Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Cost of Progress

A favorite fishing spot of mine was on a small stream not far from my house. There was a natural pool of deeper water backed-up below a bridge/culvert. It was a fun little place where you could cast some worms out and within minutes be catching everything from bass, bluegills, bullheads, carp, crappie, creek chubs, to green sunfish. It was also home to turtles, herons, and a host of other wild critters. 

Last year, a road construction project involved significant “landscaping” of the existing streambed. I was fishing there and one of the construction guys told me they were going to totally alter the creek. What was once a deep pool became a rocky riffle. And the fish that used to reside there disappeared. The cost of progress. I created a little before and after picture just to show the vast difference.
During construction, I had found a secondary spot that was great for catching bluegill and sunfish.
Seems like a lot of fish had moved upstream to that spot, which also became decimated due to more “re-engineering” in the course of the construction project. The thing is during summertime, the main creek is less than a foot deep in most places. There are very few deep pools around and even fewer that hold a target-able population of fish. So, while there are still plenty of fish in the stream, it was a shame to lose two great spots where you could easily catch a dozen or more sunfish within a half hour.

I love a good road trip, so when I'm planning fishing excursions I'm frequently tempted to go to places that are one, two, three hours away. The Mississippi river, the Rock river, Kankakee river, etc. You forget how convenient it is to have a nice stream close to home you can just grab a rod and head over to. That's a main reason that I do most of my catfish trips to the river that's 30 minutes away. You learn a lot by fishing the same streams at different water levels...seeing how fish related to the current and hang out in different places depending on the flow. There a lot of lessons to be learned over time fishing local rivers and streams.  

Funny how some spots seem the same year after year while other spots can undergo radical change within a relatively short time-span. That's one thing with streams, they are always changing. It's just this time the changes were sudden and man made. Guess the moral of this story is to enjoy those honey holes while you can and always be on the lookout for new spots. You never know what’s the future may hold. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Random Reflections

Thought it was time to write something, since I had decided that I'd try to keep things going here. Shaping up to be a pretty busy year, busy meaning I might not get on the water as much as I did last year. Hopefully, I'll be able to work things out where I still get some good nights (and/or days and mornings) on the water.

I'm just a guy that likes the outdoors, basically. Along with that good food, good music, taking pictures, telling stories. You won't find me selling Misadventures in Catfishing apparel, monetizing a youtube channel, or doing much self promotion. I appreciate the effort that goes into all that, I know some of the friends of the program (if I start naming names, I'll leave someone out) have worked hard to gain a following and provide great content. Awesome to see interest in the sport growing, so by all means check those people out!

Last year wasn't the best year I've had on the water and I didn't really get into many large fish. Still, was good to wet a line with some friends. On a few trips, it was just me, the night, and my iPod (which I think fell into the river at one point, but I'm not 100% sure on that). Had a few close calls with the skunk, where one or two good pull downs saved the night!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back to Where It All Began.

In Misadventures in Catfishing Part One, I wrote at length about my experiences fishing with my cousins on the Kaskaskia River in Central Illinois. I was lucky enough to visit them just about every summer from my eleventh until my eighteenth year. Looking back on those times, if there was anything I regret it’s that I didn’t have a camera except for one of my last camping trips down there around 1990. 

The recent passing of my cousin brought me back to the area this past weekend. After the ceremony, I took  some time out to go walking along the river where we used to fish. As one might expect, a lot has changed in the past 30 years or so. Yet, in some other ways a lot has remained the same. Bank poles still line the river in places, but now they’re made of PVC pipe. I heard a small boat going up the river and around the bend...the song (of the outboard) remains the same!

Initially, I thought about how you “can’t go home again”. And in some ways, that’s always true with the passage of time. However, perpetual change is a constant with any river system. As I've said before every trip to the river is time well spent. 

Since I took a bunch of new pictures, I thought it would be fun to compare them to my old pictures. One huge difference is the water level. In my old pictures (taken with a 110 camera and eventually scanned), the water was very low due to it being a dry summer. In the recent pictures, the water level is up pretty good. Not bank full by any means, but a nice water level to run the river by boat and fish for some cats. 

View looking downstream from in front of the trailer...  

Here’s the beach directly in front of the trailer. The cut bank seems to have eroded. The river used to be shallow most of the way across until you got right to the cut bank section where it was several feet deep.  

Looking up river towards the trailer. The trailer was just across from the point that sticks out on the left bank. The beach in front of the trailer would be on the right just past the old tree sticking out over the water.

View of the trailer from the beach area.  

Here’s a picture from the opposite bank looking towards where the trailer was. Most of the old beach would be under water, so it’s a little hard to tell how much has actually changed. They used to keep it mowed, it's all overgrown these days... 

Here a picture looking across the river from a spot near where the trailer used to be. As you can see it’s so overgrown now, you can hardly tell there was ever a fishing trailer there. And a lot of the old cut bank is gone...


View upstream towards Pee Wee’s Hole. Notice the big cutbank by the snag. That water along the cut bank opposite of the big sandbar was several feet deep, even in times of low water. 

In this panorama from the opposite bank, you can see the trees by the point by the snag. The cut bank has been eroded away due to the river cutting across the narrow strip of land there during periods of high water. While there’s still a good snag to fish, it’s changed quite a bit in the past 25 years since I’ve fished there. Just left of center there was a giant submerged log where the hoggers used to noodle for catfish and giant carp. Wonder if that’s washed away, silted in, or still there. Maybe someday I’ll get back there in a boat to find out!
Here’s an aerial view where you can see where the river was cutting across during high water. My guess is the waterline is in low water here is about the same place as where the old cut bank used to be. They’ve added a lot of rip rap here to counteract the erosion that’s been occurring. If the river keeps working on it, the big bend area that’s just upstream will become an oxbow. 

As a reference, here’s a larger shot of the area near where the trailer was. The trailer was situated in the lower right hand corner of the picture. The first big sandbar is the area we call Pee Wee’s Hole. There was a huge cut bank at the beginning section of the big bend in the river, opposite of the big sandbar area. I used to bank fish all along this area, we also ran a lot of bank poles back then too.

Here’s what the big bend looks like now. It used to be a steep cut bank, all dirt. They’ve added a lot of rip rap to counteract the erosion that’s been happening.

One last wide shot from a little further up the bend…the big sandbar is underwater, but the aerial photos show it’s still there. Except for all the rip rap that’s been added, this section doesn’t look at lot different. We used to get a few bank poles in along the old dirt banks.

No more willow or cane poles! 

As much as the river as changed, it still seems the same. Grateful for all of the fond memories!