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Wind and walleye: Thoughts from Illinois River Walleye Classic

Scott Pugsley shows the biggest sauger, 3.84 pounds, caught Sunday at the Illinois River Walleye Classic while retired biologist Ken Clodfelter looks on.
Credit: Dale Bowman

SPRING VALLEY, Ill.–Scott Pugsley and Randy Carroll were in all at the Illinois River Walleye Classic.

When high winds canceled Day 1 Saturday, the pair from Oswego joined a handful of adventurous teams that tossed a few bucks in a pot and held an informal tournament.

Pugsley and Carroll had a shorter day than planned.

“I went up front to pull a rod out of the rod holder and went right over,’’ Pugsley said.

On Sunday, they did fine pole lining on another day of high winds, albeit 35 degrees warmer. They lined their pockets with $4,500 by taking first (12.99 pounds) with three sauger and two walleye. That included the big fish, a 3.84-pound sauger.

Two things stuck with me from the second year of the Spring Valley Walleye Club putting on the Classic: how to adjust if your one day to fish sauger coincides with high winds and that walleye continue to grow as a fishery on the Illinois River.

Pole lining, a system of using heavy bottom weights, with crankbaits by Carroll and Pugsley was the most innovative way to deal with the windy conditions Sunday.

But Pugsley noted, “Pole lining, that is what Randy likes to do.’’
Carroll has long been one of the most successful fisherman on the Illinois.

Jigging in the high wind was “out of the question,’’ noted Ryan Feldott, who finished third (11.52) with Rick Rundle. The boat control needed for vertical jigging would have been too tough.

They used crankbaits that Feldott, a boilermaker, custom paints for himself and friends.

“I would go to all crankbaits,” said Dirk Pagakis, who finished second (11.62) with Dave Gossar. “You are going against the current and you can even use your kicker motor.’’

Feldott said the river is evolving into a walleye fishery. That might be overstating the case slightly, but walleye, which are not stocked in the Illinois River, are becoming a notable catch on a more regular basis.

“Hoping to get some of the 8-pound walleye they were catching the last couple weeks,’’ tournament director Mike Hurliss said.

The week before the tournament at least two walleye in the vicinity of 8 pounds were caught and released. No walleye that big came in Sunday. Big walleye for the day (3.3) was brought in by Feldott and Rundle. But the top three teams all had nice walleye.

Randy Petges sexes sauger during the Illinois River Walleye Classic Sunday. Credit: Dale Bowman

Randy Petges sexes sauger during the Illinois River Walleye Classic Sunday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

The SVWC has a long history of helping monetarily and with collecting milt and eggs for the sauger stocking. Randy Petges, veteran fish tech from the LaSalle Fishing Hatchery, said before the tournament, “If it swims and it has eggs, we are keeping it.’’

Rick Bushman, assistant manager at the hatchery, said they had 64 females with eggs to take back to the hatchery and only had 18 spent females come in.

That was a lot more prespawn sauger females than expected, something to note if you’re considering a day of sauger fishing on the Illinois.

HUNTING: Harvest went up for both youth seasons of turkey hunting in Illinois. The north zone youth harvest was 599, compared to 547 last spring; south, 450 (354). The first regular season in the north zone opens Monday. If good nominations come, I will run Turkey of the Week.

LIFE/FISHING: Dan McNeil talks fishing and his eclectic life tonight during the “Stalwarts” segment of Stray Casts Outdoor Cartoon Television (YouTube, live 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays) with myself, Pat Renwick, Bobby Bergren and Ryan Whitacre.

STRAY CAST: A Sox-Cubs World Series (dare I dream?) would be like urban coyotes on feral cats.