Fishing the receding rivers: Bits of advice, pro and con on how-to

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Paul Pezalla sent a room with a view Saturday.

‘‘View of the Fox from my dining room,’’ he messaged. ‘‘Front-end loader hauling sand bags to boats, which are then walked through 3-foot-deep water to the houses getting the worst of it.’’

Blessedly, most area rivers are projected to keep receding from flood stages and high-water events. That’s good news for those besieged by flood waters for more than a week.

Pezalla is a homeowner along the Fox. He is also one of the Chicago area’s best carp fishermen, so he understands when I head toward the more mundane point of how to fish rivers in receding high water.

I hate fishing receding rivers and don’t do it unless I must. I totally agree with Ken Gortowski, who sent this suggestion Saturday for the lower Fox: ‘‘Go find a small lake or pond to fish if you must fish. Whatever you do, stay away from the flowing water as much as possible.’’

Fishing flooded or rising water is much easier. Try to find out-of-current, near-shore areas. Sometimes in floods, fish will be so shallow near the shore that their backs are out of the water.

One of my favorite river fishermen is Norm Minas, who once gave this general advice for fishing the flooded Kankakee: Try to see flooded picnic tables and grills as the new definition of cover.

A perfect example of how to fish a flood or high water came last week from Luis Gonzalez on the Fox near Elgin. He couldn’t hold in the current, even with 9 ounces of weight, but he caught flathead catfish in slack water areas. That’s adjusting to what is.

Mike Norristook me high-water fishing for smallmouth bass on the Fox years ago around the man-made shorelines by St. Charles. Some call that technique — dabbling — an apt description for dabbling baits or lures in near-shore eddies and out-of current pockets.

There are ways to approach fishing receding rivers, such as this scene Tuesday morning.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

There are ways to approach fishing receding rivers, such as this scene Tuesday morning.
Credit: Dale Bowman

So I asked Norris how he would approach receding high water, and he offered some hope.

‘‘When the river floods, the water is dirty,’’ Norris emailed. ‘‘But as it starts to recede, the water is clearing and the bite is the best. It is still the same old adage: Whatever causes an eddy will hold the fish. The eddy locations change as the level fluctuates.’’

That’s key. Spots holding fish change as the water drops.

Norris added this caveat: ‘‘My examples are if the river is receding at a slower pace. If it’s dropping fast, it will be difficult.’’

If so, adjust more.


Squirrel season opens Tuesday in Illinois.

Wild things

Vince Halltweeted Friday: ‘‘Cicada killer wasps came out today: 50 fighting, maniac, big wasps, flying around my chair. Not dangerous to me, but very distracting. My dog and me were very happy to go in.’’

Stray cast

The public opener of Bears training camp shares much with the opener of spring inland-trout season.

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.

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