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Midwest Summer Fishing Report, Dale Bowman , Jul 21

Ticks are becoming growing problem, Jeremiah Haas, Jul 19

Lake Iroquois Huge Fish Kill, Kenya Ramirez, Jul 19

The Science behind Fish Oil Supplements, NPR Illinois, Jul 19

Redear Sunfish Record, Dale Bowman , Jul 19



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Recent entries


Through the Lens

New Illinois State Record Shortnose Gar

Sat, June 02, 2018

MADISON COUNTY - Illinois has a new record fish – a shortnose gar caught on May 27 on Horseshoe Lake in Madison Co. by Donald Lawrence of St. Louis, MO. The fish was certified by IDNR Fisheries Biologist Fred Cronin at 6 lbs., 15.2 oz. (previous Illinois record shortnose gar was 5 lbs., .96 oz. from the Vermilion River in 1999).
Anyone who has followed me for very long at all knows that I have such an affection (perhaps affliction?) when it comes to gar and the other prehistoric fish.  I really want anglers to stop viewing gar species as the enemy and start seeing them as a great sport fish. Gar are good!

You can imagine my excitement when I received the email from our Fisheries Chief Dan Stephens announcing the new hook and line record. Not only is this a new Illinois State hook and line record, it may well qualify for a North American record as well when looking at the NAFW HOF listing in the records book. It’s not currently known at present if the angler will be pursuing that record as well.

Angler Don Lawrence, of St. Louis, Missouri generously provided IDNR with photos and narrative.

“I purchased a fishing kayak in 2013 and I caught my first gar (longnose) on July 13, 2013 on Creve Coeur Lake and have been hooked (pun intended) on fishing for gar ever since. I’d never seen a gar before and when you get up close and personal, they are really quite formidable. Gar are long, slender, covered in fish scale armor plating and have mouths full of sharp pointed teeth! They are very powerful and will put up a great fight, if you can hook them. A hooked gar will often launch itself completely out of the water, shaking its head violently trying to spit the hook. I’ve lost more than my share of fish during this exciting and slightly dangerous time. In my opinion, gar are one of the best fighting freshwater fish.
My fondness for catching gar usually leads me to Horseshoe Lake in Madison County, Illinois. This old Mississippi oxbow is full of shortnose and spotted gar. As an additional bonus, the IDNR stocked the lake with alligator gar in 2016. The world record for alligator gar is 279 lbs.!! I’ve been hunting for ‘gator gar but have not come across one yet. I’ve had the best luck on this lake using cut bait or whole shad suspended a foot under a bobber. It’s exciting to watch your bobber zip across the lake then submerge as the gar chews on the bait. When fishing in this manner, you’ll need to be patient. Gar like taking their time and will chew a bait for a few minutes before swallowing. Most people do not eat gar, but they can be quite tasty. It’s worth a try. Gar are not deserving of the “trash/rough fish” label. They are apex predators and have not changed in millions of years; plus, they are a blast to catch!”

What I find most fascinating are the photos of the knife sheaths, and the preserved gar heads. I’ve just recently embarked on learning how to tan gar hides and have hopes of making a quiver by seasons end. I am firm believer in using every bit of anything I harvest, especially when it comes to these fascinating fish. While I have preserved gar heads seemingly everywhere around here (perhaps the gar skulls on the porch posts deter riff raff visitors?)  – mine are not quite as nice looking as Mr. Lawrence’s, so you can bet that I will be reaching out to Mr. Lawrence soon in hopes he will be able to give me some hints and tips.

Remember when you hit the water this year – Gar are good! The are great fun to catch, very tasty to eat, and a very useful fish; from the tasty meat, to hides, to scales. Please stop breaking their jaws, bashing their heads, and in general considering gar “trash fish”. They really are an amazing fish!



Deer Feeding Bill Passes Out of Senate Today

Wed, May 30, 2018

The hotly debated and contested “deer feeding bill” was passed out of the Senate today inc concurrence with House Floor Amendment #2. This version of the bill differs greatly from the original bill presented, as well as the amended version that initially passed the Senate.

Although there was no debate on the bill before voting for concurrence with HFA#2, bill sponsor Senator Chapin Rose offered the following statement prior to the vote:

“For purposes of legislative intent I would like to read the following statement. The feeding of deer remains illegal in Illinois as provided by 17 IL ADM Code 635.40. The feeding of deer for research purposes allowed by this study shall only occur under the complete control of the principal investigators. Which, in this case will be The Prairie Research Institute, the Department of Natural Resources, and U of I Veterinary Medical Clinic. I would be committed to running a trailer bill to address any additional issues that might come up later. But, after committee yesterday we wanted to make absolutely certain that people understand that you cannot feed deer and that is still illegal in Illinois.”

At this point the question how of this study shall be funded remains unanswered. The bill can now move to the Governor.



IDNR Unable to Stock Alligator Gar in 2018 Season

Sat, May 26, 2018

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Fisheries will be unable to meet its planned annual stocking of alligator gar in 2018 due to lack of available fish for the Illinois reintroduction program.

Alligator gar, the largest fish native to Illinois, largely disappeared from Illinois waters beginning in the 1970s. The IDNR began a reintroduction program for alligator gar in 2010, acquiring alligator gar fry, when available, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Private John Allen Fish Hatchery in Tupelo, Mississippi.

In previous years, fry obtained from the USFWS hatchery have been reared to stocking size at Illinois fish hatcheries for stocking in locations that have included the lower Kaskaskia River, Horseshoe Lake (Madison Co.), Powerton Lake (Tazewell Co.), and Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area (Cass and Mason counties).

“The source of alligator gar for IDNR, the USFWS in Mississippi, did not have a successful production year,” said IDNR Fisheries Chief Dan Stephenson. “USFWS hatchery manager Ricky Campbell sent us a letter that explains the problem:

“Things did not go well at all with alligator gar this year. Our second spawning attempt was identical to our first attempt in that we got 0% fertilization on eggs collected from all of our females. I am thinking it had a lot to do with that really warm snap that hit in February and the significant river rise that occurred during that same time frame. That event was very short lived and was followed by freezing temps for a long period of time while the fish were up on the floodplain trying to get geared up to spawn. But all of that is just my best guess as to why we never got any fertilized eggs.”

“The IDNR Division of Fisheries is disappointed, but we understand that when dealing with nature, things don’t always go as planned,” Stephenson added. “We intend to continue the alligator gar program with planned rearing and stockings in 2019.”

For more information on the alligator gar reintroduction effort in Illinois, go online to the I Fish Illinois website at…/alligatorgar_news.html


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