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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

Illinois hunting and fishing

The Black Knight of Evergreen

June 30, 2009 at 10:31 AM

During the recent muskie recovery effort below the dam at Evergreen Lake, staffers rescued this rather unique fish.

Dubbed The Black Knight by Chef Todd, this nearly black muskellunge was released back into Evergreen Lake. Most observers on hand, nearly all of them long-time muskie anglers, said they had never before seen a toothy critter with this type of coloration.

Park operations supervisor Brad Wood holds the dark-colored muskie prior to its release.

Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Two big bites at Lake Jacksonville

June 29, 2009 at 05:15 PM

Ten minutes into our fishing trip to Lake Jacksonville I was convinced the lake truly was the best in Illinois for bass.

That’s because Tony McCoy hooked into a fat 21-inch fish moments into our trip. We had left the boat ramp, headed across the lake and into the first cove we came to in the no-wake zone. Then, bam. A lunker. On a Senko. You can see the fat fish above. We didn’t weigh the fish, but I’m betting it was over 5.

Moments later I caught a fat 14-incher. No question, we were going to slay them. Then a funny thing happened. The next 10 hours of convincing were not nearly as impressive.

The lake is beautiful. There are trees and weeds everywhere. Not much of that nasty sticky moss, either. There are so many places to toss a lure it’s almost unnerving.

In many of the coves you can fish from either side of the boat at once, as Gordon Inskeep (left) and Tony McCoy (right) demonstrate here.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Despite all that, we were almost disappointed.

The night bite Sunday evening was slow. A few fish from the lilly pads, but not great.We attributed that to all the weekend boat traffic. We expected much more Monday morning.

But the morning bite was even slower, though we were on the water well before 5 a.m.

No big deal in most lakes. But we had come to Lake Jacksonville thinking “This is the No. 1 bass lake in Illinois.”

For me, though, salvation came with about an hour left in our trip. The wind had forced me to put down my trusty Senko and to pick up a salt craw. As I pitched the craw to a weed edge near some wood, “Bang.” A 20-incher nailed the bait and made the trip for me.

Will I go back now? You bet. And I’ll have an in-depth report on the lake for Sunday.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Story and comments

Off to Lake Jacksonville

June 28, 2009 at 01:06 PM

For years now I’ve been hearing all about the wonders of bass fishing at Lake Jacksonville.

Starting this evening I get to find out what all the hype is about.

I’ll have a report soon on the lake that Field & Stream dubbed Illinois’ No. 1 bass lake.

More important than a report, I hope to have some pictures of big lunkers.

My plan right now is to fish Senkos, salt craws, chatterbaits, shaky-head worms and some smaller crankbaits. Then once evening comes I’m going with scum frogs, buzz baits and other top-waters. We might even fish after dark.


Story and comments

Wild Things 6-28-09

June 28, 2009 at 02:50 AM


Weight in pounds and ounces of the Illinois state record grass carp caught by Josh Pryer on July 13, 2000 out of Lake Petersburg.

Born to be caught

A study by the University of Illinois shows that vulnerability to being caught is an inherited trait in largemouth bass.

Research at Ridge Lake in Charleston showed one bass was caught three times in two days and another was caught 16 times in one year. Offspring of bass like those also proved to be more likely to be caught.

Bad news for geese

A late winter in the Hudson Bay area of Canada is expected to wipe out the breeding season for Canada geese and several other species of migratory birds.

According to Robert Alison of the Winnipeg Free Press, the first Canada goose nests were started June 7 — a month later than normal. That will probably not be early enough for most goslings to mature and to make the migration south. Snow geese and various shorebirds are also expected to be impacted by the late spring.

Birding bits

While this was a poor nesting year for bald eagles in much of Illinois, a pair north of Putnam successfully reared three eaglets according to Dave Clark of East Peoria.

Stop aching, itching

The makers of Absorbine Jr. are finally starting to spread the word about an unexpected benefit of their herbal formula, traditionally used to relieve sore muscles and joints.

In recent years outdoors enthusiasts across the Midwest have increasingly turned to Absorbine Jr. to help fend off gnats. As a result, production of Absorbine Jr. has actually been increased to meet demand.

“We’re hearing from lots of folks, especially fishermen and other people who are on or near water, that Absorbine Jr. has an extremely powerful effect on gnats,” said Robert J. Wallace, an executive with the company that makes the herbal product.

Kudos corner

Local angler Logan Heberer, 17, of Spring Lake recently won his age division at the National Guard Junior World Championship qualifier held at Clinton Lake.

Heberer caught 6.74 pounds of bass and had big fish of 4.91 pounds to advance to the world championship July 29-Aug. 2 on Pools 6 and 7 of the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania.

Wild on the Web

Great Northern Outdoors promises fresh content focused on hunting and fishing around the Great Lakes and upper Midwest.

Critter corner

In the wilds of Illinois in July ...
Tiger salamanders change to their adult shape.
Biologists band wood ducks.
Some wild turkey hens renest.
Quail are hatching.
Canada geese, wood ducks and bald eagles fledge.
Second litter of squirrels are born.
Blazing star and rattlesnake master bloom.

This ‘n that

Recreational boaters beware: Illinois conservation police officers will be out in force today as part of Operation Dry Water. ...  A Swiss angler recently caught a 1,056-pound, 12-foot, 9-inch bluntnose six-gill shark off the coast of Ireland on rod and reel. ... Applications for the first lottery for fall wild turkey hunting permits are due by July 6. ... Jon and Lori Sarver have called off their August decoy show at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe. Word is a new show may be starting in Utica. ... The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said a wolf hunt in that state is likely at least five years off.

Story and comments

An orange-footed owl

June 24, 2009 at 06:39 PM

The following is a true story. Names of participants will not be revealed to protect them.

One day my buddy woke to hear his wife hollering that something had killed a few of her chickens.

When one day turned into several days of chicken killing and lost sleep, he decided it was time for action. But while he rushed to the chicken coop, rifle in hand, any time he heard the birds squawking and the dogs (which are in a kennel near the chickens) barking, he could find no culprit to shoot. All he found were chickens with their heads eaten off, which was all the culprit could pull through the chicken wire that protected the birds at night.

Convinced a raccoon was to blame, my buddy got to a point where he was not sleeping much at all. He was bound and determined to make the critter pay for all that lost sleep. “I was starting to think I might need some therapy,” he said. “I was dreaming up some bad things to do to that raccoon to make it pay.”

With that in mind, one night he was out to the coop within seconds after the barking and clucking started. But still nothing. Even the dog could find no sign of a coon, though it did sniff at the base of a tree for a bit before running off. Hmmm.

The next night, with chickens now safely inside a building, my buddy figured all was well. He slept. But then the ruckus started worse than ever and his wife raised him again. Running outside, he noticed that one of the windows in a six-paned door leading into the building was broken. Rifle in hand, wife close behind, my buddy opened the door ready to shoot the fat raccoon that had killed 20 of their chickens over a 10-day period.

And there inside the pen he saw a great-horned owl chasing chickens. Somehow the owl had broken through the small glass window to get another easy meal. The owl’s plan did not work out as planned.

But my buddy, ever the law-abiding person, did not shoot the owl (despite his wife’s pleading). Instead, he dip-netted the bird and then concocted an experiment. With owl in captivity, he spray painted the bird’s feet and legs with bright orange paint. The next day, he took the bird to the general vicinity of Spring Lake and let it go. The experiment was to see how long it would take the owl to make the return flight.

This was more than a week ago and so far the owl has not returned. A mink did kill a few more chickens, but that’s another story.

As for anyone in central Illinois who has seen a great horned owl with orange feet, now you know the rest of the story.



Story and comments

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