Illinois River: Father & daughter tournament fishing

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SPRING VALLEY, Ill.–Jena Dalzot grew up fishing tournaments. And I mean grew up.

“I began fishing catfish tournaments with my dad when I was about 5,’’ said Dalzot, 19.

On Saturday, she and her father John held the opening day lead in Spring Valley Walleye Club’s inaugural Illinois River Walleye Classic out of Barto Landing in Spring Valley with five sauger weighing 15.19 pounds (more than a 3-pound average). They finished fourth (23.17 pounds, $1,000) when they only caught three keepers on Sunday.

Joe Perez of Spring Valley and Troy Tregoning of Peru went upstream and jigged in 12-15 feet–“Just grinding it out’’– and won ($5,800) with 28.01 pounds of fish.

The sauger bite is on for the Illinois River. Randy Petges, fish tech at LaSalle Fish Hatchery, said about 30 percent of the female saugers hatchery staff handled were spent. Weather and river conditions look good for this to be the week for sauger.

The Dalzots–yes, it is that Spring Valley family; John and his brother Gary dominated Illinois River tournaments for years–were jigging, too, but downstream on the clam beds, the spot the brothers fished for years.

“It is hit and miss,’’ John Dalzot said. “You live and die with the clam beds.’’

Fishing may not be life and death, but it certainly leads to better family life.

“It is right up there,’’ John said of fishing competitively with his daughter.

On the broader picture, he was right on when he said, “Whatever we can do to get the kids involved. You do not even see that many 20-year-olds any more. It would be great to get the kids involved.’’

In Jena’s case, getting her involved early turned into more than having fun. She is a sophomore at Illinois Valley Community College, but will transfer into Southern Illinois’ storied wildlife program this fall.

That’s a life choice.

CLASSIC NOTES: Big fish, a fat-bellied 6.8-pound walleye, was boated by the Wired4Walleye team from Ottawa of Mike Hanson and J.J. DeBernardi. They were jigging upstream. . . . Guy Lopez and Paul Dimock brought in big fish, a 4.01-pound walleye, on Saturday. . . . Tournament director Mike Hurless was happy with the running of the first Classic with 46 teams. “Eventually, we would like to build it up to a couple hundred [teams] again,’’ he said.

HUNTING: Turkey hunting in Illinois is underway. The south zone youth season was last weekend, the north is this weekend. I could use a good turkey story. Reach me at @BowmanOutside (Twitter), Dale Bowman (Facebook) or

STRAY CAST: The Examiner hiring Jay Mariotti at the management level is like the Shedd Aquarium planting a northern snakehead in a Great Lakes exhibit.

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