Blues, bluegills and hybrids: Strength of LaSalle Lake, reopening on Thursday

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Fog rolling through the dawn on opening day last year at LaSalle Lake, which reopens to fishing on Thursday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Those who begin lining up Wednesday evening to be first when LaSalle Lake reopens Thursday morning know what they are doing.

‘‘Not a lot of change from last year,’’ fisheries biologist David Wyffels said. ‘‘Blue cats and [hybrid striped bass] are your best fish.

‘‘Blue cats, for sure, on size and numbers. We haven’t seen any declines, they have exceptional numbers and [we surveyed blues] up to 35 inches. And those samples have been consistent for four or five years.’’

Fishermen catch blues far bigger than those surveyed at LaSalle, the cooling lake south of Seneca. Darryl Turner, one of the best for blues, usually tops 300 annually.

How good hybrids will be is tougher to quantify.

‘‘We don’t sample them very well because they are so pelagic out there in the middle, chasing shad balls,’’ Wyffels said. ‘‘I get phone calls from people catching them. They are there. I can’t give any definite size.’’

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has not been stocking hybrids, but Exelon stocked 10,000 3- to 4-inch hybrids from their Quad Cities hatchery last year.

‘‘Plans are they will do that again,’’ Wyffels said.

Another good note is that there were no fish kills last year.

A fairly typical bluegill from laSalle Lake, caught opening day last year on the east side of the south pool.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

A fairly typical bluegill from laSalle Lake, caught opening day last year on the east side of the south pool.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Bluegills, a personal favorite at LaSalle, look promising.

‘‘Bluegill prospects are good again for 7- and 8-inchers,’’ Wyffels said. ‘‘The best place is on the east wall of the south pool. They seem to like that cooler water there.’’

I will vouch for that.

Wyffels said white bass are showing up, some to 12 and 14 inches. He said yellow bass seem stuck around 6 or 7 inches.

Expect the usual on channel catfish. As Wyffels put it: ‘‘We see those fish bound in the 12- to 14-inch range. It is a real common phenomenon at cooling lakes. Maybe they don’t turn on to a different food source.’’

LaSalle was once the top spot for bass and even had reports of state-record-quality smallmouth. That has changed. The biggest largemouth and smallmouth sampled were about 16 inches.

‘‘We continue stocking in the high rates,’’ Wyffels said. ‘‘If you look back on the history of the lake, it has up-and-down trends. Seems like we are in one of those bottom trends. It seems to be a 10-year cycle with bass. I am definitely monitoring it, for sure.’’

Overall, Wyffels said: ‘‘Exceptional lake for blue catfish and hybrids and bluegills. That is what is trending now.’’

There are no regulation changes, and LaSalle will be open daily from 6 a.m. to sunset.

Sea Grant

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is holding two Lake Michigan Fisheries Workshops in Illinois. The first is Tuesday at the Chicago Maritime Museum (Click here for details). The second is March 27 at North Point Marina. (Click here for details.)

Both workshops run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and focus on perch, though the Chicago workshop includes a presentation on Lake Michigan’s changing food web and the North Point workshop includes a presentation on natural reproduction of lake trout in southern Lake Michigan.

I will speak at both workshops on the evolving relationship between the public and Lake Michigan perch. Details are at


Wild things

Kyle Danhausentexted that Hank, his German shorthair, was ‘‘showcasing his well-above-average pointing skills’’ on numerous woodcock Sunday while they hunted sheds on the family farm. Time soon to watch their ‘‘sky dance’’ of love.

Stray cast

Patti Hazestill sounds like the hour before the reopening of LaSalle Lake feels.

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.

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