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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


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.


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