I was able to get back out on the water for the first time in a couple weeks on Friday August 6th. My plan was to hit Heidecke Lake because I knew the rivers would still be high an muddy from all the rain we've had recently. The problem was that once I got a little ways down the highway, I saw all the traffic backed up the other way due to road construction. I got off the highway and headed for the Des Plaines River instead. I knew from checking with NOAA that the river was at or above flood stage in some areas both above and below where I was going to fish, but according to their charts and forecast, no flood conditions in my normal stretch of river.
Smoke Across The Water
I pulled into the parking lot just as the sun was starting to peek around the trees next to the bridge that goes over the river. The water was higher than normal, and there seemed to be more current than usual. Smoke was coming out of a smoke-stack across the river as I put the boat in the water and then headed down river.
Rising Sun Behind Me
The first spot I stopped at is near an area where another river dumps into the Des Plaines. According to NOAAs forecast, that river was above flood stage. I'd never seen current from that river move water in the Des Plaines before, but it was racing several hundred yards across a flat and out into the main channel. There is an island made of large rip rap that has a channel marker on it and it was being bombarded by the current. I've fished this island many times in the past and never seen any current there, but it was moving the boat around to the point I had to really be careful about how I went around it to avoid getting carried right into the rocks.
First Fish of the Day
I managed to hook one so-so Largemouth on a crank bait but it jumped and tossed the lure. I saw several other bass chasing bait but failed to get another strike so I moved on. All the slop being carried down river by the current was making it tough to fish there anyway.
Better than Nothing
I caught a fish within a couple casts after I reached my next spot. It was a tiny Smallmouth Bass that wasn't much bigger than the lure I was throwing. A couple casts later I caught a nice White Bass followed by a bunch of little Largemouth. I hooked one monster fish there but didn't get a good enough of a look at it to say for sure what it was, but it got away a minute or so into a good fight. After a few more small fish, I hooked another big fish. This one fought differently so I know it wasn't the same species. Once I got it to the boat I saw it was a big Smallmouth Buffalo that weighed around 15 pounds give or take. I had the net in one and and the rod in the other and just as I had the fish six inches from the net, the hooked pulled free and rocketed back just missing my face. Of course since I only had 10 or 15 feet of line out, the lure didn't have far to go before it rocketed back the other way and lodged in the back of my neck. A little antibiotic ointment and a band-aid later, and I was back to catching small fish again. Since the big bass were not cooperating, I made a long run up river.
Once I got to my next spot, a Beaver swam by and said hello as he passed right by the boat. There was a lot of slop in the water so I opted for a plastic worm instead of a crank bait. Just as I heard the alarm go off to warn those below the lock that it was about to open, I hooked and landed my biggest Largemouth of the day which still wasn't anything to brag about. The current was really moving as the doors to the lock were opening so I moved on.
I fished two more spots without a hit. The water was over 90 degrees not too far below one of the power plant discharges. I saw a few gar come up and had one of them take a swing at a crank bait and miss, but that was it so I went back to the first spot I tried. I fished the heck out of it again without a bite. I saw a lot of fish chasing minnows in and out of the current breaks, and even though I was throwing lures that matched the bait fish, I couldn't buy a strike. As I was working my way back to the marina, I hooked big fish but never saw it. It kept running and never stopped. I finally clamped down on the drag and the fish turned and ran sideways for about 5 seconds before the lure pulled free. After that it was back to the ramps for me, then home to scrub the black line of river scum off the boat. That took some elbow grease to get clean.
The outdoor world is an amazing place. It changes everyday, and sometimes from one minute to the next. You don't have to go far to find the beauty of nature. Sometimes all you need to do is open your eyes and take a look around. The photos I take while outdoors allow me to share that with those who migh never get to see such things.