Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chain of Rocks and Baldwin Lake

We had an unbelievable warm streak in February with highs reaching into the seventies.  This got me pretty excited, so naturally I had to go fishing.  All my friends told me, "Yes Ben, but the water is still cold!"  I refused to be dissuaded though, so I woke up several hours before sunrise on Saturday and hit the road for St. Louis.  My plan was to fish the Chain of Rocks on the Mississippi River.  Perhaps the shovelnose sturgeon would be biting again (see my post from last September).

Fast forward six hours, and I was driving away from the Chain after not catching a single fish.  I saw other people catch one shovelnose and one shorthead redhorse, but that was it.  A lot of walleye fishermen came and then later left disappointed.

I salvaged the day by driving down to Baldwin Lake, a power plant cooling lake an hour south from Chain of Rocks.  I've heard good things about hybrid striped bass and blue catfish, so I was curious to see it for myself.

I walked along the shore until I reached the no trespassing sign near the discharge.  There was a pretty good current running parallel to the shore.  However, when I put my hand in the water, I was surprised to find that it wasn't warm.  I cast out a fish finder rig with a nightcrawler, and within seconds I had a small channel catfish on the line.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

After three more similarly sized catfish, I switched to lures to see if I could catch a hybrid striper.  I started off with my usual two jig setup.  I felt a few tiny bumps that didn't quite feel like bites, and eventually I discovered what was causing them when I pulled in a snagged threadfin shad.

Threadfin Shad (Dorosoma petenense)

I switched several times between spoons, swimbaits, and jigs.  After hundreds of casts I finally got a good hit on one of the white jigs right next to shore.  It turned out to be a very fat white bass, probably a prespawn female.

White Bass (Morone chrysops)

I hoped the bite would pick up after that first fish, but it did not.  The weather forecast showed storms headed my way, and I had a long walk back to the parking lot, so I packed up.  One good fish is good enough for me!

On Sunday I got up early again and gave Chain of Rocks another try.  I didn't have high hopes for catching fish, so I took some scenery shots instead.

I found some ancient hieroglyphics on one of the rocks.  Not sure what it means.

Around noon I packed up my gear and met up with a high school buddy who lives in St. Louis.  We went for a walk across the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge just upstream from the Chain.

It was neat seeing the Chain from a different perspective.

When we got to the Missouri side of the river, we really got a sense of how big the Mississippi is.

I'll return for those shovelnose sturgeon, but I think I'll wait until the water warms up a bit.

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