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Smallmouth, rock bass, perch: Prospecting on Illinois record fish around Chicago

Mark Samp with his Illinois-reocrd smallmouth bass.
Credit: File photo

Last year started with the wildest string ever of Illinois-record fish in Chicago. Four records fell in 33 days.

I don’t expect that to happen again. With that in mind, I am getting back to doing my annual prognostication (usually about as accurate as baseball predictions) on probable fish records to fall in Illinois.

First, with open water here again, time to recap of those wild 33 days in 2017.

Vincent Chan, who caught the middle one of the three Illinois-record whitefish caught in 2017, with his briefly held record.
Credit: Henry’s Sports and Bait

Christian Howe started it with a 4.55-pound whitefish caught while perch fishing at 95th on Feb. 17, 2017. On March 18, Vincent Chan broke that whitefish mark (6.55 pounds) while fishing at McCormick Place.

On March 22, Ken Maggiore pulled off one of the greatest feats in Illinois fishing, catching both the whitefish record (7.5 pounds) and burbot record (9.3 pounds) at Montrose Harbor.

Maggiore’s fish are big enough to stand for awhile, but there are bigger whitefish and burbot swimming in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan. It’s just improbable that someone will catch a bigger one any time soon. (Probably famous last words on my part.)

Ken Maggiore holding his 7.5-pound whitefish (left) and 9.3-pound burbot after both were weighed on the certified scale at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop.
Credit: Courtesy Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop

More likely, but than I’ve said this for a decade, is that some one will break the smallmouth bass record on Lake Michigan. Yet, the record 6-pound, 7-ounce smallmouth, caught by Mark Samp from a Peoria County strip pit on March 26, 1985, still stands as the Illinois record.

So close, so many times–6-5 by Joe Egan off a Chicago breakwall on April 25, 2009; 6-2.4 by Ryan Whitacre at Diversey Harbor on Oct. 19, 2016–that one of these days that smallmouth record will fall.

I am absolutely certain that the records for rock bass and yellow bass have been caught and eaten without the angler realizing it was a record.

I find it hard to believe that no one at Northerly Island/Burnham Harbor or Jackson Harbor or a good inland lake hasn’t broken the rock-bass record. Yet George Nielson’s rock bass (1 pound, 10 ounces), caught from Aux Sable Creek in Grundy County on May 5, 1987, has stood as the record for more than 30 years.

Jimmy Kostoff Jr. caught the yellow-bass record (2 pounds) on May 5, 1994 from a Madison County farm pond. I am sure bigger ones swim in Heidecke Lake and perhaps will again soon on the Chain O’Lakes with the recent resurgence of yellow bass there.

Despite many rumors of massive perch caught on the Chicago lakefront over the years, the Illinois record (2 pounds, 8.75 ounces) remains the one caught inland from the old Arrowhead Club Lake in Will County by Joe Grega on Jan. 5, 1974.

Joe Grega with the mount of his Illinois-record yellow perch, still the record after more than 40 years.
Credit: Dale Bowman

It’s harder to catch an Illinois record than it might seem.

WILD THINGS: Apparently the geese were smarter than I thought last week flying back north into heavy snow cover.

STRAY CAST: Getting back into making my annual Sox-Cubs bet with a buddy may have been as smart as those fishing for yellow perch on the lakefront with 8-pound line.