Feeshnao!

There's something fishy about this blog…


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Dam removal at Dam No 1.

As part of an ongoing project throughout the Des Plaines river, the majority of the dams are being removed. For my first fishing excursion of 2014, I decided to have a go at the new Dam No 1. area. Lost an inline spinner by casting into the trees like an idiot. Didn’t have any bites this day. Sort of a brief entry, just wanted to upload the pictures before bed.

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As you can see there is no trace of the dam in the water anymore. Fish can now freely pass through the previously closed off sections. For some comparison here are some pictures with the dam still in place.

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Hertitage Park – Wheeling, IL

If you travel through Wheeling you may have noticed that fencing has surrounded the largest park in town. Ever since 2012, Heritage park has been fenced off in order to renovate the park. The main objective of these renovations is to have emergency storage for excess water in case of severe flooding.

Along the border of the park and Wolf road, construction crews have dug several “detention basins”. This is just a fancy word for big holes in the ground. They are quite deep and would make for some nice fishing ponds. However, due to the nature of the basins I don’t think they would want water to always be located in them. Their purpose is to hold excess water so it wouldn’t make sense to already fill an emergency container with fluids.

If you are familiar with the creek that runs through the park you will be surprised to find that it no longer is in the same place. In order to make room for the basins, the creek was slightly moved. Hopefully there will still be some fun fishing prospects for this section of the creek. I have come here in the past and easily caught lots of small bluegill. Great way to introduce small children to fishing!

What really interested me though was Heritage lake. In the late seventies and early eighties the lake was a great place to fish according to my brother Mario. He would walk over as a child and easily catch large yellow perch and bass. There was lots of vegetation along the shoreline which provided a better habitat for the fish.

Fast forward to the late nineties/early 2000′s, and I tried, on many occasions, to catch fish out of the lake. Every single time I would cast out with a night crawler and never get a single bite. I have a feeling that the fishing quality plummeted because the park district “sanitized” the lake by removing the shrubbery along the shoreline. By removing the places where younger fish are protected, it lead to a chain of events where there might not be any fish left at all. I never got a single bite, even from a panfish.

After seeing the fencing go up around the park I wanted to know if the park district was going to try to improve the quality of fish in the lake. I called the number on the heritageparkproject.com website and left a message. Someone got back to me saying that they were not planning on stocking any fish into the lake because it is not very deep. In case anyone was wondering the same thing, now you know.

I would like to find out the depth of the lake and then see if what fish species would be able to thrive in those conditions. Eventually I wish to bring this information to the park district officials to see if I could change their minds.


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What’s in your tackle box?

My tackle backpack full of gear.

My tackle backpack full of gear.

Everything in the backpack spread out on a table.

Everything in the backpack spread out on a table.

I decided to take everything out of my tackle backpack so I could clean out all the various bits of packaging, broken soft plastics, line, and other trash that cluttered it up. Once I had everything spread out on the table I noticed that I was carrying around a good amount of lures and tackle. I’m not sure if this much is normal to carry around, but it suits me well and doesn’t hamper my movement.

My favorite thing about using a back pack instead of a conventional tackle box is that I can have both hands free while still carrying all my equipment. For example, I can casting at one point of a lake/pond and move down the shore every few minutes. If I had a normal tackle box I would have to bend over, pick up the box, and set it down once I get to my next spot. Now I know that it doesn’t sound like much work because it actually isn’t. The problem is that you have to do it over and over and over again while you are fishing. Being able to have more time fishing while I am out is amazing.

Also, even though I am carrying a lot of material, I hardly feel it. I am using a decent quality backpack and the arm straps and part that touches my back are both padded. I can travel over rough terrain and through forest and not have to worry about losing my balance because I have my rod in one hand and tackle box in the other.

Now I’ll get on to the organization of my backpack.

At the very bottom from of my pack, there is pouch. In this pouch I keep all of my soft plastics.

Soft plastics. I have them all back to back when they are in the pouch.

Soft plastics. I have them all back to back when they are in the pouch.

Of all the soft plastics I have there, I really only use the gulp minnows. I like to set them onto a jig head and have caught panfish, bass, pike, and amazingly enough, catfish on it. Most of the other stuff I got because it looked good at the time.

At the smaller pouch above that I have my floats, pliers, scissors, and some survival equipment.

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Now you may ask why I have a box full of survival equipment and a canister of water resistant matches. Valid question. Seeing as I mainly fish in the Chicagoland area there is no need for me to carry survival tools since if worse comes to worse I can hunt down a Mcdonalds.

However, I am a paranoid person by nature, and I read the book Hatchet when I was about 7. In the book the main character gets into a plane crash where he is the sole survivor. Since he has a hatchet with him he was able to survive months in the wilderness until he is spotted by a plane. For me, I would rather have the survival equipment than to not have it. Who knows if there might be one day when I need to use it.

Eventually I would like to get a basic first aid kit that I can add for embedded hooks or cuts.

On the left and right bottom side of my pack I have smaller pockets where I keep various bits of tackle.

On the left pocket I have my trout/salmon stuff

Trout/salmon stuff. There are also weights on the left side.

Trout/salmon stuff. There are also weights on the left side.

In addition, I also carry weights in this pocket. I’ve used everything on the left side of the picture on stocked trout without any success. The powerbait bottle in the middle is meant to be used on panfish but I have yet to target them with it. Needless to say, the trout didn’t go for it. I also have several glass containers of single salmon eggs and spawn sacs. The single eggs you see on top are actually made of some sort of synthetic material and stay on the hook very well, even if you whip the bait out on a cast. The gel scent that I have stays onto what ever I put it on for a good amount of time. I just don’t know whether it makes a difference.

On the right side pocket, I have a lot of tackle.

On the left side I have barrel swivels, three way swivels and snap swivels. I have several different types of hooks and a wire leader as well.

On the left side I have barrel swivels, three way swivels and snap swivels. I have several different types of hooks and a wire leader as well.

In this pocket I used to have a lot more clutter but I consolidated some of the gear. For instance, I had many different types of barrel swivels, but I just took them out of their individual packaging and placed them all into the same baggie. I did the same for the three way swivels. I have yet to use any of the big worm hooks on a Carolina or Texas rig, but I really want to.

In the main section of the backpack I have several things so I’ll break it down into separate sections. There is a “slot” on the inside of the pack where a laptop is supposed to go, but instead I put my northern Illinois fishing guidebook there.

After that, I have my two large Plano boxes which I have filled to the brim with lures.

This box is mainly different types of crankbaits. I also have some foot ball jigs and tube jigs.

This box is mainly different types of crankbaits. I also have some foot ball jigs and tube jigs.

Top row: Crankbaits Second row: Buzz baits, spinnerbaits, and top water frogs. Third row: spinnerbaits, spoons, inline spinners (Roster Tails) Bottom row is full of prepackaged spinners.

Top row: Crankbaits
Second row: Buzz baits, spinnerbaits, and top water frogs.
Third row: spinnerbaits, spoons, inline spinners (Roster Tails)
Bottom row is full of prepackaged spinners.

I am going to work on the organization of these boxes a little and try to have all the crankbaits in one box. Also I have no idea how to store spinners once I take them out of the packaging so I just wrap them around a soft plastic and stick them in the box. I’ll have to find a new way to store them.  Other than that the boxes work great and I can customize how many compartments I want and how large they are with the removable blue plastic tabs.

Next up I have some smaller containers that I place in front of the two Plano boxes.

Smaller boxes and a snell holder.

Smaller boxes and a snell holder.

In the top left box I keep all my jig heads separated by size. I also have some marabou jigs on the other side of the box.

In the top left box I have all my small tube jigs. These jigs are responsible for most of the crappie and panfish I have caught in the past year. I have some tube jigs that come factory rigged with a weighted hook. In addition, I have several tube bodies that I can use in conjunction with what ever jig type I like. Without a doubt I prefer tubes for panfish and crappie. They are cheap and effective and I recommend everyone has some in their tackle box.

At the bottom I have a snell holder. At the price that it was offered (only $2-3) it was a great value. Now when I purchase snells I don’t have to struggle to put them all back in the package or lose them in the tackle box. No matter how much they bounce around in my pack, I have never had a snell fall off.

All in all I’m very happy with how I transport my fishing equipment and there has yet to be an instance where I wish I had a conventional tackle box.


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Tying my first fly.

Last night I had nothing but time to kill so I decided to watch some fishing videos (big surprise). Over the course of my Youtube video progression, I came upon videos describing how to tie flies. Ever since I got my fly rod a couple weeks ago I’ve been wanting to get a fly making kit.

After watching some videos I decided to hell with it, and I tried to make a fly using the materials I had at hand. The easy part for me was that I already had a vise to use. Although it is not made for crafting flies, I had no problems securing a hook on it.

Next, I rummaged around a bit and found several different types of thread in forgotten drawers. After that, all I had to do was find material to attach to the fly. I found several bits of material and I managed to pluck some feathers out of a down pillow.

I attached the hook to the edge of the red vise and had already wrapped thread along the shank.

I attached the hook to the edge of the red vise and had already wrapped thread along the shank.

Feathers I plucked out of a pillow. I used these for a tail.

Feathers I plucked out of a pillow. I used these for a tail.

Material I used for the "body" of the fly. I stretched the material and then wrapped it around my thread.

Material I used for the “body” of the fly. I stretched the material and then wrapped it around my thread.

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Finished product.

Finished product.

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I realize it’s odd looking and does not mimic anything as far as i know. My main goal was to see if I would be able to craft anything using the material at hand. There was no plan in my mind when I was starting out the fly so I just used the time honored tradition of making it up as I go along. I could see how having the proper tools would make this easier since I had to do it all by hand.


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Des Plaines River – Dam No. 1 Preserve (Retrospective)

This post occurs during the beginning of July (I think it was the day before the fourth of July). My friend Ben also is an angler and he had some success in the Des Plaines River (DPR) by catching a couple crappies and a smallmouth bass. This gained my interest since I always thought of the DPR as a polluted stream with no good fishing. I based this knowledge off of the couple times I went fishing there when I was younger and all I did was use worms on a hook. Needless to say, I didn’t catch anything using that method and deemed the place terrible. This is why I was amazed when my friend Ben told me that he caught anything there.

I decided to meet up my friend in the preserve after he got out of work. I began by fishing the the river section in front of the first parking lots. At that time, there was a lot of weeds and algae covering the surface so I attached my topwater frog and was able to fish with no snags and little clinging vegetation.

My frog next to a real frog that was next to me. The frog didn't move an inch the whole time I was there.

My frog next to a real frog that was beside me. The frog didn’t move an inch the whole time I was there.

I didn’t get any strikes there and my friend had just arrived so we moved to a different area. My friend wanted to fish from a folding chair because he was tired from work. I’m not much of a fan of staying in one place too long so I walked along the shore and made a few casts every couple feet. During this time, I was using my go to jig consisting of a jig head and a 2 inch Berkley Gulp minnow (I have pictures of this in my previous entry). On one cast I had a small opening between two large bushes and I got a strike about 6 feet from the shore. The fish started peeling line so I slammed the drag down and eased the fish in before he got tangled in the surrounding vegetation.

Even though it was a small fish, I was pleased to catch my first northern pike!

First northern I ever caught!

First northern I ever caught!

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After some pictures, I put him back in the water and continued to fish.

After a while, my friend Ben and I noticed that there was a lot of activity on the opposite bank. Every couple minutes we would see a giant splash and occasionally a fish jump in the water. I wanted to cast to the opposite bank so I switched out the jig head I was using for a heavier one to give me the extra casting distance I needed. After a few casts I hooked into my largest largemouth bass to date.

You can see my tackle backpack in the background.

You can see my tackle backpack in the background.

I was hoping to catch my first smallmouth bass that day (I have yet to catch one to this day) but there is nothing wrong with this catch.

Shortly after I put him back in the water, the DNR ranger came by to tell everyone that preserve was closed. We called it a night after that and my faith in the DPR was revived. If anyone decides to fish the DPR I highly suggest you carry your fishing license at all times. Every time I am their fishing and the ranger comes by, they ALWAYS ask for it. So to save yourself and the ranger a hassle, just stick it in your wallet like I do. Some people like to put their fishing licenses in special waterproof card holders but that is just a waste of money since the cards are already water proof. Also, you are less likely to forget your wallet than most other things so sticking it in there is a safe bet.


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Local pond (Retrospective)

This account takes place in a pond behind the Woodland Creek apartments in Wheeling during the beginning of September. I had a friend who lives in the apartment complex tell me about people catching fish in the lake behind his apartment. He doesn’t know much about fishing so he couldn’t tell me what kind of fish were being caught. He did tell me that some of the fish caught were easily at least a foot long. That caught my attention and I decided to make a trip over as soon as I could.

At first I decided to make all my experiences at this pond into seperate blog entries. However, to make things easier I will condense it all into one entry. I will include a map of where I caught my fish and refer to it as the blog continues.

Different areas are labeled by different colors.

Different areas are labeled by different colors.

On my first day at the pond I had poor results. I believe it was due to where and what I was casting. This day I used a spinnerbait and a plastic and jig combo that I like to use.

My favorite plastic jig combo. I place a 2" gulp minnow onto a jig head. I've caught pike, bass, and catfish on this.

My favorite plastic jig combo. I place a 2″ gulp minnow onto a jig head. I’ve caught pike, bass, and catfish on this.

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Using this method I only managed to hook onto a small largemouth and he wriggled off the hook and into the water before I was able to take a picture.

The next time I came back I decided to try out crankbaits since I have never used them before. I arrived a little bit before sunset sit was already getting dark. I tried a couple different crankbaits and had some bites.

Crankbaits I used and caught fish on. The first bass I caught was using the top crank (Rapala jointed husky jerk) The next three bass I caught on the middle crank (some sort of jointed perch colored Rapala). The last set of bass I caught were using the bottom crank (Rapala X-rap)

Crankbaits I used and caught fish on. The first bass I caught was using the top crank (Rapala jointed husky jerk)
The next three bass I caught on the middle crank (some sort of jointed perch colored Rapala).
The last set of bass I caught were using the bottom crank (Rapala X-rap)

Finally, I hooked onto what was one of the biggest bass I have ever caught. This bass was caught in the blue section of my previous map.

Huge largemouth I caught on a jointed crankbait. I brought him closer to a lit entrance for a better picture before releasing him.

Huge largemouth I caught on a jointed crankbait. I brought him closer to a lit entrance for a better picture before releasing him.

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After that fish I made a couple more casts and called it a night.

Next time I arrived was around 9 am. I tried using a different jointed crankbait that didn’t dive as far down and had a shad body shape rather than a minnow. My retrieve with all these cranks switches from either a constant retrieve to a constant retrieve with both pauses and jerks. Using this, I managed to catch this little bass in the blue section of the map.

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After this fish I didn’t get any bites so I moved over to the red section and caught another two largemouth. One was small and the other was a nice size.

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The following time I visited I tried using a newer crankbait that I have. I began fishing 11 am and I caught a bass in the red section on my second cast using a steady retrieve! This Rapala crankbait has really nice action in the water and a good quality finish. However, it does not dive very far down to to the small lip size.

Caught in the red section.

Caught in the red section.

After catching this bass I was able to get anymore bites. It seemed as though the fish were scared away from the commotion since the “arms” of the pond aren’t very big. I moved over to the green section and caught another bass using the same lure. It only took a couple minutes using a fast retrieve.

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To search for fish faster I cast out with a fan pattern. I will start at one end of a fan and cast out in that direction. Once I have my lure retrieved I move my casting angle a little to the side and cast again. I’ll follow this pattern until I clear out an area and if I have no bites I’ll move some where else.

Paint illustration I made to display what I mean. The red x is where I would be standing and the green lines represent my casts. The blue curved line just represents my casting distance. Once I'm done with that corner I would try the other three corners of this imaginary lake.

Paint illustration I made to display what I mean.
The red x is where I would be standing and the green lines represent my casts. The blue curved line just represents my casting distance.
Once I’m done with that corner I would try the other three corners of this imaginary lake.

I’ve gone a couple more times with my friend Ben but I only caught a small bass and I can’t seem to find the picture. This place is the best in the area for consistent nice sized bass. There doesn’t seem to be much fishing pressure on this pond which helps keep the bite good.


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Stocked Trout – Belleau Lake – 10/19

Over the last weekend, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) legally allowed fisherman to take trout from certain lakes. These trout were stocked the week prior in order to give them some tome to get adjusted to their new surrondings. All the trout that were stocked were “catchable” sized rainbow trout. The is no size range given for the trout released, but I saw some tiny 6 inch fish, and I also saw some large that were probably in the 12-15 inch range.

I will never get bored of looking at rainbow trout.

I will never get bored of looking at rainbow trout.

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I’ve been thinking about catching these trout for a long time and I decided to head out to Belleau Lake at the opening time of 5 am on Saturday.

Pictures taken of the lake from 5:30 - 6:30 am. I was in the same place while taking these pictures, just facing different directions. You can see lights around the lake from other anglers.

Pictures taken of the lake from 5:30 – 6:30 am. I was in the same place while taking these pictures, just facing different directions. You can see lights around the lake from other anglers.

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There was a path leading from the parking lot to the lake so I followed that until I was close to the midpoint of the lake. I decided on this location because it closest to the deepest area of the lake and I thought that trout would be in that area (I had no idea whether trout behave like that, just sounded like a good plan). Once I got to a spot, I set up two rods for float fishing. Both rods had the same setup of a float about 2′ above the hook. I also added a split shot midway between them to get the bait down and to increase my cast. I didn’t plan ahead too well so I had to work with the baits that I had available to me. On one rod I used single plastic salmon “eggs” that I threaded over the entire hook. On the other rod I ran my hook through a spawn sac.

Bait I used on the hooks.

Bait I used on the hooks.

After casting out both rods, I noticed that I couldn’t even see my floats in the dark. Other people around me were using some sort of glowing float which would have worked much better in these pre-dawn conditions. Because of this, I brought in the rod with the spawn sac (I was worried that the sac was too large in comparison to the size of the trout). In its place, I used a different rod which had a snap swivel already tied on to allow my to easily use lures. At first I used some Kastmaster spoons.

All the lures I used on trout.

All the lures I used on trout.

What I liked about these spoons is that that they are not big and flat. With less surface area, I am able to cast further because there is also less air resistance (Just like sticking your hand out of the car window while going 60+mph and going from a flat palm to a fist). I’m not sure how to best use a spoon and I’ve never caught anything on one. On the retrieve I would pull the lure up by raising the rod tip and then let the spoon flutter and fall on the way down before reeling in the slack and starting it all over again. I didn’t get any bites this way so I switched to a constant speed retrieve which didn’t work for me either. I then proceeded to go through all of the following lures I have shown on the picture with most of my time spent on spinners and spoons. Needless to say, I did not catch any trout. However, that’s not because there were no trout. I could see plenty of them swimming only a few feet from shore.

It's kind of hard to see but I highlighted the trout in the image.

It’s kind of hard to see but I highlighted the trout in the image.

The problem is that they just refused to bite anything I threw at them even if it passed right in front of their faces. I was happy it ended up being a nice day though. The cold was beginning to bother me, but when the sun rose it warmed me back up.

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Almost a perfect day for me.

Almost a perfect day for me.

There were a lot of small largemouths hanging around the shallow and I managed to get one to bite by tossing out a tube jig and bringing it right in front of its mouth.

Little largemouth better than no largemouth.

Little largemouth better than no largemouth.

I left around 3 in the afternoon feeling a little defeated since I didn’t catch anything. The nice thing though is that I’ll be able learn from this experience and try different things next season. One major thing I want to try is to use my fly fishing rod since I saw some people to my left having great success like that. Also, I want to try more live baits since trout have great vision according to this article.

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Lots of fisherman still at it.

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It was a such a great day to fish.

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