How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Fishing: Lake Shelbyville prospects looking up

Apologies to Charles Dickens, but Lake Shelbyville has been the best of fishing holes and the worst of fishing holes for crappie fishing guide Steve Welch recently.

Welch of Monticello has been catching numbers of 10-inch keeper fish in the main lake, but water is too clear for great fishing action, he said. The fish spook too easily. At the same time, he knows the best places for crappie in spring are in the feeder creeks, which have been too dirty or too shallow to target yet.

That situation should change quickly. Early in the year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers keeps water flowing through the 11,000 acre flood-control reservoir to make room for rain runoff. But the flow is stopped on May 1, so the water level will rise now, and the water should calm enough to permit clarity in the creeks to improve, he said. Though he’s caught fish up to 12 inches in recent days, he expects that size to stretch to 13 inches and more this weekend.

“It’s getting good, and it will continue to improve,” said Welch, who won the Crappie USA qualifier at Shelbyville last year just before winning the regional event at Decatur Lake.

Welch has used two primary tactics. One is to cast 1/16th-ounce weedless jigs and Charlie Brewer Slider Grubs to shallow wood, count down four seconds to reach 4 feet down with his bait and to reel. The method lets him avoid scaring fish in the shallows and to cover lots of water fast. The other technique is to tight-line dragging larger ¼-ounce jigs on the bottom on drop-offs on the old river channels about 10 to 13 feet down.

Crappies are also taking minnows suspended below slip bobbers, but water temperature is in the 60s and they are active enough to chase baits, he said. When that’s the case, Welch sticks to faster presentations.

Best spots have been in the mid-lake region. But, don’t expect to find him there when conditions improve enough to permit him to target creeks.

“I’ll be in the creeks for a month,” he said.

Welch also has been catching crappies at Clinton Lake in the hot ditch casting blade baits against clay banks.

Phone Welch at (217) 762-7257 or (217) 840-1221. His Web site is

Muskie site

Hook, Line & Sinker friend Duane Serck of the Central Illinois Muskie Hunters has launched an all-inclusive Web site to help Illinois muskie anglers. Guess the address. It’s He has a complete listing of lakes where muskies can be found plus names of guides and other important information.

Fishermen’s sale

Lake Shelbyville Muskie Club hosts a Fishermen’s Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Shelby County Senior Center in Forest Park on 9th Street in Shelbyville. Admission is $2 or $5 for the entire family. Children under 12 are free.

Boat safety

The McLean County Department of Parks and Recreation will host an Illinois Department of Natural Resources certified Boating Safety Class from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 19. The class is free, but pre-registration is required. Visit or phone (309) 726-2022, extension 221.

Tournament notes

Travis Boley and John McKinney won the recent Central Illinois Division of Fishers of Men tournament at Clinton Lake with five bass of 20.49 pounds, including big bass of 6.2 pounds. Terry Potts and Ian Estes were second with four bass of 15.21 pounds, including the second largest bass of 5.93 pounds. Bob Nelson and Jack Peplow were third. The next event is May 5th at Clinton Lake. Phone (217) 531-7798.

Tim Ehrhardt and Constantine Nitchoff won the Professional Musky Tournament Trail event at Chain ‘O Lakes in Antioch with two fish of 35½ and 38 inches. Visit for more.

The Cabela’s King Kat tournament trail will hit the waters of the Mississippi River at Quincy on June 9. Phone (800) 978-4748 or visit

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Phone (309) 820-3227 or email Read past outdoor and fishing columns or take part in online discussions at
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