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 Illinois

  Walleye & Sauger Fishery Status Report  

FEBRUARY 2005

STATUS OF WALLEYE AND SAUGER FISHERY IN ILLINOIS
REGION I

DISTRICT 1: JO DAVIESS, STEPHENSON, WINNEBAGO, BOONE, DEKALB, OGLE, AND CARROLL COUNTIES

SHABBONA LAKE - Shabbona Lake is located in the 1,550-acre Shabbona Lake State Park in the DeKalb area. The lake was built in 1974 and first opened to fishing in 1977.

Walleye stocking was initiated in 1975 but reliable, yearly stocks began in earnest in 1983 from the state hatchery system, rearing ponds, and local sportsmen’s club donations.

From 1992 through 2002 small fingerlings have been added yearly from the state hatchery system, and 19,915, 4-8" large fingerlings have been periodically stocked through angler donations and from a rearing pond located in the park. Additional large fingerlings will be stocked in late 2002 through Sportsmen’s Club donations.

Creel census data were taken in 1988, 1990, and 1997.

The 1988 creel revealed a harvest of 10.2 pounds per acre of walleye that averaged 1.25 pounds under a catch rate of .038 fish per hour. With this catch rate and the publicity it generated, 1989 was a banner fishing year. The 1990 creel census found a lesser harvest of 2.6 pounds per acre of slightly smaller fish that averaged 1.17 pounds under a catch rate of .01 fish per hour.

The 1997 creel data found an estimated 1,623 walleye caught (5.3 per acre) that weighed 1316.4 pounds (4.3 pounds per acre) of fish that averaged .81 pounds. Seventeen and one-half percent of these fish were harvested or an estimated 284 walleye (1 per acre) that weighed 763 pounds (2.5 pounds per acre) of fish that averaged 2.7 pounds.

Shabbona Lake was first explored as a source for brood fish in 1989 when 192 walleye were netted and electrofished in April. The lake became a reliable source of brood fish in 1995 when 42 females between 2.5 to 11 pounds and 107 males between 15.5 to 25.9" up to 6 pounds were taken as brood stock to the LaSalle Hatchery.

From 1996 through 2001, 360 males and 293 females produced 15.9 million walleye and saugeye fry at the LaSalle Hatchery. With other lake being explored as a source of brood fish, Shabbona Lake’s 25 females produced 1,498,000 fry in 2002, and 14 females produced 1,040,000 fry in 2003. A total of 3,024,772 fry were produced in 2004.

The lake’s largest walleye at 9.9 pounds was taken in 2001 with good catches made throughout 2003, and a very good outlook expected for 2005. Most walleye will again be taken on the outer edge of the weed line, in deep timber, and along the dam. There is a minimum size limit of 18" with a catch limit of six per day.

PIERCE LAKE - Pierce Lake is a 162-acre impoundment in the 3,092-acre Rock Cut State Park located northeast of Rockford. The lake was built in 1960 and completely rehabilitated in 1970 following the entire lake drainage due to a faulty valve.

Walleye stocks were sporadic until 1985 when they began appearing on a yearly basis. A walleye study was initiated in 1987 and a muskie study initiated in 1990 by the Illinois Natural History Survey.

From 1992 through 2002, the lake has been stocked with 78,704 - 1 to 2" fingerlings.

A creel survey in 1999 found a harvest of 6.49 pounds per acre of walleye that averaged 1.57 pounds under a catch rate of .013 fish per hour.

Fall day electrofishing typically produces from 5 to 20 walleye per hour. Night electrofishing typically produces about 60 walleye per hour. An April netting survey was first conducted in 2002 to determine if brood fish could be collected. A total of 113 walleye were collected with one female weighing in at 13 pounds. The 2003 survey produced 150 walleye providing nearly 2,000,000 eggs.

One survey below the dam in the tailwaters in July 1998 found 74 walleye up to 22", two surveys in 1999 produced 61 walleye up to 25.7", and three surveys in 2000 again found 61 walleye up to 28.0". With low discharges in 2001 and a 3' drawdown, only 5 walleye were collected below the dam, but the 2002 collections found 55 walleye below the dam with most of them taken after the heavy rain in June. The dry conditions in 2003 with little lake discharge found only one walleye in the tailwaters.

Fishing should be good at Pierce Lake for walleye in 2005 with the best catches off the gravel points, off the submerged island, and along the dam.

DISTRICT 2: ROCK ISLAND, HENRY, BUREAU, LASALLE, LEE, AND WHITESIDE COUNTIES

LAKE CARLTON - Lake Carlton is a small 78 acre lake that has gained its reputation as being the premiere muskie lake in the State. Although the lake has an excellent muskie fishery, it also has a fairly good saugeye fishery. Lake Carlton was stocked annually with 1,900 - 4 inch walleye or 25 per acre until 1992. In 1992, this changed as the lake became a saugeye research lake. Since 1992, the lake has been stocked annually with approximately 25 - 50, 4 inch saugeye per acre. The creel report conducted in 1994 reported 606 man-hours per acre fishing pressure.

Only 122 walleye were caught in 1994 of which 15 were harvested. They averaged 4.9 pounds. Saugeye in the fall of 1997 were collected by night electrofishing at a rate of 13 fish per hour. This is the highest rate walleye or saugeye had been collected. In 1998, saugeye were collected at a new high rate of 37.5 per hour. In 1999, saugeye were collected at a new night rate of 51 fish per hour. In 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, saugeye were collected at 40, 20, 26, 58, and 25 fish per hour, respectively. Lake Carlton will be stocked with saugeye again in 2005. The numbers of quality-size saugeye are improving and 2005 should provide anglers with an excellent saugeye fishing.
LAKE GEORGE - Lake George is a 167 acre lake in Rock Island County. Lake George is developing into one of the premiere muskie lakes in the state. The lake also has a fair population of large walleye. The fishing pressure derived from creels conducted in 1989, 1993, and 1994 reported the fishing pressure to be about 200 man-hours per acre. The creel survey in 1993 reported 86 walleye caught and only 31 harvested. Harvested walleye averaged over 6 pounds.

Lake George was trapnetted for 4 nights in the Spring of 1996. This resulted in the collection of 30 walleye between 1.9 and 9.0 pounds. In 1998, 25 walleye between 3 and 7 pounds were caught in only 10 trapnets. The night electrofishing survey resulted in a record 35 walleye per hour. In 2002, 28 trapnets set overnight resulted in the collection of 45 walleye greater than 14.5 inches.

The walleye population appears to be improving as a result of the lake being stocked annually with approximately 6,680 - 2 inch walleye. Angler harvest has been hampered by someone stocking gizzard shad in the lake in 1990. The shad population has exploded. As a result, the walleye are well-fed and more difficult to catch. Trophy walleye should be available in Lake George in 2005. This lake has a 14 inch minimum length limit with a statewide 6 fish per day creel limit.

DISTRICT 4: PEORIA, FULTON, AND STARK COUNTIES

BANNER MARSH - In 2002, the water level of Banner Marsh remained at approximately 1,200 acres. The three major lakes are Johnson (600 acres), Wheel (350 acres), and Shovel (100 acres). All have concrete boat access ramps and a 25 hp limit.

Walleye have been stocked in Johnson Lake each year since 1987. Fisheries data from 1995-2004 spring trapnet surveys indicate an average walleye population exists. In Johnson Lake, 55 walleye over 16 inches were sampled, with 27 of these over 18 inches in 2003.

Johnson Lake has clear water, extensive aquatic vegetation, rocky points and water depths up to 60 feet. In 2004, the walleye should average 2-7 pounds, with a 10 pound fish possible! A 14 inch minimum length limit and the statewide 6 fish per day creel limit is enforced.

STATUS OF THE WALLEYE AND SAUGER FISHERY IN ILLINOIS
REGIONS 2

DISTRICT 7: LAKE COUNTY

FOX CHAIN O’ LAKES - Walleye have been collected in the Chain by IDNR staff since 1954. Fry stockings were initiated in 1978 to supplement natural reproduction help develop the fishery. Since 1984 brood stock from the Fox Chain O’ Lakes have been used by the State Hatchery System for walleye production. Trap net catches during spawning peak can exceed 21 fish per trap net night. Overall catch rates can exceed 8 fish per trap net night over the spring netting period. Both catch rates exceed management objectives of 2.5 fish per trap net night.

The slot limit established to on the Chain O’ Lakes in 1996 appears to be doing its job of protecting female walleye while allowing harvest of more abundant male walleye. The average female collected in 2004 was 21.3 inches long and the average male was 15.2 inches, both averages fit nicely into the protective slot limit on the Chain.

Since the Chain is a "brood-lake," it is important to continue to protect female walleye with the slot limit. The walleye regulation on the Chain O’ Lakes allows the harvest of 2 fish between 14" and 18" and 1 over 24". This regulations protects female walleye of high quality reproductive age yet allows for harvest of trophy fish and the more abundant male walleye. In 2004, 7,755,000 eggs were collected and 5.0 million fry and 244,077 (1.3" to 1.4" fingerlings) were stocked in the Chain.

STERLING LAKE (Lake County) - This 74.4 acre lake is managed in cooperation with the Lake County Forest Preserve District and began receiving fingerling stockings in 1985 with the goal of establishing a walleye fishery. Electrofishing surveys in the 1990's produced catch rates exceeding 23 fish/hour. In 1993, 47% of the walleye collected were of quality size (15 inches and larger), however in 1997, no fish larger than 15 inches were collected. This suggested either a problem with stocking survival, sampling efficiency or over harvest (legal length was 14 inches). In 2001, the length limit was raised to 16 inches to keep walleye in the lake for at least an extra year and expand their predatory presence. Walleye were collected in spring trap nets at a rate of 0.37 fish per net night in 2004. Two of eight nets had holes in them! Maybe catch rates could have been higher. Sterling Lake receives annual stockings of 2" fingerlings to maintain their presence. A recent creel report ranked walleye as the most sought after game fish. Panfish species like crappie and bluegill were caught more often, but they’re expected to be.

District 8: COOK COUNTY

BUSSE RESERVOIR (Main & South Pools) - Busse Lake Main and South Pools are some of the best places to target walleye in Cook County. The supplemental stocking of walleye in Busse Lake has been very successful. Initial stockings took place in 1986 and over the years Busse Lake has developed into a respectable walleye. Recent fish population survey data indicates a well structured population represented by several year classes present. Busse Main (410.0 acres) lake is larger than the South Pool (146.0 acres) and offers more desirable habitat and subsequently better walleye fishing. The lake has an 18 inch length limit and a 2 pole and line limit on gear. Walleye larger than 18 inches are present and were collected in recent surveys, fish over 6 pounds are possible.

Busse Lake is located in northwestern Cook County and is heavily utilized by recreationists including sailboats, canoes and fishermen. There are several parking lots offering access to different parts of the lake. Motor use is restricted to electric only and a large concession area offers rentals, bait and food.

TAMPIER LAKE - Tampier Lake has one of the best walleye populations in Cook County. It has been stocked with walleye fry/fingerlings since 1986 and offers the opportunity to catch fish over 10 pounds. Fish from the lake are used as a brood source for their fry restocking program. The lake receives a significant amount of fishing pressure but continually produces large fish because fish are a little difficult to locate and catch. Fish feed on gizzard shad. Many of the walleye collected during surveys were found in 3 - 4 foot of water directly in weed beds. This said, fishing for walleye is difficult but if a techniques are worked out the payoffs can be big. There is an 18 inch minimum length limit and a 2 pole and line limit on gear.

SKOKIE LAGOONS - Skokie Lagoon’s was rehabilitated in 1994 to remove rough fish and give the system a fresh start. Since then the Lagoons have received annual stockings of walleye fingerlings to build and maintain a strong predatory base since gizzard shad are present. Recent surveys indicate an abundance of walleye. Some fish exceed 4 pounds. Fish can be found along weed edges in shallow water. The lake has an 18" length limit and anglers commonly report fish at least that length. Successful anglers report walleye are caught around the fish attractors, on the sides of the main channels and along shallow weed edges. Cook county forest Preserve District lakes have a 2 pole and line gear limit.

WOLF LAKE - Wolf Lake has been stocked on and off with walleye fry/fingerlings since 1979. Since 1997, Indiana DNR and the City of Hammond have stocked over 200,000 fry and fingerlings in Indiana waters. In 2003, Illinois stocked 18,787 two inch fingerlings in the lake to try and boost their abundance on our side of the line. Biennial fish population surveys conducted in August have not indicated a quality walleye fishery though this may be related to seasonal vulnerability more than their absence. It is thought that there is an exchange of fish from Illinois to the Indiana seasonally with the connection between the two a good place to target fish. Indiana residents have reported larger adult fish in the deep water under the power lines. Local taxidermist’s report mounting adult walleye over 10 from Wolf Lake.

The lake has a 14 inch minimum length limit and six fish per day creel for walleye (Statewide Regulations). Motor size is not restricted on Wolf lake, boats with motors over 10 hp are restricted to no wake.


DISTRICT 9: GRUNDY, KENDALL, KANKAKEE, AND WILL COUNTIES

HEIDECKE LAKE - This 1,955 acre cooling lake located in Grundy County 2½ miles southeast of Morris has received annual stockings of walleye since 1980. During this time period both fry and fingerlings have been released but it is difficult to quantify the success of one type of stocking over the other. Marked fingerlings were utilized to compare the success of one stocking regime to the other with inconclusive results. Walleye fry stockings at Heidecke were discontinued in 1996 in favor of fingerling stockings. In 2004, Heidecke Lake received more than 100,000 2-inch fingerlings which, if they recruit favorably, could result in excellent fishing opportunities within two to three years. Heidecke Lake generally develops a strong plankton bloom in the early spring and also supports a thriving gizzard shad population which has been documented to show multiple spawn pulses. These shad spawns, while benefitting the feeding success and growth of walleyes can make angling extremely tough.

In 2004, spring trap netting resulted in a modest collection of walleyes, with fish captured representing year classes from age 2 through age 7. Walleyes collected in the spring ranged from 15.4 inches to 27.1 inches, averaging 22.5 inches weighing nearly 4½ pounds. The fall 2004 survey recovered a fair number of walleye, with size distribution more wide-spread; walleyes ranged from 6.9 inches to 26.2 inches and averaged 15.7 inches. Based on site staff reports, walleye anglers enjoyed good success from late spring to early summer with catch rates falling as gizzard shad became more abundant. A secondary source of walleye broodstock, Heidecke Lake walleye harvest is regulated by a 16 inch minimum length limit with a daily creel limit of three (3) fish.

Heidecke Lake is a perched cooling lake and can become very hazardous in windy conditions. Impounded in the late 1970's, it has served as a cooling reservoir for Midwest Generation’s Collins Station, a fossil fuel peaking plant. However, this generating station is scheduled to be closed at the end of 2004 which would eliminate thermal loading and any current which was created by the circulation of cooling water through the plant. This is will result in an ambient lake. Due to a drastic reduction in water circulation and the reappearance of zebra mussels, water clarity has markedly increased. Heidecke Lake is open to fishing from April 1st until ten days prior to the opening of the Central Zone waterfowl season. The lake is open daily at 6:00 a.m. and closes at sunset. A concessionaire located at the boat ramp offers bait and tackle as well as boat and motor rentals. There is no boat motor horsepower restrictions but boats must have a working gas-powered motor. The bank fishing area access is located at the eastern side of the lake and is handicapped accessible, featuring a barrier-free fishing pier.

STATUS OF THE WALLEYE AND SAUGER FISHERY IN ILLINOIS
REGION 3

DISTRICT 10: CHAMPAIGN, DEWITT, FORD, IROQUOIS, LIVINGSTON, MCLEAN, PIATT, AND VERMILION COUNTIES

CLINTON LAKE - In 2004, the State Hatchery System stocked approximately 172,463 two-inch walleye. Based on the 2004 survey, size structure is good with 78% over 15 inches and 29% over 20 inches in length. The catch rate for walleye during the 2003 survey was the second highest catch rate in 10 years. The catch rate in 2004 was the third highest catch rate in 11 years. Walleye fishing in 2005 looks good with a large number of medium-sized fish in the population. The fishing regulation for walleye is a 14" minimum length limit with a 6 fish daily creel limit. Major access areas have bulletin boards with area rules, fish creel and size limit regulations and other visitor information posted. All state boating, hunting, fishing and park regulations remain in full force where applicable. Various portions of the lake are designated as no-wake, electric motor only, or no boat areas for safety and security reasons. Areas closed to public access include: the water intake area for the power plant, the spillway and dam areas east of the spillway, and the bank of water surface of the discharge flume (ditch). Boats and fishermen are not allowed in designated swimming areas when swimming is permitted. Please pay special attention to such areas designated by the maps, posted signs, and buoys. The entire portion of the lake between the DeWitt County Highway 14 Bridge and the Illinois Route 48 Bridge is designated as a fish and water fowl refuge and is closed to all public use for the period of October 10th. Through March 31. The land portions of the site in this designated area will still be open for authorized hunting activities (except waterfowl) during this time period. As on all large lakes, Clinton Lake can become very rough when the wind exceeds 15 m.p.h. All boaters are advised to be aware of the weather. Although there is no horsepower or speed limit on Clinton Lake, shallow areas and underwater hazards do exist in numerous portions of the lake. Boaters should operate their craft accordingly.

LAKE BLOOMINGTON - Walleye were first stocked into this lake in 1984 and has received approximately 25,000 two inch walleye every year, except in 1985. Starting in 1998, 2400 8-inch walleye were stocked each year. The 2004 night survey resulted in 38 walleye per hour of sampling. Based on the 2004 survey, size structure is dominated by smaller walleye. Only 11% of the walleye collected were larger than 15 inches. There have been several 10 pound plus walleye caught in Lake Bloomington since 2001. The fishing regulation for walleye is a 14" minimum length limit with a 6 fish daily creel limit. Lake Bloomington has one boat ramp and charges an access fee. Boats are limited to 40 horsepower. For information on fees and Lake Bloomington call 309/747-2615.

EVERGREEN LAKE - Home of the current State Record Saugeye! The State Record Saugeye was caught in 2001. The lake still holds fish capable of breaking the new record. This lake was selected for experimental stocking of saugeye. The saugeye is a hybrid made by crossing female walleye with male sauger. The saugeye is suppose to be more adaptable to turbid conditions and easier to catch than walleye. The saugeye appear to have adapted quite well to Evergreen Lake. Stocking of this hybrid started in 1992 and the lake has been stocked every year since. Anglers really started catching saugeye in 1998. In 2002, a night survey was conducted and resulted in 45 saugeye per hour of electrofishing. Of the saugeye collected in the survey, 21 percent were larger than 15", 15 percent were larger than 20" and 6 percent were larger than 25". Evergreen will continue to provide excellent fishing for saugeye in 2005. In 2002 a spring netting survey was initiated to collect muskie and saugeye. In 2002, 1.9 saugeye were collected per net. Approximately 66% were larger than 20 inches. In 2003, 1.5 saugeye were collected per net. Approximately 77% were larger than 20 inches. In 2004, 1.9 saugeye were collected per net. Approximately 47% were longer than 20 inches. A strong group of saugeye in the 10 to 15 inch range will keep the saugeye population robust. It appears the nets fail to collect smaller fish, but the nets indicate the saugeye population has a large number of big saugeye in the population. Three of the saugeye collected were larger than the current state record! The fishing regulation for saugeye is a 14" minimum length limit with a 6 fish daily creel limit. Evergreen Lake has two boat ramps and has a 10 horsepower limit on all boats. In order to launch a boat on Evergreen Lake, a sticker must be purchased. The stickers can be purchased at the boat ramps, Comlara Park Visitor’s Center, or by calling 309/726-2022.

DAWSON LAKE - A good walleye fishery exists on Dawson Lake. In 2003, the walleye stocking program was switched to a saugeye fishery. The saugeye favors more turbid water and tolerates eutrophic waters better than walleye. Night electrofishing surveys are conducted each fall to assess the fishery. In 2004, 55 walleye/saugeye were collected per hour of sampling. The largest walleye collected was 23 inches. Similar results were obtained in the 2003 night survey. Dawson Lake has a 14" minimum length limit and a harvest limit of 3 per day on walleye and saugeye.

DISTRICT 11: CLARK, COLES, CUMBERLAND, DOUGLAS, EDGAR, MACON, MOULTRIE, AND SHELBY COUNTIES

LAKE DECATUR is located on the east side of the City of Decatur, in Macon County. The lake covers 3,093 surface acres with a maximum depth of 22 feet and average depth of six feet. Several public boat launching facilities are available and the City of Decatur (217-424-2837) collects a boating access fee. The statewide 14 inch minimum length limit and creel limit of six fish daily is in effect.

An abundance of gizzard shad forage in Lake Decatur allows for the stocking of additional predator species to diversify the fishery. The stocking of 2-inch fingerling walleye from 2000 through 2004 appears to be developing a decent fishery. Although collection rates were not as high as expected in the fall stocking success survey (4+/hr.) numerous reports of fishermen catching walleye were received in fall ‘02 and summer ‘03. Walleye fishing prospects for Lake Decatur are rated as fair to good for 2005.

CHARLESTON SIDE CHANNEL LAKE - is located approximately three miles southeast of Charleston, in Coles County. The lake covers 330 surface acres with a maximum depth of 16 feet and average depth of 7.7 feet. Free public boat launching facilities are available. There is a no wake regulation in effect on the entire lake. The statewide 14 inch minimum length limit and creel limit of six fish daily is in effect.

Saugeye (sauger x walleye hybrid) have been stocked annually since summer 2000. Although collection rates were not as high as expected in the fall fish population survey (2/hr.) a large number of saugeye from 12 to 19+ inches were reported caught by fishermen in spring ‘03 and fall ‘04. Saugeye fishing prospects are rated as fair to good in 2005.

LAKE SHELBYVILLE - is located in Shelby and Moultrie Counties in east-central Illinois. This lake has a surface area of 11,100 acres, with a maximum depth of 67 feet, and an average depth of 18.9 feet. Public boat launching facilities are available, with a fee assessed on U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ (217-774-3951) boat ramps, and free access on state or gravel ramps. The statewide 14 inch minimum length limit and creel limit of six fish daily is in effect.

Consistent stockings of fingerling walleye since 1994 has resulted in the development of a good to excellent walleye fishery. In recent years, knowledgeable fishermen have been able to catch limits of fish from April through mid-June. Some fishermen believe that July and August are the better months. Good numbers of fish to 25 inches are present with fish over eight pounds collected in the 2003 stocking success survey. Catch rates during the 2004 standard fall survey were 2.0 walleye per hr. and 5.5 walleye during the 2004 stocking success survey. This fishery is becoming increasingly popular with walleye fishing prospects for Lake Shelbyville are rated as good to excellent for 2005.

STATUS OF WALLEYE AND SAUGER FISHERY IN ILLINOIS
REGION 4

DISTRICT 12: ADAMS, BROWN, CALHOUN, HANCOCK, MORGAN, PIKE, AND SCHUYLER COUNTIES

PITTSFIELD LAKE - Walleye continue to do well in this 240 acre city owned lake. Individuals up to 12 pounds have been sampled. This lake has received supplemental stockings of 2 inch fingerling fish since 1985. These annual stockings have produced multiple year classes which have subsequently resulted in a large size range of fish being present in the fishery especially in the 2 -5 pound size. During the spring netting survey in 2004, walleye comprised 29% of the sport fish collected. Eighty-six percent of the walleye collected in spring of 2004 were greater than 16 inches. Of these individuals, 17% were larger than 24". Although Pittsfield Lake maintains a good, strong walleye population, fishing for this species is fairly light. Most walleye are incidentally caught by anglers fishing for crappie. A 14" minimum length limit and 6 fish per day creel limit is in effect. There is a 25 horsepower, "NO WAKE" motor restriction.

STATUS OF WALLEYE AND SAUGER FISHERY IN ILLINOIS
RIVERS

ILLINOIS RIVER - The sauger population on the Illinois River continues to expand, both in quality and quantity. While not as numerous as in the middle and lower reaches of the River, anglers can still expect to find good numbers of sauger and walleye in the upper pools below the dams at Dresden and Marseilles. The major portion of the sauger population lies below the Starved Rock Dam and extends all the way down to the Mississippi River. The area around the Starved Rock Dam receives a lot of media attention owing to the very successful tournaments held there, but there our sampling indicates that much stronger numbers of fish are found farther downstream. CPUE’s in the lower part of Peoria Pool in the Narrows were as high as 147.5 fish/hour.

Tournament anglers have had, and continue to have a very good year. At the MWC tournament held at Spring Valley in March, 2001, 205 boats brought in 1,395 fish that weighed in at 3355.85 pounds - not bad for a 5 fish per day limit per boat. In 2002, 208 boats caught 1,420 fish that weighed 3508.36 pounds. In 2003, 210 boats brought in 1,148 fish that weighed a total of 2049.19 pounds. Tournaments continue to enjoy good fishing even during the fall and winter months. At a recent tournament in that same area, the winning total of 5 fish weighed in at 14.6 pounds, with the big fish coming in at 3 pounds, 13.5 ounces.

Sampling this fall, many smaller fish were collected indicating that the population should remain strong for the next several years. We also collected some of the bigger walleye that we have ever taken at Starved Rock with several fish ranging from 23 to 27 inches in length. There is a 14 inch size limit on walleye and sauger in the Illinois River. The creel is six fish per day.

ROCK RIVER - As a result of successful stocking programs, the Rock River has become known as a good walleye fishery in recent years. Fall 2000 sampling from Oregon to Prophetstown produced 23 to 37 walleye per hour. In addition, quite a few sauger over 14 inches were seen below the dams in Oregon and Sterling. Despite low water levels, a fall survey in 2002 at Dixon resulted in the collection of 103 walleye and 14 sauger per hour. All samples included walleye over 20 inches long, the largest being a 26.6 inch, 8.2 pound fish at Prophetstown. Several walleye and sauger in the 1 to 5 pound range were collected during the smallmouth survey in 2003 indicating good fishing prospects. The 2004 survey resulted in huge numbers of walleye at Dixon, Oregon, and Rockton with CPUE’s at 82 walleye/hour, 112 walleye/hour, and 73 walleye/hour respectively. The largest fish were over 4 pounds and the collections included 12 sauger in the 1- 3.2 pound range. Two strong classes of walleye were present in these samples, one in the 7-9" range, and the other in the 12-16" range, with fair to good numbers of walleye above 16". With these numbers, fishing prospects for walleye in the Rock River should remain excellent.

KANKAKEE RIVER - The walleye population once was known for its walleye fishery and in fact still holds the state record of a walleye weighing 14 pounds caught back in 1961. Survey records from 1975 through 1999 indicated that the catch per hour electrofishing for walleye exceeded 2.5 (1979) only once during this time period. Anglers and sportsmen organizations recognized the needed for help in restoring the walleye population in the Kankakee River and asked if the DNR could initiate a stocking program using the native walleye that occurred in the river. An effort was initiated in 2000 to collected adult walleye from the Kankakee River, spawn them at the LaSalle State Fish Hatchery and stock the fingerlings back into the river. The Kankakee River walleye restoration program began in 2000 with the collection of 27 walleye. The catch per effort for walleye in 2000 was only 1.6, though 78,000 2 inch fingerlings were stocked into the river in May. In 2001 the catch per hour increased to 10, of which 50% was contributed to the fingerlings stocked in 2000. In 2001 the river was stocked with 85,000 fingerlings. Due to high water in 2002 walleye could not be collected, however in 2003 the catch per hour of walleye increased to 23.3. In 2003 the hatchery was able to stock 94,195 fingerlings, plus Indiana was given 23,000 fingerlings to stock in their portion of the Kankakee River. In 2004 the catch per hour of walleye increased to a high of 26.7 and 80,200 fingerlings were stocked into the river from the hatchery. Also an additional 20,000 fingerlings were given to Indiana.

Growth rates of walleye examined in 2004 exceeded the state average indicating that the density is not surpassing the forage supply in the river. Average length of males ages 3 through 5 was 17, 20 and 23.5 inches respectively. Females which grow faster than males had lengths of 18, 21 and 24 inches at ages 3 through 5 respectively.

Fishing for walleye should continue to improve in the Kankakee River. The regulation for walleye in the Kankakee and Iroquois rivers is 3 per day and they must be longer than 16 inches. The goal of this project is to build the walleye population up to the point where it can sustain itself through natural reproduction.

FOX RIVER - Walleye were sampled at 8 locations in 2004 as part of the fall smallmouth bass survey. The sampling stations, located between Elgin and Oswego, were also sampled in fall of 2001. Additional walleye samples were taken at a different set of stations during the 2002 Fox River Basin Survey.

The total abundance of walleye was somewhat lower in 2004 compared to the previous years (see table below). However, catch rate of the larger size groups has not changed much since 2001. These results suggests lower abundance of small individuals in 2004. Reproduction of walleye in the medium-sized rivers of Northern Illinois like the Fox, Rock and Kankakee Rivers is known to be very sporadic. Natural reproduction in the upper and mid Fox River may be supplemented by downstream migration of walleye from the Fox Chain-O-Lakes, which has an intensive stocking program.

Number of walleye collected per hour in the Fox River
SIZE CLASS LENGTH RANGE 2001 2004 2002
Total All sizes 9.78 4.18 7.35
Stock >10 in. 2.78 2.46 1.80
Quality >15 in. 1.45 1.84 1.20
Preferred >20 in. 0.13 0.25 0.90

Since1999, annual stocking of 20,000 - 30,000 walleye fingerlings (2 in) have been made in the free-flowing sections of the Fox River in Kendall County. Electrofishing catch rates of walleye in Kendall County have been similar to those found in upstream areas, ranging from 4-12 per hour. Anglers have also reported reasonably good success, with most fish in the 14-18 inch range.

DES PLAINES RIVER - The lower Des Plaines River and Salt Creek continue to yield consistent walleye catch rates. In 2004, electrofishing catch rates were higher than previous years, with a total of 18 walleye collected per hour. Fish ranged in size from 12 to 20 inches with most in the 17-20 inch size, weighing up to 3.3 lbs. The source of these walleye is most likely Busse Lake on upper Salt Creek, where they are stocked by Cook County Forest Preserve District. In contrast to smallmouth bass, walleye are quite tolerant of degraded water quality conditions which are common in Salt Creek and the Des Plaines River.

The Des Plaines River IDNR sauger stocking program has been very successful so far, based on recent collections and angler reports A total of 12,021, 2-in. sauger were stocked into the Des Plaines at Riverside in 2001, with another 28,000 released between Riverside and Hodgkins locations in 2004. Electrofishing at Riverside yielded a very high catch rate of 67 sauger per hour. Fish from both 2001 and 2004 were present in the collection. Individuals from the 2001 stocking averaged 16 inches in length; within the average growth rate for Illinois sauger. Fish from the 2004 stocking were an average of 8 inches in length. All fish appeared to be very robust and healthy. Electrofishing catch rates were lower in the Hodgkins area (5 per hour) but fish were similar in size to those found in the Riverside area. Anglers have also reported catching many of the stock sauger.

UPPER SANGAMON RIVER - A basin survey was conducted in 2003 on the Sangamon River Basin. Walleye were collected at three mainstem sites upstream from Lake Decatur. Average size was about two pounds. The largest walleye collected was 3.4 pounds at Mahomet. Catch rates were also highest at Mahomet, yielding three walleye per hour.

Recent winter sampling downstream from Lake Decatur produced one walleye per hour among four sites. The largest walleye collected was in the six to seven pound range. Walleye fishing in the tailwaters of Lake Decatur should be good in the Spring and Fall.

KASKASKIA RIVER - Fishermen continue to report extremely high catch rates for sauger below the Lake Shelbyville Dam. Sauger are presumably moving up the river from Carlyle Lake, where they are stocked. Sauger stack up in the tailwaters of Lake Shelbyville, where fishermen frequently catch their limit in the Spring and Fall. Numerous legal-sized sauger are often observed during our supplemental surveys downstream of Lake Shelbyville. Sauger are only found downstream of Lake Shelbyville in the Kaskaskia River and are not present upstream of the lake.

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