Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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Jeff Lampe
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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Ice, open water and prep fishing

February 15, 2008 at 04:10 AM

(THIS IS MY COLUMN FROM TODAY IN THE JOURNAL STAR)

The big boy was grumbling before we started shivering.

“Dude, I don’t think those fish are going to bite in this cold,” Chef Todd said.

That’s usually his way of saying, “Let’s stay home.”

Not this time. Cold or not, we needed a good ice fishing outing. And Nate Herman of Herman Brothers Pond Management had sent enough pictures of big bluegill to keep us on the hook.

Thank goodness for that. Despite Monday’s frigid conditions, the fish bit. The ice was plenty thick. And cold didn’t chase us off frozen Peoria County water until we’d caught about 70 fish, including bluegill up to 9½ inches.

“A few of those were Boone & Crockett bluegills,” Chef Todd said. “This was a good trip.”

Yes it was. If you haven’t been out ice fishing yet, now’s the time to take advantage of what is shaping up as the best hard-water winter in years.

While edges of some ponds were shaky even last weekend, that’s no longer true. Ice reports range from 4 to 14 inches, with 6-8 inches fairly common.

And while fishing action is hit-and-miss, there have been hotspots. Strip-mine panfishing is improving in Fulton County, farm ponds are good most places and crappie are still gobbling minnows at Lake Storey.

“It seems like the main bite is late afternoon and early evening,” said Al Hayden of Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg.

Then again, we fared well in the morning at two man-made lakes we visited with the Herman brothers, Nate and Justin. Ours was one of several successful outings they’ve had in the past few weeks.

In addition to pond management duties, the Hermans guide for open-water trout and for ice fishing. Visit hbpondmanagement.com or call (309) 303-5691.

POWERTON UPDATE: Speaking of open water, boaters have to wait indefinitely to launch at Powerton Lake. Today was scheduled as boat opener at Powerton, but the lake “will remain closed to boat access until further notice,” site manager Stan Weimer said Thursday.

Cause for the delay is work in the hot-water discharge, which is also off limits to bankfishing. Bank anglers can fish the rest of Powerton daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tom Grider of Riverside Bait in Pekin said blue catfish are good on live bluegill fished close to shore. Incidentally, Grider is closing his shop Sunday and will not reopen until the end of March.

PREP BASS: Organized high school bass fishing in Illinois is all but a certainty. So long as a sponsor emerges to foot the bill, the Illinois High School Association’s Board of Directors has approved a spring 2009 start to prep fishing.

Next step in organizing the tournament is to organize a committee of coaches, teachers, principals and athletic directors. Those interested in participating should send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) — the address for IHSA assistant executive director Dave Gannaway.

Area schools that have already expressed interest include Canton and Farmington. Organizers anticipate as many as 300 schools may participate in the first year of prep fishing.

At this point, plans call for sectional competition prior to the state tournament. Lake Shelbyville is a likely home site for the first tournament in 2009 thanks to its central location.

LEGISLATIVE WATCH: Legislators are back in Springfield and are already busy writing bills that could impact the outdoors.

Among the more controversial legislation so far is House Bill 4631, introduced by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg). The bill would allow deer hunters to use bows during the seven days of firearm hunting. While that will probably not sit well with many gun hunters, even the Illinois Bowhunters Society opposes HB 4631.

Phelps also introduced HB 4632, which would establish a trapping season for river otters and bobcats. More on this issue Sunday.

There are at least two other deer bills worth watching, both introduced by Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion). HB 3387 adds a seven-day “female-deer-only” season before gun season and HB 4424 provides that “the Department may not make administrative rules concerning deer hunting management restrictions applicable to any season that would prevent a person that lawfully takes two or more does from taking at least two bucks.”

The latter would effectively end Illinois’ two-buck limit. Sounds to me like some legislators have decided they want to wrest control of Illinois deer management away from biologists in the Department of Natural Resources.

FISHING SHOW: The Central Illinois Boating & Fishing Show opens today at East Peoria’s Event Center. Anyone age 55 and older is admitted for $3 today. Boats are the main focus, with eight dealers on hand packing 50,000 square feet.

The exhibitor list also includes resorts and a few fishing tackle dealers. Speakers are multi-species guide Dan Vinovich of Pekin, crappie guide Steve Welch and bass angler Terry Brown.

Show hours are today 4-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission ($7 adults, $3 ages 7-15, free 6 and under) is reduced Saturday from 4-7 p.m. (adults $5, 15 and under free) and is half price Sunday from 3-5 p.m.

ET CETERA: Squirrel hunting ends today, as does raccoon and opossum hunting in the south zone. ... Tim Presley and Dennis Maher won the Presley’s Outdoors crow contest last weekend with 59 birds. Second went to Chris Nasses and Ed Gillott (41) and Nick Hufeld and Dalton Bontz (20). ... Forest Park Nature Center has a special sale of nature-related books Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday (reduced prices) from 1-5 p.m.

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