Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kankakee River Kayak Fishing: Surprise Walleye

Rivers have finally fallen to more normal levels in the area so I went and kayaked a new river today, the Kankakee.  I floated a little over 3 miles of the river from the eastern end of Kankakee River State Park to the takeout just downstream of the Warner Bridge.  It was good conditions for fishing, cloudy weather and a new moon.  The river was full of kayakers, canoeists, and waders.

I started out throwing a buzzbait and a spinnerbait as I wanted a lure I could keep shallow as most of the river is only a few feet deep at normal flow.  I wasn't getting any hits, even the reliable relax shad was drawing a blank so I switched to a shallow running crankbait.  The crankbait started producing almost immediately and I caught several small smallmouth bass off the edges of the flooded willow grass. Further downstream I ran into some cool overhanging cliffs.

I started throwing my crankbait along the cliff walls and catching fish with a little more size.  This 14.5" fish was the biggest smallmouth I would catch on the day.
Crankin' the Kank
I lost two nice smallmouth that appeared to be at least 18" during my trip.  One threw my crankbait on a jump right by the kayak.  And the other fish I lost on a jig due to a knot failure.  I thought it was just going to be one of those days where the bigger fish just weren't going to be landed.   Even the vultures were eyeing me as if to say "You better just call it quits".

As I neared the takeout I found one last hole beneath a bridge piling that looked like it should hold a few fish.  I was tired of throwing the crankbait at this point so I put a 3" hellgrammite on a jig head and just slowly dragged it along the bottom.  I felt a good hit on about my third cast and brought in a nice surprise, a 19.5" walleye!
First walleye from the kayak
I kind of wished I had my stringer as I love eating walleye but the Kankakee probably needs as many mature walleye as it can get since catches like this on the river are rare.
After releasing the walleye, I made a few more casts through the hole before I headed for the ramp to call it quits.  The Kankakee is not the easiest river to fish from a kayak.  It is fast moving and wide for much of the stretch I fished and it is hard to thoroughly fish some areas without getting out and wading.  I think I found at least two good spots that I will definitely remember when I return to fish this river again.

Fish Caught: 8 Smallmouth Bass
                     1 Walleye
Successful Baits:  BPS Super Shallow Crank(OJ Brown Crawdad), H2O XPRESS CRS-NR Silent Crankbait(Matte Brown Craw), BPS Hellgrammite(Green Pumpkin) on 1/8oz jighead 
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, S winds 5mph, lower 80's
Water Temp: 74.5
River conditions: Semi-clear(~3ft), 2100cfs(Wilmington)

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