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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

Scattershooting at fish, geese and ice

March 11, 2010 at 08:58 PM

Rambling through the outdoors while eagerly awaiting pictures of the first bass of 2010 to top 7 pounds.


While following a few thousand snow geese the other day, I realized counting flocks is way too hard for laymen like me. Suffice to say there seem to be more migrating geese in the area than usual. So many, in fact, that Peoria Air National Guard temporarily halted flights of C-130 cargo planes to avoid possible collisions. ... If you aren’t wading through mud to hunt snows or to find shed antlers, you should consider wetting a line. Fishing season improved overnight in Illinois thanks to the recent warm spell, with reports of big muskie, fat walleye and abundant crappie and sauger suddenly flooding in. ... Biggest so far is guide Chad Cain’s 49 7/8-inch muskie caught out of Kinkaid Lake last Saturday. Cain thought the fish might top the state record of 38 pounds, 8 ounces. But the toothy rascal (with a girth of 25.5 inches) weighed 37.4 pounds before swimming off to freedom in Kinkaid. ... Muskie chasers are also out in force on north Spring Lake, which was virtually ice-free Thursday. Surely it’s no coincidence that Larry’s Family Restaurant reopens today on the south lake.


Ice fishing quickly went from fun to dangerous in central Illinois, but a few anglers enjoyed memorable outings last weekend. Best story came from Peorian Derek Hunn, who hauled a 23-pound flathead catfish through 13 inches of ice at Lake Bracken last Saturday. Hunn was fishing for crappie with a minnow and silver jig. “I fought the fish for 45 minutes and then had to hold him for a few more minutes while they drilled four holes side by side so I could get him out,” Hunn said. ... Time was a fish that big would have prompted some comment from Our Neighbor Ash. Sadly, Ash was laid to rest on Feb. 11. Here’s hoping he shuffled off to someplace short on public address men but long on multi-color pens. ... Who can fill the void left by Ash’s passing? How about Minister Morris, the only ordained man of the cloth we know who compiles a fishing report. Crappie are biting sayeth Minister Morris, who advises his flock to cast their nets toward the south end of Spring Lake, Crab Orchard Lake or Sangchris Lake. ... Visit to see the full Illinois fishing report. We’ll run local reports in the paper starting March 25.


Among the crowd of 5,000 at last weekend’s first Elmwood AllOutdoors Show was Al Hayden of Dahinda, who will be honored as an Illinois Outdoor Hall of Famer on Saturday at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles. The owner of Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg, Hayden is a long-time outdoor columnist and radio host, has helped organize the Kid’s Fishing Derby at Lake Storey and hosts fishing clinics every year. “If it gives someone as much enjoyment as I’ve got from being outdoors then it’s worth it,” Hayden said. ... Speaking of the Elmwood Show, here’s a heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended or volunteered. You helped raise more than $27,000 for athletics and athletes in Elmwood and assured we can do the show again next March 5-6. ... One of many memorable moments at the show was hearing that a youngster caught a smallmouth bass in the fishing pond and rushed the fish inside to Glasford taxidermist Bob Hammerich. ... Ice-out can produce whopper bass in strip mines, as Ron Boyer will no doubt tell you during a free fishing seminar Saturday at 10 a.m. at Peoria’s Gander Mountain store. John Askins discusses muskie Sunday at 11.


If this week is any indication, the Illinois River sauger fishery is in great shape. Big catches are the norm from Starved Rock to Hennepin with vertical jigging or pulling floating jigs working well in 16-18 feet of water according to Darrell “Buster” Culjan. Anglers report plenty of small fish along with enough fat keepers to keep things interesting. Farther afield, anglers caught three walleye of more than 9 pounds in the past week, two on the Rock River near Oregon and one on the Kankakee River near Momence. ... As for bass, the best is yet to come in this area. In other words, Emiquon did not have enough open water to launch a boat on Thursday. That will change soon and when it does, anglers are advised that the parking lot is flooded and access is difficult. Even so, please do not park along the very busy Illinois Route 97/78. If water levels allow, plans this summer are to build four parking lots, boat ramps and other facilities that should be above the current high-water levels. ... Parting shot: Thank heavens nobody is talking about making prep bass fishing a multi-class event. Yet.

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Many states trying to kill more deer

March 11, 2010 at 05:43 PM

Illinois is hardly alone in attempting to kill more deer during hunting seasons.

Seems every day brings a new story from some Midwestern state referring to legislation that would sell more permits, extend seasons or do both.

Here’s an example from Nebraska.

Neb. lawmakers fire off deer-reduction bill

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A measure designed to reduce what some say is Nebraska’s costly and dangerously large deer herd is off and running.

On Thursday, lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill (LB836) that would allow the secretary of the state Game and Parks Commission to extend deer seasons by issuing executive orders.

Owners of at least 20 acres and members of their immediate families would also have an unlimited number of free permits to kill does during special seasons set to pare the herd in some regions. Also, hunting could occur within 100 yards of a home or livestock feedlot. The current limit is 200 yards.

The bill would also allow the state to issue permits to landowners to kill mountain lions.

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Open Blog Thursday 3-11-10

March 11, 2010 at 05:51 AM

Well, well. We are pulling together our first statewide fishing report for 2010. Help.

FROM Jane Ward, who posted pictures to go with these words:

“(Tuesday) the air in Fulton County was full of geese, mostly snow geese, long lines of geese in all directions joined up into one huge mass of geese circling around over Thompson Lake, which was beginning
to open up in the center of the lake. The came in lower and lower, and I was sure they were going to land, but at the last moment they changed their mind and flew off to the west. When they circled back
over the lake they were sky high again.

“A storm blew through over night, leaving clear blue skies today, and not a goose to be seen. I’m glad I went out yesterday and didn’t wait for the sunny weather!”

FROM Rick Pirog of Granville regarding a recent story on Asian carp coming to Lake Michigan:

“Pretty close to dead center on business as usual for the Illinois River. The first priority on this river system is to keep shipping from dragging bottom (9 feet minimum). That’s when the shovels get dirty. It’s not only water invaders, check out some of our new plants on land and things chewing on our native trees. I think China had the right idea. Build a big giant wall. Oops, I forgot. It’s all about global sharing everything now.”

FROM Randy Kampwerth:

“I read an article in the paper that DNR gave the city of Collinsville $400,000 to build a new restrooms in the city park. I thought DNR was broke and does $400,000 seem like a lot of money for a restroom? I just don’t like ‘giving’ the DNR money away when we are broke.”

FROM Rolline Tomaszewski:

“My husband and I recently retired from the Peoria area and moved to the Mark Twain Lake area in Missouri. On Feb. 25, 2010, we were returning to Peoria and driving on 1200 Ave by Siloam Springs State Park at about 12:30pm. He was driving, and I was just looking out the window at the scenery. The fields and road were still quite snow covered, and the sun was shining brightly. As we went down a hill, there was a somewhat flat area on my right; and I spotted a black animal head approaching us in that area. As it neared us, I realized it appeared to be a large black cougar. I screamed at my husband at what I was seeing; but by then we were starting to climb another hill, and I could see the entire side of the animal as we drove past it. I tried to reach my camera, which was on the back seat floor. I couldn’t get to it fast enough, and my husband couldn’t locate a place to stop and turn around on the road - which was not only hilly, but had a lot of curves.

“I did get to look at the cat at least three different times. It was approximately 15 feet from us, and I could clearly see it. I saw its big black head and even the whiskers sticking out from its head. It wasn’t running, but it was stealthily walking crouched close to the ground and had a really long tail, which was slightly curled up on the end. I did report my sighting to the IL DNR and was informed there are no known black cougars in IL. But, I definitely saw the cougar, and it was black. It really showed up black on the white snow.

“So, my husband and I returned to MO that coming weekend, and this week took a drive to the spot where I had seen the cat. I took pictures showing how close the road was to where the cat had been. I did get out of the car and took pictures of the prints all along the path in the snow that were still there. While we were there, an Adams County Department of Conservation policeman came up to us, and we talked about what I had seen. He said he had actually received about three phone calls that past week of cougar sightings in that area.

“From now on I will always have my camera handy and ready, but there’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I saw a black cougar. At least it looked like the pictures I’ve seen of the yellow cougars, and this one was definitely black.”


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