Illinois Outdoors at
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Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Of gobblers, muskie and surging sauger

March 26, 2009 at 08:27 PM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering if the full-strutters I saw at close range Tuesday will be so cooperative come April 13.


Gobblers are gobbling, forsythias are blooming and crappie are biting. What a fine time to be outdoors. Tell me again, why is it I like winter? ... Is there a better bank fishing spot than Spring Lake? This week the channel catfish started hitting in that shallow Tazewell County lake, crappie had already been going on and off for weeks and a few fat-bellied bass even emerged. Best of all, you can sit in your car and keep warm while tending your rod. ...  On Wednesday Congress gave the highest level of protection to 2 million acres in nine states. That means President Obama’s first conservation measure gives wildnerness status to almost as much land as George W. Bush set aside in his entire tenure. That’s good news. The bad news is we’ll have to wait for another Republican president before anyone can set foot on the protected soil.


Looks like organizers of the 23rd annual MWC Walleye tournament may catch a well-deserved break. While the Illinois River is still flooded, anglers are catching some nice sauger heading into this weekend’s event at Barto Landing in Spring Valley. Rumor is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may hold levels stable through the weekend, which would help. Weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday start at 1 p.m. and spectators are asked to park at Hall High School and ride shuttles. ... Sauger action is good enough that Baitshop Bob at Riverview Marine speculates it till take 33-38 pounds to win the two-day tourney. “They’ve been catching some fat females that are dropping eggs, so they might have hit it just right,” Baitshop said. “One guy said his hotspot was three cornfields up river and eight rows in.” ... Peoria’s chapter of Ducks Unlimited has its banquet Saturday at the Knights of Columbus hall on Radnor Road. Doors open at 5 p.m. Call (309) 678-5445. You can spend all day talking about ducks if you first attend the Friends of Sanganois Fish Fry Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sanganois office.


Eyebrows were raised when David Meyer first proposed bringing archery into physical education classes at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria. No longer. Meyer has 60 kids on his first-year archery team and many will compete Saturday in Springfield at the National Archery in the Schools Program’s state tournament. The lone District 150 archery team may have a shot to contend for a title. ... The Tri-County Catfish Association starts its season Saturday with a tournament from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. out of Pekin. Other tourneys will be April 18, May 16, June 13, July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 12 and the Classic Oct. 3-4. Entry fees are $55 per boat. Call Al Mittelsteadt at (309) 241-1582. A circuit may also be starting in Banner/Liverpool. ... Speaking of tournaments, top fish in last Saturday’s Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail event at Spring Lake was a 43-incher caught by Ron Rodak of Oak Forest. He was trolling the large flats on the south end of the north lake in the afternoon when the fish hit. Hmm. Think that might be a decent spring pattern for Spring Lake?


Look for the proposed nine-day late-winter deer season to become a reality in January. But word in the woods is a proposed fourth day added to the first gun season (on a Monday of all days) won’t happen. ... Maybe you saw the story about whooping cranes dying out west due to a lack of blue crabs at wintering grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The flock is down to 249 birds and will likely drop lower during migration. That’s a sad reminder that the “experimental flock” that passes over Illinois might prove to be pretty important before all is said and done. ... Our Neighbor Ash sez he felt responsible for the ailing whoopers until he learned his indulgence at Red Lobster had nothing to do with Texas’ blue-crab shortage. ...  Former Illinois Central College hoops coach Carroll Herman called with a good question about the announcement of proposed boat launching fees at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. As he noted, the Corps already charges a fee. A new $3 fee will be levied only for ramps the state maintains.


If you have a desire to hear Chef Todd in action, he will be cooking pork chops and hot dogs Saturday and Sunday at Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville. Likely more significant is the fact all lures at Presley’s will be 20 percent off today through Sunday and all rods and reels are 10 percent off. There will also be a seminar Saturday at 10 a.m. about Humminbird fish finders.  ... Make sure to ask Chef Todd about his trip to Lake Storey last Sunday when he was on the net as Evan Didway of Pekin caught a 48-inch muskie. Chef caught a toothy critter too — a little fella that looked like he’d just been dumped out of a hatchery truck. ... Speaking of monster muskies, the 51-incher with a 24-inch gut caught by guide Colby Simms on March 9 at Kinkaid Lake is a lake record but likely fell two pounds shy of the 38-pound, 8-ounce state record from below Lake Shelbyville. ... Parting shot: Get your 2009 fishing and hunting license now. New licenses are needed by April 1. Now might also be the time to ponder a lifetime license, what with fees likely to increase next year.

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A typical Dale Bowman fish

March 26, 2009 at 08:27 AM

Had to do this. Sorry Dale. Here is Chicago Sun-Times writer Dale Bowman showing off a typical Bowman-esque catch (picture stolen from his informative Weblog, as are many others that appear in PSO). This from the Illinois River. Think he could be in the money at this weekend’s MWC tourney?

Illinois hunting and fishing

Speaking of recently released fingerlings, here’s my buddy Chef Todd with a muskie he caught last weekend out of Lake Storey. Note how large his fingers look compared to the fish. This one came a few days before the Chef celebrated his 45th birthday by sampling most of the menu at The Dew Drop Inn Pub and Grub bar and grill in Farmington. Look for turtle to be added to the menu there soon at least once a month.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Not that I should make fun of anybody. Biggest thing I caught this week was a 3-inch green sunfish at the Hanna City Sportsman’s Club. But hey, at least I didn’t take a picture of that little rascal.

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Open Blog Thursday

March 26, 2009 at 06:09 AM

People say to me in the spring, “Jeff, why are you always so grouchy on Thursdays.” Fishing reports will do that to a man. Help.

FROM Tim Totten of Chillicothe:

The other day a co-worker, and fellow deer hunter, commented to me that the deer herd in the State of Illinois was down. As I questioned their logic, the statement was made - the numbers of harvestable big bucks are down. Your “Vanishing Monsters?” article on March 8 would appear to support the idea of the deer herd getting smaller. In all fairness, your article did not specifically say that, however for those not reading closely could interpret the deer herd is down, as measured by the number of trophy bucks. These are far from one-in-the-same.

From my perspective, the herd is not down. It actually grows every year, except in the northern counties where CWD is present and in some southern counties that have seen blue tongue in the past few years. We need to keep in mind that CWD, blue tongue, and other diseases are Mother Nature’s way of controlling the deer herd because hunters are not doing so. Many hunters and non-hunters don’t realize how inhumane Mother Nature can be as compared to a responsible, ethical hunter.

Hunting shows on TV and videos, print media, including your column, and availability of outfitters have created the phenomenon of most deer hunters only being out for a trophy buck. When only trophy bucks are harvested, then we reduce the desired gene pool and allow the less desirable bucks to breed more does. Trophy hunters are becoming a victim of their own decisions, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I like to see pictures of big bucks in your column and watch the deer hunting shows/videos as well. We as hunters need to keep things in perspective.

The landowners my group hunts on expect us to control the deer herd to reduce crop damage. To the point, a few years ago we lost over 600 acres of prime deer hunting land after one in our group had their picture with a harvested trophy buck appeared in your column. This is not your fault, nor did you know this would happen. To this day, this land is not hunted and we no longer are able to obtain permission.

This past season, my trail camera captured a picture of a trophy buck. On opening morning we informed all in our hunting group this buck was to be left alone as herd management and bolster the local gene pool. I had two opportunities during the bow season to harvest him, and let him walk. Unfortunately, one in our group did not honor our request and took great pride in their accomplishment. At the end of the season, they were informed their invitation has expired.

So what do we do about the problem? I’d recommend Illinois DNR implement a harvest tax on trophy bucks. Any buck delivered to a state taxidermist measuring over 150 inches is assessed $5.00 per inch tax for those hunting without the aid of an outfitter. This tax would be collected by the taxidermist upon delivery. Additionally, outfitters would be required to be trained on how to measure antlers as part of their license. Outfitters would collect the $5.00 per inch tax from their customers and be required to keep records of such, available for audit by the DNR. Failure to keep accurate records would result in the suspension of their license for 5 years. A portion of the harvest tax funds would go for the enforcement of this policy. The remainder would be used in conjunction with and under the guidelines of the Pittman-Robertson federal funds.

It’s unfortunate that many deer hunters move quickly to and not leave being a trophy hunter. We as sport hunters in Illinois have a responsibility to society and the entire wildlife population to control the deer herd, to retain our privilege to hunt. Including harvesting does, those are real source of the growing deer herd in this state.

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