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.
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.