Monday, April 13, 2015

Indiana and Illinois river fishing

Over the weekend I did some river fishing in Indiana and Illinois and met up with good friends.  On Saturday I drove over to Lafayette, IN to try the Wabash River for shovelnose sturgeon and whatever else would bite.  The infamous Miciah McNelius and Mike Berg were my buddies for the day.  The water was muddy and high from the storms a few days earlier, but Miciah insisted that shovelnose would still be biting.

In the swift current it was hard to keep our baits where we wanted them, but after a few dinky channel cats, a shovelnose finally made an appearance!  This was the second I've ever caught, so I was quite pleased.

Shovelnose Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus)

Make sure to put your shovelnose back where you found him!

We wanted more action, so we moved upstream to a tributary that would have redhorse and a variety of other fish.  Unfortunately, the dinky channel cats followed us there!

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Miciah caught a smallmouth redhorse with beautiful red fins, but after that the bite really slowed down.  After a stretch of no bites, one of my rods bent over, and I pulled in this lunker.

Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus)

Smallmouth buffalo have a distinct keel on their back.

The next fish was one I wasn't expecting, a male river chub starting to show spawning characteristics.  For some reason river chubs don't show up in the Wabash tributaries in Illinois.  It was neat seeing this species again (my first encounter with them was last year at the NANFA convention).

River Chub (Nocomis micropogon)

After grabbing dinner we moved a further upstream to try a deeper pool.  Miciah landed another smallmouth redhorse, and we caught plenty of the small channel cats.  As the sun went down, we gathered up our gear to leave, and I discovered that this hogsucker was on my line!

Northern Hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans)

On Sunday I made my way across central Illinois.  I knew the Embarras River was going to be high from the storms, but I wanted to take a look at it anyway.  I stopped at the dam in Charleston to see what there was to see.

I'm sure there were fish in there, but I decided to move on so I could fish the next spot more.

When you don't have fish to photograph, you end up coming home with photos of other stuff - like dams, rivers, and all the fish stickers on your car.

I moved on to Shelbyville where I met Lance Merry to do some fishing below the spillway.  My goal was buffalo again.  We baited the area with canned corn and alfalfa pellets and fished a few lines with corn and a few with nightcrawlers.  The corn didn't get any bites, but the nightcrawler got picked up by this stunning prespawn male bowfin.

Bowfin (Amia calva)

Other than a bluegill, we went a few hours without any more fish, so we picked up our gear and moved up onto the concrete to fish as close to the spillway as we could.  Right away we started getting yellow bass on nightcrawlers.  We must have caught twenty of these guys.  Lance said he wants to come back in a month when they really turn yellow.

Yellow Bass (Morone mississippiensis)

I chummed the area with corn and alfalfa pellets again.  The yellow bass got tiring, so I switched both of my rods to corn.  After about a half hour, I started to get bites!  Unfortunately the first fish was a carp, but I kept my hopes high!

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Lance gave a shout when he saw the next fish begin to surface.  Buffalo!  I was stoked to catch buffalo two days in a row in two states, one with a nightcrawler and one with corn.

Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus)

Check out those tubercles!

For some reason when you catch a sucker, you always need to get a good photo of the lips.

The bite was pretty steady for the next hour or two.  I landed three common carp and three smallmouth buffalo, and lost one of each on the way in.  The hooks I was using were #6 octopus circle hooks.  Next time I'll probably scale up and use a size or two larger.  I would hate to lose a big fish because the hook was too small and pulled out during the fight.

Huge thanks to Miciah, Mike, and Lance for fishing with me and photographing my catches.  I can't wait to go again!


  1. Wow are there really Shovelnose Sturgeon in Kaskaskia? If so are the by the dam, what is the first fish u caught there. This summer I pulled up a three fit muskie.

  2. Those shovelnose were from the Wabash River in Indiana.

  3. Thanks I'll live by there and sorry for typos I can't type on a mobile device :-(

  4. I caught a shovelnose sturegon today in the white river next to elnora by the bridge

    1. That's great! What other species do you catch in the White River? The sampling data I've looked at looks pretty good.

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  6. What sort of rig were you running to target shovelnose? I've only ever hooked them in the gill plate accidentally.

    1. I was probably using a fish finder rig. Typically I use a size 4 or 6 Gamakatsu octopus circle, 12 to 18 inch fluoro leader, barrel swivel, plastic bead, egg sinker, and main line. Cast downstream at about a 45 degree angle and let the current pull it back towards shore until it stops.