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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

Illinois hunting and fishing

Responding to the stringer controversy

April 23, 2009 at 04:35 PM

Sometimes you know a picture is going to fuel a furor.

Dead bears, for instance. Whenever we print a picture of a hunter with a dead bear, we receive angry e-mails and calls.

Now it’s time to add another image to that list: Live bass on a stringer.

Last Sunday’s photo of Astoria high school angler Deavan Malott holding a stringer of live bass elicited numerous angry calls and e-mails.

Fairly typical was this comment from Jerry Schraeder of Peoria: “I was truly saddened at the picture, but even more upset to see that these young men apparently are not getting the real message about bass fishing, which is promoting our sacred and fragile wildlife through conservation with catch and release.”

Or this one from J.B. Witt: “When you use stringers, your risk of fish kill is very high. I am thinking of how many fish that day died do to this action. What a waste to our resources.”

Wow. In hindsight, I should have anticipated that. Never mind that if the stringer had been filled with catfish or crappie there would have been no outcry.

I should have included a line explaining that the livewell in Malott’s boat failed that day. That the stringer ran through the bottom lips of the fish, not through the gills. That the fish were released alive.

Along with that I should have included this quote from Astoria fishing coach Jay Van Voorhis: “As a teacher, I have been using this as a learning lesson with them. We do teach catch-and-release ethics.”

So the furor is my fault. Don’t blame the kids.

It was my mistake to assume people would consider the larger issue here — that hundreds of Illinois high schoolers will make history today on 18 lakes.

Starting at 8 a.m., Illinois prep anglers will compete in the nation’s first state bass fishing championship series. Fishing is to stop by 3 p.m. and weigh-ins will follow. The top three boats at each sectional advance to the state championship May 8-9 at Carlyle Lake.

Yes, competitors are required to keep their fish in livewells. Yes, they are penalized for dead fish. No, they are not encouraged to use stringers.

And no, I don’t agree with one poster who said the stringer picture, “gives the whole high school fishing thing a BIG black eye.”

That’s ridiculous. No questions tournaments are based on catch-and-release and it’s important for prep competitors to learn that — particularly on public waters and when dealing with big fish. Why anyone would keep a 4-pound bass to eat is beyond me.

But catch-and-release taken to the extreme can actually create problems. This mistaken idea that bass are sacred explains why there are private lakes loaded with skinny 12-inch largemouths. Lake management often requires harvest of fish — even beloved bass.

BASS BOOMING: Speaking of bass, two shallow area lakes have been producing huge catches of largemouths in the past week.

One is the Emiquon Preserve, where glowing reports of 30-, 40- and 50-bass days continue.

The other hotspot is Spring Lake in Tazewell County. Last weekend, 45 of 47 teams in a Bass 25 Peoria tournament weighed fish. They combined for 178 bass that averaged 2.69 pounds apiece, including a 6.35-pounder caught by Rusty and Gary Stear.

Word is the bite was even better Thursday as warmer weather arrived. Last weekend’s crankbait bite has been shifting to a soft plastic bite this week, which is fairly typical at Spring Lake — the plastic lizard capital of central Illinois.

If the wind doesn’t blow too bad, every indication is that the winning weights should be very impressive at the Peoria Sportsman Club’s 28th annual tournament this weekend.

Story and comments

Open Blog Thursday

April 23, 2009 at 06:04 AM

Yep, it’s fishing report day. Help.

FROM Jerry Schraeder of Peoria:

Shame on you for publishing the picture of the high school student holding a stringer of bass (likely dead) in the sports page edition on Sunday 4/19/2009.  Reminds me of the 50s and 60s when tournament bass fishing first got started. What happened to your “professed” practice of Catch and Release for tournament and leisure bass fishing? I was truly saddened at the picture, but even more upset to see that these young men apparently are not getting the real message about bass fishing, which is promoting our sacred and fragile wildlife, though conservation with catch and release. I hope you are willing to provide some ‘damage control’ on this most important issue in one of your upcoming articles. It is terrific to see that these young men are getting the chance to learn the basics of tournament bass fishing. I hope that the practice of stringing the catch on a stringer is not a part of the great process!

FROM J.B. Witt

Your article and pictures in last Sunday’s edition (04-19-09) on the high school teams was good. But….in regards to the picture of Deavan Malott has some questions and concerns. First, if I remember the high school tournament rules, all team boats are required to have aerated livewells to keep all fish in and I would assume teams/fisher-men/women would be using tournament weigh bags. Not using baskets, chain, wire or rope stringers!

When you use stringers, your risk of fish kill is very high. I am thinking of how many fish that day died do to this action. What a waste to our resources.
BASS Federation membership is required to these students and this action wouldn’t be allowing! Then why would you publish this type of picture! On the Conservation aspect of teaching the youth of our precious nature of catch and release to selective harvest of certain species, this again is not the proper way to teach these students.  The coaches should have know better and not permitted this to happen. The boat in the picture is the type to have a factory livewell.  Hopefully, you will print a little article before Fridays sectional tournament to inform these students, coaches, and school representatives this does not show good sportsmanship to our fishing sport.  It shows bad publicity to our sports and for tournament clubs.

FROM Bill Boeschen of Okawville:

We hunt the doe season in January only to fill the freezer if not already full.  Weather will determine if we hunt or not even if we still need meat.  The odds of having nice weather in January is very slim, plus you have the potential of killing that 120-140 class that you pass on multiple times now that his horns may have dropped.  If you want does killed, you need other methods then what you are planning.  Bad weather and even if only one nice buck per county,that horns have dropped, being shot in January is not the right answer.  I wish the state would get back to managing the deer heard according to their stats and not from pressure, permit income, or payoffs.  Deer numbers are down in many area.  Yes we know that is music to your ears.  Where your problem areas of over populated deer numbers, address the problem there.  Do not mess up the whole state deer herd when trying to fix problem in small areas.  Please show us the numbers that support your decisions vs. what someone has randomly come up to calm the outside pressure.


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