Blues interrupted: Fishing blue catfish at LaSalle Lake returns in style after pandemic shutdown

Darryl Turner shares lessons in catching blue catfish at LaSalle Lake and reflects on the changes after the 74-day shutdown during the pandemic.

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Darryl Turner holds an 18-pound blue catfish on reopening weekend at LaSalle Lake. Provided photo

Darryl Turner holds an 18-pound blue catfish on reopening weekend at LaSalle Lake.

Provided

Darryl Turner had one of those days last Wednesday for blue catfish at LaSalle Lake. He caught 15, the best going 20 pounds.

Seems prime for a refresher from Turner, a service technician from Matteson who has topped 300 blues in a year at LaSalle.

Normally Turner finds blues peak for size and numbers at LaSalle March 21 to April 21.

“Those are windier days, southwest winds, and it is unbelievable when it is choppy,” he said.

But LaSalle shut down on opening day, March 15, and didn’t reopen until May 29. Usually by May, blues spread out and slow.

“My birthday is on the 24th and I would only get one or two,” Turner said.

But the early opening weeks at LaSalle indicate the pandemic shutdown had an impact. Turner has had back-to-back days of 15 blues.

Back in the day, Turner would get off work Friday nights, then drive to Moline, where he would fish through the night on the Rock River. From channel catfish, which he learned fishing with his older brother John (they learned fishing from their late father Robert), Turner shifted to flatheads and blues.

“[Blues] hit harder, they fight harder and they eat fresh bait instead of the stinky stuff,” he said.

That learning curve converged with the stocking of blues at LaSalle.

“At LaSalle, there are so many big blues and our bait seems to be the right stuff,’’ he said.

He uses bluegill and shad, “something fresh,” for bait. He has a 12-foot rod with 65-pound braided line that he uses to throw one bait as far out as he can. He uses a 3-ounce flat sinker and a 12 to 18-inch leader. Another pole is set close to the bank.

“One pole in, one way out,” Turner said. “ Seems like they come in groups of fish. When they hit and run, there is more than one out there.”

Turner mostly fishes LaSalle blues by himself. He has his gear organized so he can ride his bike to his spots.

Occasionally, he will get lucky and somebody will help net a big fish. He has mastered using a stick to take selfies. That works for blues up to 20-pounds, which he can hold with one hand. (He works out daily.) Bigger than that, he has to find something to hang the blue on, like a sign.

Darryl Turner doing a selfie with a 20-pound blue catfish last Wednesday at LaSalle Lake. Provided photo

Darryl Turner doing a selfie with a 20-pound blue catfish last Wednesday at LaSalle Lake.

Provided

“Then you have to patience,” Turner said. “If you know it is a good spot, don’t move. They will come eventually. I know it will happen eventually.”

He means that on patience. The first time I met Turner in person, he was chilling in a chair watching his lines on opening day in 2016.

“I like the way that pole sings when braid goes through the eyes, it makes a noise,” Turner said. “Now I know what it sounds like when that braided line goes out. When I hear any kind of noise, I start looking at the pole.”

Darryl Turner showing patience for blue catfish on opening day in 2016 at LaSalle Lake. Credit: Dale Bowman

Darryl Turner showing patience for blue catfish on opening day in 2016 at LaSalle Lake.

Dale Bowman

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