by inches not lbs)  what a trophy though, sounds like Powerton might have a record in there somewhere!  i bet that puppy gave you a run for your money!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/20 at 11:56 AM

Yeah that fish put up a hell of a fight.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/22 at 06:59 PM

MONSTER!!!!  Powerton has the record in it, everyone knows it!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/23 at 07:15 PM

I caught that beast on 12 lb test flourocarbon while trying to catch hybrid stripers.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/23 at 09:17 PM

Way TO GO! Impressive fish, impressive release.  I have never caught a flathead, 1 blue over 50 but no flatties.  You are the man.  I’m working on it though.  Soon i’ll have my article, or story.  Or memory.  It doesn’t matter but except for the fish.  BEAUTIFUL…....

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/24 at 08:21 PM

Thanks, yeggs.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/25 at 02:39 AM

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