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April 2015 Heartland Outdoors cover


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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Illinois Hunters and Anglers Raise $726,000 through License Purchases

Fri, April 24, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois hunters and anglers have raised $726,000 for youth hunting and fishing programs since 2006.  This year’s license renewals pushed total donations past the $726,000 mark, and well on the way to a goal of $1 million raised, hopefully sometime in 2019. When licenses are purchased, individuals are asked to make a $5 donation for the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

“Our long-time supporters know that the ICF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating youth about the outdoors,” said ICF Executive Director Eric Schmidt. “We couldn’t do this without the support of so many hunters and anglers who have a vested interest in making sure our children have the same outdoor experiences as we did growing up.”

“Hunters and anglers already support our conservation efforts through their purchases of licenses and stamps,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Wayne Rosenthal. “I’m not surprised that our sportsmen and women have stepped up again to fund the Foundation’s important work to educate the next generation of conservationists.”

As the charitable partner of the IDNR, the ICF serves more than 6,000 children annually at the Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center (TYCEC) outside of Rockford, where kids are introduced to hunting, camping and nature observation and sustainability on site, often for the first times in their lives.

Youth hunting education around the state includes mentored experiences with deer, turkey, duck, pheasant, dove, goose and squirrel hunts. These hunts are often in partnership with other organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever.

This spring, thanks to several donors, the ICF will have a brand new fishing pond at the TYCEC. The IDNR will help to fully stock this pond so children who visit the property will have a chance to learn about and experience catch-and-release fishing. Education can also be taken off the property anywhere in the state with the Torstenson Education Station, a mobile classroom equipped with a myriad of hunting and fishing gear available for children to get hands-on experience with.

With a mission of inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders and outdoor sportsmen and women, the ICF uses all funding to support programs such as the ones above. You can learn more about the ICF at Most licenses are renewed in April, May and June. When you go online or to your favorite retailer to renew your fishing license, please consider making that $5 donation to the ICF.

For more information on the ICF, or to arrange individual or corporate support for ICF educational and other programs, contact the Foundation at 217-785-2003 or online at


Spring Trout Season Makes Anglers Happy

Sun, April 05, 2015

Peabody River King Fish and Wildlife area has always been a southwestern IL hot spot for fall trout in the Catchable Trout Program. This year it was one of the new sites added to the list for spring season and also to the early fly fish catch and release season as well.

A quick visit at Willow Lake yesterday morning at dawn reveled somewhat chilly, but excited anglers. Several were limiting out just as the sun rose.

All of the anglers agreed that the quality and size of the stocked trout were exceptional and that they were very happy that the Spring season had been added to Willow Lake at Peabody River King Fish and Wildlife area.
“I’ve always fished the fall trout season here, and it’s been good but these are so much bigger than what I usually catch in the fall,” said Ian Johnston of Granite City. “The quality of these fish is just super.”

Ian Johnston, Granite City shows us his first three of the morning.

Anglers found a variety of approaches successful. While trout were being taken on minnows, doughballs, and rooster tails, the small rooster tail style spinners seemed to be in the lead for success on Saturday morning. Looks like a few households may be enjoying fresh trout as part of their Easter dinner menu!


Tournament Bowfishers in Illinois Rejoice

Mon, March 30, 2015

Tournament bowfishers celebrated a victory last week when letters were received notifying them of the removal of the language that related to bowfishing tournament harvest limits, in the currently proposed admin rule changes for sportfishing in Illinois.  Heartland first covered this issue when the 2015 season Fishing Digests were inadvertently released with the regulations shown as new regs for the coming season.

Through a concentrated effort launched by Bowfishing Association of America (BAA), Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources, other bowfishing associations including Bowfishing Association of Illinois (not affiliated with Bowfishing Association of America or a state chapter/club of BAA), individual bowfishers and other concerned individuals, the proposed language was changes to remove the native fish harvest limits.

“The Department will remove the language regarding the number of native species that can be harvested. The genesis of this rule was concern the IDNR has over the decline in native fish species in some waters in the state. The proposed rule was designed to help protect those waters. After considering comments from the bowfishing community, the IDNR decided to remove the statewide 10 native species per person per tournament language. The IDNR can effectively manage the fishery without a statewide limit on native species’ tournament harvest but the IDNR will continue to monitor fish populations closely and may place site specific rules on certain waters where there is evidence of declines in native populations. ” said Anne Mergen, Legal Counsel for IDNR in a letter to this author.

This is especially good news simply because it handles the situation in a way that is equitable for the fisheries in IL.  Bowfishers consider themselves conservationists, and work diligently to help remove invasive / injurious fish species from the waters.  That said, bowfishers certainly don’t want to be harming any native fish populations, but were disturbed by the initial language that made this a statewide vs site specific regulation without any sound science to correlate that the decline of the native fish populations was due to bowfishing tournaments.

Additionally, in an effort to streamline the fishing tournament regulations, IDNR also removed the proposed Administrative Rule Section 810.95, which separated bowfishing tournaments from hook and line tournaments, putting all fishing tournament regulations under the Administrative Code section 810.90 which would cover all fishing tournaments regardless of type. This was also a celebrated move as bowfishers viewed this as helping to make it easier to find and comply regulations related to bowfishing, and further was perceived by some as effort to increase the acceptance of bowfishing as not a different animal so to speak, but as another form of take for fish throughout IL on a level playing field with hook and line, commercial, and other types of angling within the IDNR fisheries division. 

The current sportfishing regulation changes are currently in the JACR review process and first notice ended on 3/23/2015. No second notice has been published in the Illinois register at the time of this writing.
Riding high on the announcement of the change in the language of to the tournament regulations, Bowfishing association of Illinois immediately issued (via social media and internet forums) a call to action to support their request that catfish be placed on the allowable species list, reopening the debate from last year on this topic.

The proposal from BAI regarding catfish did not make it to the regulatory agenda, admin rules, or through the process last year. It remains to be seen if it will be successful this time in actually making to the next regulatory agenda, and on to the Admin Rules committee for consideration and how this new proposal will read compared to the previous.

In the same announcement regarding the request for catfish and heralding a victory in the tournament regulation battle to have all tournaments under one set of regulations,  Bowfishing Association President Ed Devries stated the following

“A very important precedent setting accomplishment as it is a first step to allowing a fair harvest of all legal species with bowfishing gear in the same manner rod and reel fishermen, trot and jug line fishermen can harvest fish. We hope everyone will fight for our moves to legalize catfish bowfishing in the coming month the same way they have these regulations as this is a very important and fair regulation for all who bowfish.”


That announcement bears watching. Will Bowfishing Association of Illinois be able to achieve it’s goal of being able to take by bow and arrow device ANY LEGAL SPECIES? Time will tell, but my guess is that there will be plenty of debates and lots of fine tuning of proposals and regulations before sport and game fish are opened for harvest by bow and arrow.

As always sportsmen and women in Illinois should routinely follow any proposals and legislation that relates to outdoor enjoyment and sports. Additionally, when issues arise, become active, comment during public comment periods, work with organizations such Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources and activity specific organizations such as Bowfishing Association of America or Illinois Whitetail Alliance.

Stay informed, stay vocal, and help shape the regulations that guide outdoor enthusiasts across our state. This recent change in just this proposal alone shows that when concerned sportsmen and women, and conservation organizations work together in a professional, concentrated, and targeted effort they can indeed shape regulations and guidelines.


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