Good morning brothers.
It’s been a few days since we posted an article… but I assure you, the reason for the delay is good.
I’ve been fishing.
Oh Lord, have I been fishing… fishing with my boys, fishing by myself, fishing new areas, fishing in the kayak, huffing & puffing through the woods, falling through rotten tree trunks (really), and hitting one of my goals for the year: finding new, remote areas to fish.
Stick with me for a bit, and allow this article to stir your adventurous spirit so that you feel inspired to do the same!
Where should you start fishing in spring?
This is an important question that we all ask ourselves after we’ve been cooped up all winter, unless you’re a madman and ice fish (respect… you lunatic).
“Where am I gonna start?!”
Well here in the Midwest, a lot of us will start by fishing small ponds and lakes that tend to warm up faster than the larger lakes. This usually translates to more activity, a better bite, and overall easier fishing as you’re not fighting with the spring wind in a little boat.
The downside of course, is that there is nothing romantic about these locations. You are usually surrounded by yappy dogs, locals out for their morning steps, and kids screaming at the nearby playgrounds.
It’s not bad… but it’s not the same as fishing when you’re surrounded by the Lord’s amazing creation instead of… lawn gnomes.
My first trip this year was to one such location…
Fun. But it only whet my appetite for isolation. So the next question was obvious – where can I go to get away from people?
The second trip was planned. A yak-attack at a local state park with a little waterfall lake. Beautiful area, but the lake was so full of snot and muck, I renamed it The Cheese Factory.
1 bass. 1 green sunfish. 1 miss. 3.5 hours.
A good workout, some lovely fresh air… but not much fun. At least when I was fishing the bank in suburbia, I was catching fish!
After a frustrating day, I came home to do a bit more research. All this time I thought the lake was fed by the river… that is wrong. This lake drains into the river. It is fed by local runoff, which could explain the massive amounts of algae so early in the season… but whatever the reason, the truth was that it was just borderline unfishable – or at the very least, not worth the effort.
I know now that I do not want to spend my last full season in Illinois fishing either of these spots.
We need to figure something else out. Now.
Time to do more research…
Fishing access in Illinois is a problem.
I’ve been yelled at more than once. Told to leave or be shot. You know – really fun stuff. So waltzing through the woods is not really an option, because you never know what (or whom) you’re going to find out there, and property owners here typically own the creek bed, even if the water is navigable. Once you step in it… well, you’ve really stepped in it!
Then it hit me.
Last year I started to explore some big deep pits with ultra-clear water. The fishing at these lakes has been extremely challenging compared to the nearby mucky ponds like the ones shown above. Stealth and light tackle move to the top of the list in terms of importance.
You simply can NOT fish the pits like you would the smaller lakes and ponds, or you will NOT get bit. Period. It’s challenging, but extremely rewarding… however, with as deep as these pits are, I wasn’t about to start my season here – they’ll remain colder, longer, and I can hit spawning and active bass in the smaller bodies of water now, then hit these larger bodies of water later to maximize the amount of fish caught.
The pits being referenced are located within a State Fish & Wildlife Area.
Hold the phone.
I’ve seen ponds there. I’ve noticed other lakes off in the distance as well. Bodies of water with no easy access. No boat ramp. I’ve never even thought to go fish them, because… well… no boat ramp! No road. No easy access. No obvious signs: FISH HERE DUMMY!
But what if we decided to hoof it?
What if we took the kayak to these little watering holes??
Is it even possible?! Will I get shot?!
A quick search on the IDNR website cross-referenced with Google Earth confirmed there are actually several small bodies of water located within this public area, and they are within the bounds of state property – it just ain’t easy to get to ’em… but I wanted to get to ’em…
So, we set out.
Over the river and through the woods. A couple miles. Nothing crazy, but yes, challenging.
I didn’t see anybody. Launched my kayak in silence. Fished a down-sized presentation on a single rod with a tiny pack of plastics, sinkers and hooks, surrounded by steep woody shoreline.
It was everything I was hoping to find.
The fish were there.
Over a 3 hour session, I caught 16. A few were just over 2 pounds, and I lost a monster…
But that’s ok.
She’s still in there… and we’ll be back.
My friends, these places are out there, and they are worth the effort when you find them.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. That’s what I’ll be up to again soon. And I hope by reading this, it has rekindled your interest in exploration. Pull up a search on local SF&W areas, and see if there are a few bodies of water off the beaten path.
Maybe I’ll see you out there… but hopefully… I won’t.
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
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