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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

Wild Things 8-30-09

August 30, 2009 at 06:18 AM


Blue-winged teal in millions counted on the breeding grounds of the northern U.S. and Canada, the second highest total ever counted.

Early goose advice

Though he makes a living selling goose calls, Jeff Foiles has simple advice for hunters heading into the early goose season, which opens Tuesday in Illinois.

Don’t overcall. Hide your blinds well. And don’t use motion decoys. “I’m all against this motion stuff,” Foiles said.

Hunting should be good in central Illinois, as banding surveys showed 2.32 goslings per adult — 14 percent above the five-year average.
Northeast Illinois had 2.11 goslings per adult (up 52 percent) while southern Illinois was at a dismal 0.62.

“SIU has some evidence that the forage value of the grass is so poor in southern Illinois by the time the geese hatch that the young don’t survive,” Illinois waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla said.

That’s one reason the early season bag limit is only two honkers in the South Zone. And while the five-bird limit allowed in September in the rest of Illinois is liberal, some states allow hunters to shoot even more birds. The early limit in New Jersey is 15. No doubt that explains why Foiles has a trip to New Jersey on his agenda.

Did you know?

Ducks Unlimited has 32,375 members in Illinois who last year helped raise more than $1.9 million for the conservation organization.

Record still pending

“Chef” Todd Kent is not a fishing record holder yet. Tissue from the eyes, liver and muscles of a likely state-record pumpkinseed have been submitted to the University of Illinois for genetic testing.

Kent caught his 7¾-inch pumpkinseed on July 21 at the Emiquon Preserve in Fulton County. If the 0.41-pounder is determined to be a pure pumpkinseed and not a hybrid, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries department said the colorful fish will be certified as a state record.

So far no angler has entered a valid longear sunfish for consideration as a state record. A fish entered by Aaron Pierce from Woodford County this summer turned out to be a hybrid.

You speak

“The IDNR believes that bowfishing for sportfish should not be allowed.”
— DNR director Marc Miller, responding to a debate over allowing bowfishing for bass or other native Illinois fish gamefish

Critter corner

In the wilds of Illinois in September ...
Ducks, songbirds, monarch butterflies and bats migrate south.
Muskrats build lodges.
Rabbit breeding finally ceases.
Snakes enter winter dormancy.
Tree and barn swallows stage in large flocks.
Persimmons and hazelnuts ripen.
Acorns start to fall.
Puffballs and other fall mushrooms start to appear.
Aster and goldenrod blooms.

This ‘n that

Teal season opens Saturday in Illinois and small flocks of blue-winged teal have started arriving this week along the Illinois River valley. ... Jake Bresson of Paw Paw was selected in a random drawing to receive a prize package of fishing gear for venturing a guess at the weight of the bass caught by Mike Gilmore at Banner Marsh. ... Southern Illinois nature photographer Gretchen Steele has started contributing a Web log to ... Top entries from the 2009 Junior Duck Stamp contest will be displayed at Dickson Mounds Museum Sept. 22 through Oct. 12. ... Biologist Kevin Oller reports that nuisance deer complaints are up sharply in his area. Hmmm. Maybe standing corn last fall did hide some deer from hunters.

Story and comments

A reply to the bowfishing debate

August 27, 2009 at 06:33 PM

In response to the recent debate about bowfishing for native fish species, Ray Thompson of the Illini Muskies Alliance sent this letter to Department of Natural Resources fisheries head Steve Pallo.

“This letter is in response to the recent comments expressed by Ed DeVries, President of the Bowfishing Association of Illinois (BAI) in Dale Bowman’s’ Stray Casts Blog in the Chicago Sun-Times . Basically, Mr. DeVries would like the statutes to be changed to allow harvest of both native and non-native Illinois fish species by bowfishing.

“Currently, the Department does not allow bowfishing (nor snagging, netting, spearing, dynamiting, etc.) for most “sport” species. There is a very good reason for these distinctions. Many sport species, such as bass, walleye and muskie, are regulated with specific size and harvest restrictions. These restrictions have evolved over time with the recommendations of site biologist to enable these species to grow to desirable sizes and/or establish specific densities before being harvested. These restrictions enable these species to establish fishable populations that provide quality fisheries or maintain desirable predator/prey levels.

“I submit that bowfishing would not allow minimum size limits to be adhered to. Unlike catch and release fishing, not many sport fish could be successfully released after being impaled by an arrow.

“Groups such as ours have worked very hard in cooperation with the Department over the years to establish our present fisheries, donating thousands of man-hours, and tens of thousands of dollars in money and equipment needs. We hope that the Department will not support the wishes of BAI and leave Illinois fish management to the professionals.”


Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Open Blog Thursday 8-27-09

August 27, 2009 at 07:02 AM

Another Thursday has arrived, bringing with it the specter of another fishing report. Help? Help!

FROM Jim Lapikas of Goofy Ridge (pictured above with some catfish from Chautauqua Lake in Mason County):

“I believe a few weeks back you had an article featuring The Chautauqua Refuge located in Mason County. I live adjacent to the north pool of the lake where millions were spent to make it a fishing lake, boat ramps, docks, stocking etc. At one time it was possibly one of the best crappie lakes in Illinois (and still could be). But I hear from your article that it’s destined to be drained (as is the taxpayer’s wallet!).

“Have you ever been to Goofy Ridge and seen the poverty? Mason County is one of the lowest incomes in the state (country?), and millions are spent for the BIRDS! I use the lake to help feed my family. Any help would be appreciated to SAVE OUR LAKE!

“The picture below shows the draining of the lake. Fish are under great stress from the low water and heat $$$$$ being wasted along with FOOD!”

Illinois hunting and fishing

FROM John Buhnerkempe:

“One item that I wanted to add to your question about CWD check stations open during the firearm deer hunting season is that because of the extension of the late-winter and CWD season we will not be having check stations during these seasons. Hunters will need to use the automated harvest reporting system. Counties with check stations during the firearm season will include Boone, DeKalb, Grundy, Kane, LaSalle McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.”

FROM David Swanson of Oak Lawn:

“Just read your Web page. Even though I live near Chicago and receive the Sunday Tribune (an actual newspaper that is a dying breed) each week I always read your Web page. Your piece last week outdoors with the boys reminds me of my 3-year-old grandson that is growing up on the northside of Chicago. When he visits our home in the southwest suburbs of Chicago we let him play in the backyard with our retrievers and play in the dirt.

“He loves the 20-year-plus Tonka trucks that once amused our son (his uncle and godfather now). He finds things like sticks to play with instead of a video game. He builds things with the Tonka trucks, roads and uses stones for buildings. He is amazed by insects, and leaves, the birds on the bird feeders, and the squirrels on the utility pole wires. Our second grandson was just born last week so we will have another potential outdoors man.

“I still have family and friends in the Central Illinois area and hope to introduce my grandsons to Banner Marsh and the waterfowl hunting in Fulton County. I think I need to pull out some old pictures and remind my oldest daughter (mother of the two grandsons) of when she played in the woods at Detweiller Park, swam in the Illinois River and rolled down hills filled with autumn leaves on Grandview Drive.

“God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. Thanks for keeping the spirit alive. I also remember the countdown of days before returning back to school.”

FROM Phil Bjork:

“Reading the article of Mike Gilmore’s bass and potential debate of offical weight, I suggest he take his Berkley scale to Walz Scale company. They can check Mike’s scale with a certified 10-pound weight and measure how accurate the Berkley scale really is. Then, at least Mike will know exactly how much the bass weighed. He should be proud of that monster.”


Story and comments

Debating bowfishing for gar, bass

August 26, 2009 at 09:16 PM

Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times and Ed Devries of the Bowfishing Association of Illinois waged a brief, fiery debate today over the prospect of bowfishing for bass in Illinois.

The debate started when Bowman wrote a blog about bowfishing for native fish. Click here to read the blog. In it, Bowman noted that Bill Meyer of the Gar Anglers Sportsmans Society wants to stop bowfishing for all native species, an idea Bowman seemed to favor, as he wrote:

“I like the distinction Meyer makes. It would keep plenty of invasive species, which are numerous, open to bowfishing and similar means of pursuit, but yet respects our native species.”

Devries was not so favorable. He posted a comment on one of Bowman’s blogs that has drawn widespread attention:

“Why dont we bowfish for bass or other native fish? I dont know. You tell me. If I can harvest a bass by hook and line and legally keep my limit these fish will be removed from the waters. Why cant one take these fish with a bow using the same limit? It still results in a limit of fish harvested from the water either way. If I didnt bowfish and legally took my limit it would be OK, but I cant take the same legal limit using a bow. Same result, just different gear. So, why?”

Not surprisingly, that created quite a ruckus. And the Department of Natural Resources quickly issued a verdict on the subject, telling Bowman:

“The IDNR believes that bowfishing for sportfish should not be allowed. We encourage catch and release in most instances to protect the resource. This management technique, although appropriate in some instances, could not be sustained with other demands on the fishery.”

Click here to read the rest of Bowman’s entry on this subject.

The upshot of all this is that bass won’t be added to the list of fish legal for bowfishing in Illinois any time soon. But the future of gar and other “native” fish might not be so certain.

Both sides make points on the subject. As Devries noted in a mass e-mail against the native species distinction:

“There is no need for protecting gar as their numbers are as strong now as ever and fisheries biologists have told me many times that bowfishing has no impact on gar or other native fish populations. Plus the DNR keeps track of fish populations and would surely impose limits on fish harvested by any means if their numbers were seen to decrease.

On the other side of the debate are Meyer of GASS and Chuck Meyer of the Bowfin Anglers Group, who offered this letter that started the debate.

The objective of the IDNR Division of Fisheries is clear.

The mission of the Illinois Division of Fisheries is to demonstrate leadership through education and scientifically-based management for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and promotion of responsible utilization in Lake Michigan, Reservoirs, Impoundments, and Streams.

And yet, one of the practices of the Division undermines this mission. Throughout the official Fishing Regulations a distinction is made between port fish (such as bass, walleye, and crappie) and other species (including gar, bowfin, and suckers). There is absolutely no scientifically-based reason for such a distinction. There is no reason why gar should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing and not largemouth bass. Similarly, there is no reason why redhorse suckers are allowed to be snagged with no limit and not walleye.

There is a clearer, more scientifically-based division between fish species. In one group should be the native species including but not limited to bass, walleye, crappie, gar, bowfin, and suckers. The other group should be the non-native or invasive species including gobies, ruffe, and common, bighead, and silver carp. The native species should be regulated as sport fish are now and the non-native species should be allowed to be taken by bowfishing, snagging, or commercial methods.

We would like to encourage the Division of Fisheries to make this change to better demonstrate leadership through education and scientifically-based management for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and promotion of responsible utilization in Lake Michigan, Reservoirs, Impoundments, and Streams.

Devries also responded to this letter by writing:

“All this amounts to is a so called outdoor sporting group trying to stop another group from legally harvesting a species they think should ONLY be caught by hook and line. And that my friends is anti hunting. The same type of anti hunting PETA wants to impose on all outdoorsmen. In these days of attacks on the hunting/fishing sports, outdoor groups need to support one another, not attack for selfish reasons.”

“Make no mistake about it everyone, these are anti hunting/fishing actions taken by a selfish group who simply dont like the fact we can legally harvest gar by bow and arrow. We cant give the hard core anti groups any help, and those who do or support those who do should be ashamed and have no business in the general hunting/fishing community in my opinion. The BAI will be reporting all actions supporting anti bowfishing to the US Sportsmans Alliance and to the Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resourses and ask their help fighting these anti bowfishing agendas.”

We’ll no doubt have more on this issue in the future.


Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Pondering doves and sunflowers

August 26, 2009 at 12:05 PM

With less than a week until opening day of the Illinois dove season, birds and sunflowers are on the minds of many hunters.

I spent Tuesday morning scanning fields and attempting to get pictures of big bunches of doves. Naturally, as soon as I pulled into my driveway I spotted a dove on top of the garage (pictured above).

While there are decent numbers of birds in town, the news from the countryside is not all good. And dove numbers don’t appear to be the problem. I’ve seen decent numbers of doves in the area and today spotted even more than on Tuesday. But most sunflower fields are well behind schedule due to the wet summer. And many fields are very weedy, again largely thanks to all the rain.

As a result, most land managers are delaying mowing their sunflowers as long as possible to let the plants mature. Some of the more aggressive managers get around that by spraying the flowers with Roundup to make sure they are dry by now. Those sites should be good. We’ll have a complete rundown on Sunday.

Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times reports “Delayed sunflowers or not, dove hunting at public sites almost certainly will be better than it was last year, when only 50,415 doves were harvested. That’s down significantly from 76,315 bagged at public sites in ‘07.” Click here to read his entire report.

So far the best concentrations of doves I’ve seen have been in weedy patches or areas where foxtail has grown up. Foxtail seeds are maturing nicely and have started to drop, leaving plenty of food for doves. The other day I flushed several doves out of just such an area. Let’s hope they stick around until Tuesday.


Story and comments

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