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Recent entries



The Year of the Big Fish

Wed, July 05, 2017

bass illinois hybrid record

The best year for record fish in Illinois history added yet another chapter in June.

While a possible tiger muskie record was knocked out of contention following genetic testing, Robert Vericella of Bloomington caught a hybrid striper that did qualify as an Illinois best.

Fishing at Lake Bloomington on June 12, Vericella hooked into a fat fish that weighed 21 pounds, 7.2 ounces on a certified scale. That topped the prior record from Lake of Egypt – a 20-pound, 0.32-ounce chunk caught by David Gjelsvik in 1993.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist Mike Garthaus confirmed the fish.

“We did not do a genetic test since pure striped bass have never been stocked in the lake or any nearby waters and we haven’t stocked pure stripers in the state much since 2000, for various reasons,” said Illinois fisheries chief Dan Stephenson.  “Also the meristic and morphological characteristics are that of a hybrid not a pure.”

Bloomington Lake has a reputation for a good population of hybrid stripers and summer can be a good time to catch them. Popular lures include blade baits, jigs and large rattling minnow baits.

The lake also features an excellent population of walleye, very good fishing for black and white crappie and good largemouth bass and channel catfish prospects.

While Bloomington Lake does have a public boat launch, there is a fee to use the ramp and fish. The City of Bloomington sell’s boat stickers. There is also a 40 hp outboard motor restriction. To learn more, call (309) 434-2161.

Vericella’s fish marks the seventh state record of 2017 – far and away the most recorded in one year.

“Normally we average roughly one state record per year so 2017 is definitely an outlier!” Stephenson said.
Less lucky was last month’s apparent record tiger muskie caught by Terry Livingston Sr. at the Goose Lake subdivision in Grundy County.

Genetic testing showed that Lexington’s fish was a pure muskie, according to Stephenson.

“It was a pure muskie not a tiger. I hated to hear that. It was beautiful fish and looked like a tiger to me but again, that’s why we do the testing,” Stephenson said. “[Biologist] Rob Miller has been in contact with the angler to let him know. He was understandably disappointed but still happy with the fish. 36 pounds 0.4 ounces is a very nice muskie in anybody’s book.”

The record from last month that was confirmed was Dan Norris’s 3.3-pound brown bullhead (right) caught at the Emiquon Preserve.


An honest logger? Yes!

Wed, July 05, 2017

Rambling through the outdoors, trying hard not to mow too much.


  There are few people in Illinois (other than politicians and journalists) with worse reputations than loggers and timber buyers. Horror stories abound about the logging industry: cutting extra trees, stealing the neighbor’s trees, leaving huge ruts all over and generally just behaving poorly. And I can personally attest that one logging firm currently advertising in Illinois is run by folks who do not pay their bills (call me and I’ll fill you in). ... So it was refreshing to deal with Bert and Travis Coffman, a father-son team who did exactly what they said they were going to do in regards to cutting walnut trees. Turns out not everybody driving a log skidder (above right) is to be feared. The Coffmans even held up cutting for a few days to allow time to double check a property line. Bottom line: they are good guys who were able to deliver good prices for walnuts we sold this spring. And Bert urged me not to cut too many trees. “I want Travis to come back and cut those in 10 years,” he said. And he will.


  The Year of the Big Fish shows no sign of ending. Since last we met in these pages, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources registered another state record – the seventh in three months! The latest record is a hybrid striper caught out of Bloomington Lake on June 12 by Robert Vericella of Bloomington. ... As impressive as was that 21-pound, 7.2-ounce fish, I’m just as impressed with the big bass, bluegill and crappie pictures that keep arriving. Even after the heat wave in mid-June, people like our retired product tester Gordon Inskeep were stringing up huge catches – his best a June quartet of bigmouths that measured 23, 22, 19.5 and 20 inches and topped 20 pounds combined. Best of all, there’s time to get out and join those lucky anglers!


  The first time I waded an Illinois creek in July, thoughts of actually catching a fish were far from my mind. Then a 16-inch smallmouth bass slammed my tube, rattled my rod and hooked me. Smallies make fishing the dog days of summer bearable – particularly in the northern half of the state, where some streams are truly scenic. And these creeks perform best during the hottest days – typically the worst time for so many other fishing pursuits. As you wade through a tree-lined stream, catching fish and keeping (relatively) cool, it’s sometimes hard to remember you are in Illinois. Then, as you leave the stream and head back into corn country, reality hits.


  Everybody has a friend who can do little wrong. Mine is Todd Clanin of Washington (pictured above right). Todd’s the guy who goes hunting one day, sits on a bucket in an unpicked corn field and shoots a big buck that happens to walk past. But don’t get the idea he’s just lucky. He works hard at it and is a master of putting himself in the best situation to succeed. I mention this because in June he caught his fourth muskie of 50 inches or longer – the latest a 52.5-incher caught on a topwater in the river above Lake Alice in northern Wisconsin. He also has Wisconsin fish of 50.5 and 50 inches. The topper, though, is a 54-incher from McMaster Lake in Illinois’ Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area. Are those four Clanin’s fish of a lifetime? Or is the best yet to come? Time will tell.


  It seems like just yesterday that Chef Todd was dumping a dead armadillo at the foot of the Interstate 474 bridge. We hauled the critter home from Tennessee to see how long it would take someone to report the sighting at Presleys Outdoors in Bartonville. It did not take long. Thanks Tom Rowen. But that was in the days before (anti)-social media took over everyone’s lives. So the matter blew over quickly. Fast forward to today when Zach Nayden of Point Blank Bowfishing playfully claimed an alligator gar he shot in Texas was really from the Illinois River. The ensuing drama that played out on Facebook was somewhat humorous but mostly silly. Folks, it’s still OK to have fun now and then. And no, not everything you read on Facebook (or anywhere else) is 100 percent accurate ... Illinois was not mentioned in the latest QDMA Whitetail Report listing for the “Top 10 Whitetail Spots for 2017.” But the Prairie State did show up on the charts for bow hunters chipping in the fifth-highest percent of the total deer harvest (37 percent). Illinois also ranked highest for average numbers of days afield per deer hunter per year with a whopping total of 30. Overall the report is fascinating and is at


  While the Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo has signed a six-year contract with Peoria’s Civic Center, something tells me if crowds are not good for the upcoming July 28-30 show, the day’s of the mega deer show will be over in the Prairie State. ... Parting shot: The Illinois DNR is on the right track with making leftover spring turkey hunting permits available after the third lottery. Now if they would just make them all available over the counter, life would be really grand.

Jeff Lampe is at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (309) 231-6040.


Eric Schenck takes over at ICF

Thu, April 06, 2017

One of the good guys in Illinois conservation has a new job.

The Board of Directors of the Illinois Conservation Foundation has tabbed Eric Schenck of Canton as the Foundation’s new executive director.

“Eric brings lots of excitement and valued leadership to the role of Illinois Conservation Foundation Executive Director.  From his time with Ducks Unlimited to his efforts with youth conservation programs, Eric will be a great asset to the ICF,” said ICF Board Chairman Wayne Rosenthal.

Most recently, Schenck held the position of Manager of Conservation Programs with Ducks Unlimited, where he was responsible for raising funds and administering waterfowl conservation programming in Illinois and Indiana.

Since leaving that DU position, he’s grown an impressive beard and spent time with his dog, River Sage. Now it’s time to get back to work.

Here’s hoping the ICF works out to be a good job for Schenck, as the position has changed hands numerous times in recent years and the organization has lost some of its original focus.

For instance, the annual Outdoors Hall of Fame event has languished in recent years. And while the Torstenson Center in northern Illinois is a beautiful facility, it can’t be the sole focus of the ICF, which needs to rebuild a statewide presence.

The mission of the Illinois Conservation Foundation is to inspire today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders by providing quality outdoor education and programs that instill interest in conservation, ecology, and sustainability.

For more information on ICF programs and events, contact the Foundation at 217-785-2003 or online at

Schenck also works for the Prairie State Conservation Coalition and as a professionally certified member of The Wildlife Society.


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