Friday, March 15, 2013

LaSalle Opener - Hybrid Stripers

I had some work I had saved out near Ottawa, IL for today with the plan to hit up LaSalle Lake on my way home.  March 15th is known by many fisherman in this area as the day LaSalle Lake usually opens up to fishing.  Most of the lakes and ponds in the area have just recently thawed out in the past week with water temperatures still in the 30's and slow fishing.  This is not a worry at LaSalle however, as it was built as a cooling lake for a power plant so the water is artificially warmed year round.

Work along with some scouting for kayak put-ins along the nearby Illinois river and its tributaries took longer than expected so I didn't get to the lake until 5pm.  I would only have an hour and a half or so of fishing as the lake promptly closes at sunset.  I was expecting a parking lot full of vehicles and boat trailers when I arrived but it was mostly empty, I suspect most of the fisherman who had lined up in the pre-dawn hours to have first crack at the lake had called it a day.

This was my first time fishing LaSalle but I have fished for hybrids many times along shorelines similar to the riprap that surrounds LaSalle Lake back when I lived in Oklahoma. I had brought along a few of my go to lures for hybrid stripers, mostly jerkbaits and white and yellow shad swimbaits.  I was happy to see winds blowing from the ENE and some shad flicking around on the surface while I walked along the shore to find a spot.  Wind can be vital to finding hybrids and the south shoreline at LaSalle had a nice steady wind blowing along it.  I brought along a small digital aquarium thermometer just to see what the water temperature would read.  
55.5, perfect!

Some of my best days fishing for hybrid stripers and white bass were with water temperatures in the 50's.  The fish are often very active and in shallow water at this temperature.

I started off throwing an x-rap and 2.5" yellow shad swimbait but didn't have much luck for the first 20 minutes.  Then, with my swimbait about 5 feet from shore I almost had the rod jerked out of my hands and my drag quickly started peeling.  When a hybrid hits that close to you there is usually no time to set the hook, you just hold on! After a few good runs I got the fish in, my first Illinois hybrid!

For the rest of the evening I stuck with the swimbait and as the evening wore on the fishing just got better. The last 30 minutes before sunset it was a fish every second to third cast it seemed.  It is common for the hour or so around sunrise and sunset to be the best fishing for hybrids as the fish take advantage of the low-light conditions to move closer to shore and ambush baitfish.  
I ended up with 8 hybrid on the night, all fat and healthy and in the 17-20" range.  I had heard rumors of large fish kills at some of the Illinois power plant lakes during our hot summer last year but if today was any indication I'd say plenty of fish survived.

I chatted with a few fisherman as they were leaving, most were live bait fisherman who had caught mostly small channel catfish and bluegills along with a hybrid or two.  They seemed surprised I was catching them with lures.

The conservation officers were out in full force tonight, which was nice to see. Everyone got checked for licenses and that they were keeping to their limit for fish.  At LaSalle, the limit for hybrids is 10, with a maximum of 3 measuring over 17".  If I was keeping fish this evening I would probably have only been able to keep 3 as all the fish I checked were at least 17".

As the sun began to set I checked the time and saw it was 6:40....time to head back.  The officer had made it very clear I had to be off the property by 6:58pm.  I had seen the sunset listed as 7:02 on a weather site earlier but I wasn't about to argue details with the guy. I decided for one last cast with the swimbait and felt a light tap. After a few nice jumps I pulled in a smallmouth bass, a nice way to end the evening.

This was my first trip to LaSalle Lake but it won't be my last. It's always fun on the rare occasion that you can cheat mother nature, whether it be the 80's we had this time last year or the warm water courtesy of the Exelon Corporation that I got to fish today.

Fish caught: Hybrid Striper - 8 
                   Smallmouth Bass - 1
Successful baits: Yellow and Chartreuse/White swim shads
Weather: Mostly cloudy, ENE wind 10mph, mid 40's
Water Temp: 55

1 comment:

  1. We really enjoyed your entry. There are a lot of people that have wanted to fish LaSalle and I bet you after reading this they head out immediately.