The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley, Associated Press
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — From tasty panfish to powerful muskies, Central Illinois has fishing that's hard to beat.
To kick off the 2012 fishing season, The Pantagraph asked some of the area's best anglers to share their favorite lakes. Evergreen Lake in northern McLean County won the prize for being mentioned most often as a favorite destination for a variety of fish.
Here's what everyone had to say:
Geena Norris, president of the Bloomington Normal Bass Club, loves to catch largemouth bass, of course. But her favorite trip is for saugeye, the walleye/sauger hybrid, at Evergreen Lake. The 900-acre reservoir holds the state record saugeye at 9 pounds, 10.5 ounces. Norris likes to use a jig and nightcrawler in June and a crankbait in October to catch the tasty fish.
Jerry Martoglio of Dreamcatcher Guide Service also likes to chase saugeye at Evergreen from May through June on humps. Check out a lake map to find them.
"We had a lot of success last year. All of my trips ended up with limits for my clients," Martoglio said. "The big fish was 6½ pounds."
Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Mike Garthaus mentioned a sleeper saugeye/walleye lake to try: Dawson Lake at Moraine View State Park near LeRoy.
"We are getting nice quality 15-, 16- and 17-inch saugeye," he said.
Evergreen received most votes for crappie, too. When water temperature reaches 50 degrees in spring, look for the fish shallow, Martoglio said. But don't stop then. One December day, he caught his 15-fish limit of crappies on 18 casts. The smallest was 10½ inches. Garthaus said his fish surveys at Evergreen have revealed a strong crappie population with fish averaging 10 to 11 inches.
"Our last survey at Evergreen, our catch rate was 300 per hour. That is off the charts in terms of numbers," he said.
Paul Center of Angling Adventures and Custom Rods enjoys guiding clients for walleye on Lake Bloomington and saugeye at Evergreen.
"I usually say the middle of April to middle of May is the best time to catch a variety of fish," he said. "I like to jig and cast and swim-jig such as hair jig and tubes. I also like to vertical jig with or without a worm or a leech and fish it beneath the boat and cover structure like ledges near deep water or weed lines depending on the time of the year."
He likes the crappie at both lakes.
And again, Garthaus mentioned Dawson, where he rates crappie "good" and improving. He also said anglers should try Clinton Lake near Clinton, which was stocked with black-nosed crappie, which may do better in the hot water of a cooling plant lake than other crappie do.
Terry Brown of Wired2fish.com loves bass.
"My favorite area lake by far is Evergreen. Bloomington is a close second. They offer everything from shallow water cover to docks to grass fishing. I love to fish deep water and Evergreen has creek channels, points and rocks that make it fun too," he said. "My favorite time to fish is hot summer months, when I like to look for deep-water fish. I'll fish big worms, jigs, deep-diver crankbaits and I am always using my electronics to learn more."
Martoglio, long known as one of Illinois' best bass fisherman, likes Lake Bloomington for that species, with the exception of early in the year.
"If I want a lot of bass, I'll go to Spring Lake in Manito from mid-March to the middle of May. And the bonus is I usually catch three or four muskies while I'm bass fishing. That's a great deal," he said.
Jim Crowley, of hookandhunttv.com, suggests Lake Bloomington for hybrid stripers.
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