Thursday, February 24, 2011

Waterfowl Biologist Meeting

Last night I had the opportunity to host a bunch of waterfowl biologists from the entire Mississippi flyway down at the Hooked On Fishing Park. They came from like 14 different states from Alabama all the way up to Canada. Some Ducks Unlimited biologists and other US Fish and Wildlife people were there as well. Altogether we had about 50 guys come down to the park just to hang out, do some fishing and of course EAT! A great break from a bunch of meetings and seminars.

Here is about half the group standing together.

They are all in town meeting for a week solid about hunting seasons, limits, conservation, habitat, and all sorts of stuff that directly affect how we manage our flock of birds in the flyway. It was extremely interesting to spend some time with these guys and get some inside information not typically available to the public. I am sworn to secrecy so I can't mention anything about stuff like the new 90 day duck season proposal and 5 goose bag limits.....just kidding.......

Anyhow Chef Todd outdid himself with this feast! With the help of key park volunteers Charlie Bracket, Bill Johnson, Todd Clanin and Brett Erickson, he pulled off a wild game feast of epic proportions! He basically cooked all this food outside in 40 degree weather with a big grill, a turkey fryer, a deep fryer, and a generator powering roasters.

Chef going to town on the big grill:

While some of the guys were out fishing and catching rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and big bluegills; Chef and co were cooking away under the pavilion, and the rest of us were gobblin it down as fast as it would come hot off the press. I feel kind of bad, but I was pretty much camped out under the pavilion near the food the entire evening and only snapped one fish photo. He caught a monster rainbow right next to the pavilion so I finally ventured out from my laziness den and snapped the pic quick:

I snapped plenty of food photos though cause they were near my home base! On this plate there is antelope, mule deer, and whitetail to munch on.

Chef's secret homemade duck egg rolls:

Eggroll after spending a couple minutes in 400 degree grease:

Todd Clanins famous pulled, smoked pork butt. We had 4 different barbecue sauces for this meat!

Homemade goose gravy! Was supposed to be duck gravy, but we brought the wrong package of meat so it became goose gravy and by golly it turned out way better than this puky picture looks!

She was the only lady biologist and is from Michigan. From what I could tell she probably caught more fish than anyone until she lost her secret mepps spinner to a big fish. Cheff loaded her up with about 2 platefulls of food.

Duck eggroll, Chef's famous cole slaw, pulled pork sandwich, elk stuffed mushrooms covered with grilled bluecheese sauce and jalapeno mashed potatoes smothered with goose gravy!

Jeff Lampe's first plate. I don't think anyone had just one plate! There was always hot food coming off the press all night long!!

Grilled Elk stuffed mushrooms!

Fresh sweet chili glazed trout

I didn't get any pics of the fried yellowtail snapper fillets or several items that I have since forgotten about without picture documentation, but you get the point.... I had a early breakfast meeting this morning with a mennonite pastor at Bob Evans and didn't have much of an appetite for some reason? I choked down some pancakes, but definitely didnt go for the usual gravy and meat breakfast!

On another note, event planning for our annual Hooked On Fishing Fundraising Banquet at the new Metamora Fields Golf Course is going great! So far we have sold 38 tables of 8 to many friends of the park and several key area businesses. I have about 8 tables left and hope to fill them very soon!

Just this week the following businesses have stepped up and helped us out tremendously by donating items and sponsoring tables- Cefcu, Prairie Home Alliance, Lone Wolf Concrete, Rocke Brothers Masonry, Noah Herman Sons Builders, Presleys Outdoors, Sun Foundation, Heights Finance, Kaiser Electric, Bob Grimm Chevrolet, Timber Creek Land Company, Midwest Land and Habitat, Fort Transfer, FW Boland Plumbing, Carver Lumber, Dust Boss, Bobby Smith Remodeling and Roofing, The gang at Led's Shed and Heartland Outdoors! I know there are more businesses out there with a passion for outdoor education!!

I can't thank these businesses enough for their support of the park and also the entire community! I still have a handful of individual tickets left for $75 each and like mentioned earlier about 8 tables and then we will have the banquet hall filled to capacity! If we can fill those tables, the sky will be the limit for the fishing park this season!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fisherman I Need Your Help!

If your reading this somewhere online, I could definitely use your help! Not just fisherman, but anyone with a passion for teaching, helping, fishing, and the great outdoors!

Back in 2008 I helped start the Hooked on Fishing Park down in East Peoria at the old Dixons Ponds. Since then we have completely renovated the entire facility and have hosted more than 3000 kids and seniors fishing free of charge! For the first 3 years I helped with renovation and was in charge of making sure the ponds were well stocked with Fish.

However starting in January of 2011, I am now completely in charge of running the entire facility from start to finish from A to Z and I need some serious help! In all phases of running the fishing park I need help from everyone I know and many people I have yet to meet. I need to raise enough funds to keep the park rolling and get everything started for this upcoming season.

Here is a brief video that showcases the renovated fishing park and describes a bit about our mission.

Before any kids even reach the ponds on May 3rd (150 middle school kids from East Peoria grade school are coming for a field trip) I need to pay for 1/2 the property taxes, and a handful of other monthly expenses. In the next few paragraphs I am going to lay out all the information for what is needed to run the fishing park this year and hope that I can get the right people to fill in with some much needed help and expertise.

First thing I need help with is that on Saturday evening, March 12 we are having a fundraising dinner at the Metamora Fields golf course. Their new banquet facility is showcasing many of their menu items for this dinner and all funds raised will go towards our 2011 operating expenses at the fishing park. There is plenty of room for up to 400 people for this event and I really hope to be able to get at least 300 people to make the evening a great success! More info is available at this link- Dinner Info

The cost is $75 per ticket or $500 for a table of eight. We will be having appetizers starting at 5:30 pm and the dinner starts at 6:30. Just give me a call at 309-303-5691 or shoot me an email to or visit our website at to purchase tickets either by mailing a check or with a credit card online. We are a 501 c-3 not for profit organization and all donations and dinner tickets are tax deductible.

Next I could also use some items from local businesses or individuals for a small auction and raffle and door prizes to help raise funds at the event. I already have some amazing guided fishing trips to world class fishing properties, catering packages for large groups, fishing gear, Matthews Solo Cam bows, car care packages, and such for some items to raffle and give away, but I definitely could use more items if anyone knows anyone willing to help with this sort of thing.

Moving along past the dinner is other items I could really use help with. I would love to start a fishing program at the park for the high school bass fishing teams. The park is the perfect place to practice fundamentals of fishing. A new casting course with a fishing boat on the big pond would just be awesome to host practices and have casting competitions/tournaments. I would love for someone to step up and coordinate the high school fishing team program, create the casting course of some sort and line up whatever the coaches would need to successfully teach their teams rock solid fundamentals. We have open water year round, plus we have a bunch of bass too.

With the same theme as the high school bass fishing program, I would love for someone to coordinate a boy scout/girl scout/cub scout program for the park. There is so much potential down there for those groups to get together and learn all sorts of outdoor related activities and badges. I just need someone familiar with those organizations to create and coordinate that program.

I would love to have a handful of organized fishing derbies this summer. They could be themed like father/son or mother/daughter or just general fishing derbies with prizes, etc. If anyone or any business would like to coordinate or sponsor a fishing derby that would be great!

Last year we had tons of nursing homes coming down on pretty much a weekly basis to grill lunch, do some fishing, and just hang out together outside. Those groups are great for the park and are usually pretty self sufficient. If someone would want to help coordinate them or just come hang out with them any help would be greatly appreciated!

We are open to all groups of any shape or size to use the fishing park, I just need volunteers to help coordinate and staff various events. We have a great core of existing volunteers, but if we are going to expand or even just carry the same capacity as last year we are going to need a bunch more help!

I have put together a needs list for pretty much everything I can think of for the fishing park for this upcoming season. Any help with any of these items specifically would help out tremendously. I really visualize this fishing park as a great way to not only teach the sport of fishing, but to bring the entire community together outdoors. The list of needs for 2011 is basically the following:

Needs Per Month during our 6 month fishing season:
70 doz night crawlers per month
300 bottles of water per month
30 bags of ice per month
100 lbs of hamburgers per month
200 hot dogs per month
200 hamburger and hot dog buns per month
Bunch of plastic dinnerware and paper goods
3 bags of charcoal per month
1 bottle of lighter fluid per month
$500 fish stocking per month
$60 fish food per month
$130 per month for Porta Jon Services
Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance Volunteers
Fishing Instructor Volunteers
Any sort of Volunteers
Lots of kids, seniors, groups wanting to catch some fish!

Needs Per Month Annually:
$510 per month for property taxes
$185 per month for Cilco Bill
$280 per month for various Insurance Bills
$33 per month for garbage services
$55 per month for website services

Physical Items Needed:
Small quiet generator
Used freezers and fridges
3 big coolers
2 used push mowers
1 weed eater
20 gallons of Fuel
More fishing equipment
Tackle, Line, Bobbers
Prizes for kids/events
Casting Course/Platforms/Ideas?
High School Fishing Program Coordinator(s)
Boy Scout/Girl Scout Program Coordinator(s)
Any other program coordination ideas
Fundraising Ideas
General Ideas for Using the Park to further Outdoor Education and Experiences?

If you haven't been down to see the new renovated fishing park, please take the time to drive by and check it out! We have worked very hard to create a world class fishing and outdoor facility and are excited about getting the community involved in utilizing this place to its fullest potential!

I need your help to make this happen! Events I have planned to help the fishing park raise support this year are the fundraising dinner Saturday March 12th (I hope to see you all there), a big fishing tournament fundraiser at Otter Creek Preserve for donors and volunteers (you don't want to miss this), a golf outing later this summer at the new Metamora Golf Course (I could use some help with that one for sure, I am not a golfer), and a few fishing days/cookouts with Chef Todd at the park this summer.

Please stay tuned for more updates about the park and please help out anyway you possibly can. I am trying to coordinate everything in my spare time and could use as much help as possible!

Here are a couple more Youtube videos about the fishing park:

Here are a couple articles published in newspapers and magazines about the fishing park:

Peoria Journal Star

Pond Boss Magazine

Article From Lighthouse Academy Kids

More Articles

Thanks for taking the time to read all the way down to the end. I know it is quite a bit of information jam-packed into one blog post. Here is one last link and bit of information to help support the fishing park.

Link to Online Donations and Purchase Dinner Tickets

Or send Check to
Hooked On Fishing Park
8913 N Prairie Point
Peoria, IL 61615

Please specify how many tickets or what specifically you would like to sponsor or donate. Physical items please contact me ahead of time to arrange pick up/delivery.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fish Structures On Ice

Here is a short video of cutting down some fence row mulberry and hedge trees. We used these trees to make a bunch of fish structures this winter. We bunched up the trees and weighted them down with 5 gallon buckets full of concrete and placed them on the ice.

Here are some pictures for those of you too lazy to watch the video. We used the Timberline HT Timber Shears attachment for the Bobcat to cut down lots of trees along the old fence row very quickly!

Land Auction and Ice Fishing

I went to a land auction in Fulton County yesterday. Good tillable land went for 7300 per acre and pure timber went for 2100 per acre. Was interesting, but about what was expected with grains at all time highs and recreational land prices continuing to fall. Now is actually a very good time to pick up some hunting land if your in the market.

Anyhow then I headed over to meet up with some clients to talk game plan 2011. It just so happened we found some marginally safe ice on one of the lakes and it just so happened I had 4 ice fishing rods and 3 vexilars an auger and some old bait left in my truck. It also just so happened to be 55 degrees and sunny outside. After a couple hours of finding nothing willing to bite it just so happened we found some strategically placed trees submerged 15 feet down out in the middle of a cove and it just so happened we caught some nice fish for dinner!

It just so happened I actually got my text book, fairy tale ending to ice fishing for this season! The ice is no longer safe on a good majority of lakes and ponds in my zone. There is open water around most edges and it won't be long with this forecast to be lots of open water everywhere very soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Last Day on the Ice?

Thursday was my last scheduled day on the ice. The temps had been climbing all week and finally after waiting and waiting the fish were on fire on Wednesday! Just click the link for some pics. Anyhow, Thursday was shaping up to be an epic day on the ice. Overcast, 65 degrees with a warm south wind. I was almost giddy with anticipation for this one last hurrah. I even woke up early just ready to get on the ice at the crack of dawn.

I met up with Steve and his group of 5 guys from up near Erie, Illinois at the Subway station in Farmington and we headed 5 miles out to the lake. Not just any lake, but my own 'proving grounds' lake. This lake I have been experimenting with for 7 years and have grown some unbelievably large fish of many different species.

We have only ice fished this 33 acre lake 6 or 7 times all year and so far this year ice fishing we have caught a 13 lb northern, a 5.5 lb walleye, many catfish 5-10 lbs, a bunch of 5-7 lb rainbow trout, and more taxidermied bluegill than any other lake in the state! Every trip out we had been catching bluegill that people take home to put on their wall.

Anyhow, you get the point, I had very high expectations for the day. What I had figured to be the very best ice fishing day of the year actually was the very worst ice fishing day of the whole year! Just when I thought I was getting closer to getting some stuff figured out and patterned a day like this comes along.

From 7 am till noon 6 of us guys caught less than 12 total fish. Only 3 of those fish were worthy of pictures. The only bright spot of the day was that one of those bluegills was an absolute monster!! Check out the size of this hybrid bluegill. This fish went home for the wall as well!

Here are the pics of the other two big fish we caught.

Then at noon, Steve's group headed home and I met up with Mike from Chicago to finish off the last guided trip of the year. We fished over 75 holes rather intensively and we just couldn't get anything to spark besides this rainbow trout.

We did have about a 10 lb channel catfish break off in the sticks, caught a half dozen small bass, and another dozen small bluegill, but that was it. We marked fish in just about every hole we fished in and the fish would rather aggressively follow the bait up and down, but they simply would not open their mouths to eat it! By the end of the day I was never more ready to get off the ice and hang up my gear. I was frustrated and tired.

Not at all the way I hoped to finish off the ice fishing season.

Tuesday's Ice Fishing Trip

On Tuesday afternoon we went ice fishing with a group of 5 guys. I figured the fish were going to be on fire with several days of warm weather, but boy was I wrong. They were down there, but just took alot of work to get to bite the bait. Just seemed very unusual? Late winter ice fishing can be just extremely unpredictable. Early season is always consistent day after day and even throughout the day, but once the snows start piling up the fishing just seems to get much harder to figure out.

Late season there may be one day on fire and the next day completely shut off. Or sometimes late season I have found only just a one hour time slot throughout the whole day when the big fish will even consider biting. Other observations would be that some lakes fish late season much better than others. I don't have all the patterns figured out completely yet, but always keep track of everything- weather, pressure, temperature, snow cover, etc and am getting closer to knowing what makes fish tick in each individual lake.

I spent more than 30 days out on the ice this winter and Tuesday would rank as the third worst day of fishing for the whole year. I felt really bad that I didn't even get pictures of the guys I was fishing with because we never caught a fish worthy of standing to take a picture.

We ended up getting some fish to eat, but the big boys just wouldn't bite.

Nothing is more frustrating than knowing there are bunches of huge fish below and not being able to get them to bite! Especially when the weather just seemed so perfect for ice fishing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crappie City USA

Wednesday morning we headed towards Otter Creek at 7 am. For those who don't know, Otter Creek is quickly becoming one of the best mult-species fishing lakes in the country. It is a very young series of lakes encompassing more than 225 acres of water. Here is some more info: HB Featured Property- Otter Creek.

Anyhow, we were on the big lake by 8 am and it took Cam all of 20 seconds to land his first crappie of the day. His minnow didn't even make it 4 feet down before it got slammed. By the time everyone else even got a bait in the water, Cam and his dad had 8 crappies laying on the ice!

Let me tell you a little bit about Cam. He is in the 6th grade and is a diehard fish catching machine! He was also supposed to be in school. We made sure that he learned more in his day out in the outdoors than any day of school. We talked about the Science of fish behavior under the ice, the Art of catching fish, and did bunches of Math counting crappies! 69 average ones in one bucket and 37 big ones filled his other bucket!

Here he is concentrating on getting the fish to bite!

Not a bad day of crappie fishing for just 2 guys!

We didn't just focus on crappies today either. We went after and caught some nice perch, bass, and bluegills too!

We had a cookout on the ice for lunch! Man was it ever a feast!! Something about cooking outside on the ice in calm, sunny 50 degree weather that just makes good food taste amazing!

As you can see in the cooking picture above, we had a pretty good group out on the ice today. Cam and his dad weren't the only ones to find active schools of fish. Here are the rest of the pictures:

Jake and Dave found a huge fishing reef (strategically placed) in 26 foot of water and were smokin huge crappies with plastics just 5 feet below the ice!

If you combine everything from today- the perfect weather, great people, scenic setting, awesome food, quantity, quality, and diversity of the fish caught, you pretty much end up with about as good of a day ice fishing as it gets anywhere in the world! The only complaint possible would be that there were places on the ice with 6 inches of slush/water and it made moving around just a bit inconvenient.