Placing Giant Goose: Bluegills & beyond

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Capt. Ralph Steiger and ``Bobby B’’ Bergren doubled on dandy while bluegill fishing at Giant Goose Ranch in Canton.Credit: Dale Bowman

CANTON, Ill.–I pulled the bull bluegill, all 11 inches, from 12 feet deep, then through the hole and flopped it on the ice. It felt an upside down rerun of God dropping manna from heaven.

It was special.

I had the greatest afternoon of bluegill fishing in my life on Jan. 22 at Giant Goose Ranch.

The couple days and nights at Giant Goose was extra special with Capt. Ralph Steiger, there several days helping with ice fishing, “Bobby B’’ Bergren and his dad Bruce.

Herman Brothers Land and Lake Management bought Giant Goose a couple years ago and have been building it up since. The Herman brothers are managers of fisheries and lakes. Their work is interesting enough to become an HGTV series, “Lake Life,’’ now in its second year.

There are 52 lakes at Giant Goose, each managed for specific species or species suited for the lake make-up, on the 828 acres. Most are smaller lakes or ponds, the biggest is the 121-acre Big Goose Lake.

There’s camping, cabin rental or sales, and lot sales.

The Herman brothers also know business and how to adjust.

“We thought we were making it for fishermen and hunters, but we found out real quick it was for families,’’ Nate Herman said one afternoon as we alternated between fishing bluegill on a ridge line and channel catfish in a deep hole.

When complete, they expect 400 families to have places at Big Goose. With that in mind, they are planning more of such activities as horseback riding. One guy suggested they should do a zipline over the place.

This is a special place becoming more special.

It also fits into the pattern of Canton building itself as the epicenter base for a range of outdoors and wildlife related activities.

“Goose Ranch is going to be something special when done,” recently hired biologist Tad Locher said. “Just the sheer novelty of having different lakes set up for biology of the lakes is special.’’

That’s true. The first morning Steiger, under the advice of Herman, took us jigging for smallmouth bass on a brood pond. Bobby B and Steiger caught their first smallmouth through ice. Bruce Bergren and I could not complete the deal. It’s something I have to try again.

In the afternoon, we targeted bluegill and channel catfish.

Most of our biggest bluegills were broad-shouldered ones going 10 1/2-11 inches. Before this, I only caught one bluegill that size and it was when I was 12 at church camp, too young to know how special it was.

Herman said most big bluegills run about 14 ounces. He said they have bluegill up to 34 ounces (2 pounds, 2ounces for the math challenged). Their idea for growing the big bull bluegill is keep them fighting for primacy.

“So they need to hit the gym,” Herman said.

Locher said the Herman brothers primarily have three forms of bluegills–pure bluegill, green sunfish-bluegill hybrid and redear-bluegill hybrid. I caught monsters of all three. He added there are probably some hybrids with whatever sunfishes were already in the lakes before management began.

As darkness slid in, Bruce Bergren said, “A guy can fish all his life to catch one like that.’’

It’s that special.

Click here for information on Giant Goose.

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