I drive by Allen Park almost every day. It is one of the first spots I got to know when I moved here back in 92. The Illinois River was the first spot I fished, and I fished it regularly for many years. It was just 5 minutes from home and full of white bass, and if you knew what you were doing you could catch smallies and some largemouths too. Eventually my range expanded but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Illinois around Ottawa. Unfortunately the invasion of carp:asians, silvers, and bigheads for more than a decade now has destroyed much of what was a wonderful fishery. While you can still catch some fish, it is nothing like it was, as beneath the surface the invasion has reached mind boggling proportions. You’ve probably seen videos of jumping carp as they are scared from shallow waters in some parts of the Illinois and other southern rivers.This is a bad problem but not the only one. To my knowledge bigheads don’t jump, but they are no less devastating to a waterway. They spawn so much and grow so large and so fast that they simply take over any place they swim. Today I saw the evidence. The DNR was seining just upsteam from Allen Park today in an attempt to control them. To do this they drop a large net in the water and then slowly draw it into a circle to trap everything in the middle. They caught this many in one try. Just once! I took a couple pictures of the results.
They estimated the catch at 110,000 lbs. That is the nightmare that continues under the water in the Illinois. As I walked across the bloody parking lot I could only be depressed.
Scott had some time off in September and we planned to do some fishing in northern Wisconsin for a few days last week. It felt a little funny leaving my wife and Cam at home but Monday morning came and off we went. The weather was suppose to be nice the first couple days and then turn as a big cold front moved in. We arrived Monday afternoon and the weather was already iffy. Storms were swirling around the area as we headed out to our first lake. We tried for some bass throwing spinnerbaits and senkos but the fish weren’t cooperating. I was disappointed because I had talked this lake up as a good bass lake that Cam and I had done well on earlier in the summer. Besides that clouds were brewing and the launch was quite a distance away. We decided to pack it in a hit another lake. By the time we had the boat on the trailer it was raining. This was suppose to be one of the nice days. So far we only had a couple small bass. We decided to spend a bunch of time on Lake Tomahawk as that is a lake we both have a lot of history on. The rain let up and the temps were still warm as we started poking around. Almost right away we started catching a few more small bass. We were happy to have the bites.
The weather continued to swirl around us but didn’t chase us off the water. And then the highlight of the trip happened. A huge rainbow started to form right over the lake. There would be no way to discribe how beautiful and how amazing this was. I began trying to get a few shots with my new phone. They were ok but didn’t really do it justice.
And then Scott used his phone and got this unbelievable shot. It was awesome!
We knew Tuesday was going to be the best weather day and we wanted to take full advantage. We were on the water early and looking for muskie. Now Scott is not a muskie guy but he knows I am so he was being nice. An hour in on a topwater he got a low 30 incher to blow it up. It was a brief encounter and our only one all morning. I was disappointed but happy to get the chance to chase skis. We picked up, moved lakes and went back to bassin. And we caught some fish. Included in our catch besides bass was a few northerns and a couple of confused walleyes. By the time we got in you could tell the weather was changing. The prediction was for heavy rain, big wind, and 40 degree temps.
When we got up most of that prediction had come to pass. Maybe it wasn’t heavy rain, but it was pelting. Oh and I haven’t mentioned to this point that I had hired a muskie guide for half a day for the afternoon and we weren’t to excited about the prospect of paying someone to go out in that weather. We started the day with one of Scott’s favorite rainy day activities, a trip to the St. Croix Factory in Park Falls. We left without buying which was pretty weird. It was about to get weirder. As we headed through town we passed over a river and I saw a little park. I saw the water was flowing pretty good and I told Scott I thought he should pull over by this shelter I saw across the bridge. I told him how easy river fishing is and if there were any muskies one would be sitting right in this eddy I could see. Now remember, it was raining sideway, the wind was blowing 20, and it was 42 degrees! The day before we were fishing in short sleeves. So I started putting on all my warm weather and rain gear and I pull out a muskie rod and a bucktail and I head for the water. I’m feeling pretty silly until Scott joins me. He’s throwing a senko. You can imagine the bow in his line as he was trying to cast that around! Now were talking and freezing, and wondering how we are going to survive 4 hours in a boat with a guide this afternoon when my bucktail stops! I hooked up! I lean back on a muskie. I think I say at least three times: Scott, I got One! I wrestle it near shore wondering how I’m going to land it without a net when it come off! BUMMER!!!!!!!! And so I stand there, defeated again by a stupid fish I never expected to contact. Wow. We got back in the truck soaked, fished a couple more shore spots on the way home, and got back to the hotel. THANK GOODNESS the guide called and said we could cancel if we wanted. We did. That was the best news of the day.
Thursday was suppose to be a little nicer and it was but just a little. We were bundled up and trying for muskies again. Worked out the same. Nothing. Got back to bassin and fishing for whatever else would bite and again caught enough fish to reach double digits each, the same as the other days. I got surprised by the fish of the trip when the nice 19 1/2 largemouth jumped on my bait and really gave me a tussle. You can also see by my gear that it was cold!
And so we finished up, got a good nights sleep, and headed for home Friday morning. While it wasn’t our dream trip fishingwise, being up north is something Scott and I always appreciate fish or not. Both of us can’t wait for next time.