The real Blackberry Creek and why I like to wander it.
Actually, most of the creeks around here that I fish look a lot like this, which is why I fish as many of them as possible.
You don’t get this out on the Fox River.
To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
I got out on Thursday, May 17th after work and it had to happen sooner or later. The bite on the creeks started to die off. I started at the creek that has not turned on for me at all this year and only caught five smallies in about 45 minutes. Still another day the bite in this was virtually non-existent, I should have had at least 20 hits in that 45 minutes.
I cut it short and headed off to Blackberry Creek where I’ve been cleaning up and caught seven. One of the seven was a two foot catfish.
There gar were all over the creek. One was sitting in shallow water tucked into some rocks. It never saw me coming, so I tried to pick it up. Just about had it, but they’re fast little buggers.
This was the slowest fishing I’ve had on Blackberry Creek all month.
While there I noticed that the creek was now flowing like a normal creek again. The bypass culvert was completely removed. By the way the remaining culvert was destroyed, it wasn’t going to get used again.
This meant the coffer dam was gone and the work in the creek itself was coming to an end. I didn’t bother to go look till Saturday, a couple of days later. I hadn’t bothered fishing upstream of where the dam was yet. I’ve been waiting for this day when the creek was pretty much free and clear.
Below the dam so far this spring, and that’s a very short stretch before it flows into the Fox, I’m somewhere over 200 caught and another 200 or so missed. That’s mainly where I’ve been fishing and it’s only been about a month. Amazing how one creek can be loaded with fish while another not that far away is practically barren.
Went out Saturday morning, the 19th, for barely an hour and fished for the first time the brand spankin’ new 500 yard stretch above the Blackberry now gone dam. The coffer dam was gone and shore work was being done.
The whole area looks pretty well destroyed, but I bet by fall you won’t even be able to tell. It’s been a week since I took that picture and even since then the area has started to green up considerably.
Wound up with 12 caught and 17 missed, all smallies. Not bad for just a few hundred yards of fishing in a stretch that hasn’t seen a smallie migration in 175 years. Saw a quillback carpsucker cruising by too. I don’t know if they were in the creek before the dam removal, but at least one is now.
I started fishing above the first set of riffles…
…and caught one.
I thought this was an indication that the fishing was going to be slow, but I was dead wrong. All through the new channeled creek were fish. The tighter the lure could be tossed along the rocks the better. They were loving the new structure.
The third set of riffles has the shallowest pool directly above them, but the fish were stacked up pretty well there too.
At this spot I got an extremely hard hit, so hard that it snapped my line. This is no small feat considering that I use 10 lb. test and 2 lb. diameter PowerPro. I’ve hauled small logs off the bottom of the river with this line. It’s virtually indestructible. I had a mental image of the biggest smallie in the creek now swimming around with my lure stuck in it’s mouth.
But this just goes to show why I fish for smallies and practically nothing else. A few casts later I caught a fish and reeled in your typical foot long river smallie. Hanging out of it’s mouth was a length of my line. This was the smallie that had snapped my line, a foot long fish. My lure was all the way down in it’s gullet and obviously not causing too much concern for the fish. It had just snapped my line barely five minutes earlier and was still hungry enough to hit again.
Just below my thumb in the picture you can see the green line hanging out of its mouth.
I was intrigued by my fishing test results. Smallmouth bass migrating up a creek for the first time in 175 years, within days of the creek being returned to a normal flow.
I was so intrigued, I went back again later in the day…
I’ve kept a pair of Simms wading boots around for 7-8 years even though they are beat to shit, barely have any nubs left on the bottom and aren’t the most comfortable boots I’ve worn.
But they’re still working.
Better than I can say for all the other crap I’ve worn in that same time period that have barely made it through one fishing season.
The other day the sole on one of the boots pulled away from the upper part of the boot. Fixable, maybe, but how?
Also in the last two weeks I’ve noticed that the Cabela’s waders that are going on their third season and have had seams resealed a couple of times, is now leaking at one of the seams in the booties. I’m shocked these have lasted as long as they have, I must be getting better at my repairs or I’m not as tough on waders as I used to be. Those too, no matter the brand and how much I paid, never last more than a season.
Problem is, I can’t afford to replace either of these right now and not sure when I’ll be able to.
Luckily I’m currently working for a chemical manufacturing company. I have access to and can take home free samples of a huge array of chemical compounds that according to their labels, can do just about anything.
Better living through chemistry indeed.
I toyed with the idea of getting a tube of AquaSeal to fix my boots and waders. I hate that shit. You pay too much for a tiny little tube. If you only use some of it and reseal the tube, you’ll never get the cap off again. Now you have to cut off the other end, use what you need and toss it in the garbage. At nearly $7 a little tube, a tremendous waste of money.
Then I came across something we manufacture. I just got done putting my boots back together and coated all of the seams of the wader booties with it. It’s supposed to seal and keep water out of anything you put it on for many years. It’s also extremely flexible and should be perfect for what I just did.
If it works.
If it does work, I’ll let you know. You’ll never have to, and you won’t want to, piss away another dollar on AquaSeal ever again.
Should be dry in 24 hours. Will be tested over the weekend.
I’ll let you know what happens.
To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
So, what’s the point of removing an eight to ten foot tall 175 year old dam near the mouth of a creek and not making fish migrations up the creek as easy as possible on the fish?
This isn’t happening on the new and improved Blackberry Creek. I’ve been harping on this subject since I’ve seen them put in riffles that make no sense and not taking the old dam down about another foot.
If you take the time to go through some of these posts you’ll see a number of those comments.
To get this gripe session out of the way, it starts with riffle #1. I can’t think of one logical reason why this is built the way it is.
It’s too high, there’s no need to have those wing dams on the side in order to increase the water velocity. If you look at the pictures on the post I made with flood pictures in it, this area looked like a whitewater park. There’s no need for that. From this spot to the base of the now gone dam is about 500 yards. In that distance the creek bed drops around eight feet. That’s plenty of velocity. Plus, I can’t imagine this makes this riffle any more convenient for fish passage.
The same goes for riffle #2.
A half hour on each riffle and those wing dams could be pulled off to the side and the height of them taken down a foot or two.
At the dam, it should have been taken down another foot. It should not look like this.
In another post I suggest filling the old scour hole below the dam with rock till it comes up to the same level as the base of the dam. I don’t want to hear about how they’re unwilling to do this. In the last few days they’ve already dumped a lot of rock in here up against the bridge abutment.
What’s the big deal to extend that out further, it doesn’t even have to be that high. Just enough to get rid of the mini waterfall that’s been created and to make fish passage that much easier. Just this past week I was fishing in this spot. Why not make things easier for fish like this…
They changed the course of Blackberry Creek again in order to fix the damage done by the floods and to finally get the coffer dam out of there. I’ll bet they’re done by the end of the week with the weather the way it is.
This killed the fishing in the pool below the old dam. Eight missed little hits and three little things barely worth reeling in.
Did finally get to see the ever elusive gar. I’ve heard that they dwell in the stretch from Yorkville all the way down. I’ve assumed some of the porpoising I’ve seen over the years were them, it’s different than carp, but never could verify that.
Saw a school of a half dozen gar cruising around the pool. Maybe that’s why all the other fish went away. I have no clue what gar snack on. Beautiful fish though. Two of them were well over three feet long.
In another recent post I put up a summary of the amount of time I’ve spent on the Fox River over the past 18 years…
This year marks my 18th year of fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks.
On the low side I estimate I’ve made a little over 1,300 trips out to the river or one of it’s creeks.
Each wading trip consisted of at least two miles for an estimate of 2,600 miles. Since I also have to walk the shores to get to where I want to wade, that’s another 2,600 miles walking along their banks. I know both those numbers are actually higher.
Add to this the amount of time I’ve spent canoeing, wandering along the river just for the stroll or simply sitting on the bank watching the water flow. I may not have a wide variety of degrees to justify my opinion on how the creek has been screwed up, but I do know one thing, I know how rivers and creeks work and look and what’s been done to Blackberry Creek completely misses the mark.
Okay, done with that. I think I’m going to track down the engineering firm responsible for this project and send them a link to this post. Somebody has to listen sooner or later.
With the dry weather and the creek flow back to normal, they’ve shut down the creek again so they can finish off the work and repair all the damage done by the flood.
All the water is again being squeezed through the bypass.
Upstream at the coffer dam the hole has been plugged.
The massive washout caused by the flood has been filled.
A lot of what was left behind the coffer dam and in the creek has been removed and the shores are getting rebuilt with rock.
I wish I could be there the day they yank the coffer dam. Then it’s a sure sign that things are pretty much done.
I’m hoping they do a pretty thorough clean up inspection. I’m starting to get the feeling that a big steel plate lying on the creek bed just above riffle #1 has been forgotten about. It’s still sitting buried in the water.
And of course I guess I should mention the other reason for this project, the rebuilding of the bridge. This past week has seen quite a bit of progress made…
I’ll probably take more pictures of the bridge as it gets worked on, but I won’t talk about it much.
Frankly, I wish they wouldn’t bother with it. I like things the way they are and the lack of car traffic through here is no great loss.
I toy with the idea of writing something interesting, but my brain is frying with other things.
Will the temp to hire job I’ve been working actually turn into a hire, possibly ending a few years of financial drought.
Will the Rheumatoid Arthritis that came out of nowhere and viciously attacked my wife’s joints a few months ago do even more damage soon. Will the chemo treatments she’s on actually make her lose more hair than she has and will she be able to walk or use her hands in another year if the treatments fail.
Will we heavily arm and back whoever the hell that is in Syria only to have them denounce us and try to kill us all down the road.
Will the fault line that runs under Illinois finally split and bring the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Peoria.
And what about the next Iron Chef?
Hard to concentrate with all that running around in my head.
On top of that, even with all the greening going on and all the flowers and birds and critters, I’m totally uninspired to take pictures of my surroundings while out fishing.
But I did get out on three days and a few hours of fishing.
Started out in a creek on Wednesday after work. Peering down from the bridge at still deep water, I was encouraged by some landmarks that told me I can get in and walk around a bit.
Couldn’t have been more wrong. Took a half hour to go 50 feet. Most of my time was spent on my toes with water closely approaching nipple level. I did catch eight smallies in that 50 feet, but walking with your arms already over your head makes it difficult to set a hook, so I missed the hookset on at least twice that. I do have one lame photo of a fish, but hardly worth putting up. Besides, I was too busy trying not to go under the water to think about pictures. The creek bed should have been coming up, but it was going down instead. Going back the way I came was out of the question against the current and it took me almost a half hour to figure out how to get the hell out of the creek.
Speaking of lame photos, there’s more. I knew the fishing I would do this day and any other day I chose to go out would be good too. Since my surroundings weren’t inspiring, I considered taking a picture of every fish caught and posting them. This day would have been eight.
The next day out the fishing lasted for the duration of a cheap cigar, about 20 minutes and resulted in nine more fish. There were no botched hooksets. That would have been 17 lame photos of fish up here so far. I’ve decided to put up just one. I blew this way up in Photoshop. I can see myself in the eyeball.
Speaking of creeks that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, this creek has changed with the floods we’ve had. The width of the creek used to go all the way to the trees you see on the right. That gravel bar is now almost two feet above the water. The channel that can now knock you on your ass was usually around ankle deep.
Further downstream, besides being decorated with new trees, the creek is a good 30 feet wider. Will be interesting as the water comes down and I get to do more exploring just what I’ll find. I already know another creek has similar issues. It’s not the new depths that bother me, it’s what’s down in the depths.
This would be Sunday, definitely a good day of fishing that resulted in the thumb pictured above. I initially thought I was out for 2.5 hours, but it winds up it was barely two. This resulted in 42 fish. Two green sunfish, two largemouth and the rest were smallies.
It would have been fun to put up 59 lame pictures of fish, but I’ll save you the scrolling and just put up a few. But take a look at the backgrounds. For years I’ve been taking lame pictures of fish where I try to show the type of water I catch them out of. This day it was every imaginable type of water, including some of the fastest roiling water where I thought for sure nothing would be living. This was found out by accident as I dragged a lure through the rush of water.
This is the most piss poor shot I’ve ever taken of an 18 inch smallie.
And for those that must know such things… A Cabela’s 1/16th ounce plain head jig with a 1/0 hook. Three inch Producto Spring Grubs, in pearl.
I thought of switching to something else, but really, how stupid would that have been.
All fish were on the bottom whether in 1 or 4 feet of water. A few came up off the bottom as I reeled in the lure, I could see them come up.
If you don’t know how to get a 1/16 ounce jig on the bottom in fast moving, three foot deep water, you’re on your own. I don’t show anyone how to do that. I only cast downstream, so casting upstream is not the answer and doing that definitely won’t catch you that many fish.
I give it the rest of May and then we enter the summer doldrums where all fish have lockjaw and only dynamite in well placed eddies will get you anything.
So go out and get it while you can.