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Chitown-Angler

Joined: 07:33am - Feb 15,03
Posts: 1593
Location: Yorkville

Post Posted: 05:39pm - Mar 3,03 
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Air temperature 25-35 degrees, didn't bother taking water temperature, cloudy skies, water low, visibility about 24 inches in the river and unlimited in the discharge, 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., jig and twisters.

March 1st is the beginning of meteorological spring. It seems that the fish are aware of this too. Total:

13 smallmouth bass,
6 largemouth bass,
5 walleye.

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I like to think that the fish are aware of the changes that occur in spring just as we are. The sun is higher up in the sky and lately even the cold days seem warm. The sun doesn't set till after 6:00 p.m. now and I don't know about anyone else, but this makes me pretty happy. 30 degrees now is much different than 30 degrees in January. If you are in out of the wind, but still in the sun, it feels down right balmy.

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This winter the fishing has been totally different, for me anyway. Case in point, January 2002 I caught 102 walleye. January 2003, I caught one walleye. I fished practically the same locations in both years only this year things were different. Rich Delaney and I have talked about this change at length, and came up with no real conclusion, just the usual fisherman's theories. The water levels are the lowest I've ever seen them, it got colder than usual much sooner than usual and there was a lot more ice on the river this year. Also, suckers and shad moved into the holes that held all the walleye. They moved in last year too, but this year it was much sooner and much thicker than last year. I think that alone kept all of the other fish species away. Too much competition.

One other thing or maybe two, all of the walleye I caught last year had been stocked the year or two before. About 21,000 of them in this area alone. Just about all of the walleye caught last year were between 8 and 11 inches. This year all the walleye I've caught have been about 14 inches long. I could see how a large group of walleye at the smaller size might tolerate schooling up in this hole, but I can't see the bigger ones putting up with the crowds. In December 2001 I stood at this hole and caught 148 walleye while Rich caught 78. That never happened again. Since the walleye got bigger, I don't think I've caught more than 5 from this spot. Besides, there is a mortality rate on stocked fish and it can be pretty high. That alone can cut into a yearly catch rate.

No matter what the cause, a week ago I caught virtually nothing and this week I came up with this number. Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to being at the right place at the right time.

This time of year I have virtually no time to be out fishing. 10 to 14 hour a day work days, seven days a week, tends to cut into your fishing time. I haven't even been out exploring much this year. When I see a time open up to go fishing, I have to set aside everything else and go. This is what got me out the door and on the river by 5:30 in the morning. Which is fine by me, it's the best time of the day any way.

As soon as I got out of the car I could hear a great horned owl out on the island in the middle of the river. If I hear them I can repeat there sound almost identically and I started up a conversation. I've brought them directly over my head in the past, but this time I was near too many lights, so it never did come any closer. But we carried on this conversation for a good 15 minutes. Between me and the island there were a few hundred ducks and geese. As the owl and I carried on our conversation, the ducks and geese didn't enjoy the dialogue. One or two woke up annoyed and before you knew it, they were all awake and squawking. I guess they didn't like the possibility of being the main course of an early breakfast.

The bite lasted from before the sun came up and pretty much died 3 hours later. I had forgot to bring along my minnow bucket and I knew that if I had minnows, I could have easily doubled what I caught, maybe more. As it was, I was able to coax all of these fish on a 1/16th ounce yellow ball head jig and a 3 inch pumpkinseed/chartreuse twister. I thought of switching to something else, but how much better could I have done and did it matter.

After I was convinced the bite was dead and buried, I headed up to the South Batavia dam. With the water so low I had heard that there was no water coming over either side of the dam and I wanted to get some pictures of this. I already knew that the breach in the island between the dams had expanded to almost 20 feet wide. I was stunned by what I saw. All the water of the river was coming through the breach and not a single drop was coming over the east or west side dams. This was dramatically changing not only how the water flows throughout this whole area, but it was dramatically changing the river bottom.

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The deep hole directly behind the island between the two dams, normally almost chest deep, had filled in with all the rock debris that was displaced when the island collapsed and the breach was created. Now I was walking in water less than knee deep. Luckily the water was clear and I could see where I was walking. There were deeper holes where there had been none before. I started walking through one that I remember being no more than waist deep. The river bottom beneath my feet was soft rather than hard and packed down. It began to slide away and I was able to stop myself when I got in up to my chest. This was not good.

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I wandered gingerly through the area looking for a way out and was able to make it to the east shore. I wandered across and above the dam. The water above the dam was real shallow and about a quarter mile up stream you could see riffles and pools that were normally buried under the pool of the dam. This dam is supposed to come out before summer. I have a feeling it's going to open up a lot of excellent structure. I've seen the topo maps of what is under the water. The west side will be the deep side and I already know where a deep hole will be when the dam comes out. It will be interesting to go there a week or two after the dam is removed and start catching fish out of it. All reports I've ever read about dam removals say that fish will move up and into new structure almost immediately after a dam is removed. There is also a creek nearby that has a deeper hole outside of its mouth. When the dam comes out, this hole will no longer be buried under the pool. I'm assuming like all holes just outside of a creek mouth, it will be a draw for all types of fish.

It's funny, while others have been lamenting the loss of dams and fishing spots, those of us that don't fish near dams see nothing but opportunities. We've discovered that the long stretches of free flowing river between the dams produces some of the most outstanding fishing any of us have ever seen. And we usually have these stretches all to ourselves. When the South Batavia dam comes out, it will create another mile of free flowing river in a stretch where free flowing river already produces some of the best fishing around. While others will never come here again because the dam will be gone, we will be wandering up stream to the Wilson Street bridge in downtown Batavia, discovering and fishing all of the holes along the way. And I'm sure we'll have it all to ourselves.

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Chitown-Angler
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Joined: 10:54am - Feb 11,03
Posts: 214
Location: Nixa, Missouri

Post Posted: 07:11am - Mar 4,03 
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I was up and could have recieved your call and you wouldn't have had to wander around alone. I am amazed at the no water coming over the dam. I haven't been up that way this year. I love the pictures as they are worth a thousand words. Although your words are music to our ears and we do love to read them.

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Chitown-Angler

Joined: 09:16am - Feb 9,03
Posts: 1396

Post Posted: 07:31am - Mar 4,03 
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Just wondering...would it be illegal to walk around the dry riverbed building small rock piles? sure would be nice to know exactly were there is a series of small piles for the fish to hide behind when the river comes back up....wouldn't it?

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Chitown-Angler
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Joined: 10:54am - Feb 11,03
Posts: 214
Location: Nixa, Missouri

Post Posted: 11:07am - Mar 4,03 
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Why don't you go out and do that then take a picture of where you put them and send it to us guys that are your freinds just in case you get arrested. That way we will know where you put them piles of rocks and we can fish them while you are away on your little vacation with Bubba.

Really I'm not sure but I like the idea. I think though that the DNR may have a problem with that. However, putting in some wing dams would be great especially if we could build some nice four to five foot holes behind them and at the end.

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Chitown-Angler

Joined: 07:33am - Feb 15,03
Posts: 1593
Location: Yorkville

Post Posted: 12:14pm - Mar 4,03 
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Think of rebuilding structure as helping mother nature.
A rock pile would form there anyway, you just don't want to wait the one hundred years it would take to happen naturally.

It is very cool to be wandering around down there. I've taken a lot of pictures of the exposed structure. This may change when the dam comes out. Things will get moved around a little. But I'll be taking pictures of that too when it happens.

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Joined: 12:12pm - Feb 12,03
Posts: 2819
Location: Somewhere IL

Post Posted: 02:19pm - Mar 4,03 
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Quote:
That way we will know where you put them piles of rocks and we can fish them while you are away on your little vacation with Bubba.


I would not worry about Bubba. The DNR guys I talked to at the shows both said the same thing. The DNR has about half the people they had last year due to retirements and reductions. With the current situation the state is in, new replacements are on hold until further notice. The FPD guys said the same thing, about 50% reduction in people. The Forest Preserve behind my house has been closed all winter. Not that I mind, it's like my own little forest paid for by all the good citizens of Cook County. Nothing beats paying for something you can't use.

KenG, that was one heck of a report. If you post like that when the fishing is hot, we are in for a real treat. Nice work.

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Chitown-Angler

Joined: 07:33am - Feb 15,03
Posts: 1593
Location: Yorkville

Post Posted: 05:50pm - Mar 4,03 
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Mike,
I've been making posts like that for almost 5 years now.
I had a one year hiatus from CLF last year. I was leaving posts elsewhere, so I've noticed a lot of guys here don't have a clue who I am.
I'm out to have a good time fishing, catching anything that swims regardless of size, and talking endlessly about it.

You get used to it.

I purposely put the fish totals at the beginning of the post in case you think the rest is just boring crap. That's okay by me. I'm still out having a good time.

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Joined: 10:27am - Feb 12,03
Posts: 3332
Location: Villa Park

Post Posted: 06:20pm - Mar 4,03 
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Well all I can say is don't stop Ken. You posts are not only informative, they make me want to get out there and fish. Isn't that what a post is supposed to do?
Bravo!
Cory

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