The curiosities of a freak crappie caught in northern Illinois

Kyle Tepper caught a freak crappie in the Chain O’Lakes area that looks like something from far southern Illinois or Mississippi. The catch gives the chance to splash around the oddities of crappies in Illinois.

SHARE The curiosities of a freak crappie caught in northern Illinois
Kyle Tepper holds his 3.5-pound crappie, caught in the Chain O’Lakes area.

Kyle Tepper holds his 3.5-pound crappie, caught in the Chain O’Lakes area.

Provided

Kyle Tepper knew.

“As soon as I set the hook, I told my buddy, ‘Grab the net, this is not a bass,’” he said.

Tepper was shore fishing for crappie with Rick Hamann and Kyle Anderson at a lake in the Chain O’Lakes area on March 4 when he hooked into a freak crappie for northern Illinois on a pearl Z-Man Shad FryZ.

“It is a very large crappie,” he understated.

This one was 19 1/2 inches with a girth of 17 1/4 inches.

“As soon as the 19 was landed and in the net, the bobber went down on a 17 1/2,” he said. “We probably caught 10 over 14 inches over that day and another 60.”

Kyle Tepper holds his 3.5-pound crappie, caught in the Chain O’Lakes area, next to a 17.5-inch crappie for comparison. Provided photo

Kyle Tepper holds his 3.5-pound crappie, caught in the Chain O’Lakes area, next to a 17.5-inch crappie for comparison.

Provided

Even among those, this was a freak, more like something from Mississippi. Tepper took it to his workplace, Triangle Sports & Marine in Antioch, where weighed 3 1/2 pounds.

The Illinois crappie records are remarkably similar in weight: hybrid (4 pounds, 8.8 ounces, caught by Ryan Povolish, March 28, 2017, Kinkaid Lake); black (4-8, John Hampton, May 15, 1976, Rend Lake); and white (4-7, Kevin Dennis, April 8, 1973, Morgan County farm pond.)

Tepper’s was not a state record, but special for northern Illinois.

“Hybrid, I can say, almost for certain,” Tepper said. “It had the genetics of white crappie but looks like a black crappie from all the research I’ve done.”

Tepper is young, but an experienced, multi-species angler. I met him when he and Anderson, both freshmen, had Antioch in third place at the Illinois High School Association state finals for bass fishing after Day 1 in 2018 at Carlyle Lake. They finished fourth.

Tepper thinking his big crappie was a hybrid made me remember the wait when Povolish caught his crappie. It was going to be an Illinois record, the question was which one. It looked like a black crappie, but genetic testing from fin clips by the Illinois Natural History Survey proved it a hybrid crappie.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Mark Davis, a conservation biologist with the INHS, noted. “The genetics show that the mother of the record fish was a black crappie, while the father was either a white or a hybrid crappie.”

So I messaged Kevin Irons, Illinois’ assistant fisheries chief.

“There certainly are different levels of hybrids, just as you describe, F1, F2…Fx,” he responded. “Sometimes it looks like a hybrid, and sometimes not, depends on those things. I would not assume unless some feature is `off.’ A fin clip and genetics is the only way for sure. While hybrid vigor is a thing, I would not assume in these cases.

“[Tepper’s is a ] wonderful fish regardless!”

And Tepper treated it that way, saying, “I might do a replica. I let him go. I have a video of it.”

Wild things

While I picked night crawlers and earthworms in falling slush Friday on my morning ramble with Lady, I noticed many robins on the wet road. They had adapted and were taking easy pickings. Not sure if picking worms in traffic is a good adaptation.

Night crawler on the edge of a road during the falling slush Friday. Credit: Dale Bowman

Night crawler on the edge of a road during the falling slush Friday.

Stray cast

Are honchos at Major League Fishing or B.A.S.S. looking at the World Baseball Classic and brainstorming?

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