Illinois Creek Chub Trout Fishing

This had nothing to do with anything, I found it interesting at the time.

I’m a voracious reader, but the caveat is that I can’t read books. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have the attention span required to make it through a book from beginning to end.

Instead, I read articles and short stories. Preferably ones that are 3,000 words or less. More than that and my mind starts to wander. The bulk of the things I read have something to do with the outdoors. Fishing articles and stories are what I read the most with hunting second. I’ll read a good travel article as long as they’re traveling to go fishing or hunting.

The internet has fed this addiction. Blogs and blog posts are perfect for my short attention span. Simple searches on key words like – trout fishing small creeks – will get you a couple of hundred things to read. This is good and bad. It cuts into my fishing time.

The bulk of the articles and stories I read tend to be more about the experience of being outdoors. A good yarn or a little story telling thrown in is even better. Any article about the nuts and bolts of fishing and hunting gets passed over quickly. Any article that starts to refer to hawgs, pigs, beasts, trophies and any number of nick names outdoor writers like to impart, get thrown in the garbage. An appropriate place for that kind of writing.

The majority of the articles and stories I read tend to center around trout and trout fishing. The bulk of what bass, catfish, bluegill and crappie anglers write are the things I generally toss. That right there is kind of odd considering that I live in Illinois. There are no trout in Illinois and I don’t travel to go looking for them. I obsessively pursue smallmouth bass while wading rivers and creeks. Which makes me a bass angler I guess. But I’m also not that picky. I’ll fish for anything that’s willing to bite. As long as it lives in a river or creek.

A creek I fish quite a bit resembles descriptions and photos I see of trout streams. This one has the miles of lush wooded shore lines and the occasional high embankments that contain the creek as it runs through fields. There are nice runs and riffles, plunge pools and lots of cover and structure. When the canopy is thick, which is often, there’s no need for sunglasses even on a cloudless day. Like the descriptions I read of trout streams, this creek is always cold.

I used to religiously take water temperature readings while out fishing. These would go in the obsessive compulsive logs I kept of my fishing adventures. I have no clue what I was trying to prove by doing that and eventually I quit with the record keeping. Now I put my hand in the water, yep, that’s warm or, yep, that’s cold, is good enough.

I noticed that this creek I like to fish was getting a lot of cold comments. I was surprised that this was happening at the end of August, a time when all the other rivers and creeks in the area were running warm. Old records show near 80 degrees. So one day at the very end of August I dusted off the old thermometer and took a reading in this creek. It was 60 degrees. That I didn’t expect.

Since their are no trout in Illinois, the IDNR stocks them. They stock around 60,000 rainbow trout in 45 different locations around the state. Only 6 of the locations are rivers or creeks, the rest are ponds and lakes. This is a put and take program and I assume those trout that don’t get took, die off in the warm water of summer. There is one river in Illinois’ small driftless area, the Apple River, that stays pretty cold. The trout tend to survive here and I’ve caught them in the late fall, long after all they’re lake bound siblings have died off.

A couple of years ago I took all of the info I’ve outlined above and sent it off to a couple of IDNR fisheries biologists I know. After all that info there was a simple question, is there any chance of stocking trout in this one creek.

I got a simple one word answer.


I’ve noticed that in March, April and May when the creek is much colder than all the other creeks and rivers in the area, the creek chubs become extremely active.

They are next to impossible to keep off a hook. And they fight hard. I also noticed over the years that they are sitting in water that perfectly fits the description of where trout anglers are catching early trout. There diet is also exactly like that of trout. During the spawn, the males will take on a bright orange color.

Which is why I call them Illinois Creek Chub Trout.

Granted, trout are much prettier, but in Illinois, you take what you can get.

What I’ve read of trout anglers, they are perfectly content combing small streams for small trout. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of anglers proudly holding colorful little trout that barely fill their hand. The commentary that goes with the pictures generally say that they had a good day trout fishing. Maybe they’ll mention a bonus big trout that was pushing the 12 inch mark.

Illinois Creek Chub Trout are supposed to average 4 to 8 inches long. But the ones I’ve been catching have all been in the 10 to 12 inch range. From what I’ve read, trout anglers would kill to have days where they can consistently tie into 10 to 12 inch trout.

Based on all of this, I’ve decided to change the focus of my fishing guide service. I’m going to become probably the only river and creek river wading fishing guide that targets the Illinois Creek Chub Trout. Besides this creek, I know of two other creeks in the area that consistently produce these hawg Illinois Creek Chub Trout. For the real pigs, I’ll take guys out to the Apple River where the trophy Illinois Creek Chub Trout live.

Of course I’ll have to warn them about the by-catch, those pain in the ass smallmouth bass beasts that can run up to 18 inches.

If they’re lucky, I’ll show them one of my favorite by-catch catching methods.

Take a 9 foot, 5 weight fly rod with the appropriately balanced reel, line, leader and tippet.
Catch an Illinois Creek Chub Trout.
Swap out the hook for a wide gap 3/0 Gamakatsu hook.
Hook the Illinois Creek Chub Trout through the tail.
Put a 1/16th ounce piece of split shot on the line about a foot from the hook.
Roll cast this baby into the deepest, darkest pool in the area.

And hold on tight.

Video showing this technique coming soon.

Didn't have anything to say about this other than I liked the way it looks.

32 thoughts on “Illinois Creek Chub Trout Fishing

  1. Pingback: Illinois Creek Chub Trout Fishing | Fly Fishing

  2. Kevin Drendel

    I have caught the mighty creek chub in Apple Canyon River. I caught none over 8″ though. Of course, that was years ago now.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I couldn’t believe the size of these today. The ones we caught out of the Apple were pretty big and much fatter. You wouldn’t believe how the smallies inhale these things no matter how big they are.

    1. Ken G Post author

      The description is correct, I’ve done that.

      I suck at video. Don’t have the patience for it. Would be funny though.

        1. Ken G Post author

          We’ll see how ambitious I feel this summer. Ed likes to do video. I can use a good videographer.

  3. Raptor

    Best line written;

    …”Besides this creek, I know of two other creeks in the area that consistently produce these hawg Illinois Creek Chub Trout. For the real pigs, I’ll take guys out to the Apple River where the trophy Illinois Creek Chub Trout live.”…

    Almost threw you away after that.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Monster Illinois Creek Chub Trout.
      I almost forgot that one. It didn’t flow with the rest of it.
      Most throw it away after the first sentence or two 🙂

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  7. SJS

    I caught some “Illinois Creek Chub trout” this weekend and I agree with everything you said in the article, I was so surprised at how hard they fought for the size! All of mine were caught on wooly buggers, what do you usually use for them?

    1. Ken G Post author

      I was using a jig and twister this day since smallies were my ultimate goal. I want to get out there after the floods recede and bring my fly rod. I’m not all that particular, but anything small with a bead head always did well. You got to get the fly down near the bottom. The smaller the fly, the more of those Illinois Trout you catch.

  8. 68guns

    Great Scott! Those chubs are huge! Wish we had them that big hear in Ohio. Love pursuing the beloved chub with my 4wt and prince nymph.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I was able to pick up a few from the Apple River over the weekend, but not only were there few chubs, there were few fish. Second year in a row that this has happened. Shouldn’t be that way.

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  11. Chris Stewart

    Fished a small stream in NJ a couple weeks ago for wild brookies. Caught a couple, which is one more than a good day. Then caught a chub. It was bigger than the brookies and fought harder. Best fish of the day.

    1. Ken G Post author

      During the creek chub spawn it’s almost impossible to keep them off the hook. I’m always pleasantly surprised at their size. From everything I’ve read it’s rare they go over 8 inches. I know I’m getting ones much bigger than that. Time to break out lighter weight rods.

  12. Wicked Uncle

    Caught a nice 8″ chub just 3 days ago in the Apple. On those days when you seem to be broadcasting to an audience that isn’t there and there’s absolutely, positively nothing happening in the river, an eager chubster is a godsend.

  13. Cody

    I grew up in So. IL and spent many a day catching ‘poor man’s trout’ on my hand-me-down fly rod and wal-mart flies. The occasional monster would push over 12 inches. A fine game fish indeed.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I like how they’ll hit just about anything Cody. And, if you’re slow on the retrieve, you never know what’s going to hit them. I’d rather sit and play with catching creek chubs than catch nothing at all.

      1. DonP

        I fished the Apple River when I was younger for small mouth. It was alot of fun, but I realy enjoy fishing for suckers! I returned there late fall, and as I did not catch any redhorse I did manage some central stone rollers, and some nice creek chubs. The redhorse did not want to eat, but the water was very clear,and fish were everywhere! I wonder if the black red horse still swims there? Cant wait to return there.

        1. Ken G Post author

          The first time I fished the Apple years ago was one of the first times I fished rivers. I barely knew what a creek chub was. I assumed they were all less than 6 inches long. I was catching them up to a foot long out of the Apple. I don’t get out that way much any more, but whenever the smallie bite dies down I switch to smaller lures and go after the chubs. Keeps me entertained. I’ve never intentionally fished for suckers, but get one now and then. I’m going to have to give that a try.

  14. Creekfisher1

    The Creek Chub displayed here in the Blog is one that I have never caught like that. I have caught a different type of Illinois Creek Chub. Hickory Creek has Black and White Creek Cub and also has a strange hybrid Creek Chub I have not seen anywhere before. It has 5 or 6 colors to it and they are as long as 9 inches that I have seen. The DuPage River has Creek Chub that are also Black and White, nothing like the pictures shown in this Blog chapter. I would upload a picture, but I am not sure if that is allowed. Would love to try and catch one matching the pictured one. I live in Plainfield, Illinois and will travel to a good Creek location to fish.

    Thanks for the blog work.


  15. Nate A.

    I was fly fishing a small IL. creek in September and caught a few on a black and white foam spider. can you tell me when the spawn is? also if you target smallmouth and tie your own flies the creek chub would be a great pattern. plan on tying some over the winter. Tight Lines!!

    1. Ken G Post author

      Nate, I enjoy catching those chubs. Aggressive little things that will hit just about anything. Since everything is temperature driven, start targeting them the beginning of April and keep going back. They’ll let you know.

      I don’t fly fish much, but have. I basically use 4 flies. White streamer, ugly white/pearl thing that resembles the jigs and twisters I like to use, helgies and crayfish. Really don’t need anything else. Guys throw topwaters cause they like to throw topwaters, but at that point you’re missing out on the bulk of the smallies in the creek. I have it in the back of my head to use a fly rod this spring for the bulk of my creek fishing, but we’ll see. I tend to lose interest in those rods pretty quick.

      1. Beau Trueman

        I am from New Hampshire and have been living here in East Peoria since 2004. I am an avid fly fisherman for fresh and saltwater species. I enjoyed visiting this site very much. I note that you had a book printed in 1902 on the speckled trout. I would like to advise you not to get rid of that book. Although, I do not have the author or publisher information it may very well be an extremely important and valuable piece to a lot of folks that are trout fisherman. Please take a moment and briefly view any study on the internet or published on the speckled trout, you will be pleasantly surprised on the origins of this species and the importance of study of this species.
        One must study and fish the small creeks, streams, and species offered there so that you bring yourself back to reality of your beginnings of fishing and how much pleasure it provides you.

        1. Ken G Post author

          Thanks for stopping by Beau and I’m glad you enjoyed the visit. Books are the one thing I have a hard time parting with, I’m sure some day my daughters will have the collection and wonder just what I was up to.

          I’m assuming you’ve wandered around that area looking for creeks. If you ever need more info, I highly recommend that you track down and get in touch with Jonn Graham. Google that name and you’ll find him. I keep meaning to travel further in Illinois to do some exploring, but there so much water in the northern third of the state, I never get very far.

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