The bass you may have heard about.
Over the past few years, the Emiquon Preserve near Havana has developed a deserved reputation as having one of the best public bass fisheries in Illinois.
But largemouths are not the only fish swimming the restored waters of Emiquon. Proof of that comes in the photo above of Tharran Hobson (of The Nature Conservancy) with crappie of 17 inches and 3.4 pounds. Those two fish were among a large group of impressive crappie sampled last week during the annual spring trapnet survey conducted by DNR fisheries biologist Rob Hilsabeck.
“The highlight for anglers is the tremendous potential of the black crappie population,” Hilsabeck said. “The largest fish sampled were 17 inches and 3.4 pounds as shown by Tharran, and the largest group of fish averaged 13.3 inches and 1.65 pounds as shown by Sally (in the picture below).”
Now, just because the crappie are out there does not mean they are easy to catch. Many anglers have reported frustration at trying to target papermouths in this huge restored wetland complex that spans more than 3,500 acres. But a few diehards have caught all they want ... and guard their tactics quietly.
Myself, I’ve had some success catching crappie ... at first by accident while bass fishing and then intentionally. My target area would be inside weed edges just off the ditches. Those ditches at Emiquon are always a key to finding fish and for me anyway, it was the key to finding crappie. But I will note that I have also been frustrated trying to find crappie, particularly during one frigid ice-fishing excursion a few years ago. So it’s not always easy. But…
There’s also a fair amount of wood in the lake, which should be good at this time of year.
And there’s an old gravel pit I hear holds slabs from time to time.
I don’t want to write too much. Just knowing the fish are there is incentive enough to visit the lake.
If you do, be warned that you must first obtain a free permit to fish the site. Permits are available at nearby Dickson Mounds Museum.
Also be warned that you cannot fish Emiquon if you have a gas motor on your boat. This is a trolling motor only destination.
Beyond the bass and crappie, there are also other species worth fishing for.
Hilsabeck reports that bluegill were also sampled in good numbers over 8 inches. And he said there are good numbers of black and brown bullhead over 13 inches. So there’s plenty of food out there for a good fish fry.
Here are the site rules.
• Fishing hours are sunrise to sunset.
• Anyone 18 or younger must be accompanied by an adult.
• Fishing is allowed only on the west half of the lake, as marked by orange buoys.
• The following is not allowed: live bait (except worms), bank fishing, bow fishing, belly boating, fish cleaning and tournaments.
• Fish limits are as follows: largemouth bass — 18-inch minimum, 1 per day; crappie — 9-inch minimum 25 per day; channel catfish — 6 per day; bluegill — 25 per day; walleye/sauger — 14-inch minimum, 6 per day.
• For more information call The Nature Conservancy at (309) 547-2730.