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


  1. Great report and some great photos. Dang how do you fish in that cold weather. I mean dodging i chunks and frozen motors. Way too cold for me.
    Tight lines

  2. You really have to dress for it. We use chemical warmers in our boots and gloves. If you dress right, you don't notice it. If you dress wrong, you'll be miserable very quickly. In short, a couple light layers. The outer layer has to be 100% wind and water proof. The innermost layer has to pull sweat away from your body. The fact that you're catching fish helps you forget the cold too!

  3. Sounds like a great day of fishing, and a nice meal out of it to boot. Great pics by the way. I can't say I have ever been fishing in a boat when the temp was below freezing, but I have done my share of ice fishing

  4. I dont like to icefish so I fish cooling lakes all winter. I live up in Wisconsin and the worst day I ever fished was 2 degree air temp with 20mph winds, didnt last long that day. Usually as long as the wind isnt blowing it is pleasant to fish in anything 10 degrees or warmer. Like Bill said dressing properly is key. My brother lives in Chicago and just purchased a boat, we would love to give those suagers a shot, is there any chance you could share what boat launch to use. Thanks and I enjoy your website very much. If you would prefer to just email me the boat launch area my email is dpavey@blhs.org Good fishing, we are heading down to fish Sangchris and Lake Springfield tomorrow.

  5. Nice catch Bill, I dont enjoy icefishing very
    much so we fish cooling lakes in Wisconsin and Illinois. Been out on a few days when the air temp was near 0 and wind was blowing 20 mph. Those are cold days, as long as the wind isnt too bad and you dress warm like Bill said it isnt bad fishing in near 0 weather. We have a small boat we dont winterize we would love to get into some of those saugers, any chance you could recomend a boat launch. Thanks and I enjoy your site very much. If you would prefer to email me info my email is dpavey@blhs.org We are headed to Lake Sangchris and Lake Sprinfield tomorrow, been getting some good largemouth and white bass.