Illinois hunting and fishing

Alex Porubyanski caught this 48.5-inch muskie out of Wolf Lake on the Indiana-Illinois border on April 23. The fish weighed 34 pounds.

Big Fish Fridays: Muskie news

May 01, 2009 at 04:00 AM

Big Fish Fridays

Every Friday from now through the start of duck season we will post 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 April, May, June and July. How can you submit stories and pictures? Simple. Click here. Or send us an e-mail and we'll handle the rest.

Big muskies are an exciting fact of life in many Illinois lakes.

And while some years are better than others for catching the toothy critters that have been aggressively stocked for the past two decades, this year is so far shaping up to be a good one. Ray Thompson keeps close tabs on reports of large muskies and so far has heard of six fish longer than 45 inches.

  • 51 inches—Kinkaid Lake, caught and released by Colby Simms on March 9, girth of 24 inches.
  • 48.5 inches—Lake Shelbyville spillway, caught and released by Ralph Stanley on April 22
  • 48.5 inches—Wolf Lake, caught by Alex Porubyanski on April 23, weighed 34 pounds
  • 48 inches—Lake Storey, caught and released by Evan Didway on March 22
  • 48 inches—Spring Lake, caught and released by Aaron Geheber in early March
  • 27 pounds—Heidecke Lake, caught and released by Bryan Melent on April 1, no length measurement

Thompson has also heard rumors of a 45-inch fish caught in early April at Carlton Lake. And there’s no question there have been others hooked this year that have not been reported. Even at that, the above catch list is already better than last year, when Evergreen Lake guide Thad Hinshaw (pictured below) won the Illini Muskies Alliance’s annual release trophy for a 49-inch fish he caught Aug. 29, 2008. Hinshaw’s fat fish had a girth of 23.5 inches and hit on a spinner.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Hinshaw is a member of the Central Illinois Muskie Hunters Chapter of Muskies, Inc. To qualify for the IMA trophy an angler must be a member in standing of one of the 12 IMA member organizations. Here is a list of member clubs. IMA_Member_Clubs.pdf_.pdf

In other muskie news, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently released by 1987-2008 Creel Survey. Joe Ferencak of the DNR compiles muskie reports and produces a report each year. Muskie_creel_survey_2008.pdf

Thompson is one angler who reads the report from cover to cover, noting, “The 26-page report is jammed with invaluable graphs and statistics and helps area biologist gauge the muskie fishery on the waters that they manage in their respective districts.” Adds Thompson:

For the past few years Jim Bunch (the Muskies, Inc. Lunge Log guru) has been providing a list of MI member catches to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The IDNR combines the MI list and entries from other non-MI clubs, provided by the Illini Muskies Alliance with their Voluntary Muskie Creel Project, sorts out the duplicates and produces a report on the Illinois Muskie fishery. The combined listing helps to give a more comprehensive set of data that local biologist use to help manage the Illinois muskie fishery. The biologists realize that since most of this information is given voluntarily, it is not all encompassing and only an estimate of the actual numbers of muskie being captured each year in Illinois. Also, unlike the MI Members Only Fishing Contest, which only includes entries of fish that are thirty inches or larger, the Illinois survey includes data on muskie of all sizes.

Last year the survey had 852 entries, which is down from 1.054 in 2008. In order to possibly boost the reporting rate, the IMA and Tri-Esox have ordered creel survey signs that are being placed at Illinois lakes to alert anglers about the survey.

Here are some interesting facts Thompson gleaned from the survey.

Top lakes in terms of percent catch from 1987-2008.
Kinkaid 21 percent
Fox Chain O’ Lakes 18 percent
Lake Shelbyville 11 percent
Carlton Lake 8 percent
Shabbona Lake 7 percent
Heidecke Lake 6 percent
Spring Lake (North) 6 percent
Kaskaskia River 5 percent

Top lakes for muskie caught greater than 36 inches per acre
McMaster Lake .093
Crystal Lake .057
Kinkaid Lake .049
Shabbona Lake .044
Sterling Lake .040
Fox Chain O Lakes .027
Pierce Lake .025
Evergreen Lake .020

Writes Thompson:

Many factors go into how many fish are captured on a body of water. For example the Fox Chain is within one hour of the vast majority of muskie anglers in Illinois. But the Chain is also the second busiest inland waterway in the United States, so anglers must share this body of water with jet skis, ski boats, power boats, etc. Kinkaid is a long ride for most Illinois muskie anglers and does not get anywhere near the pressure of the chain. Pierce is a small lake with a 10-horsepower limit, which keeps many anglers away. Crystal is a private lake with restricted access. Shabbona, like the Fox Chain is very heavily fished and has a 10 HP limit. Evergreen requires a user fee and has a 10 HP limit. Sterling is the smallest lake on the list and only has shore fishing access. Most surprising is McMaster. While being small and having a 10 HP limit, this lake only offered shore fishing last year. Not only that, McMaster is second only to Shelbyville for producing documented 50-inch Illinois muskie and also produced the longest Illinois muskie at 54 inches. Shelbyville led all Illinois lakes in numbers of muskie the last few years, however, due to the 2007 fish kill, many anglers did not fish Shelbyville last year.