Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lots of Ice Cold Fish

Illinois River - January 19, 2010
More Photos from today:

The clouds are winning but the sun isn't giving up

I left my house before sunrise with the boat in tow headed for the Illinois River. Along the way I stopped to pick up my two fishing partners for the day, Al Bernicky and Jim Lukancic. Our goal was to catch Sauger.

Now that's cold!

The forecast was for calm winds to become north at 5 mph under a cloudy sky with afternoon peeks of sun. We put the boat in the water just after sun-up and quickly found out that the outboard was frozen.

And that's even colder!

We decided to use the trolling motor to get to our fist spot since it wasn’t far, and hoped the water (which was only 5 degrees warmer than the 29 degree air) would help thaw the outboard. My boat is stored outside and we’ve had a lot of freezing fog lately.

Freezing Fog = Nice View

First Sauger of the day caught by Jim

Jim put the first fish in the boat and Al didn’t wait too long to get his first one. I caught my first a little later and we kept catching them non-stop all day long.

My first fish of the day

Eventually the outboard fired up and we were able to move up river and line up for our drifts much easier and quicker than with the trolling motor.

Al puts another nice fish in the boat

Another chunk of ice heads right for us

We spent over an hour in one area and after a few other boats showed up, we moved to another location. To get there we had to navigate through a lot of ice floating in the water. The chunks ranged in size from your average ice cube to the size of a car. The extra time it took to get to our spot was worth it. We caught some bigger fish but still had to sort through a lot of fish to get the keepers. The water temp in that area was one whole degree above freezing.

We can fish around the ice!

Another nice one caught by Jim

The action was pretty fast and furious. Al was using two poles and caught himself a double. There were a couple times when all three of us had fish in the boat at the same time. And on top of that, the sun finally came out and the ice stopped freezing up the rod guides.

Al catches two at once

After a while, we got relocated by a tug boat that had to maneuver into place to hook up to a barge. We waited and resumed our drift after the tug moved. It didn’t take long before we were knocked out of our spot again by another tug. This time we had to stay outside our preferred drift line for a while as the tug went about its business pushing the barges together and re-arranging them.

One of the reasons we kept getting kicked off our spot

As we were fishing, we spotted deer in the nearby fields. A Bald Eagle flew by on his way up river as did the occasional seagull.

One of several deer we saw enjoying the day

Once we got back into our pattern, we continued to catch fish after fish. Unfortunately the sound of a tugs horn from up river signaled that we would have to move one more time. We decided that it was getting late and we should get going anyway. We knew we’d have to watch out for the ice on the way back too.

I don't want to know where he was last night

As we got everything packed up and ready for the trip back, a Bald Eagle landed in a tree almost right over our heads. He did not look like he had the best of days, but we were appreciative of the fact that he chose to give us the pleasure of seeing him so close.

Still looking regal despite seeing better days

As we moved past him he decided to continue his journey up river. I was able to get a few more pictures and then it was time for us to finally go. As we got the boat out of the water we found that the air temperature had just made the freezing mark.

Time to go!

Al arrived at my place just as I got the boat put back in its place and we removed the fish we kept from the live well. For the day we probably caught close to 100 fish between the three of us but only kept 6 or 7 for meals. Bear came outside to help me place the second cover on the boat (and play in the snow). By this time the air temp had sunk back into the mid 20s and the sun had already fallen below the western horizon.

These will make a nice meal

By William D. Anderson

By William D. Anderson

Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Fish of 2010

January 13, 2010 - Des Plaines River
More Photos:

Cold Morning

2010 Started out cold for us. When I left the driveway with the boat in tow it was a balmy 13 degrees outside and the wind was already blowing pretty good. My concern was the launch ramp at my destination. My partner for the day, Jim Lukancic, had made a trip to check out the parking situation a couple days earlier and found that despite the heavy snow of recent, they were kind enough to leave some space for those boaters who were crazy enough to venture out in the cold of January. The water was open, but the the ramp had a good coating of ice on it.

A very careful launch

Our first task was to clear away enough snow and ice so we could safely launch without dunking my truck. I brought a shovel, ice breaker, and salt which came in handy. Despite that we played it extra safe by placing a big log at the bottom of the ramp after the trailer tires were in the water to prevent the truck from hitting water should it slide despite our efforts. You can never be too safe.

Adult Bald Eagle plays in the early morning sky

We saw a few Bald Eagles fly by before we had the boat in the water.

Bald Eagle Nest

Jim pointed out that he saw one land in a tree and sure enough, there were a couple more in the air around the same tree off in the distance.

Young Bald Eagle

After we had the boat in the water, we idled out of the cove. Mist was rising off the water and the tugs were already pushing the barges around. The engine hadn't been run for almost two months so I continued to idle for a bit. I very slowly worked my way up in speed as we headed toward our destination which was the tree where we saw the eagles.

Tug Boat in the fog

I was armed with a new 650-1300mm lens that my wife had given me, and was eager to try it out. Before we made it to the tree, we saw two more young bald eagles that were playing over the water.

A young Bald Eagle soars over the River

I discovered very quickly that it was difficult to sight my target while in the boat due to the strong winds that kept us bobbing in the water. A tripod is must even on dry land with a lens like that. But despite all that, I still got one photo of a bird in that tree. I'll come up with a better system for using the lens in the boat some other time when it is warmer.

Adult Bald Eagle

We headed off toward our first spot. As we crept up on it we saw another Bald Eagle across the river in a tree, but the sun was directly behind it so I didn't even try for a photo. The water was as cold as its ever been there and we struck out. Since this was our first trip of the year, we wanted to make sure we caught something so we quickly decided to head toward where Al Bernicky and I caught our first fish last year.

A Belted Kingfisher

As we approached the area we were about to fish, we noticed more eagles and also that mist rising off the water had frozen on the trees and brush creating a very scenic winter wonderland.

Winter Scene

I was able to photograph another Bald Eagle before we started fishing, and also a big owl. I didn't realize it was an owl until I saw the photo at home on the computer.


We made one pass through the area and Jim caught the first fish which turned out to be a Largemouth Bass. After the first fish was in the boat, we tried another nearby area and Jim quickly put the second fish of the day in the boat which was a nice White Bass.

First Fish of the Year for Jim

White Bass for fish #2

The lure I was throwing was getting smacked, but it was like the fish were swimming up to it and batting it away. I finally caught a Smallmouth Bass before we moved back to our previous location.

My first of the year - Smallmouth Bass

My next fish hit like a freight train. It fought hard and Jim was ready to grab the net when we finally got a look at it. "Forget the net and just take a couple photos while it's still in the water", I said, hoping it would free itself before I'd have to hoist it up into the boat. It was a chunky Smallmouth Buffalo. It fought hard for its size but failed to free itself.

Smallmouth Buffalo

Jim caught another decent fish later which turned out to be a nice Catfish. Before we were done for the day, both of us had put a couple cats in the boat. I had another Smallmouth and Jim had a couple more fish too.

Jim puts another fish in the boat

Both Jim and I had also hooked and lost good fish. I could tell by the slime on the end of my line that one of them was another good sized catfish. We had 5 speices total for the day. Fishing was slow, but it's the middle of January and we're out fishing open water. That's nothing to complain about.

Me with a Catfish that is about to be released

We headed for the opposite end of the river but were greeted by floating chunks of ice as we got closer to the Kankakee River. We idled around a little and took some photos before spotting more Eagles and trying for photos.

Floating Ice

Freezing River Bank

I did not want to go much further because I was concerned that if a large enough chunk of ice broke off, it could float out and trap us so we turned around.

You don't want to get caught behind a big chunk of this

Despite the wind never letting up, it turned into a nice day. It warmed into the low 30s and the sky stayed blue. The warmest water was 60 at one of the discharge areas we fished and as cold as 33 elsewhere.

Bald Eagle flies over us

I've fished enough in cold weather to know how to take care of a boat in those conditions. The most important thing is to drain ALL the water out of the boat. Since no one else was around and we wouldn't be in anyones way, we stopped on the ramp with the boat tilted back end down. I pulled the plug and opened the livewell valve just in case. Sure enough a little bit of water poured out and I decided that I'd leave the plug out for the trip home. Normally I leave it out until the start of the next trip to prevent any accumulation.

I also lowered the outboard to make sure it was drained. The last thing you want is water to freeze in something and crack it. Especially your engine. Never assume you didn't get any water in the boat. If you stop suddenly, the backwash will find its way down into the bottom the boat. Also, condensation accumulates a lot faster than most people realize. By draining off any water in the bottom of the boat and out of the lines, you can prevent a very expensive repair bill.

Water under the bridge

By William D. Anderson

By William D. Anderson

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009 Blog entires available in Book Form

This book contains several photos not included in the blog. You can preview the entire book to check them out.

By William D. Anderson

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bear Goes Fishing book available!

The children's book is finally available.

Bear is a real dog who loves to have fun. This is the story about Bear's first fishing trip and all the fun he had fishing with his friend Bill.

By William D. Anderson