When it comes to fishing with kids, almost anyplace is a great place.
Sometimes we put too much emphasis on the catching side of fishing.
In tournaments, sure, catching is important.
But when it comes to taking kids? Maybe not so much.
Ponder that heading into this long weekend, which should be a wonderful time to visit a local fishing hole. Weather is promising (for a change) and many species are shallow and easily accessible for bank or boat anglers. Our fishing report here and on prairiestateoutdoors.com is the best of the year in terms of number and sizes of fish across the state.
Hearing that, people often consider wetting a line and then stay home because they don't have a 'great place' to fish.
When it comes to fishing with kids, though, almost anyplace is a great place. At least that's my opinion based on several recent kid-related outings I'd rate as not-so-good but that the youngsters involved rated as great.
The mainstay of recent trips have been small bluegill, which started cooperating nicely this week. Better yet, the big gills are headed to shore and should be prime for the catching this weekend.
Afternoon is definitely best and bluegill have improved each day. 'We had four Boone & Crockett bluegills and by the time we left in the afternoon they were all over the shore,' Chef Todd said of a Wednesday strip-mine outing.
That's great. But whether the bluegills are Booners or bite-size isn't really the key with kids. Numbers aren't even critical, so long as the number isn't zero.
How many times have you seen youngsters become preoccupied chasing frogs or bugs just when the bite gets hot?
While that can be maddening, it's fine. Because the fishing experience is about much more than catching for kids. The simple fact they can spend time with parents without the normal distractions of everyday life is all important.
On Wednesday, we wet a line with co-worker Greg Stewart and his 6-year-old son, Logan. Logan caught his first fish, a three-quarter pound crappie. The kid showed signs he might have a knack for fishing.
But I'm betting the days leading up to the trip were every bit as exciting. He spent evenings poring through his father's tackle box and heard stories about family fishing trips past.
All that is probably more important than the act of impaling a fish with a hook, though the moment of 'the catch' is still one of life's great joys.
Writing that will probably anger some folks. The other day we received an e-mail in response to a story on the 37th annual Clyde West Fishing Derby in Peoria.
Wrote the e-mailer, 'Traditions can add a lot of joy and nostalgia to our lives, but to think that, otherwise concerned, caring parents would cherish the notion that killing fish is a fun leisure-time tradition or hobby boggles my mind.'
Worrying that much about a fish boggles my mind. Hey, I'm glad my father and grandfather didn't share the same sentiment. Though we never really stacked up fish on our family trips, I sure stacked up memories.
BANK SPOTS: So you are pumped up to go fishing but don't have a good spot. No matter where you go, this weekend should be prime. But here are a few kid-friendly options for this weekend, moving east to west.
Evergreen Lake — Crappie and bluegill are moving shallow and there's good bank access, plus playgrounds.
Eureka Lake — Bluegill and crappie are shallow, there's tons of access, playground equipment, picnic tables and a chance at a 9-pound bass or a northern pike.
Spring Lake (south end) — Bluegill are small but biting, catfish can be good, there's plenty of access and weeds have not yet made the lake unfishable.
Illinois River — Catfish are taking off all over. White bass and sauger are strong upstream. Tie on a nightcrawler or some stinkbait, find a shoreline and sit back. Just bring vanilla. The gnats are out in force again this year and vanilla keeps them at bay.
Hennepin Canal — Crappie are ready to spawn and there's plenty of places to fish.
Lakeland Park — Located west of Canton this pay-fishing area offers plenty of shore fishing, bike trails, playgrounds and picnic benches. Call (309) 647-4702.
Snakeden Hollow — Crappie and bluegill are swarming the shorelines in Victoria and Northwest lakes, which offer decent shore fishing if you don't mind grass and ticks.
Farm ponds — This is the weekend to call in a favor. Remember that guy at work who has for years promised to take you fishing at his pond? Call him. And call on that salesmen you made a deal with who said, 'If you ever want to go fishing, get ahold of me.' Dig out his card. This is the weekend.
TURKEY TOTALS: Hopes of a record turkey harvest fell short as Illinois gobbler chasers wound up with 15,792 bearded birds according to preliminary results. That's the second-best spring hunt on record, behind only the 2006 total of 16,605.
South Zone harvest was 6,287 and North Zone hunters shot 9,505 gobblers. Fulton County ranked fourth statewide with 415 turkeys, behind JoDaviess (568), Pike (552) and Adams (507). We'll have complete turkey totals Sunday.
Jeff Lampe can be reached at (309) 686-3212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.