Thursday, February 23, 2012

Illinois' Best Guided Fishing Trips

Here is the list of the very best guided fishing opportunities in the entire state of Illinois! We have put together over 30 guided trips with the best fishing guides and fishing water in central Illinois. These trips will be available for purchase as silent auction items at the Elmwood All Outdoors Show March 3-4, 2012 and then live auction on Monday, March 5th at EP's Timeout in East Peoria.

The dinner and auction is our main fundraiser for the year and is a different format this year. No advanced reservations or tickets needed, but the suggested donation is $100 per family or simply sign up to volunteer at the park this upcoming season. The event is casual, open house style and should be alot of fun so please come on down to hang out, learn more about the fishing park, and win a fishing trip of a lifetime!

All proceeds from these trips will go towards our 2012 operating expenses at the Hooked On Fishing Park in East Peoria. All guides, fishing clubs, and organizations have donated their time and expertise to make this annual fundraiser possible. Make sure to check out their pictures, websites, and descriptions below!

Welcome to the 2012 Auction of "Catch A Dream" fishing trips. Proceeds from the auction will fund the operations of Hooked on Fishing Park. Visit our booth at the Elmwood Show to win a free trip of a lifetime and also attend the event March 5th for another chance to win a free trip!

To place a bid or buy now, you may email your bid to us at or call us at 309-219-3560. Check, Master Card and Visa are accepted.

Buy Now Price: $5,000 Starting Bid Price $2,000 Current Bid $2250

Host Bob Fortner welcomes you and up to 3 guests (total 4 people) to the beautiful blue waters of the Florida Keys for 3 days of the very best sportfishing you will ever encounter. You will be spending your days on the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean catching Yellowtail, Grouper, Mahi Mahi, and other species guaranteed to make memories that will last a lifetime. The all-inclusive trip includes meals, lodging, boat, guide, and all fishing equipment and bait. (Transportation to the Keys not included). Expires May 31, 2013. I have been fishing in the keys with Bob and his GPS numbers a couple times and he has those fish dialed in! Unbelievable opportunity of a lifetime!! He knows everyone on the island and they all bring over lobsters and stone crab claws to hang out in the evening!! To read about one of my trips with Bob: Florida Keys Adventure


Buy Now Price: $300 Starting Bid Price $100

Experienced stream fisherman and columnist John Graham will guide 2 people for a half day of exciting smallmouth bass fishing on your choice of the Mackinaw or Vermillion Rivers. Learn stream fishing techniques for catching trophy smallies. Try your hand at tackling “the gamiest fish that swims”. You need to bring clothes/shoes for wet wading, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, fishing license, and rod and reel (if available). Expires August 31, 2012. I have been fishing with Jonn for about 5 years now and let me just say spending some time with him on the water is a must if you want to become a better fisherman. Call him at 309-399-7055 with any questions or to order some of his famous swim jigs!


Buy Now Price: $350 Starting Bid Price $150

Professional guide Thad Hinshaw will guide 2 people for a full day of Muskie fishing on beautiful Lake Evergreen. Try your hand at tackling the largest freshwater fish the Midwest has to offer. You will learn from the best as Thad shares the newest tactics and some old standby techniques to give you the greatest chance of landing the elusive Muskies. He provides boat, rods and reels, lures, and tackle. He also provides lunch, drinks, and snacks to make your day complete. You need to bring a fishing license, sunglasses, raingear, and camera. Expires October 31, 2012. Thad is ranked as one of the top 5 muskie guides in all of Illinois! Lake Evergreen is your chance for a state record on any cast!! Visit his website for more information about him and his guide service!

4 and 5. FISH THE “ROCK”:

Buy Now Price: $600 CURRENT BID $125

Your host will be Chris Rock of Princeville who will treat two people to a full day of fishing at his private lakes. Chris will escort you on these well-stocked waters that will guarantee you have non-stop action all day long. Your host will provide boat, bait, and fun. You bring your enthusiasm, fishing equipment, lunch and license. Expires October 31, 2012. These are some of my favorite lakes to fish and manage! More 5 lb+ bass came out of Rocks lakes last year than any other lake in Central Illinois. These lakes and fish are young and are going to produce a double digit bass in 2012! We guide ice fishing alot at these lakes in the winter.


Buy Now Price: $400 per boat, limit 10 boats Starting Bid Price $250 per boat (max. 3 people per boat)

If you like fast action and excitement, this is the trip for you. This is a full-day, two-lake fishing extravaganza. Get your buddies with boats together for a day of fishing you guys will never forget! Chef Todd will take care of all the details including shore lunch and a gourmet dinner. Chef will make sure each boat is catching fish!

You need to bring your boat, fishing equipment, bait, rain gear, license and camera. Since Chef will be preparing the meals, you will also need to clean your own fish at the fish cleaning station or take them home. Maximum of 10 boats will be booked for this day. Book yourself for just one of the boats and meet new fisherman or book all 10 slots for a private fishing party of a lifetime. The rain or shine date for this trip is Saturday, May 26, 2012. Otter Creek boasts over 250 acres of the most intensively managed fishing water in the midwest. Over 12 species of trophy gamefish lurk beneath those amazing waters! Chefs meals at this place are also legendary!! End of May everything will be on FIRE!!

Buy Now Price: $500 Starting Bid Price $150

Well-known sportsman Kelly Presley from Presley’s Outdoors will be your guide. You and a guest (2 people total) are in for a full day of largemouth bass fishing on productive private waters in nearby Fulton County. You can count on a full creel when Kelly takes you to his hotspots. Bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Kelly will provide the boat, guide service, and bait. Expires October 31, 2012. If you dont have your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, etc then make sure to visit Kelly at his bait shop and outdoor world in Bartonville before the trip and he will personally make sure you have all the right gear! The winner of this trip will receive 15% off their entire purchase on the day of the trip so be sure to head over to Presley's to get outfitted for the year!


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

This is your chance to learn how to catch Walleye and Sauger on the Illinois River from a championship walleye fisherman and well-known guide Rick Parrott. This is a full-day trip for 2 people. Get educational instruction on effective tactics, river fishing, pulling cranks, lead core, etc. Rick provides the invaluable knowledge for catching Walleye, the boat, and bait. Bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Expires October 31, 2012.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Do you know how to fly fish? Here is your chance to learn. Two people can spend a full day learning from a pro. Duane Serck has fished in tournaments all over the Midwest, and he loves teaching anglers the tricks to successful fly fishing. Duane says “My family had a place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when I was a teenager. That is the place that made me fall in love in fly fishing. “ Duane will furnish the boat, necessary tackle, and bait. Bring your fishing license, rain gear, and lunch. Expires October 31, 2012. Duane is a good friend of mine and an accomplished multi-species angler! If you want to learn to fly fish or target a specific species with the fly rod, he is the man to get er done! Check out his website


Buy Now Price: $1000 Starting Bid Price $750

You will be a star when you invite your friends to your fishing party at the Hooked on Fishing Park. You and your friends can enjoy all of the park facilities and fish, fish, fish. Of course we provide everything you need. You won’t go away hungry either; we have Chef Todd lined up to cook an awesome delicious meal for 25 people. You know your party will be a hit, and you will feel right at home at the Hooked on Fishing Park. Just bring your guests and we will furnish the rest. Expires October 31, 2012. Please book your date by May 1, 2012. We did several of these events last year and they were all a huge success!!


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Now what angler is not always looking for a killer bass bait? Well Chad Fargler from Bass Pro Shop will show you how to use the Senko and other top bass lures and get results you will be bragging about for a long time. They call it fishing, but the goal is catching. After a full day with Chad teaching you about the Senko, you will know all the secrets that Chad has to tell. This trip is for 2 people. Chad will provide the boat, fishing tackle, and bait. You bring your fishing license, rain gear, and lunch. Expires October 31, 2012. Chad guides for me in the summers on my clients own properties! He is a phenominal guide and very patient teacher! While Bass fishing is his forte, I cant help but post this insane crappie pic of him. Anyhow, Chad will be guiding this summer so if you miss out on this trip and want some private instruction on your own water just get ahold of him or me anytime.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Get ready for action. Ryan Ortega, Berkley Fishing Representative, is ready to show you how to get maximum results. He will host 2 people for a full day of fishing on private, well-stocked waters. These waters produce BIG bass. You will love the thrill of the fight with BIG largemouth bass. Provided for you on this trip is the boat, bait, and Ryan’s expert knowledge. You bring your fishing license, rain gear, and lunch. Expires October 31, 2012. I havent open water fished with Ryan yet, but have spent some time ice fishing with him and he knows his stuff! I am sure he will hook you up with some Berkely baits too for this fishing trip!


Buy Now Price: $600 Starting Bid Price $200

Now here is a chance for something different. How about some Salmon fishing with Pastor Bill Brown on Lake Michigan! One Day of salmon fishing lake michigan for two people. Friday or Saturday when the fish are biting! Limit is 5 salmon per person and springtime fills the cooler. Pastor Bill is the pastor at Lexington Community Church and he is an avid multi-species angler. He loves meeting new people just as much as salmon fishing!!. Pastor Brown will provide the boat, guide service, and bait. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Expires October 31, 2012. Pastor Bill has been a mentor to me since I first spoke at one of his Faithful Fisherman meetings back a few years ago. We have been fishing together since and I can't wait to get up Salmon fishing with him this spring! Also of note is that the winner of this trip can opt for a second day of fishing at the full buy it now price. The second day would be the same weekend as the first day, so it would be a Friday/Saturday cause the preacher preaches on Sundays. Also you would need to make accomodations for the Friday night, Pastor stays in a small hotel near the harbor.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Have you ever caught a Muskie? If your answer is “no” then you will want this trip. If your answer is “yes” then you will definitely want to relive that experience. This trip offers a full day of Muskie fishing with pro fisherman, acclaimed guide and outdoor writer Dan Vinovich. This trip is for 2 people. Provided for you on this trip is the boat, bait, and Dan’s expert knowledge. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Expires October 31, 2012. Dan puts more muskie in the boat at Spring Lake than any other guide or angler! Here is a website about Dan and his accomplishments: Walleyes Inc The site is a bit dated, but nonetheless you can learn a ton from fishing with Dan, plus he is oftentimes booked up so this is your chance to secure your spot!

15. Shabonna, LaSalle, or Illinois River Multi-Species Trip:

Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Fishing Guide Pete Riedesel can show you around the lake of your choice and teach you how to target multiple species of fish on each water body. With Pete’s expert knowledge you are sure to catch plenty of fish! This full day fishing trip can accommodate two people. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Pete will provide the boat and bait. Expires October 31, 2012. Pete writes for Heartland Outdoors website and operates a fishing guide service when not teaching students at school. Be sure to check out his blog posts and call him up to book a trip or just talk fishin! Fishing Friend Guide Service (815) 433-6109

16. McLEAN COUNTY FISHING with Matt Cheever!:

Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Avid anglers and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy this full day fishing trip to learn some secrets to fishing McLean Counties most popular fishing lakes. Your choice, 1/2 day Lake Bloomington and 1/2 day Lake Evergreen or full day on either, or it can be a gametime decision based on where the hot bite is. Matt fishes for crappie, muskie, walleye, saugeye, and stripers!! Well-known outdoorsman and outdoor writer Matt Cheever is your host. Matt says, “I was born and raised in Central Illinois, residing here all my life. I’ve been an avid fisherman since my teen years and it seems like the hobby became an addiction.” He will share his vast knowledge of fishing with others who are addicted to fishing. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, sunglasses, and rain gear. Matt will provide the boat, bait, and lunch at Green Gables restaurant conveniently located near both lakes. Expires October 31, 2012. Here is one of the most interesting trips of the bunch! Matt's gentle demeanor and passion for enjoying God's great creation is the combination for a perfect day exploring outside! Matt not only will teach how to fish, but he has a perfect recipe for everything under the sun. I enjoy reading about all of his adventures and recipes on Heartland Outdoors!

17. MISSION OAK HIS/HERS GETAWAY (with fishing):

Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

You will be the guest of Denny and Jan Reed for a one-night getaway stay in a deluxe suite for a husband and wife at the Mission Oak Inn in Henry, IL. Enjoy a half-day guided fishing trip or you can self-guide using the mini pontoon boat. Mission Oak is an acclaimed B&B that has been named one of the top 10 “culinary get-aways” out of 12,000 B&B’s worldwide. They have one of the best fishing lakes in the area plus their accommodations are world class. Their 7 acre lake is as good as it gets anywhere. You bring your fishing license and fishing equipment. Expires October 31, 2012 When I first stepped foot on their property I knew immediately that someone had worked very hard in creating a paradise on earth. This is IT folks and its only a few miles north of Peoria. Check out their website for more information about this bed and breakfast gem: A world class bed and breakfast that cooks food that impressed Chef Todd and have a fishing lake that impressed me.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

This private fishing and camping club in Victoria, IL has some outstanding fishing. Over 10 pristine lakes to fish with hardly any fishing pressure! Your host Cody can accommodate two people on this bass fishing adventure. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Cody will provide the boat and insure that you have fun-filled day of fishing and exploring remote lakes. Expires October 31, 2012 Gamber Cove is perhaps the best kept secret for the serious fisherman in the area. Ray Gamber offers a handful of yearly fishing memberships to his fishing paradise!


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Accomplished fisherman, guide, and custom rod builder Paul Center will guide 2 people for a half day of fishing on your choice of Evergreen Lake or Lake Bloomington. Let Paul guide you to the best spots and show you his winning fishing techniques. Paul will provide the boat, rods and reels, lures, and all tackle. You should bring your fishing license, sunglasses, rain gear, and camera. Expires October 31, 2012. Paul made a custom muskie fishing rod for me a few years back that is just too pretty to use, anyhow Paul is the multi-species king of the local public bodies of water! (he also makes multi-species rods too that are just awesome!) Check out his website for more info:


Buy Now Price: $600 Starting Bid Price $200

You can’t miss with this trip. Larry and Linda Dozard along with Russ and Janice Nash of Hoss's Hawg Catfish bait and Gun Creek Fin, Fur and Feathers Sportsmens Club will host this over-night trip to Rend Lake for two anglers. Spend a half day catching great catfish on beautiful Rend Lake and learn the secrets of using the most popular dip bait available. Over-night accommodations provided by Ric Barth at Gun Creek are also included to make this an awesome fishing package! You bring your fishing license, your favorite fishing pole, and rain gear. Larry and Russ will provide the boat, tackle, and bait. The date of this trip is June 9th, 2012. After a great day of fishing, the gang will also have a fish fry that evening, to create the ultimate Rend lake experience at Gun Creek! What an awesome opportunity to fish with Larry at and Russ of


Buy Now Price: $500 Starting Bid Price $150

Here is your chance to be a star on the Hook and Hunt TV show. Jim Crowley will host 2 people on a fishing trip like none other. This is a half-day trip. TONS of fun to remember forever and share the experience with friends and family. You bring your fishing license and Jim will provide all the equipment. Expires October 31, 2012. Now this is a fun opportunity! Filming a fishing show has to be on your bucket list, nows the time to get er done! Check out for more information about Jim and his show.


Buy Now Price: $1000 Current Bid Price $290

Here it is….access to some of the finest fishing anywhere. Nate Herman will be your guide and your host to an incredible day of multi-species fishing. Yourself and up to 3 guests (4 total) can enjoy this private 33 acre fishing lake abundantly stocked with a large variety of game fish, including hybrid striped bass and smallmouth bass, guaranteed to challenge anglers of all abilities! Lets kick back on the pontoon boat and talk fish while targeting more than 10 different species all in the same day. You can bring your own gear if desired, but Nate will provide everything including the license, photographs, fish cleaning and food and drinks. Expires October 31, 2012. I know this Nate guy and his lake is pretty good fishing....check out his website for more information about how him and his brothers can help transform your property into your very own world class fishing and hunting spot.


Buy Now Price: $400 Current Bid SOLD

Jeff Lampe needs no introduction. This well-known sports writer and outdoorsman has access to lakes most of us could only dream of. This mystery trip will provide a full day of fishing fun and adventure for two people His guests should arrive ready for a once in a lifetime adventure, and bring with them fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Jeff will provide the boat and bait. Expires October 31.2012. This trip being a mystery makes it that much more fun!!! If you havent fished or hunted with Jeff yet, get er done. He will retire a legend in the state of Illinois as perhaps the most influencial outdoor writer of his time.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Talk about fun……what could be more fun than a full-day fishing trip on the private Belser Farms lake near Canton. The Bluegill and Crappie are big and feisty and they are sure to give you a thrill. Your host Brad Belser knows the lake well, so with Brad as your guide you are sure to find the honey holes. This trip can accommodate two people. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Brad will provide the boat and bait. Expires October 31, 2012. I shocked this huge lake a few years back and it was full of awesome crappies and bluegills near the 1 lb mark! Since then the lake has been stocked with smallmouth bass that should be getting very nice sized as well!! Brad is famous for shooting huge deer and harvesting tons of waterfowl, but dont be fooled, he knows fish too.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

This full-day trip can accommodate two people. Your host Mike O’Bryan will insure that you have fun fishing for bass and panfish. Have your camera ready to record all of your trophy catches on this private lake that is carefully managed to provide optimum fishing. You will be one of the lucky ones who gets to fish these waters. Bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, and rain gear. Mike will provide the lunch, boat and bait. Expires October 31, 2012. I hear stories of baskets full of huge panfish from these waters, somebody win this trip and let me know if they are true!


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

When it comes to fishing the Illinois River, who would know it better than local fisherman Ron Boyer? This is your chance to get out on the Illinois River and let Ron show you where the fish are hiding and how to catch them. You are sure to be pleased and amazed at the good fishing that is available on the Illinois River. This is an all-day trip for two people. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Ron will provide the boat and bait. Expires October 31, 2012.


Buy Now Price: $400 Starting Bid Price $150

Let Bigi Bizliazzi help you land some BIG fish on this Illinois River. With his unparalleled fishing experience, Bigi will guide you to where you find the BIG ones. This is an all-day fishing trip for two people. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Bigi will provide the boat and bait. Expires October 31, 2012.


Buy Now Price: $500 Starting Bid Price $200

No experience needed, but if you are an experienced fisherwoman you will also enjoy this trip. Regardless of your level of experience, YOU WILL CATCH FISH. This half-day trip is for up to four ladies, and your host is Mike O’Rielly. Mike will even bait your hooks and take your fish off. You have all the fun and he does all the work. No need to bring anything but your enthusiasm. Mike provides the boat, fishing gear, bait, fishing tackle, and anything else you might need. Lunch is also included. Expires October 31, 2012. Ladies, you will catch fish on this trip that will make your husbands jealous!! (Mike, you need to have Carol email me some ladies fishing pics to insert here. All my lady fishing pics from Otter are from the winter time).


Buy Now Price: $500 Starting Bid Price $200

Give the kids a fishing adventure they will long remember. The well-stocked lakes at Otter Creek will mean non-stop action. Up to six kids age 8 to 16 can come to the lake for a half day of fishing. Eveything they need will be provided including lunch. Your host is Mike O’Rielly Expires October 31, 2012. Kids must be accompanied by parent or guardian. When I was a kid this would have been my dream come true and highlight of my childhood. (MIke, again send pic for here)


Buy Now Price: $800 Starting Bid Price $150

Here is your chance to fish Hidden Lakes. Rob Jockish will make this full-day fishing adventure a dream come true. The well-stocked lakes will give up lots fish to provide fish stories to tell for years to come. This trip is for two people. This is your chance to experience the outstanding fishing at Hidden Lakes. You bring your fishing license, fishing equipment, rain gear, and lunch. Rob will provide the boat and bait. Expires October 31, 2012 Hidden Lakes is truly that- a bunch of hidden lakes. There is just too much water there to fish in a lifetime, let alone one fishing day. Nevertheless, this is one of the most exclusive best fishing properties not just in Illinois, but in the nation. Dont miss this opportunity to get inside these gates for a day!

If you are a fishing guide or have a fishing lake and would like to get involved with this event in the future to help out the fishing park, be sure to contact us at I hope to see you all at the auction Monday night and be sure to bring the family or some friends. Also stop by the fishing park booth at the Elmwood Show or just stop by the park sometime to check it out. Please support us at the park and also these guides and folks for helping make this awesome event possible!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vacation Wrap Up, Back to Work

On Monday we got on the Carnival Elation at the Port of New Orleans. I have never been on a cruise before and let me tell you it far exceeded my expectations!

We traveled all night and all day Tuesday and got off the ship Wednesday morning in Progreso, Mexico. Progreso is pretty much a dump, we paid a guy $10 per adult to take us to a "nice" beach. The beach really wasnt that nice, but we made the most of it had fun playing in the sand.

Then Thursday morning we got off the ship at Cozumel. Cozumel is sweet! First we took the kids to Chankanaab State Park and swam with the dolphins and snorkeled in the ocean on the beach and swam in their very nice pool while eating nachos, burritos, and quesadillas! Now let me just say that Cozumel has it all figured out in terms of how to run a world class state park. That place was amazing and very well kept! I think I need to take the Illinois govt officials down there for a few days to show them how to run a state park!! It costed $16 just to get in, but was well worth it!

Here is a pic of the pool overlooking the ocean:

Then at noon we went over to Paradise Beach to check out their facilities! Again very nice! It costed $2 to get into Paradise Beach and $12 for those who did the watersports. We stayed there till 4pm and then headed back to the cruise ship. We loved the beach and the huge pool there:

So anyhow on the cruise ship, the kids absolutely loved the kids programs on board the ship. It was called camp carnival and they had nonstop activities for the kids to do anytime they wanted from 10 am to 10 pm! We usually just did the evening programs at camp carnival so we could enjoy the nice formal dinners in the dining room. The food was actually really good which surprised me! Here are some of the kids after one of their programs:

Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and all the inbetween snacks far exceeded my expectations! Pizza, Deli Sandwiches, Paninis, and Ice Cream were available 24 hrs per day! We ate ice cream cones and had hot chocolate several times each day!!!

This was by far the most relaxing, easy vacations I have ever been on. Im not saying I would want that all the time, because we are generally pretty adventureous by nature, but I can definitely see myself going on another cruise again sometime in the future. It really is much cheaper than you might think if your flexible on your dates and can travel at nontypical vacation times. We were able to take this 5 day cruise all inclusive for everything but alcohol for $211 per person plus tax which came to $247 per person! Normal rate during a busy travel time is around $450 per person. I can guarantee you that I ate well more than $247 worth of food in those 5 days. I had three lobsters and tons of shrimp on lobster night alone and it was some of the best lobster I have ever had. (and Ive eaten em fresh caught from Boston, Key West, and the Caribbean).

If you drive to New Orleans which is a very easy drive from Central Illinois you dont even need to get a plane ticket. Plane tickets alone to Florida would cost more than that cruise did per person!

So we got off the ship Saturday morning at 9 am and I drove to the dry ice company, picked up the fish meat and headed for home. I was home about midnight and spend the day Sunday just getting settled back at home and took one last nap before the spring Marathon begins.

Its only Feb 13th and we are swamped already at the office. We ship lake and pond supplies all across the nation on a daily basis, actually is a major part of our business. Anyhow the spring rush down south has begun a couple weeks early this year and we are well ahead of last year at this time! Not only that, but the warm weather up here as well has our local season way ahead of schedule and clients are already chomping at the bit to get their lakeside projects rolling. For the most part we are already booked up solid for 2012 which is an awesome blessing, but now we just got to buckle down and get er done!! Just a couple more months of 80 hour weeks and I am gonna be ready for another vacation already.

Chef Todd Mississippi River Fishing Article

Chef Todd Kent (for those who don't know) does alot of guiding and cooking for my clients at their properties and on their lakes. Also he writes several columns in Heartland Outdoors Magazine and has a cooking segment feature coming up in Pond Boss Magazine in the near future. Anyhow here is a little article of his that just got Published in Eddy Magazine February issue.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Family Fun in New Orleans Before the Cruise

Our New Orleans adventure started out Friday morning at 3 am when we loaded up 4 minivans with 12 adults and 13 kids and headed out of Central Illinois. We found a great deal on a nice hotel in Gretna, Louisiana just across the Mississippi River from the heart of New Orleans. There is a free ferry that crosses the river just 1/2 mile down. Here is a pic of the Holiday Inn Westbank we stayed at:

We picked this place cause it was $100 per night cheaper than all the New Orleans hotels, plus it offered free parking for us while there and while at the cruise. Parking at New Orleans hotels is $25-$40 per night and parking at the Port for the cruise is $80 per vehicle. The Holiday Inn Westbank Tower is the way to go if cruising out of New Orleans!!

We are cruising on Carnivals Elation and heading out Monday and getting back on Saturday morning. Cruising (and New Orleans) is a first for all of us in this group but my mom and dad. We are super excited for a week of nothing but eating, sleeping, and having fun!!

So anyhow we arrived at the Hotel about 4 pm Friday afternoon and ate dinner at the RoundHouse Grill connected to the hotel. Just an average dinner there, nothing to write home about, but the convenience was well worth it!

Saturday morning us guys went out deep sea fishing down in Venice with Captain Josh Howard of Deep South Charters. You can see the pics and read about that adventure here at Nate's Fishing Blog

While the guys were out deep sea fishing in Venice, the gals and the kids had a fun day at the Hotel pool and the Oak something shopping center just 3/4 mile away!
Here is a pic that got texted to me while I was out in the boat fishing:

Anyhow we got back late Saturday night and crashed! The women stayed up and played some games or something but Sunday is when our downtown family fun New Orleans adventure began! Most people would think we are crazy for taking 13 kids under 10 years old for a day of exploring the heart of New Orleans, but while it may be true that we are indeed crazy, New Orleans was surprisingly accomodating for our group!!

First we all boarded the Ferry to cross the Mississippi. It was free and the kids absolutely loved that boat ride!!

Then we walked 2 blocks to the Audobon Aquarium and Imax theater! We bought a combo pass that also included the Insectarium and Zoo! That costed $35 per adult and $19 per child. Was well worth the price! The aquarium was AWESOME and the kids absolutely loved the hour long Imax 3D movie about African Lions!

Drake is two and he was glued to the screen for the whole thing!

The aquarium had a bird exhibit that the kids loved! For $1 you could feed the birds with a bird seed stick:

Drake loved the aquarium. I have much better pics of the sharks, etc but I am on the cruise ship right now and using the last bit of wireless internet signal from my Iphone before I have to buy Carnival internet. I actually downloaded these photos from the hotel room early this morning so I wouldnt have to do that on the cruise ship!

So from the Aquarium we started walking down Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans on our way to the St Charles trolley. En route we stopped at an Arbys! About 6 blocks later and we were at the trolley. It costed $27.50 for our group to board and it was again well worth it! The kids loved that few mile ride down to the zoo.

The Zoo was again surprisingly awesome and we ended up staying a bit too late. Only one pic of Drake eating a corn dog in front of the flamingos. The girls took hundreds of pictures though...

Anyhow it was about 5 pm before we got back on the Trolley and here we are in New Orleans after dark with 13 kids ages 6 months to 10 years old! We eventually made it back to the Ferry which runs from 6 am to 12 am daily. We made it back to the Hotel about 7 pm and ordered pizza and watched the Super Bowl.

The pizza we actually ordered from the Hotel restaurant and believe it or not it was actually awesome pizza. They hand make it or home make it or whatever you want to call it, but there is a meal worth writing home about!!

We made it to the Port of New Orleans about 10 am this morning to load up on the cruise. We dropped off all the gear and kids and then a couple of us guys drove our vehicles the 5 miles back to the hotel and took a $22 taxi back to meet up with the rest of the group.

We boarded the cruise and have been having a ball ever since getting on! The kids have already had the adventure of their lifetime and the fun has just begun!! We ate the buffet for lunch, the kids swam and then we explored the ship and ate our 6 pm 5 course meal. From there the kids went to orientation at Camp Carnival and they have been playing games there ever since!

Drake and I finally went back to the room about 9 pm and he conked out immediately. I am writing while I am waiting for the kids to come back and tell me all about it! I stayed with them for about an hour and they were right at home dancing and playing games. I cant believe they are still out partying, its already 2 hours past their normal bedtime! Maybe, hopefully, lets just pray they sleep in tomorrow morning!

Guys, this vacation is a must do, especially with kids and the entire family! It is far different than anything we have ever done before. Normally we are camping or staying near a body of water for our vacations. This is the first time we really are tourists.....

Oh yeah, instead of shipping all our fish meat back home, I found a company in New Orleans called Louisiana Dry Ice and Shipping. An awesome small company who is going to flash freeze and prep our fish meat for us to pick up and transport home ourselves on Saturday. The quality of the meat is going to be so much better than me just UPS shipping home the fish on ice. Also we saved a ton of money!! Anyhow I am also going to load up on sweet potato pies and poor boy spicy sausages from them before heading out on Saturday!!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Venice Offshore Fishing Report with Pics

Full moon this first weekend in February and all the charter boat captains were booked up for Saturday because of the potential for a great wahoo bite. That all changed when the waves were predicted to be a rough 4-6' offshore for Saturday. Captain Josh called me up while we were eating at the Holiday Inn Roundhouse Grill Friday night and said pretty much all the captains were cancelling their trips for both Saturday and Sunday due to the weather.

Most sensible, normal people would have canceled too, but Josh knew who he was dealing with, with our group and it took us all of 5 minutes to change our plans and head to Venice early Saturday as opposed to Sunday morning for a deap sea fishing trip! Let me just say Captain didnt pressure us into going at all, he just presented an opportunity and explained that we would be some of the only idiots heading out that day....

We were staying at the Holiday Inn in Gretna and headed towards Venice at 3 am. We left an hour earlier than normal cause we hadn't made that trip before, anyhow we got to the Venice Marina at 4:30 am and werent meeting the Captain till 5:30. We just drank coffee with the one legged marina guard and soaked in the sights and sounds of the ocean air...Also once the marina actually opened up we got our fishing licenses and purchased every kind of motion sickness pill and concoction that they had on their shelves. Dramamine, Bonine, herbal motion sickness cough drops, all natural motion sickness inhalers, and some snickers bars (comfort food).

Only 4 other boats headed out with us that morning on what normally would have been a very busy day at the dock. It was a very foggy and rather chilly ride out the Mississippi to the oil rigs that litter the Gulf of Mexico in that area. We headed out a few miles and stopped off at a rig and put out two rods to see if the wahoo were around...about 5 minutes and we were hooked up with what turned out to be a nice Jack Crevaille:

One more circle around the rig and we were hooked up again with a large fish that fought alot like a big amberjack according to the captain so once it shook our lure free, we immediately changed our technique. Instead of trolling big bomber lures for wahoo we dropped large live mullet down about 50 feet. Overall it was about 130 feet deep at that first rig, but the big amberjacks hang out about halfway down.

It took all of 1 minute for our 1/2 lb mullet to get nailed and 10 minutes later we had our first tasty amberjack in the cooler:

Next Justin dropped down and again 30 seconds for the AJ to nail the bait! Justins fish was about a 15 minute battle and it was a monster amberjack!! By far the biggest we have ever caught:

We basically just took turns dropping the big live mullet down until we each put a big AJ in the fish box.

The limit for Amberjack is one per person so we got our 6 and headed out to try some more rigs for Wahoo. Our fresh live mullet were caught from the marina with just a couple casts of the cast net. Mullet actually isnt the preferred bait, but this time of year bait is a bit harder to come by as opposed to during the summertime....

We were marking lots of wahoo at the rigs, but for whatever reason we could only get this one little guy to actually bite. Yep, this actually is a little wahoo for this time of year around the rigs of Venice:

The other boats out werent able to get the wahoo to bite either so we changed gears again and went to the salt dome for some tuna fishing. The salt dome is an area where 400 feet of water comes up to a basically a big hump about 200 feet deep. The currents hitting this hump causes a bunch of bait to congregate here and you all know what happens when bait congregates.....

This area was absolutely full of all kinds of fish! Amazing, really. The routine was to catch king mackerals, bonita, and various other fish and chop them up to form a chum slick. Then we would hook up a piece of chum and slowly let line out hand over hand to keep our bait looking exactly like a piece of chum slowly falling thru the water column. It usually only took about 2 minutes to get a bite with this method, but sometimes you would watch the fish eat it instantly right under the boat.
Here is a pic of one of the two small yellowfins we caught:

We caught 7 sharks over 6 feet long, king mackeral, bonitas, two yellowfin tuna and a handful of blackfin tuna. You tried hard to get your bait down away from the sharks and king macks, but they were just everywhere we went. We couldnt get away from them, but when they didnt break the line they were alot of fun to catch. About 2 pm and our arms were pretty much shot. We were very tired and I guess our legs were too. By no means were we about to give up though, times like this you just dig deep.....

We took some video of the trip and even quite a bit of underwater video of all the sharks we landed at the boat, but it will take a few weeks to get that footage online. Normally I would have had a billion pictures of all the species of fish we caught, but nobody was interested in posing for pictures, they just wanted to fish.

Anyhow it was getting late and we were just about ready to head in about 4:30 pm when we hooked 'the fish'. You know the fish that your out there after, the one you dream about all year long or your whole life! This was the one and we literally hooked it on the last drop.

Chad hooked it and after about 15 minutes he handed the rod off to Dave. Keep in mind we are exhausted from nonstop reeling in fish all day. When you only offshore fish once a year, you just are not prepared for battling strong fish all day long, and I dont care how strong you are or how good of shape your in....Anyhow about 25 minutes later and the sun is setting and Dave hands off the rod to Justin.

25 minutes later and the sun is really setting and is pretty much gone and Justin doesnt really have anyone to hand the rod off too. Dad was too exhausted, and Jared and I just landed 250 lb sharks each during that last drop of Chads. (we actually had a triple header going for the first part of Chads battle. Anyhow Justin decided to man up and fight the fish.

He fought and fought and fought and we were following this fish around with the boat for a long time. By now its about 6 pm and we have the fish within 30 feet of the boat, but its too dark to see what it is. The fish decided to go for one last major run and was able to get around the front of the boat before Justin did and that little bit of friction finally snapped the 130 lb test line! Talk about being oh so close to a fish of a lifetime!!!!

The ride in was very interesting. Not only were the seas rough and it was dark, but the fog decided to roll in as well. Its times like these when your thankful to have a world class captain who grew up in these waters guiding your ship. A weekend guide or pretty much anyone else wouldnt really make it back safely or at all...

Oh yeah I forgot to mention the rain that also came along with the fog, darkness, and rough seas. Yep, it was a very cold and soaking rain. One of those things that make the trip a full blown adventure that will help embed it into your mind forever. One of the jokes in the ride back to New Orleans that night about how I dont remember how long it actually rained for because all I remember is the beginning and ending of the rain because I just found a happy place to get me through....find a happy place, find a happy place.....

I brought a cooler so big it barely fit in the trunk of my mini van and we filled it up completely with some unbelievably tasty fish! I found a dry ice and seafood shipping company in New Orleans where I am going to package up the fish and ship it home Monday morning before getting on the cruise ship. The fish meat will make it home before we do and my grandpa Herman is going to take good care of it for us in the mean time.

Speaking of the cruise, thats really what this family vacation was all about, the fishing trip was just something we threw in at the last minute. Im sure I will throw in some New Orleans details and cruise details in the days to come for those interested in that combination for a family vacation, we really are having a blast and we havent even boarded the ship yet! The guys are happy, the gals are happy, and the kids are happy!

We planned on taking more pics when we got back to the dock, but we didnt plan on it being dark and wet and cold when we got back. (I'm glad I got some while out on the boat, it literally was like pulling teeth to get the guys to hold up a fish for more than 6 seconds). Here is a pic of the amberjacks hanging and some of the tunas to show how one of the blackfins got bitten in half by a shark while reeling it in:

We fished with Captain Josh Howard of Deep South Charters. He flat out knows how to fish and pretty much is the guide all the other guides look to down out of Venice. He has a big network of the best guides out of Venice and knows how to pair up each group of fisherman with the right guide. You want to Tuna fish way off shore at the Lump, he knows the best. You want to bottom fish this region for snappers and groupers, he hooks you up with the right guy. Amberjack, cobia, and the same for pretty much every species of fish including redfish, speckled trout, backwater bowfishing, and even duck hunting- He is or knows the best of the best for everything Venice has to offer. Deep South Charters has you covered from A to Z and can put you on limits of several species all in the same day or weekend!

Here is a cool video showcasing the kind of stuff Deep South does:

We are chomping at the bit to see more of what Venice has to offer during a guys weekend sometime in hopefully the near future! We only barely scratched the surface of everything this place has to offer. Logistically its much easier to get to than the Florida Keys and the deep sea fishing is 1000 times better than Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area! Venice truly is the fishing capital of America and is a very easy straight shot down I-55 from Central Illinois!