Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Des Plaines River - 5/18/2010

Blustery day on the River

My plan was to fish Heidecke lake again for Walleye during the late afternoon and early evening hours, but when I got there it was closed. I guess somebody fell asleep and didn't realize the high winds that came through earlier in the day had subsided quite a bit.

I called the Braidwood office and was informed that the lake was open, but then opted for the river instead. It was still a little windy but not so much that Heidecke should have been closed. I ran down river and fished for a short time before I had a small fish hit the crank bait I was throwing. He came off pretty quick but a couple casts later I had a much better fish on. I put this one in the boat, took a few photos and let him go.

Largemouth Bass

I fished on for a while without another bite so I decided to work my way up river. I couldn't buy a strike so I went even further up river. I probably could have done better had I targeted the spawners, but that's not my idea of sport fishing.

Bald Eagle

As I made my way up river, I spotted a Bald Eagle in a tree. He was tough to see against the dark sky but I stopped anyway and took several pictures.

I got to the first spot I planed to fish and struck out. I saw a lot of Gar coming up and figured they'd drive out a lot of the fish I was after so I moved. I got to the next spot, made my first cast and a giant Gar hit the lure. He came up, shook is head and as soon as the line came in contact with his beak, he was gone with my lure. A short time later I hooked a Smallmouth Buffalo. I brought him to the boat and decided he wasn't worth bringing up for a picture so I played him for another minute next to the boat until he was able to unhook himself.

A pair of Bald Eagles

I hooked one other fish briefly before I decided to head back. I never saw it but it felt like a nice fish. On the return trip that same Bald Eagle was still in the same spot, only now a friend had joined him. I took several more photos before stopping at one more spot to try my luck.


I hooked another Largemouth Bass that looked smaller than the one I caught earlier, but he was able to toss the lure when he came up and shook. After that I packed up and headed home wishing I had been able to spend the time on Heidecke instead of the River.

A lot of Bass are spawning right now, and on top of that, the wind was blowing all the smells from the nearby industry right down the river which did not make for a pleasant trip. The water was 62 degrees and high from the recent rain, but not so bad that it wasn't fishable. I've seen it much worse out there and at least I was on the water and caught a couple fish. The wildlife viewing was nice despite the smells and lack of fish, and that's never anything to complain about.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heidecke Lake 5-11-2010

Geese at Heidecke

I met Mike Matlock at Heideceke Lake around noon on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010. The skies were cloudy and every once in a while a small rain drop would find its way down from the clouds. It looked to be a perfect day for fishing. The water temperature was only 55 which was quite a drop from the last time either of us had been there.

First Cast, First Fish

As we left the cove, I realized I had left my cameras in the car in plain sight. I turned around, went back in and retrieved them before we headed off to our first spot.

My first Walleye of the day

I stopped the boat well before the shoreline we were going to fish and mentioned that the drop off we were approaching was sometimes good for a fish or two. Sure enough, I landed a small Striped Bass on my very first cast.

One of my Smallmouth

Within moments, Mike had a Smallmouth Bass on. He put it in the boat, unhooked it, and quickly released it. With two quick fish in the boat, I was hoping that was an omen for a good day.

Inspecting the power lines

We weren't fishing for more than a couple minutes when a helicopter buzzed over us. It was inspecting the power lines that run over the lake. Heidecke used to be a power plant cooling lake, but the plant has since been demolished, removing the former source of artificial warmth and current that helped grow giant fish all through the northern Illinois winters.

The wind picks up

I made a comment that the wind was not as strong as was predicted, which was dumb since the wind really picked up as soon as I made that comment. Keeping the boat positioned so Mike could have a good angle at the shoreline became a little more difficult at that point.

Mike with the best fish of the day

I put another fish or two in the boat including a keeper walleye. But then a short time later, Mike tied into it's grandmother. This was a real good sized walleye. The fish came up and we could clearly see the lure in the fishes mouth. The fish went down again and I heard Mike exclaim, "oh", as if he had lost it. But the line quickly tightened back up letting us know the fish was still there. The fish came back up and Mike asked me to net it since now the lure was in the fishes back. I've only seen that happen one other time where a fish was hooked, threw the lure, and still managed to hook himself - and that was a Catfish. After a picture or two, the walleye was in the live well with the other one.

Channel Catfish

We continued fishing, and once things slowed we doubled back and drifted the same area again. We caught more fish but fishing was a little slower. Mike landed a big Channel Catfish that went back in the water and I had one stretch where I hooked three Smallmouth almost in a row but only put two in the boat. None of the Stripers I caught were worth bragging about, but they were fun nonetheless. I only had one possible musky take a crank bait off the end of my line.

Feathered Fishing Guide

As we made our drift, we came across a couple of diving birds that neither of us had seen before.

A pair of diving birds

They would float in the waves, then disappear under the water.

Diving under the water

The sounds they made as they communicated to each other reminded me of a small puppy playing with his buddies.

About to release a small Striper

Once it was time to go, we headed back in and pulled the boat out, then proceeded to the parking lot to remove the fish from the live well so Mike could take them. As I was trying to get the bigger fish that Mike caught, its gill plate put a pretty good slice in my thumb. Then when I handed the fish to Mike, it got him too. My wife said she would have liked a picture of us standing there sharing the same towel to wipe the blood off. We probably did look kind of funny.

Another fish about to be landed

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Wrong Kind of Record

Heidecke Lake - May 3, 2010

The rain in the distance that never made it

I got to the lake about noon and right away I knew where I'd start my fishing based on the wind direction and speed. Rain was forecast for the afternoon but it set up about 20 miles east and moved away leaving a bright and sunny afternoon.

High Wind or Storms Forecast - Use Extreme Caution

I put the boat in the water, raced to my spot and started fishing. I don't think I was fishing for more than 10 minutes when I felt a hard tap on the end of the line followed by a couple of tugs. Then the water exploded in the distance showing me I had a big Musky on. The fight lasted about five seconds before the fish bit right through the line and was gone with my lure.

A small bird walking the shoreline rocks

The same thing happened several more times throughout the day. I saw a total of four of the Muskies that I hooked so those are the only ones I'm counting as Muskies. One was a monster of a fish, another looked about the size of the one I caught last trip, and the other two were smaller. There were a couple more fish that bit the cranks off the end of the line that might have been Walleye, but I never saw them. My record for landing Muskies at Heidecke was three in one day. I also lost one more that day. If I would have been targeting them, I would have tied on a little Tyger Leader material and probably landed most if not all of them.

Freshwater Drum

As for the fish I did catch, the first was a Drum. It was a plump sixteen inch fish that put up a fight, but later on I caught his mama who put up even more of a fight.

Green Sunfish - Little Fish, Big Appetite

I also caught a Green Sunfish that wasn't much bigger than the lure I was throwing. I'm not sure how he managed to open his mouth that wide, but he did. That would be the most humorous fish of the day.

Smallmouth Bass #1

I put two Smallmouth in the boat. The first was a nice fish and the second was a little smaller. Both were quite acrobatic and jumped a few times before being hoisted aboard. Both were quickly photographed and released.

Smallmouth Bass #2

The geese were very aggressive towards each other today. As I went along the bank, they were chasing each other and fighting over who knows what. Red Winged Blackbirds were already looking for crayfish in the rocks and the gulls were sitting on the railroad cars keeping an eye on everything else that went on.

A small Hybrid Striped Bass
I hooked and lost three or four small Hybrid Stripers or White Bass, and caught one. It's tough to tell them apart when they're small unless you actually get them in the boat. At least these fish didn't take my crank baits with them. So for today I think I set a record for the most fish hooked and not landed during a trip. And for some reason I can't wait to get back out there and try again. The water was still 62 and there was a 20 mph southwest wind that made it easy to drift and cover a lot of water quickly. The air temp reached the upper 70s which made it a very comfortable day to be on the water.