Saturday, October 31, 2009

Opening day of central illinois goose and duck season pics!

It has been about 5 years since I have been this excited about a waterfowl opener. I actually had a bit of trouble falling asleep friday night and was awake a good hour early Saturday morning. An absolute ton of geese had been working our field all week and I was just excited to get out hunting with some friends and family!

Hunting buddies Todd, Aaron and Matt along with my brothers and my two cousins- Caleb and David (both first time hunters) and I all met at 6 am and set up a nice spread of 3 dozen big feet decoys and 2 mojo ducks out in the field. I knew the geese didnt start flying till about 8:30 am so we brought the mojo's to try and get lucky with a group of early flying ducks. What happened next was really pretty unbelievable.

At 7 am the first group of 4 mallards came right in to our spread, and then about every 5-10 minutes for the next hour we were bombarded with small groups of mallards right and left! We were not anticipating bonus action like this one single bit and actually didnt prepare for it very well either. After the first 3 or 4 groups we were actually running out of shells and rationing and dividing amongst ourselves. Finally Justin knew he needed to make a break for the truck and was able to scrounge up about 50 more shells of various gauges- 20, 12, and 10 gauge so we could stay out long enough for the geese to fly!

So the ducks kept a coming and Todd's dog woody did an amazing job at fetching every singe one of the 23 mallards that came tumbling down! After burning through the reserve shells over the next half hour, the ducks finally quit coming and we all had about 5 shells left each for the geese. The ducks were just a bonus! We just knew the geese would be coming over the horizon any minute and this was shaping up to be the hunt of a lifetime!

Well, 8:30 came along and sure enough here comes two geese right from where they were supposed to! They came in to our spread like clockwork and pretty much landed at our feet. Caleb and David put the hammer to them and Justin finished one of them off with his single shot 10 gauge! The anticipation of several more small groups of geese was building! Adrenaline was pumping, we were hooting and hollering and just felt like kings (more like legends in our own minds), but we were flying high and just knew the best was yet to come!

Anyhow 9 am comes along and the air temperature starts feeling just a bit cooler and the wind starts biting just a bit. Still no sign of the geese anywhere. 9:30 comes rolling around with no sign of geese and stomachs start rumbling along with the much colder temps! By 10 am and no sign of geese the adrenaline and excitement is pretty much gone, it feels about 20 degrees colder than at 7 am, and the reality of our daily obligations starts setting in. We figure that once we pick up the decoys and are halfway to the trucks that the field will literally fill up with geese, but just couldnt wait for 'em any longer. We snapped some pics and then headed out to install an aeration system for a client.

Noah is definitely my son. He just absolutely loves fish and animals- dead or alive and is not afraid one bit to pick em up! Its always great to show Brook these kinds of pics later in the day and watch her reaction as she goes and washes his hands and changes his clothes!

I checked on our field several more times in the afternoon and was just amazed that the geese never did fly at all. Not even in the evening! They must have taken a day off and boy did they choose a good one to sit tight and hunker down. Oh well, were gonna be waiting for them in the morning! I just hope they fly before church starts, otherwise I might not be hunting again for awhile if I'm late.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interesting and Large Bass Experiment

If I had a top ten list of favorite things, I would have a tuff choice in the middle of the pack choosing between Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and a new Fish stocking experiment! I just can't ever seem to get my fill of either.

Anyhow, enough of the nonsense as I try to make it through the rest of this yet another rainy day. This interesting pond that we electrofished for Pat Mcsherry last week was not necassarily meant to be a fish stocking experiment by design, but falls into that category by default. I have been researching and fooling around with different stocking combinations of low density predators with high density forage and Pat's pond just fit the bill perfectly.

Based on a foggy memory and some observations we estimated that the pond had a huge fish kill about 4 winters ago. The pond is very fertile and simply produced more fish biomass that summer than it could support through a harsh winter and the biggest fish simply suffocated to death. As the fish started dying, their decaying bodies only used up more and more of the available oxygen under the ice and pretty much all the fish died. Well to make a long story even a bit longer, all of the smallest fish in the pond found enough oxygen to survive the rest of the winter.

There were 1000's of small fish that survived the winter kill and absolutely no large predators to eat them. So many that the fish became instantly stunted, as they all competed for the same tiny peices of available food. That basically set the stage for a very low density predator/high density forage situation. When we electrofished this pond, it was completely full of tens of thousands of small crappie, tiny bluegill and little bullheads. The problem was they were all adult fish with huge eyes like this one.

While there definitely was not a natural balanced fishery at hand, what we did find was just about what I told Pat to expect, I kept telling him that we were going to come across a handful of nice big bass as we were dialing up scores of adult midget fish. Small bass would survive the fish kill as well, and a few of them would make it big enough fast enough to avoid the huge stuntedization of the rest of the population. Then they simply would have as much to eat as they could ever desire! When we did start to find some bass, I didnt expect them to be quite like this: morbidly obese! Look at the size of their mouths in relationship to their bodies.

The average bass in this pond is 18.8 inches long with a relative weight average for the lake of 125%! The biggest bass we sampled was 20.5" and weighed 108 oz. with a 138% relative weight. A typical 20.5" LMB should weigh 78 oz.

You can actually learn quite a bit about LMB by observing this sort of scenario. I have electrofished and analyzed well more than 100 lakes and ponds across the midwest this year and can tell you this- If you want to truly grow big bass, you can do that much easier and faster by stocking just a few per acre and harvest them like crazy if they even think about making babies!

This may sound strange to many, but the average ADULT bass in Illinois is 12 inches long. If you wait until next year it will still be 12 inches long and if you let it grow up the year after that, its still going to be 12 inches! Many lakes and ponds will grow their original stocked fish well past 12 inches due to limited competition, and the first year class after that may hit 14-15 inches, but the large majority of their offspring will not grow much past 12 inches due to the increased and compounding competition, unless they are harvested, preyed upon, or naturally thinned down.

Huge Fat Bass and Bluegill

Today was probably the last electrofishing survey of the year! A cold front is moving in, along with yet another 1"+ rain, and that will just about put an end to electrofishing. We still have 4 aeration systems and 5 windmills to install, about 10,000 walleye a few hundred muskies and northerns, and that will pretty much wrap up our entire season until the lakes freeze up enough to start drilling holes!!!!

We shocked Oberhelmans lake and Pat's pond yesterday. Check out these pictures!

Then today we squeezed Jared Obrien's new pond in at the last minute. His new pond is completely full of 9-10 inch bluegill that are absolutely beautiful! Not too shabby for picking up a property with an exising pond! I expect great things from that pond over the next couple years!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week Review with Big Fish Pictures

This week has been tough, but were are still doing the best we can for all of our clients AND our family. Traveled east a couple hours for an electrofishing survey on Monday. Headed north of Chicago for an electrofishing survey Tuesday. Went to kickapoo wednesday and shocked a pond for a new client with an absolutely beautiful pond and property. Thursday we started a marathon of fish deliveries!

The lake we electro shocked on Tuesday is 147 acres and absolutely gorgeous. For some reason the owners dont want their name or location mentioned, and I cant imagine why perhaps one of the best fishing lakes in the state located near a heavily populated windy city wouldnt want people to know their name and location? Anyhow check out these pics, they will tell the tale of the lake:

Here are some pics from the 2 acre pond we electrofished on wednesday:

So back to thursday! We met the fish truck about 8:30 pm over near champaign and delivered 2000 nice channel catfish in the steady rain. Then Justin headed north with a load of feed trained bass, golden shiners, and fathead minnows. I jumped in with the fish guy and we headed west towards Norris, and we delivered quite a few feed trained bass and large hybrid bluegill along the way. About 5:30 am and we get all done delivering fish and head to sleep at the lake. I had to get up at 7:30 am to head into town for the funeral and was back delivering fish by about 1 pm. On my way to the last stop and I ran out of gas just 3 miles away! My client came up the hill with some gas and we were back on the road to finish up our fish delivery marathon!! I fell asleep on my parents couch about 6:30 pm and woke up at my house at 7 am??? Apparently Brook came over and got me, I just dont know how they lugged me into the car and into bed?

Saturday my dad and mom came with me to check the trapnets at a pond, take care of chores out at the lake, and then deliver a load of rainbow trout out to Otter Creek Preserve. Then saturday evening I cooked some dinner with Mae and Noah and we just hung out at home riding bikes and raking leaves. The week was so hectic, that the kids just needed some dad time, and that was just what the doctor ordered for me as well!

Tragic Accident, We are gonna miss Gabriel!

Early Sunday morning I got a call from my mother that there had been a bad accident in Haiti. My Aunt and Uncle and their 5 youngest children are missionaries over there. My Uncle Tim, 16 year old cousin Sara, and 5 year old Gabriel were in a horrible accident on their way to church. Tim has some head injuries, broken arm, and multiple open wounds, Sara's knee was torn open and her neck cut pretty bad, and Gabriel was thrown from the vehicle and died at the accident with head and lung injuries. The other driver just never saw them and he unfortunately fled the scene, even leaving his passenger behind.

Tim and Sara have along recovery ahead of them, but their bodies will be fine. The loss of Gabriel however, words cant even describe. 11 years ago Tim and Joan lost their first son Joshua to a tragic drowning accident while they were missionaries in Tennessee. I just try not to think about how unbelievably hard this would be to handle. Tim and Joan are very strong though. This definitely isnt easy, but they have plans of finishing their work in Haiti and just fully trust that God has a plan for even a tragedy such as this. It has been a long week for all of us, but we have tons of friends and family that have come together and are praying for and supporting Joan, Tim and their 5 daughters.

As I was looking at Gabriels little body today in the casket, Joan came up and as we hugged all she could say was "he was my little fishin buddy" And he was. At that moment I couldnt think of anything to say, the embrace and look of afirmation was all I could do, and really all that was needed. I dont know what this winter will bring or when they will be able to go back to Haiti, but I will definitely be headed there to help them out at some point.

Tragedies and death just dont seem to happen all that often in my little portion of the world, really the only funerals I have even been to is my grandfather a few years ago and Joshua's 11 years ago.

Gabriel Joel Reinhard, 5, of Peoria died Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009 in Les Cayes, Haiti where his parents and family were involved with missionary work.
Gabriel was born March 12, 2004 in Pekin, IL, the son of Timothy and Joan Meister Reinhard.
Surviving are his parents; and five sisters, Kristin (Rodney)Menold of Peoria and Sarah, Bethany, Hannah, and Faith, all at home. Also surviving are his maternal grandmother; Rhoda Meister of Hanna City; his paternal grandparents, Dan (Delores)Reinhard of Remington, IN.; 17 aunts and uncles; and numerous cousins.
He was preceded in death by one brother; Joshua; and his maternal grandfather; Paul Meister:
Gabriel attended the Sheridan Road Apostolic Christian Church in Peoria. Gabriel loved being in Haiti with his family and enjoyed catching crabs on the beach and frogs and loved to go fishing. Gabriel was such a joy to our family. We thank God that he was a gift to us and that we had the chance to love and raise our son and brother:
Visitation will be held from 2 to 4p.m. and 6 to 9p.m. Thursday at the Apostolic Christian Fellowship Hall at 7329 W. Route 150 in Edwards, IL. Services will be held at 10:00a.m. Burial will be in the church cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Apostolic Christian World Relief Haiti, restricted in Gabriel's name.
To send condolences to the family online, go to

Shocking Lakes and Ponds is oh so much fun!

We have been shocking and evaluating lakes and ponds across Illinois like madmen! Some real good fishing, and some not so much!! But they all have potential and that is where we enter the picture. Some lakes need just a bit of tweaking and some need well, a bit more. Turning a body of water into a productive fishery really is not hard and doesnt take long and doesnt even cost that much money, as long as you are in tune to what the lake is set up to produce. They are all different!

Gary Glovers 4 acre pond near lewiston just needs a bit of agricultural lime to sweeten up the water to help grow some aquatic vegetation. David Van Ackers pond in the Quad Cities had a fish kill last winter and he lost all of his BIG fish, the small bass that did survive however are growing at a RAPID pace with little competition. Hidden Lakes big lake is perhaps the worst fishing lake on the entire property, we filled the boat with small fish. Hidden Lakes new lake is perhaps the best trophy bass fishing lake in central Illinois, but it wont be for long if they dont harvest TONS of the 11-13" bass that are taking over.

Next week we do some traveling to Champaign, Kickapoo, and Northern Illinois along with some fish deliveries mixed in. Its gonna be hectic.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Biggest Largemouth Bass of the Year!

Spent last tuesday afternoon electrofishing on a clients' 15 acre lake that we have been working on for a few years and boy did we dial up some real nice fish! I will let the pics tell the rest of the story!

Fish Stocking Update with Pics

We stocked alot of Smallmouth Bass, Trout, and Hybrid Striped Bass this last week. Here are a couple of pics. Not only do we stock the very best fish available in the entire nation, but we deliver with a smile!

While we were dropping off some Hybrid Striped Bass to Ted Rigginbach's 1 acre pond he and a couple buddies had just finished up wetting a few lines while waiting for some concrete to dry up:

Trout Fishing Pond for Elmwood All Outdoors Show

So Justin, Cheff Todd, and I are in charge of the indoor trout fishing pond at the Elmwood All Outdoor Sports Show in the beginning of March. Justin and I thought it might be smart to do some experimenting beforehand just to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible at the show.

Let me just say that catching trout from a 16' homemade pond is alot more fun than it sounds! For a moment we were just two big kids having a great time tricking and manipulating those trout into biting!

We are going to be adding a new dimension/twist to set ourselves apart from the typical trade show trout pond. We actually are going to photograph, clean and vacuum seal the trout and send them home for dinner for the lucky youngsters and "big kids" who reel em in!