Jeff Lampe's outdoors column for Friday, March 28
Spring fishing is a crapshoot.
One day the sun shines, fish bite and you need sunscreen. The next day wind blows, rain pelts your face, fish won’t bite and you need gloves. To fish in the spring you need to be flexible enough to get out on the good days or tough enough to brave the elements.
That’s why I have admiration for sauger chasers competing in this weekend’s 22nd annual Cabela’s MWC Tournament out of Spring Valley. They may enjoy some sun, but they’ll surely shiver more than they sweat.
And that’s why I feel so fortunate to have fished Wednesday, when the middle son and I started the season off strong.
One of my resolutions this year was to take the boys fishing more often -- a goal that has met with mixed results in the past. This year, watching the boys grow taller every second, I’ve got to follow through or regret my failure forever.
The best way to accomplish that is to fish whenever Mother Nature cooperates. So as soon as Victor got off the bus from pre-school we headed out -- despite my misgivings about cold hands and cold fishing.
As it turns out, those worries were unfounded. At first we targeted a large, deep strip-mine lake with no luck. No surprise there. Water is still cold in most strip mines and panfishing is still spotty at best.
Fortunately, there’s a small, shallow pothole within walking distance of the deep lake. That’s where we struck gold by targeting the shallow, northern end where the sun’s rays linger longest.
Using a new Spiderman pole he was given for Christmas by Chef Todd, little Victor, 5, caught so many bluegill I barely had time to wet a line. The poor kid barely had time to eat all his Easter candy and he definitely didn’t need gloves or his heavy winter coat.
“This new pole rocks,” he said.
Later he gave me a lesson on why we should avoid gar. “Too bony,” he said, quoting my buddy Flathead. He chased cricket frogs, deciding they must all be brothers because they look so much alike. He found old shells and guessed (correctly) they had been laid by geese last spring. Driving home he wondered, “How come you didn’t catch many fish dad?”
I smiled through it all.
There was only one drawback to the afternoon: Victor made sure I kept almost every fish he caught. Since cleaning 5-inch bluegill is not one of my preferred ways to spend a sunny afternoon, the boy needs to develop a catch-and-release ethic soon.
Sounds like a good goal for the next sunny spring afternoon.
MWC TOURNEY: Fears about weather and condition of the Illinois River may explain why the 220-team field did not fill for this weekend’s 22nd annual Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit tournament out of Spring Valley. A total of 156 teams are expected to fish Saturday and Sunday.
“Last year was a nasty year and I’m sure that left a nasty taste in some people’s mouths,” said Bill Guerrini of the Spring Valley Walleye Club. “The fact the FLW is coming in next week, some people might want to try that instead. And the cost of gas doesn’t help.
“But there’s fish being caught and we might hit this right on the nose if the weather cooperates.”
If weather stays wet, though, the Illinois River could turn dirty in a hurry. And memories of last year’s dirty, high-water fishing are fresh in the minds of many who saw the tournament shortened to one day and just four fish come to the scales.
On Wednesday, though, fish cooperated. Guide Darrell “Buster” Culjan and clients boated limits jigging with minnows and then pulling floating jigs with one-ounce leadheads. The river was inside its bank from Starved Rock to Peru, water clarity was 12 inches and temperatures ranged from 40-42 degrees.
So the scene is set for good weights -- if the weather cooperates.
Tournament hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. with weigh-ins starting about 2 p.m. Spectators can park at Hall High School and ride a shuttle to Barto Landing.
NEW BAIT SHOP: Toxey Moore got tired of driving to Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville when he wanted fishing bait. So last week Moore opened his One Stop Bait Shop at 2014 SW Jefferson Avenue in Peoria.
Moore offers waxworms, minnows, crickets, redworms, nightcrawlers and a limited selection of lures and fishing tackle. Call him at (309) 363-0937. One Stop will be open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
SPRING LAKE TOURNEY: Sign-ups for the 27th annual Peoria Sportsmen’s Club Spring Lake tournament start Sunday at the clubhouse at 9 a.m. — not Saturday as was incorrectly reported last weekend. Cost is $100 for the April 26-27 event. Call (309) 545-2761.
Et cetera: National Wild Turkey Federation CEO Rob Keck will resign effective June 1 for personal reasons. ... Turkey hunters can sign up for the $5 Gobble Quest big turkey contest at Presley’s Outdoors. Contest is limited to Illinois gobblers. ... Youth turkey season opens today and Saturday in the South Zone. ... Woodchuck hunting and beaver trapping ends Monday, as does the statewide snow goose conservation order season.
Jeff Lampe is Journal Star outdoorscolumnist. Write to him at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3212 or e-mail email@example.com