Tag Archives: creek chub

I was going fishing,
the fish would be there

On March 1st, the start of meteorological spring, winter decided to make an attempt to assert its presence. Something it had pretty much failed to do for the previous three months. First rain, then ice followed by snow. We barely got a dusting where I live, but 50 miles north there was four to six inches of snow on the ground. For the next few days the daytime temps barely made it to the freezing mark.

Then on Tuesday the 6th at 1 p.m., it was suddenly 60 degrees. I was going fishing, the fish would be there. They had to be. It didn’t matter that all the melting snow further north had to make its way to the Fox River, then continue on down stream. It didn’t matter that the water temps in return would probably stay somewhere in the upper 30 degree range and the river flow would double in speed.

Skip the river, I’ll go fish a creek.

No matter how many times I go to a specific spot, there’s always something new to find even though I’ve practically stepped on it numerous times in the past.

The long slow stretches of the creek were sitting in the sun. No leaves on the trees yet meant more sun on the water.

Standing on the bank revealed a crystal clear creek flowing at normal levels with no signs of life anywhere. At least in the water. Floating around the woods and over the water was a bug hatch. Not a lot of them and my generic name for them is gnats. They’re small and annoying, all gnats are.

I slid into the creek and a test of the water with my left hand assured me the water was cold. Not an encouraging sign and yet, a few casts later, a creek chub with tons of fight and spirit took my little lure for a ride.

A few casts later and another one, even smaller, all but inhaled the lure.

I was starting to wish I had brought along the bait bucket. These were the first signs of creek chubs in almost 3 months. These creek chubs being here meant the predators weren’t that far behind, only another hour of fishing gave up nothing more than a couple of more creek chubs. There was one different hit that came from a hole more than eight feet deep, but keeping the fish on the hook wasn’t meant to be. I chalked it up to being another creek chub.

I decided to cut my losses and go fish another nearby creek. The walk through the woods back to the car is still uneventful. No signs of green things growing yet except for the mosses that cling to the bases of the trees. Not sure that counts as any real sign of spring.

The next creek had more of the same crystal clear water. A trip here a couple of weeks ago got me one 17 inch smallmouth that was totally unexpected. This time the first decent sized smallie came off at my feet. A couple of casts later and I was able to land one that was easily 16 inches. The wind was flopping the fish all over the place, so I settled for a shot with a little more detail.

The rest of the time along the creek was spent doing more daydreaming than anything else. Now and then a tentative tap would gain my interest, but the bulk of the time was spent watching the light change on the handful of poplar trees down at a bend in the creek.

After fishing the creek, the walk back to the car has me walking past a long narrow pond that sits in the sun for the bulk of the day. I was hoping to catch one of the bigger largemouth bass that lives here, or some bluegill or crappie, but the hand sized bass were next to impossible to keep off the hook. They were inhaling anything that looked like a meal.

By five o’clock I was done. I had overdressed under the assumption that at some point the temperature would start to come down with the setting sun. That never happened. As I drove up the long hill out of the creek valley and onto the flat land of the farm fields, it looked like fog lifting off the fields. There was a massive bug hatch. Not just over this one field, but every field I drove past had a white mist of bugs hovering a few feet above the ground. Apparently they too liked this cloudless sun drenched day.

When I got home I checked all my records from years past. We’re about 3 weeks ahead of schedule from what would be a normal March. With the long range forecast calling for more days in the 50’s and 60’s, I may have no choice but to go fishing again.

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.

No.

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.