Sunday, September 27, 2009

Des Plaines River - September 24, 2009

More photos from today:
Sunrise over the river industy

My friend Al Bernicky and I hit the Des Plaines River Thursday morning. The purpose of this trip was to catch fish, and also to make sure I corrected the problem that was causing the outboard alarm to sound. Fortunately the owner’s manual was very clear as to what I needed to do and everything worked fine. There's a reason they tell you to read the entire manual before you operate the machinery.

Sun through the approaching clouds

We ran through the fog that was rising off the water to our first spot. On the way I took the usual sunrise photos and let Al take the wheel so I could get some good photos. We beat up that area pretty good and all we got out of it was a small Largemouth that hit my crank bait.

Largemouth Bass doing the tail-walk

Cabela's In-Store Pick-Up

On the way to the next spot I let Al take the wheel again so I could shoot some video. There was still some fog rising up off the water and it looked pretty neat. I also got some video of a Bald Eagle in a tree way off in the distance and a snake that swam out to greet us.

Bald Eagle in the distance

I combined the day’s photos with the video and put his together from it:

Al suggested another spot I’ve fished before where I’ve had mixed results and that was where the fish were. Al out-fished me two to one in that spot. We threw crank baits, jigs and plastics worms and only the plastic worm struck out. I had a couple fish pick up the worm, but couldn’t hook up.

Al with the first decent Largemouth of the day

After the bite slowed, we moved on to where I’d caught fish the last few trips. We beat up that spot with pretty good but it was pretty much for nothing. If I remember correctly, we both got a fish there, but nothing to really brag about.

My best Largemouth of the day

We hit a couple spots I’ve never fished before on the way back with no luck. In one spot the Shad were so thick you could have walked across them. I also got a couple photos of a sunken boat that was sticking out of the water.

Someone had a bad day a while back

We ran back to where we caught fish and they were still there. The bite was actually a little better and Al still caught more fish. We were throwing the same lure for a while but Al had the magic touch. I caught fish there, but he caught the biggest two of the day.

Typical size Largemouth for today

We stuck it out as long as we could until I had to be on my way so that I could get to where I needed to be later that afternoon. The water temperature was a little cooler than the last trip at 76 to 86 at the one discharge we fished. It was cloudy all day with very little wind which made it really nice to be out there. With any luck, Al and I will get back out there in the near future.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Des Plaines River - September 22, 2009

More photos from today:

The morning looked perfect for fishing. It was cloudy and foggy, and there was a light mist blowing in the south breeze. I don’t get too many perfect days like this to go out. I got to the ramps before the sun was up and headed out to follow the same route I did last time.

Fog and light rain

125 x 125  Fishing Banner

By the time I made it to the first spot I planned on fishing, it was light enough to do away with the lights on the boat so I put them away before I made my first cast. I caught several fish in that area, but no big ones. I hooked a real big catfish on a crank bait, but he popped off about 10 feet from the boat.

Typical Smallmouth for today

After I was done with that area I headed off to the opposite end of the river but stopped at another spot I haven’t fished this year before I got there. I hooked one good sized Largemouth but he got away. A short time later, the same thing happened. The fish was slightly smaller, but it was still a good fish and that convinced me to add a new task to my to-do list. That would be getting rid of the Sure-Set hooks on several of my lures. I’ve lost more fish that I can count with those hooks and just don’t have that problem with standard treble hooks.

One of the Largemouth that actually made it into the boat

I gave up on that area and continued my run up river. Once I got to my destination, I caught a couple small fish and decided I’d go fish below the locks. I hooked and lost another nice fish up there but never brought anything to the boat. I cut my time up there short because a 3-wide barge was having some kind of difficulty in the lock and had to back out. I didn’t know how far he was going to back out so I figured I’d give him one less thing to worry about and headed back down river a little ways.

After fishing my next spot for about 10 minutes, I connected with the only fish I’d see in that area. It was a giant Gar. I had gotten my Bass net out first thing but it was way too small for this fish to fit in. I dropped the net on the floor and played the fish at the side of the boat until he popped free and took off. Gar are fun to catch, but they are slimy and can really stink up the carpeting in your boat so I generally unhook them at the side of the boat.

At the opposite end of that area, I tied into another good Bass that jumped right away and tossed the lure. I was really frustrated with that crank bait at this point but the fish were hitting it. I ran down to my last stop and managed to land a good Freshwater Drum on the lure that the bass were so good at tossing.

Freshwater Drum

I didn’t get any other hits but I could see shad being chased so I switched to a plastic worm. After a few minutes a fish picked it up and took off with it. I pulled back and the fight was on. As soon as I got the fish close enough I could see by the way the plastic worm was still on the hook that the fish wasn’t hooked. Sure enough he spit the worm and was gone. I was angry for not setting the hook like I should have and that cost me the best bass of the day.

The next fish that picked up that worm got his eyes crossed. I got a good hookset on this fish and it turned out to be a big Flathead Catfish.

Lifting the fish out of the net

I got his head in the net and juggled him up into the boat. I decided that I was done for the day after photographing the fish and letting it go.

Flathead Catfish

My outboard started beeping at me so I’m guessing I sucked up some of the plant material that’s floating around the river and making it hard to fish crank baits in a lot of places. Tomorrow I’ll take it apart, flush everything out and make sure everything is as it should be before I put the boat back in the water.

Deer through the fog

The water temp ranged from 76 to 89 at one of the discharges. It sprinkled quite a few times during the day but I only had to go for the rain gear once. For the day I think I caught 20 to 25 fish which really isn't anything to complain about.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Braidwood Lake Fog

This video was taken March 1st, 2007 (opening day) and on March 7th at Braidwood Lake. Fishing was good both days although we were chased off by approaching thunderstorms on opening day. They would not let anyone launch because the fog was so thick a week later. Most of the guys there have fished in the pea soup before and know to be very careful, and to idle to whatever spot they're headed to.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Monee Reservoir Video from 9-18-2009

Here is a video I created that shows different views of the fog. Try the HQ button and full screen!

If I have time I'll add music.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Monee Reservoir - September 18, 2009

More Photos:

I got an early start this morning and made it to the lake right around 6:30 am. The sun was just rising and the fog was still very thick.

That combined with the glass calm water made for a very scenic morning. I rented a boat and then went back to the car to get my gear cart it all down to the docks.

The 12 foot aluminum row boats that they have were all soaked from the fog so I made one more trip back to the car for a towel.
I took several photos of the sun rising through the trees.

The geese were just starting to form a line and take to the water. They swam past me as I was trying to frame different of my surroundings.

I stopped to fish two spots where I had caught nice fish the last couple times I was at this lake, but didn’t get a bite. I worked my way towards the back end of the lake alternating between throwing plastics and a large crank bait. A short time later I felt a good fish hit the crank bait. I fought the fish and got it to the boat. It was one of the better bass I’d seen this year and easily over 20 inches. As I reached for it, the fish shook the crank bait free and took off.

I spent a lot of time hammering the same area but didn’t get another hit in that spot. I continued down the line of lily pads and didn’t have to go very far before another fish picked up the plastic worm I was throwing. I set the hook and managed to put the fish in the boat

A couple casts later I felt a sharp jolt come through the line and notice it was moving off to one side. Again I reeled up the slack and set the hook. This time I had a nice Channel Catfish on the end of the line. After a good fight, he too wound up in front of the camera. I took a couple pictures and let him go.

I moved down a little more and another fish picked up the plastic worm. I set the hook on another nice Largemouth.

That was it for a while. I went back to alternating between the crank bait and throwing the worm into the lily pads. I’d move the worm over the tops of the pads and let it fall into the pockets hoping another fish would grab it.

It didn’t happen until I got to the other side of the lake. I never felt the fish grab the worm, but instead noticed the line twitch towards the pocket that the worm had fallen into.

I set the hook and started hoping the fish would work his way out of the lily pads and lucky for me that’s exactly what he did. He saved me the trouble of going in after him.

That was it for the plastic worm. I continued to fish it the rest of the day alternating between a couple different types of plastic worms and the crank bait.

I caught a few more fish but they all hit the crank bait in deep water. The last fish of the day turned out to be the best one. Once he was in the boat I decided it was time to go.

The Will County Forest Preserve District does a great job managing this lake.
Considering it isn’t all that big, it has some remarkably large fish swimming in its waters. The staff are always friendly and keep the place in good shape.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Des Plaines River - September 15, 2009

This morning was one of the more scenic mornings on the river. The sun was already above the horizon and there was a little bit of fog rising off the water when I got there. Instead of running my normal route, I decided I’d run back to where we had caught the big Smallmouth a few days earlier.
Sun thorugh the I-55 Bridge
As I pulled out of the marina, my windshield fogged up. I had to stand up in order to see what was on the water ahead of me.

Fog rising off the water

As I took off I realized I had the entire river to myself. There wasn't another trailer in the parking lot.

And we're off....

I stopped to take a few photos along the way.

Sun through the fog

As I headed towards my destination, I was tempted to stop and fish several spots where I'd caught fish in the past, but I kept going.

Scenic reflection

I passed the lotus field but the fog was still rising off the water so the photos weren't as good as I would have liked.

Lotus Flower

I made several casts before I hooked the first fish. It was a good one but it got away. A few casts later and I had another one on. This time I landed a chunky 17 inch Smallmouth. I already had one of my older cameras on a tripod and figured I’d hit the timer button and take the picture that way instead of doing the “hand” shots. It worked – if what you’re looking for is an example of how not to take a picture. The sun was right behind my head so the photo turned out very dark.

How NOT to take a picture

A little later on I managed to catch another slightly smaller fish. It was a nice fish but not a giant like the ones we got last week. I hammered that area with several different types of lures and only caught one more smaller fish before I gave up on that spot.

2nd fish of the day

I tried another spot I’ve never fished before and didn’t catch anything. There was a Green Heron standing on a sunken boat and he didn’t catch anything either so I didn’t feel too bad.

I'm glad I don't have to fish like he does

After giving up on that area, I made a long run to another spot where I usually get a couple fish. There was a barge being loaded with some kind of chemical and some of the workers were giving me nasty looks even though I wasn’t anywhere near them. I struck out with the lure that usually works for me in that spot and decided to throw something much bigger at them. It worked. On the second cast I hooked and landed a big Largemouth Bass.
Largemouth Bass

A few casts later I hooked another one. It was a nice fish but a little smaller than the last one.

2nd Largemouth of the day

After casting that area for a few more minutes, I ran to the spot where we caught most of our fish a few days earlier. I started throwing the same lures I used last time and caught several of the same medium to small fish we got from that spot last time. I decided that since I had already caught a few good fish, I’d throw bigger baits and try for another big one. I had a couple hits from smaller fish, but no big fish.

I fished another spot where we had caught a couple fish during the last trip but struck out there too, so I decided to fish one more spot I hadn’t fished in almost two years. I had a couple hits from what felt like smaller fish even though I was still throwing a bigger bait at them. After several casts I hooked a fish and still am not sure what species it was. My guess is a Warmouth or Rock Bass. No matter what it was, I was surprised that fish hit that big crank bait.

Warmouth or Rock Bass? I'll take it!

On the way back to the marina, I spotted a groundhog on one of the points. I stopped to watch it as it pulled some of the plants down and bit into them. It was interesting to see it look for specific ones and leave others alone. I was also amazed at the way it was able to use its hands almost like we do.

What's for lunch?

This one looks tasty


The water was warmer than it was a few days earlier. The temperature ranged from 89 at one of the discharges to 84. It was sunny all day but a few clouds began to move through as I was getting off the water. That was nice because they hung around long enough for me to wash the scum from the river off the boat and not have to worry about water spots.

Someone else enjoying the nice day

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Des Plaines River 9/11/2009

Our trip started out right at 7:00 am. My partners for the day were Dale Bowman who is the outdoors writer for the Chicago Sun Times, and Joel Greenberg who is a friend of Dales, and a Naturalist. We planned to do a little fishing and also to do some wild life exploration.

Sunrise at the Marina

Our expectations for fishing were not very high due to the bluebird skies so we decided we’d jump from spot to spot and see what we’d see. Within the first few minutes of the trip, we spotted a Bald Eagle sitting in a tree. We stopped for a couple photos and then continued on to our first fishing spot.

Bald Eagle

Dale managed to catch a nice Bluegill at spot number one, but fishing there was kind of tough due to all the floating vegetation coming from up river. We didn’t stick around that spot too long.

At our next spot I caught a little Smallmouth Bass almost right away. Before we were done with that spot, we had quite a few fish in the boat. All three of us caught fish. Dale was determined to catch a fish on a top water lure and had several fish hit the lure.

A fish tries to inhale Dales topwater lure

His determination paid off with a nice White Bass.

Dale with a White Bass

Joel also caught a White Bass and his first few Smallmouth ever from that spot. At one point, Joel and I had doubles so we were able to photograph a Largemouth Bass and a Smallmouth Bass side by side. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass side by side

After things slowed a little, we moved to spot number three. We didn’t catch anything there, and once again, fishing was tough because of the vegetation that would hang up the lures on every cast. We headed onward to the next spot.

Once we arrived I put a nice Flathead Catfish in the boat right away.

Flathead Catfish

Before we were done with that area, Dale had a couple more nice fish in the boat. We also spotted a big Red Tail Hawk circling above the river holding onto a snake he had captured.

Dale with another nice Smallmouth Bass

As we headed down river, we kept a lookout for different species of birds and other wild life. We saw the usual ducks, cormorants, deer, herons, swans, and egrets. We also spotted a couple of Osprey that were a little too far away for good pictures. We also stopped to fish along a Lotus field that was blooming but struck out there.

Lotus blooming in the distance

Once we got the point where the Des Plaines River and Kankankee River meet to form the Illinois River, we stopped to take some photos and talked about the history of that particular spot and how early settlers of our country passed through there.

Joel on the IL River with the Des Plaines River to his left, and the Kankakee River to his right.

At our last fishing spot Dale caught the first fish. It was a big Smallmouth Bass.

Dale with a big Smallmouth Bass

A short time later, I hooked a slighly larger fish. My first thought was that it was a Drum but Dale got the first good look at it and encouraged me to "get it in the boat". Then when it jumped again, I saw that it was a real nice Smallmouth.

Lifting my Smallmouth Bass into the boat

I noticed it was hooked pretty well so I quickly horsed it up into the boat. We tried for a few more fish there but struck out.

20 inch Smallmouth Bass - Thanks to Dale for providing this photo

As we were heading back I asked Joel about a bird I noticed. He looked at it and determined it was a black-legged kittiwake which is rare for that area. We were able to get quite a few photos of the bird.

Black-Legged Kittiwake

Joel has a blog at

Dale’s column can be found in Wednesdays and Sundays Chicago Sun Times, and his blog is at

We stopped to notice more sights, birds, animals, and plants on the way back to the boat ramps. It was nice to be out there with a couple guys who appreciate all aspects of the outdoor world as I do, and who I can always learn a thing or two from. The water temperature was anywhere between 82 and 86 degrees depending on where we were. The was hardly a cloud in the sky and a comfortable breeze was blowing out of the East Southeast.


At the end of the trip we all agreed that the day turned out better than expected.