How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Central Illinois Muskies

By Gary M. Brady

"There are muskies in Central Illinois???" That is usually the first question I am asked when I tell people I'm a guide in Central Illinois. This is also followed by a look that says, "this guy is an idiot!" Now getting looked at like this is nothing new to me; my friends look at me like this all the time. But when a complete stranger looks at me like that, it tends to make a guy feel bad. Eventually though, after I show them the picture of the 49"er I took out of a Central Illinois lake in 1999, on a Blackburn bucktail, they're usually convinced.

There are several lakes that have been stocked and now have legitimate fisheries, including Wheel, Snake Den Hollow, Storey, Spring, Otter, Evergreen, and Shelbyville. They are all good lakes but I am going to focus on the three that I guide on-Spring, Evergreen, and Shelbyville. These three lakes are as different as three lakes can be.

Spring Lake, located near Manito, is 500 acres of shallow, weedy, stump-filled water. The average depth is 2-6 feet with 8 feet maximum. It is spring fed so oxygen is not a problem but weeds can be. The lake is basically grown over by Memorial Day so this is an excellent early season destination. Fish can usually be caught as early as February. I approach this lake like a huge weed bed; the fish can be caught anywhere. The most effective presentations include throwing bucktails and spinnerbaits over the weeds. In the open areas try twitching 6 and 8 inch Jakes or shallow and squirrely Burts. When the water warms up, surface baits can be deadly. This is probably the closest lake we have to an action lake because even in cold front conditions the fish can't go deep and suspend. There are also big fish present. Watch the stumps and shallow bars; these can by tough on lower units.

Lake Evergreen, located 10 miles north of Bloomington-Normal, is about 900 acres. This is my home lake; I've lived within 10 minutes of it my whole life. This lake is deep and has no weed growth. There are few laydowns. Average depth is around 30 feet with a maximum of 50 feet. Schools of shad abound here and they re the primary structure the fish use. Because of this, trolling and open water casting are your best bet. Try trolling Ernies and Jakes around and through the shad. Also fish the breaklines and points that are adjacent to the old creek channel. When conditions are right you can catch fish on the flats by using gliders like Jerko's and bucktails. They seem to really love Blackburn's skunktails. I like how the black and white really stands out in the greenish water. This lake is good from ice out to freeze up.

Lake Shelbyville, located south of Decatur, is a Corps of Engineers lake and can vary from 10,000 to 25,000 acres. This lake is full of flooded standing timber and laydowns. Try throwing Ernies at the mouth of the coves and twitch Jakes when you get further back in the timber. Surface gliders, like the Viper or Jackpot, can be very productive. The timber produces year-round as does the the rip rap on the points and the face of the dam. The sandy flats produce well in early spring and early fall. Try bucktails and spinnerbaits burned over the shallow flats. There are also several suspended fish that can be caught trolling. Be careful of shallow sand bars, even a long way from the bank. This is a good year-round lake-some of the best action is in December and January.

Well, believe it or not, there are muskies in Central Illinois, including some big ones. If you need information on the lakes visit my web site at and drop me an e-mail. Just remember, we have more than cornfields in Central Illinois.

Gary Brady
Heartland Guide Service


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