By David Peel
I know my newfound love for Illinois is surprising, believe me, I am as shocked as anyone, but the Land of Lincoln really has a ton to offer for outdoorsmen.
Although my budding writing career would lump me in the same tax bracket with a part-time AC repairman in the Arctic Circle if not for my day job and generous wife, there are some perks that go with job. One of which is attending “writer’s camps”.
This past weekend I was invited to the beautiful Rend Lake Resort for a camp that included six writers and six professional crappie teams. The idea behind these camps is for the teams to take out the writers so that we may take photos and get stories that will be seen in various magazines, websites, and so on. A handful of companies pick up the bill, and fishermen are under the gun to catch fish and basically do whatever the writer/photographer needs from them, in order to get the perfect shot. I’ve been to a few of these as the professional fisherman (lower budget camps!) but never as the writer, and man, was it nice.
Kyle Schoenherr hosted the event, and worked tirelessly to make sure every writer got what they needed and every fisherman was in the right place and with the right person, and we were all fed, and so on. The actual fishing part of the entire event weighed heavily on Kyle’s shoulders, too, as it was his home lake, and most of the rest of us had never been there, and man, did he deliver! I decided Saturday afternoon that I should keep some crappie as my stock was dwindling, and I believe I cleaned around 80 fish this evening!
I’ve never been to a lake that seemed to have that many crappie in it! My room at the resort was perfectly situated about 30-feet from the restaurant and lounge (I forget the name, Reilly’s I believe, but the food was delicious!) which overlooked the lake, just like my room, and everything else it seemed! The one thing that immediately jumped out at me was the amount of people fishing from the empty boat slips that shot out from the resort on all sides and from every direction.
From dawn to dusk, there were fishermen, fisher-women, and fisher-kids, armed with short rods and a bucket, dropping jigs straight down beside the docks and pulling crappie after crappie after floppin’ crappie out of the water! Granted there are plenty of small fish, but the lake limit is 25 crappie, 15 under 10-inches and 10 over 10-inches, and the fish were very healthy with thick “shoulders”, so even the 9-inch crappie still yielded good filets.
I spent Friday and the first half of Saturday “working”, taking pictures that is, but the first break in the action, I managed to scrounge up a rod, reel, line, and some jigs (I didn’t bring anything, but there was no shortage) and found myself among new friends yanking crappie from beside the boat slips.
Saturday afternoon, I went out with fellow B’n’M Pro Staffer Rodney Neuhaus in a very stumpy, shallow part of the lake that had a good bit underwater cover as well. We put out six poles, which is the limit in Illinois, and about an hour and a half before dusk, the bite turned on full force! I had the GoPro on a long pole up behind us, and after I get it edited together I’ll share it on my website.
Sunday morning found me in the boat with Russ Bailey, casting small bobbers a few feet over small jigs, right up against the riprap, or rock banks. We were reeling in crappie every other cast, and although we threw back plenty of small fish, we put quite a few in the livewell!
We also caught crappie shooting docks, vertical jigging, and long-line trolling! Like I said, I’ve never been to a lake that seemed to have crappie everywhere, and I can’t wait to get back! The Rend Lake Resort and Restaurant was absolutely perfect, and I am booking a trip and taking the entire family the first chance I get!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com
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