Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DuPage River Kayak Smallmouth Fishing

This year has been tough fishing for me on the DuPage River.  The heavy spring rains brought several weeks of high water and even record flooding to parts of the river which limited the number of times I was able to get out and fish the spots I like. The few times I did get out to try the East Branch brought the dreaded skunk or maybe one smallmouth if I was lucky.  The normal spots and baits I had success with the past two years on the river just haven't been productive for me this year.
I wanted to change my luck today as I really do like fishing the DuPage River, there are many stretches that have a pastoral feeling to them and I like the clear water conditions that are typical during low/normal flow levels. I decided to fish a stretch of river to the south of me so I drove down to Plainfield, IL.  After dropping off my bike downstream at Electric Park, I drove back up to my put in at 135th St where there is a nice ramp and parking area on the east side of the river. I have even seen fishermen launch drift boats there.
I had floated this stretch twice previously last summer with friends.  Both times we caught plenty of smallmouth but they were all on the small side.  I know some big smallies live along this stretch as I lost a nice one each of those trips and spooked many more while floating down the river.  That is part of exploring a new stretch of river, the first few times you go through it you often don't recognize a good spot until you are so close to it that you have spooked the fish that were holding there.
One spot I remembered where I had seen some big fish on a previous trip was a bank that had an undercut ledge near some faster current.  This time I made sure to avoid floating near that bank until I was in a position where I could cast upstream and let my bait come naturally down river.  On my first cast along the ledge with a Crabby Bass Crawdaddy the bait didn't even get to the bottom before I saw my line tighten up and begin heading sideways.  I set the hook and after several hard runs I landed a beautifully striped 18" smallmouth, the biggest bass I have caught out of the DuPage River to date.

About half an hour later I had switched to a small tube when something big grabbed my bait while I was trying to re-position my kayak in an eddy.  Unfortunately, I had my rod in the rear holder of my kayak when the fish struck and it was hard enough just to get the rod out of the holder(let alone get a good hookset) and the fish came off after a short but strong fight. I always hate losing big fish, especially before I even get a chance to see them.  Luckily, a few minutes later this nice 17" smallmouth inhaled the tube in the same eddy and helped me forget the one that got away.

I wanted to see if I could get anything on a topwater bait so I switched over to a small storm chug bug. There were a lot of weeds floating in the river as is typical during the summer and it made fishing the bait difficult as the treble hooks kept catching floating eel grass during the retrieve. Just before I was about to give up on my topwater attempts I noticed a swirl downstream along the bank so I cast my chug bug at the spot and didn't even get to pop it once before this 15" smallie nailed it.

The area near the end of my float was mostly shallower water and while I caught several more small smallmouth bass, the bigger fish seemed to be absent from this area.  Today it seemed the bigger smallmouth were near the deeper holes.  Not in the deepest and slowest moving water of the holes but at the beginning and end of the holes, where the depth is changing and the current is moving at a decent clip.  Also, current breaks and eddies that were deeper than a couple feet near fast water were holding some of the nicer smallmouth.  Fishing under the bridges, which is a typical summer pattern, produced very few fish today.  I think the recent cloudy and cool weather has something to do with that as the smallmouth haven't had to seek refuge from the sun and the heat lately.
All in all it was a great day to be out and I was very happy to finally get on a few nice smallmouth in the DuPage River.  This river will be on my short list for places to kayak for the rest of the year.

Fish caught: 10-15 smallmouth bass
Successful Baits: 2.75" Mizmo Teaser Tubes(1/16oz internal weight) texas rigged (Crawdad brown)
                          Crabby Bass Crawdaddy trimmed to 3" (1/8oz weight pegged) (Green Pumpkin) 
                          2.5" Storm Chug Bug (ghost shad)
Weather: Clearing, N Winds 0-5mph, lower 70's
Water Temp: 70
River conditions: Clear, 182 cfs (Shorewood)


  1. I am pretty much pleased with your good work. You put really very helpful information.

  2. Ted,

    Have been following your written journal into the DuPage river. I have not attempted kayaking thus far, but I have thought about it. I also have fished the Shorewood river section and have caught fish there. Although, I have not found many undercut banks, I would like to. I have not found many pools as of yet, but I have only fished the river for one summer. This year will be my second. If you are willing to share a river pool or two, I would love to give it a go.

    I have fished Pioneer Park, Shorewood, Naperville and am planning to fish Minooka section of the DuPage river too. Your documented experiences provide encouragement to all who would try fishing the DuPage.



    1. Thanks for reading Creekfisher. There are deeper pools all along the DuPage River, especially once you start getting south of 135th St in Plainfield. I highly recommend floating stretches of the river by kayak as this will let you discover new "hot spots" much faster than fishing from shore. Keep in mind that the smallmouth can move a lot in the river depending on fluctuating river levels and weather conditions so a spot that may hold fish one day may not the next.
      One spot near Minooka that I have caught smallmouth in the summer is around the Shepley Rd bridge so you may want to give that area a shot.

  3. Sunday I fished the DuPage river around the 95th street area, in what appeared to be low river water to my surprise. I waded into the river and began to fish section after section. I decided to tie on a fly pattern modeled after Polly Rosborough's Casual Dress Nymph. To my surprise, the fly was slammed by a big Smallmouth in the shalllows. Boy did it put up a big fight, these river fish are surprisingly strong. My 5 wt fly rod would snap I thought before taking this fish. I decided to play this fish, I did not wish to lose. The section of water it was in churned with the fishes attempt to escape. It found a deep 3 foot pocket and wanted to free itself, but as luck would have it, the fish did not snap my leader. Having won the fight, I landed a 17 inch 3.75 lb Smallmouth Bass. Boy, these river Smallmouth are strong. My biggest Smallmouth ever and best fight too. Having no way to take a picture, I was not able to record the moment. Who says you can't Nymph for Smallmouth? Myth debunked. Nymphs will take Smallmouth.


    1. That's great Creekfisher, that is a very nice smallie for that section of the Dupe. All the better that you caught it on the fly!