Fish Beat: Summer recap and the typical fall season

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

This year was an unusual one for fishing. Erratic temperature changes confused some species, which carried on into late summer.

The Rock River Valley, usually a significant bass hotbed, went cold early on, and only sporadically produced solid numbers. Bluegill and crappie, in certain spots, were active all season, while the walleye, northern and muskie stayed true to their behaviors with a few trophies reported.

Enter the June 19 train derailment that, without a doubt, poured tens of thousands of gallons of ethanol into the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers. With more than 70,000 fish killed—almost all showing up on the south Rock, the incident was the largest fish kill in Illinois. Re-stocking efforts of smallmouth bass, catfish, pike and other species will, according to some reports, help the river rebound. From June 19, however, fishing on the Rock River, and the Kishwaukee for that matter, was stalled.

Initially, anglers near Dixon and Grand Detour reported horrific slowdowns. As the season progressed, most began to feel the sting here. Fishing derbies and tournaments produced spotty results. Still, some chose to blame the weather.

While Mother Nature, acts of God—whatever one chooses to call them—did take their toll on area fishing, one can only wonder how things would have panned out, especially on the Kish and Rock if 60,000, or more, gallons of ethanol wouldn’t have leaked into the water.

Canadian National Railway has since been named responsible for the derailment and ethanol spill by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, however, an official word about what monetary damages will include is still unknown. Hundreds of families were evacuated, and two people—a 41-year-old woman and her unborn child—died.

Weeks following the fish kill, some species did emerge, but nothing like in years prior when the Rock was known as a Midwest fishing hotbed. Sadly, area anglers had better success in areas away from the Rock River Valley this year. And weather, especially the cold spells in July, hampered fishing as far north as Canada.

A cold October has also launched the fall fishing season into motion slightly faster than usual. Northern pike are active this fall, while muskie, walleye and some sauger are being reported throughout the area. The bass have retreated to the colds; jigs and slowly-worked live bait are producing some fish. As fall turns into winter, early morning outings will usually produce the most fish.

If the Farmers’ Almanac is correct this year, fishing through the ice could follow the same hot and cold patterns the warm months produced—fish kills notwithstanding.

Send us your fishing photos

The Rock River Times is interested in seeing pictures of fish caught in area waters. Send digital photos to us at with “Fish Beat Photos” in the subject line. Glossies can be sent to The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101.

From the October 28 – November 3, 2009

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