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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

Open Blog Thursday 9-9-10

September 09, 2010 at 08:48 AM

Fishing report? On a day when Canada geese are flying? Help.

FROM Don Axt of Peoria:

“Not enough is being written on changing climate and wild things.I don’t see many birds around here. Many birds of my boyhood are really scarce: blue jays, house wrens, chimney swifts, night hawks are few and far between.  Even robins and house sparrows are becoming scarce. I don’t see many Canada geese and where are the red-wing blackbirds? I read that Inca dove populations of the south west are diminishing. Maybe it has to do with winning the war on insects.

“And trees. We have two osage orange in the yard. No “oranges” this year. I will get on down the street to check the oak acorns. Maybe the rainy spring hit the acorns. But redbuds are lush.

“Again … I wish someone would take on this climate change question.”


Story and comments

Open Blog Thursday 8-26-10

August 26, 2010 at 08:25 AM

Dove season nears. Honey-dos call. Help.

FROM Bud Neptun of Peoria:

“Thanks for the article you had Sunday about the trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo. We spent several vacations down there in the 1970’s at Rock-away Beach. Lovely spot.  We caught our share of those trout.  We also went up into Bull Creek (I think that is the name of it) and fished for some nice large bluegills. That article brought back many memories. One of them was, I had my first broken bone ever—my right leg/ankle—stepping from the boat across the dock and went in over my head into the boat stall next to mine.  he residents down there are all wonderful people, really make you feel at home. Branson was NOT the show hub back at that time; so, we didn’t spend much time there except for Shepherd of the Hills and the Amusement Part that was there at that time.

“PS: We fished for the Trout with a very small gold hook baited with Red Balls of Fire salmon eggs. We fished on the bottom much like we do here for Catfish.  It worked just great.  Three of the Red Balls of Fire on that little hook was all it took.”

FROM Bill Neff of Dunlap:

“The hunters, who have our place leased near Victoria, had all their several deer stands stolen. The total value of the stands is about $2,000. The theft occured sometime since May and this weekend. The stands were all attached to big trees by cables. The cables were cut. he police were notified and a report made. The police said that deer stand thefts are becoming a major problem Police think that the deer stands are being turned into and sold as scrap.”

FROM Bill Krautwald of East Peoria:

“With the odds of drawing a duck blind at over a 1000 to 1, whose bright idea was it to let non-resident out of state people also draw for blinds on the state areas. Only the resident/ tax paying citizens of Illinois should be allowed to draw.”

FROM Ken Ingram of Lacon:

“Really enjoyed your two recent Sunday columns concerning our local smallmouth fisheries and the largemouth bass on the Illinois River. The Spoon River photo certainly caught the mood of summer on the creeks. I was surprised to hear of the silver carp well up in the Mackinaw River but not of the brown bass in the feeders. More than 50 years ago I was rattling around Woodford and Tazewell counties in an old Plymouth station wagon stopping virtually anywhere I pleased to sample rivulets and an occasional creek. Usually the smallmouth bass were there though it was some time before I caught a fish over twelve inches.  I had heard of Big Sandy and Crow Creeks; the hot shots were off to the Vermillion River and Big Bureau, but I seemed to want my fish in a pasture. Still have the six and one half foot white glass fly rod I often employed..

“Was no stranger to largemouth bass on the big river by the mid-fifties, often walking from home in Peoria Heights to cast in line spinner baits and small river runts along the narrows. There were still weed beds along that stretch and the summer bass were usually around. However, like bass everywhere, they sometimes could sit there and look back at you.  Have a yarn that sort of spans the subjects of your two stories. By the early seventies I was ice-fishing and hunting ducks with George Britton, now retired to Bull Shoals. George was one of the canniest fishermen to ever launch a boat on Peoria Lake and had discovered the resurgent sauger and walleye population some time before the news filtered down from up-river. He was a rather democratic fisherman however, and could happily bail the drum, catfish, white bass, or largemouth bass usually with his small white marabou jigs or roostertail spinners.

“In those days, on the site where the Bass Pro Shop is to be built, there was a leveed settling pond to service the Cilco power plant just downstream. Draining this pond were two pipes side by side, the largest perhaps twelve inches in diameter. The clear water discharge was into a sort of small harbor surrounded by willows and rip-rap not easily discovered from the main river. George did.  The spot was no good at normal pool, but when the river level was up a few feet the fishing was gangbusters, especially with the small jigs. Over the next few seasons virtually every species of fish in the river was caught there.  Early one morning I discovered that the river level likely too low to make for good results there but beached the boat outside and walked in as sometimes there would be some sight fishing for a few largemouth bass still around. Experience had also shown that any smallmouth bass in there would always be in the current just off the most active of the drain pipes. No go on the largemouth, but as I came near the pipes I flushed a smallish bass and figured that to be the end of things.

“Then I noticed the tail of a fish in one of the culverts just inside the mouth.  I was pretty sure it was a good fish and likely a bass. So what the hey. Dropping down a low as I could, I cranked my spinner to with-in a foot of my rod tip and slid it in the pipe. I felt the spinner start to work and the tail disappeared. I quickly withdrew the rod and found a mighty mad pound and half smallmouth thrashing around on the very short line. Gave the fish some room to do his thing and soon made a release back into water.”

FROM Don Axt of Peoria:

“I liked your “Bass are Back”  story Sunday. It gave support to an idea that came to me years ago:  I call it the “protoplasmic float”.  It says that in any given body of water there’s a whole huge bunch of fish eggs, one cell stuff, wrigglers lower forms, jelly fish and the like.  You see ‘em as white dots in undersea photographers a mile or more down   Check the recent Gulf oil spill wellhead photos.These things make food for their predators up what we call the food chain. Lake Michigan .. and other lakes around ... got fished out many years back. That didn’t just eliminate the billions or so adult fish, but the float they were a part of (I think). The eggs, the tiny larvae, the wigglers and all the stuff that fed on those things and their eggs and larvae all of which comprise what amounts to the float.

“So, yes, a bunch of game fish are gone ... but so is a great ton of other suff that depends on them growing up. You said the bass are back ... yes ... feeding on the carp eggs and stuff that feeds on the carp eggs and the other things the carp egg feeders are food for ... the carp grow ... so maybe does the entire fish population grow. The carp will escape to the Great Lakes ... no doubt ... but it’s interesting to speculate what their addition to the protasmic float will do for whitefish and all the others. (Yes I know there’s a mud problem ... the effect of that isn’t quite clear yet (No pun intended.)”



Story and comments

Open Blog Thursday 4-8-10

April 08, 2010 at 06:50 AM

Fish are biting so well it’s hard to keep up with all the pictures of bass of 5 pounds or larger. Help.

FROM Tom Bodtke of Peoria:

“It is about mushroom season and I wanted to recommend to all the hunters out there to be sure and use mesh bags when harvesting the mushrooms.  I use onion sacks, also some hams and turkeys come in nice big mesh bags. When you use mesh bags you scatter the spores from the mushrooms you have harvested for next year. Good hunting to everyone!”

FROM Roger Woodcock of Farmington:

“I have went bass fishing three times during the past six or seven days. I fished from the bank also. Too windy for a boat. But I have learned to use the wind to find the fish. And your reports are correct. The bite is on. Using a jig and Berkley power craw I smashed the bass. On March 31 I enjoyed using my 2009 license for the last time. Fished for only an hour and caught 14 including one that went 4-4 (digital scales) and one that went 3-12. Got out the next day (April Fool’s Day) and used my 2010 license for the first time. Caught 13 in the 45 minutes I had to fish. That included one that went 5-6 and one that went 4-12. Same deal, they were all stacked up in a small cove with the wind blowing into the cove. Went last night and only had half an hour until my evening meetings.Caught five in the half hour. Total weight 19 pounds. First cast nothing, second cast 4-9, third cast 5-14.”

FROM John Winkler

“I am the president of Beyond Measure. We’ve invented and patented a scale that will go into all boats. The scale itself will be inside your rod locker lid on the storage side. It will be a lid inside the lid. When you open the lid you will see the tray, 8”x 30”, that you can weigh and measure your fish. The scale weighs fish when the boat is moving or the fish is moving. It will display the weight on a monitor, 1-5, or different colors to match your tagging system. Then you can see your fish weights at any time or cull fish when you need to without pulling them back out of the live well. It also records, at the time the fish is weighed, the time, GPS location, water temp., depth. Then when you’re done fishing you can down load this information onto you computer for your records. You can use this information to pattern fish. It also has satellite hook up. During tournaments it will send just the weight of the fish that is weighed back to shore. The tournament directors can either display the information or use for live.”

FROM Dan Stephenson:

“You may not have heard of Larry Dunham and I’m sure most anglers haven’t either but, he has been working tirelessly behind the scenes in the Fisheries Division forever. Nothing has happened in the past 44 years without his fingerprints on them. He is retiring now and the state will miss him.

“After receiving his Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Iowa and a short stint with the Iowa Conservation Commission, Larry began his career with the Division of Fisheries.  That was 44 years ago.  Larry came to Illinois initially as a district biologist in Ogle County then accepted a promotion to become the first “River” biologist in the state’s history.  He was assigned to the Mississippi river in 1970 and quickly gained notoriety among the Division as well as neighboring state biologists.  Larry developed routine long-term monitoring protocols for riverine fisheries that, for the first time, allowed biologists to assess fisheries changes over time.  His work created river management strategies which demonstrated the value of long-term monitoring.  Larry became the “father” of what later became the Division’s Rivers and Streams Program.  Larry’s long-term monitoring protocol was adopted by the member states of the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee and led to the acquisition of federally funded resource monitoring under the Environmental Management Program.  This program continues today and is the backbone of the all research, management and monitoring of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers (soon to expand to the Ohio and Wabash rivers).

“Larry moved to Springfield in 1975 where he briefly became the Division Chief of Fisheries.  From there he took a Section Head position, as the Chief of Fiscal Management and Operations for Fisheries. In addition to the duties listed below, in the early 1980’s Larry oversaw the expansion and renovation of the Illinois Hatchery System, including the construction of the Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery (which, at that time, was the most modern hatchery in the nation).  In the early 1990’s Larry oversaw the multi-million dollar expansion of fisheries management in Illinois when the increase in fishing license price went into effect.  He developed and supervised the Aquatic Education Program and the Statewide Kids Fishing Project and began both the Chicago and the Statewide Urban Fishing programs.  Larry currently handles all fiscal matters including overseeing all program budgets, coordination of Federal aid projects, coordination of administrative rules, supervising the preparation of the fishing regulation booklet and processing all travel and invoice vouchers.  He purchases everything from waders, to fish food, to boats, motors and vehicles.  Larry is in charge of all printing, represents the Division on the Contract Committee, supervises the Fisheries’ State Fair exhibit and monitors the surplus-deficit report.  He coordinates the monthly I&E reports and all Division times sheets.  Larry buys all of the fish for the Chicago and Statewide Urban Fisheries Programs, hatchery and field operations and finally, he is the editor of all fisheries’ publications. As you can imagine this requires much longer than a 7.5 hour day.  Larry has worked countless hours of unrecorded overtime over his long career. 

“Larry has been one of the main-stays of the Fisheries Division for nearly a half century.  He stays in the background providing rock-solid support so all in the Division can get their jobs done. His long hours and constant devotion to the Division of Fisheries are greatly appreciated and will be sorely missed.  Some people are impossible to replace and Larry is most certainly one of them.”



Story and comments

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.”


Story and comments

Open Blog Thursday 2-18-10

February 18, 2010 at 08:25 AM

Been a bad week. Too much going on. Help.

FROM Trent Schneider of Lake County:

“Do you or anybody else know a good place to get deer teeth aged by the cementum-annuli method?”

FROM Don Axt of Peoria:

“We live in a weird upsetting world where people seem to get a kick out of mucking something up in one way or another … creating computer virus is but one example. All that needs to happen is for some ill developed mind to find that introducing the Asian carp into Lake Michigan will cause great ecological upset and you can be sure that mental case will cause it to happen … will catch a couple carp … dump them in the beer cooler and carry them off to the lake to empty empty with a giggle.”


Story and comments

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