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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

Bluegill are legal as bait

March 16, 2009 at 09:55 AM

Bluegill are legal to use as bait in Illinois.

I repeat, bluegill are legal to use as bait in Illinois.

A recent story about Pastor Charles Everly catching a 65-pound flathead catfish on bluegill has raised a stream of questions from readers like Larry Joyner who e-mailed, “I noticed in today’s article that this fellow caught his catfish using a bluegill (rock bass). As bait. I thought they were gamefish. Isn’t this illegal? Doesn’t anyone care? You care to comment? Also thought there was a size limit. I guess if it’s under size and used for bait then one is not keeping it.”

For the answer, we need only open the 2009 Illinois Fishing Information Guide and read the following section on Page 2 under the heading, Bluegill as Bait. The guide says…

“There is nothing in the Illinois Fish Code which prohibits the use of legally taken bluegill or sunfish as bait for another species of fish. The bluegill/sunfish must have been taken by a properly licensed sport fisherman using legal sportfishing devices. You must also observe all size and creel limits both where the bluegill/sunfish were taken and where they are being used as bait. Also, it is illegal to cut up or dress or be in possession of cut up or dressed fish on any body of water where there is a size limit for that particular species of fish.”

That gives the impression that bluegill caught at one lake can be hauled elsewhere and used for bait. That’s not true thanks to the emergency rules adopted last year to combat the spread of the fish disease VHS. Under those regulations,

“Use of wild-trapped fishes from within the state as bait will be restricted to the waters where legally captured.”

The list of fish that can’t be transported from one lake to another includes the following:

Black crappie          
Bluntnose minnow      
Brown bullhead        
Brown trout            
Channel catfish        
Chinook salmon        
Emerald shiner
Freshwater drum      
Gizzard shad          
Hybrid (Tiger) muskie
Lake whitefish
Largemouth bass      
Shorthead redhorse    
Northern Pike          
Rainbow trout          
Rock bass            
Round goby            
Silver redhorse        
Smallmouth bass      
Spottail shiner  
White bass            
White perch            
Yellow perch  



Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Wild Things 3-15-09

March 15, 2009 at 05:24 AM

A month to remember

Poring through stacks of paper the other day I came across a fascinating note from the late Leon Zedric (pictured above). The letter to former Journal Star outdoor scribe Jack Ehresman contained details of Zedric’s bass fishing in March of 1991.

From March 10 through 31, Zedric caught 14 bass weighing 6 to 8 pounds. All but one hit on a jig and pork trailer. Most likely all were caught from shore, since Zedric was famous for wandering the banks of strip mines near St. David.

The note also included this bass fishing tip: “In early spring look for bass at the upper end — near or in the old creek channel and shallows in the northwest corner where sunlight and protection from the wind is greatest. Fish a slow sinking bait. I prefer 3/16- or 5/16-ounce jigs.”


Number of boat trailers in the Spring Lake parking lot on March 6. Who says muskie mania is not alive and well in Illinois?

Wild on the Web is awarding four $50 cash prizes to anglers age 15 or older who submit photos before Oct. 31.

Birding bits

The question comes every year about this time? When should we put out hummingbird feeders? No doubt must hummer watchers have a set date in mind.
For those who don’t, the Web site offers a map showing where the amazing birds are in their migration. Based on the maps, most ruby-throated humminbirds start arriving in Illinois in the last week of March or the first week of April.

Outdoor scholarship

High school seniors who enjoy the outdoors can apply for the $200 Donnie Hall scholarship from the Toluca Sportsman’s Club. Applicants must submit a 400-word essay on why they enjoy hunting, fishing or other outdoor activities by May 1. Send essays to: Toluca Sportsman’s Club, P.O. Box 447, Toluca, IL 61369. For more details call Jim Clanin at (815) 228-9695.

Macomb outdoor show

Familiar outdoor speakers Tim Wells, Steve Welch, Jim Crowley and Dan Vinovich will appear at this weekend’s Macomb Outdoor Expo at Western Hall. Buckmasters scorers will also measure deer heads for no charge.

The show is Saturday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and next Sunday, March 22 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Admission is $2 and children 13 and under free. Call (309) 833-2121.

Kudos corner

Former Washington resident Illinois hunting and fishing
Dennis Minor is the Ducks Unlimited 2010 International Artist of the Year, an honor he also won in 2000. He won for his painting, “Beam’s Creek.” Minor lives in Lacey’s Spring, Ala. but still has family in central Illinois.


Story and comments

Spring Lake bass sign-up Sunday

March 13, 2009 at 08:46 AM

First of all, my apologies to Scott Montgomery and the rest of the Peoria Sportsman Club.

Why? Because we listed the wrong date in today’s paper regarding sign-ups for the Peoria Sportsman Club’s 28th annual Spring Lake bass tournament.

The correct sign-up date is Sunday at 9 a.m., not Saturday as I printed today. Sorry. The rest of the information was correct, including the part that said, spots fill up fast for the April 25-26 tournament.

For more information, call Montgomery at (309) 241-2761. Sign-ups will also be held Sunday for the Gary Lee Weber buddy bass elimination tournament later this year. The late Weber helped start the two-day April tournament that is the area’s top bragging-rights event.

Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Passing time chattering about baits

March 13, 2009 at 03:23 AM

Look outside today and most of what you see is floody, muddy water. Cold water, at that. In other words, fishing is not a great option.

A much warmer alternative is spending idle time fondling fishing lures. That explains why I was happy to spend time this week with Paul Clay of Chillicothe (pictured above with some of his lures) and Adam Jaegle of Presley’s Outdoors.

Clay is a lure maker from Chillicothe who turns out customized chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs at affordable prices. And if you need a funky skirt color or jig head, e-mail Clay at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call (309) 251-6611.

Clay is also the mastermind behind a Mad Willow chatterbait that features a unique willow-leaf blade that dangles below the lure. I caught several chunky bass on Clay’s creation last spring but by year’s end had lost my favorite colors. So a visit was timely for that reason, as well.

And like any lure maker, Clay spent the winter tinkering. “I think you’ll find my chatterbaits run a lot better,” he said.

Specifically, he is using longer hooks on his chatterbaits and Mad Willows to provide more of a gap in which to hook up fish.

Anybody who fishes chatterbaits will tell you they trigger too many missed strikes. Maybe Clay’s wider-gap hook will be an answer. No doubt long hours of research will be required to offer an educated ruling.

Time on the water will also be the key to test various new bass lures Jaegle showed off.

Most attractive to me was the Ocho by Strike King. Jaegle talked about this Senko-imitator’s eight sides and how it moves through the water. And it does look cool. But what really caught my eye is that Ocho is more affordable than my beloved Yamamoto Senkos.

Will the Ocho perform as well as the Senko? I’ll let you know when we finally get warm, stable weather again.

Until then, Adam Gerik has posted a video on and with Jaegle discussing new bass baits for 2009.

Speaking of the Web, we’ll be giving away several of Clay’s creations on to readers who submit big fish stories and pictures. Watch for details soon about our new Big Fish Fridays feature.


Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Spring Lake pike prove prolific

March 12, 2009 at 04:10 PM

While few anglers have visited Spring Lake this chilly week, action was good for the Department of Natural Resource’s annual pike netting. Biologists needed just two days on the south end to collect 92 females and 62 males. The largest female weighed 12 pounds.

Those prolific pike provided 500,000 fertile eggs for Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery. But northerns were hardly alone in the trap nets.

“The northern looked good and the big bass were moving,” biologist Wayne Herndon said. “We saw quite a few bass between 5-8 pounds. And we don’t usually see them in our trap nets.”

Herndon said he also netted “quite a few” crappie that were 8-9 inches long and “quite a few over 9 inches.”

As for the north end, anglers have been catching some muskie in recent days. But things will slow starting Sunday when state nets are scheduled to go in on the north end.

Story and comments

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