The Great Pumpkinseed: Records, habitat, probable records in Illinois; plus Stray Cast and Go & Show

Illinois may well be home to a world-record pumpkinseed; a delightful possibility I discovered when triggered by Sam Joseph Militello Jr. sending his tale and photo of the big pumpkinseed, possible record, he caught and released; plus the Stray Cast and Go & Show.

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A 1.4-pound pumpkinseed, which would easily surpass the standing record, surveyed last year by the IDNR at Hennepin-Hopper lakes. Provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

A 1.4-pound pumpkinseed, which would easily surpass the standing record, surveyed last year by the IDNR at Hennepin-Hopper lakes.

Provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Sam Joseph Militello Jr. messaged about catching ‘‘what probably would’ve been a record-breaking pumpkinseed that was released healthy’’ last month from Long Lake. It was caught on a purple glow Moon Tungsten Ice Jig tipped with a red spike.

Sam Joseph Militello Jr. with a pumpkinseed big enough to be around the Illinois-record pumpkinseed, caught and released while ice fishing last month on Long Lake. Provided photo

Sam Joseph Militello Jr. with a pumpkinseed big enough to be around the Illinois-record pumpkinseed, caught and released while ice fishing last month on Long Lake.

Provided

At 10.25 inches long, Militello’s pumpkinseed was in record range.

Nicholas Rolando caught the Illinois-record pumpkinseed (1 pounds, 1.92 ounces) on June 19, 2020 from Hennepin-Hopper lakes; it took until 2021 to be confirmed by DNA testing. Provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Nicholas Rolando caught the Illinois-record pumpkinseed (1 pounds, 1.92 ounces) on June 19, 2020 from Hennepin-Hopper lakes; it took until 2021 to be confirmed by DNA testing.

Provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Nicholas Rolando caught the Illinois-record pumpkinseed (1 pounds, 1.92 ounces) on June 19, 2020, from The Wetlands Initiative’s Hennepin & Hopper Lakes. Confirmation was completed in 2021 via genetic testing. It was 10 inches long.

I disappeared into ifishillinois.organd found this about Hennepin-Hopper: ‘‘During the 2021 sampling efforts, four individuals were collected that were larger than the newly certified state-record pumpkinseed . . . with the largest weighing in at 1.4 [pounds].’’

District fisheries biologist Blake Bushman emailed that all the fish bigger than the state record were surveyed in areas open to fishing.

‘‘Pumpkinseeds do well in Hennepin & Hopper Lakes because it has a lot of aquatic vegetation, which is the species’ preferred habitat,’’ he emailed. ‘‘A high-quality wetland, such as this site, is going to be very productive and give the pumpkinseeds everything they need to thrive in terms of habitat and food.’’

There’s another advantage there.

‘‘[It’s] a very predator-heavy system, as far as densities of largemouth bass, bowfin, northern pike and musky,’’ Bushman explained. ‘‘The predators help keep all of the sunfish species at moderate to low densities, which allows for the survivors to have additional resources and grow to their full potential. Hard to say how much bigger than 1.4 pounds they could get out there, but it will be exciting to watch!’’

TWI site manager Rick Seibert thought the world record might be there, but he also said, ‘‘Sonsabitches are hard to find and catch.’’

He thinks the combination of good predator population, few anglers targeting bluegills and pumpkinseed, and the lake reopening after the spawn May 15 make even finding pumpkinseed tough.

Robert Warne caught the all-tackle world-record pumpkinseed of 1.8 pounds on May 23, 2016, from Honeoye Lake in New York, according to the International Game Fish Association.

As for his pumpkinseed, Militello messaged Sunday: ‘‘Maybe next year she’ll visit again. LOL.’’

Willow Slough

Dewatering of Willow Slough’s main lake is set for May 21. Follow updates at ‘‘J.C. Murphey Lake renovations’’ at in.gov/dnr/fish-and-wildlife/properties/willow-slough-fwa. Note to scouts, youth groups, etc.: Many volunteer opportunities exist during the next couple of years. Contact Gus Nyberg at gnyberg@dnr.in.gov.

Mudpuppies

Joey Cannizzaro, a graduate student at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is looking for reports, if any, of mudpuppies (waterdogs) on the Fox River or any Kane County waters. I will pass any along. Email BowmanOutside@gmail.com or contact me on Facebook (Dale Bowman), Twitter (@BowmanOutside) or Instagram (@BowmanOutside).

Wild things

Last Wednesday seemed to be the hinge for seasons turning. Christian Howe texted: ‘‘Red-winged blackbirds yesterday, today the sky is filled with thousands of sandhill cranes! Spring is here!’’ . . . Cynthia Heisler emailed: ‘‘About 11:30 a.m., we saw a skein of sandhills over the middle of Wheaton. My snowdrops poked up on [Feb. 22] and Braidwood is open. Lent has begun. Spring must be on the way.’’

Stray cast

I never thought sandhill cranes would be a more certain sign of spring than baseball.

* * * *

GO & SHOW

Thursday-Sunday, March 10-13: Journal Sentinel Sports Show, Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center, West Allis, Wis.

Friday-Sunday, March 11-13: Canoecopia, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, Wis.

Saturday: Fish & Hook Sports Show, VFW Post 5788, Lockport

Saturday: Fox River Valley chapter of Muskies Inc.’s annual banquet, Schaumburg Golf Club

Sunday, March 13:Quad County Hawg Hunters’ Fishing Flea Market, Plano American Legion,dlandmeier@frontier.com or (815) 286-7170

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