Friday, March 21, 2014

LaSalle Lake Big Blue Cat

After a long and brutal winter we finally had a nice day so I went out to LaSalle Lake to try for some striped bass hybrids and blue catfish.  I brought my bike for this trip since I planned on fishing the center dike with the weather forecast calling for southwest winds. I like to fish the windblown shore at LaSalle Lake whenever possible as the fish will often follow the bait which are feeding on the plankton that gets stirred up on the windy banks.  When I arrived at the lake late morning the winds hadn't shifted yet and it was pretty much a due east wind.  The lake was pretty busy and a few of the bank fisherman who had probably been there since the gates opened in the morning had a few nice hybrids on their stringers.  I decided to fish a few spots along the south shore as I made my way out to the center dike and waited for the winds to shift.   Fishing was tough for the first few hours.  The sun was out and fishing seemed slow for everyone other than the occasional small hybrid I saw being pulled in from a few guys fishing with chicken livers. Eventually I got the skunk off with a little smallmouth bass while using a cicada blade bait.

I made it out to the center dike by mid-afternoon and the winds were finally starting to come around to the south.  I tried my go-to hybrid bait, the relax shad, but wasn't getting any hits so I got my catfish rods rigged up. I hadn't had any luck netting shad with my cast net so I started out fishing with nightcrawlers.  I quickly caught a small channel catfish and filleted off a few pieces of it in hopes a blue catfish would go for some fresh cut bait.  About half an hour later I got my first bite and it was obvious this fish wasn't messing around as my line was tearing off my reel at a very fast pace.  I picked up my rod and kept tightening my drag in hopes of slowing down the fish.  Eventually the fish slowed down and I could see I had something big as I saw a big splash at the surface about 100 yards out.  Normally catfish stay towards the bottom while being reeled in but this one made several runs to the surface as I fought it in, it was a very strong fish.  The closer it got I realized it was even bigger than I first had thought.  After I landed it I measured it at 36" and a weight of 23lbs on my digital scale, my biggest Illinois catfish that I have caught to date.  After getting a few pictures, the fish was released.  Hopefully in a few more years someone can hook into this fish when it's even bigger!

Re-energized by fighting and landing the blue catfish, I went back to trying for hybrids while I kept one catfish pole out. The wind had picked up out of the southwest and clouds had moved in, conditions seemed perfect for hybrids to be near shore where I was at.  I decided to switch to a pearl fluke on a jighead and on my second cast I got a hit right near shore and landed my first hybrid of the day.  A nice and fat 20" fish.

The next hour was great fishing and I ended up catching four more hybrids and a couple more smaller blue catfish. 

I shot a little video showing that it can be a little difficult to be fishing for both hybrids and blue catfish at the same time while the bite is hot, it is best to stay a little closer to your catfish rod than I was.

Fish caught: Hybrid Striper - 5
                   Blue Catfish - 3
                   Channel Catfish - 2
                   Smallmouth Bass - 1
Successful Baits: Pearl flukes and superflukes on 1/4 oz. jighead.
                          Cut channel catfish(santee rig).
Weather:  Increasing clouds, E winds shifting to SW 10-20mph, mid 50's.
Water Temps:  58(south shore), 63(south side center dike), 76(north side center dike)


  1. AWESOME entry Sooner! I am planning fishing with you at LaSalle later today and I can't wait!

  2. I know this is an old blog but hopefully someone is still monitoring. Is the channel cat cut bait legal to use in Illinois or at Lasalle?

    1. According to Illinois fishing regulations it is illegal to "cut up or dress or be in possession of cut up or dressed fish on any body of water where there is a size limit for that particular species of fish." So, in the case of LaSalle Lake, it is legal to use channel catfish as cut bait since there are no length or creel limits on that species. They are not my first choice for cut bait but LaSalle Lake is overpopulated with stunted catfish and they work well when shad are not easily netted.

    2. Thanks for the reply. Any tips to netting shad?

    3. At LaSalle it can be tough, there are some nice docks to throw off of near the launch and sometimes the shad are there and sometimes they are not. Without a boat to find where the shad are, you are at the mercy of that area for bait for the most part. You can throw a net from the rip rap if you happen to spot some along the shore but you risk snagging your net in the rocks. Some subdivision ponds have shad populations, look for small disturbances along the surface in the morning and evening for the indication of shad. If you are new to throwing a cast net, practice in your back yard before you try throwing in the water for the first time. There are plenty of videos on youtube showing different techniques.

    4. Thanks for all the info. Maybe see ya out there someday!