Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where did Bill go?

I've gotten a lot of mail the last few months asking if I've disappeared since I haven't posted anything in several months. The truth is I've had some neck and shoulder surgery that has kept me off the water for quite some time and with any luck I'll be back sometime this spring.

Thanks to everyone for the kind wishes and Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rainy Opening Day at Heidecke Lake

Friday, April 1, 2011

When I went outside Friday morning I was greeted with a very colorful sunrise. The air temp was in the upper 40s and it was forecast to rain off and on later in the day.

Colorful Sunrise
I got to the lake about an hour after it opened and was very surprised that for opening day there were only 11 trailers in the lot and I was going to be number 12 in the water. Usually opening day is pretty crowded and the lot fills up. Unlike the day before, I had no trouble or mishaps getting the boat into the water and heading out to find fish. As soon as I got to my first spot I noticed several schools of Carp swimming around the surface and sucking air. I've seen them do that in very warm water, but not 43 degree water like I was fishing in.

Carp at the surface 
As I worked my way along the shoreline I saw several geese and ducks going about their business. Every now and then a small fish would cause some commotion as I spooked it away from the shoreline rocks.

A Duck swims away from me
I wasn't on the water for more than a few minutes when the clouds moved in and a few drops made their presence known as they hit the waters surface.
Clouds move in

The rain got a little heavier but wasn't to the point of annoying yet. It would sprinkle a little, then quit, then sprinkle some more. I kept working my way along the shoreline.
 A pair of Geese

One thing I noticed even as I put the boat in the water was that the water level was probably as low as I've seen it. I had to be careful motoring out of the cove where the ramp is located. There is a fence that is supposed to keep people from getting closer to where the power plant used to be and it is usually right at the water line. I was surprised to see the water several feet lower than the base of the fence.
Very low water level

My first strike of the day was a good one. I knew right away I had a decent fish on and when I saw that it was a nice Musky, I grabbed the big net that I had ready and waiting just in case. A few minutes later I was netting the fish and taking a few quick photos.
Releasing the Musky
After I released the Musky I sent a quick text to a friend who was on his way to join me "Musky in the boat". A reply came right back "Awesome". In short order I was able to put a Smallmouth Bass and a Hybrid Striped Bass in the boat.

Hybrid Striped Bass
At this point the rain became a little steadier and everything started to get soaked - including me. The phone rang and it was time to head for the ramps to pick up Dale.
Smallmouth Bass
Once we got back out on the water the rain began alternating between a moderate rain and a light sprinkle with more emphasis on the moderate rain. Dale is the outdoors writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, has a great Radio Show that can be heard around the Chicago area, and also writes for Heartland Outdoors. See the end of this for some links.

Steadier Rain
Dale and I continued to fish and continued to get soaked. Our hands became numb and we'd have to stop fishing every once in a while to warm them back up. By this time we couldn't see any other boats on the water and it appeared as if we had the entire lake to ourselves.

Dale fishing in the rain

Heidecke Lake is around 1600 acres of water that is separated into two sections by a levee. At the northwest end of the levee there is a bridge that some boats can go under to get to the other section. My two previous boats would make it under the bridge, but not this one. Even with the water level as low as it was, I was not about to risk damaging the windshield. I have some fond memories of fishing the other side of the lake and miss being able to get under that bridge, but it's not worth the risk to the boat.
Rain, Rain, and more Rain
Heidecke used to be a cooling lake for a coal fired power plant. A few years ago they tore the plant down and the lake became more like a normal lake. There used to be a good current that moved the warm water from one side to the other. But when the plant closed, that went away. Even though the extended growing season is a thing of the past, there are still some huge fish in the lake.
Me with a nice white Bass
We put a few more fish in the boat. Dale had a musky bite a pretty good sized musky lure right off the end of his line and I hooked two more smaller ones but failed to land them. I got one right up to the boat but he got away just as Dale was lowering the net to the water. The other jumped so we could see him laugh at us before he let go of the lure. I also had a Walleye take a swipe and a lure as I was bringing it back to the boat, then as I pulled it out of the water, he came back again a jumped out of the water after it. Too bad he missed or that would have been a first for me.
Another White Bass
Despite the rain, it was still a nice trip. My boat was soaked but by the end of the next day it was all dried out and ready for the next trip. the air temp made it to the low 50s but you never would have know it being out in the rain as we were.
I recently moved my website to a new hosting company and have yet to  put the two sites up where you can purchase my photos, but I'm looking forward to working with my new host with this being the 10th anniversary of my site being on the web. Here are some links to Dale's work:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

LaSalle Lake Largemouth

LaSalle Lake - Thursday March 31, 2011


After so long off the water I was beginning to wonder if I could still catch fish. Today I found I still had what it takes to catch fish, but lost it big time when it comes to backing the boat into the water.

The story starts out with me going from trying to be a Good Samaritan, to turning into a rookie idiot. I got to the lake an hour after it was supposed to have opened and saw there was still a long line. I quickly realized that the gate had not been opened yet. After thinking about it for a minute I decided I'd turn around and go to Braidwood since I'd heard that the fish were hitting pretty good over there. I backed up to where I could turn around and noticed the gate opening so I got back in last place in line.


About 15 minutes later I had reached the gate when the driver of a broken down van that I had passed midway in line came running up behind me and asked if I could give his van a jump. My only concern was being able to get turned around so I could get back in line again. Since I would hope that someone would help me out if I needed it, I decided to go for it and manged to get turned around and nosed up to his van. We were able to get it started and I backed up down the road back through the gate and was able to tun around and get back in line again. That's when I temporarily turned into an idiot.

I had my boat all ready to go into the water so when it was my turn I backed down the ramp. The problem was I was at too much of an angle and my trailer tire went off the side of the ramp between the ramp and the dock. The last time I saw someone do that, they messed up their truck pretty bad trying to muscle the trailer out. My first thought was "don't panic, get out and assess the situation, come up with a plan, then work the plan". My second thought was "My insurance is paid up, right?".

I got out of the truck and the bilge pump in my boat started firing water out the side. My third thought was "Drain Plug". Yep, it was still in the boat. About this time the guy I helped out noticed I was in trouble and came over to give me a hand. I knew I had time before my boat would take on enough water to sink, so we pulled the boat off the trailer and tied it off. The first thing I did when I bought that boat was replace the bilge pump with a much higher capacity one, and put in a float switch so I knew it could sit there a while before I'd have to worry. At that point I figured out how to get the trailer out without damaging the dock or the trailer and it worked. I repositioned the trailer on the ramp, pulled the boat out of the water and put the plug where it belonged.


Then it was time to fish. Or so I thought. As I was driving around the lot to find a place to park,  I came across two guys who had parked with their boat on the trailer and were working on trying to start the outboard. I asked them if they wanted to come out with me and they gave it some serious consideration but chose to keep trying to get their boat started - which they eventually did. I even saw them fighting a pretty good fish later on.

Finally I'm out on the water. My boat started up fine and I picked a place to start fishing and things finally started to get better. Long story short, I caught over 40 Largemouth in about 2 and a half hours. Throw in an eater sized Blue Catfish and a bunch of little annoying size channel cats and it turned into a good day. The sun was shining and there wasn't much wind. The water temp ranged from the low 60s near the ramp to about 80 near the discharge area. I never made it into the discharge chute but I'm sure it was close to 90 in there. For those not familiar with LaSalle Lake, it's a 2600 acre cooling lake for a nuclear power plant and can get quite rough when its windy.

I started out throwing a crank bait and switched to a tube after a while to make sure I didn't over work my arm and shoulder - one of the reasons I've been off the water so long. I kept snagging the tube in the rip rap so I switched to a plastic worm and they hammered it all day long. I'm sure some bigger fish were caught by others during the day, but all mine ranged from 13 to 17 inches.

When I went back to get the trailer, I noticed I had bent and moved the spare tire fixture when it hit the dock as the trailer went off the side of the ramp. Once I got home, it took a couple deep sockets and about 10 minutes to fix it all good as new. I got everything ready for the next days trip and covered the boat for the day.