We were ice fishing at Otter Creek Preserve. Overall we had the best day of ice fishing any of us have ever experienced, and collectively our group has over 150 years of ICE FISHING EXPERIENCE under our belts. For this trip, we were joined by professional fisherman Steve Ryan, Dave something (sorry Dave), fishing guide Steve Everetts, Ryan Pudik, Justin, and my Dad. Otter Creek lakes have never really been ice fished before, so I brought in the professionals to see what lurked in the frigid waters below.
Here is Steve, Steve, and Dave with our mess of crappies from just one spot!
Otter Creek is my biggest project I have been working on to date and is hands down the very best fishing property in Illinois. By this time next year, the lakes at Otter Creek will rank as some of the best multi-species fishing lakes in the nation, let alone Illinois! Trophy walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, trout, and muskie all are world class!
The fish charts for each lake are quite simply through the roof! We have more than 200 acres of prime habitat spread across 3 specialty lakes and forage wetlands. Unlike most strip mine lakes and farm ponds that were created for water retention or mining operations, Otter Creek lakes were created for the sole purpose of recreational fishing. Every square inch of the lakes are created for various forms of fish habitat! There is no dead water. Here is a link to pictures and videos of Otter Creek during construction, fishing trips, and general property information: Otter Creek Info
On with the fishing pics and rest of the story, eh? So we got started first lake at 8 am and we fished there until noon. It is a 15 acre lake with superior genetic bass and bluegill from Arkansas. In those 4 hours we caught some really nice bass, 25 crappies, and 140 bluegill. 40 of those bluegill were over 1 lb and 50 of them were about 3/4 of a lb. We were pumped up about the awesome fish we caught at the first lake and the action was one right after another.
Ryan is a bass fisherman, but look at his smile with this monster bluegill!
Dave's biggest bluegill caught through the ice!
Ryan caught these fatties one right after the other:
These guys have more ice fishing gear packed into their SUV than the whole Gander Mountain store in Peoria. Literally. Here we are getting setup for the day:
All those gizmos and gadgets did pay off though, here is a really fat bass caught on the automatic fisherman rig.
At noon when we decided to leave the first lake we tried, we were real proud of our pile of crappie for dinner. We keep all the crappies caught and trapped out of these lakes, because we don't want them to get overpopulated.
Ryan Pudik with a really big crappie he caught through the ice fishing a lindy jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head.
He soon got a partner to update the photo with:
Here is a pair of crappie I got using a dead minnow on a plain hook with a split shot about 6 inches above the bait. I bet your wondering why I was using dead minnows for bait? Well, we ran out of 4 dozen live minnows at noon, and for some odd reason I had a small bucket of frozen dead minnows in the back of my truck from a previous fishing trip. I am not big on using lures (way too much work to jig em) so I just stuck dead frozen minnows on my hook, dropped em down and let the rod sit on the ice. Occasionally if I wouldn't get a bite in the first minute I would then jiggle the minnow just a bit, but only when absolutely necessary. Most of the time I enjoy taking photos and helping other fisherman more than actually aggressively fishing.
Justin scored on a pig crappie as well to go along with his pile of fish. He was using some sort of northland jig tipped with minnow parts.