Schuckman: Finding fishing holes is challenge for some anglers when Mississippi River rises


Fishing from the bank as the sun sets is a prime time for local anglers to land sizable catfish and crappie. | Submitted photo

URSA, Ill. — The sun had already started its dive toward the horizon as Armando and Cindy Gonzalez settled in to their chairs, but the fading daylight didn’t bother them.

“Fresh batteries and all,” Armando said as he held up the lantern he planned to use after dusk.

His wife of 30 years reached into her oversized bag and pulled a spray bottle out.

“This will be just as important,” she said, holding a bottle of Deep Woods Off insect repellent.

On a warm July night, overlooking a waterway they hope had fish willing to dance, the bug spray was needed. So was patience and persistence.

The Quincy couple had been given permission to fish a farmer’s lake in the river bottoms in northern Adams County, and the Fourth of July holiday weekend provided their first opportunity to wet their lines. They had often fished the Mississippi River off the banks in Bear Creek Recreation Area, but with the river rising above flood stage, there was no access to the area.

They had stopped to ask a nearby farmer for suggestions on another nearby public fishing area and the conversation led to an introduction to another farmer with a fish-filled lake on his property. A handshake agreement followed.

“Taking care of the land and the property was his biggest request,” Armando Gonzalez said. “He didn’t want trash left behind or anyone driving through his fields. He was adamant about his expectations, but he was nice, too. And he didn’t want anyone else coming with us.

“And he made us make him one promise. If we caught a bundle, we give him some filets. I think that was the most pressure I felt. I didn’t want to come up empty-handed after that.”

He didn’t, but his stringer wasn’t overflowing at night’s end.

“We had a lot of fun fishing in the dark,” Gonzalez said. “And we caught a couple of really good catfish. Maybe by the end of the month we will have enough to give the farmer some filets.”

Gonzalez admitted he was lucky to have found a spot for the couple to fish, especially around the holidays.

“A lot of people love to watch the fireworks or shoot off fireworks or go to a family barbeque,” Gonzalez said. “That’s not us. We love to fish. We love to go outside. Our children all live 10 or 15 hours away, so it’s just us. All we wanted to do was go fishing, but the rising river made that a challenge.”

For those without a boat or access to private lakes, the Mississippi River provides easy access to bank fishing when the water levels are steady. Certainly fishing Moorman Lake or the ponds in South Park is an option for Quincyans, but some prefer fishing areas that don’t get heavy traffic or might be packed on a holiday.

“We’ve been to Siloam Springs (State Park) once, but we don’t know a lot of public fishing areas around here,” said Gonzalez, who has lived in Quincy for three years. “I’m guessing there are places we don’t know about.”

In fact, there are a few depending on how far you choose to travel to find a spot.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, there are seven lakes or ponds in West-Central Illinois with public fishing access — Siloam Springs State Park, the Buckhorn Unit of Siloam Springs, Weinberg-King State Fish and Wildlife Area, Mount Sterling Lake, Pittsfield Lake, King Park Pond in Pittsfield and Spring Lake outside of Macomb.

All are worth the drive from your given location.

“I guess we need to gas up and try some different spots,” Gonzalez said.

He knows it will be time well spent.

“Honestly, a day fishing is better than a day doing anything else in my book,” Gonzalez said. “Fishing in the dark is always fun, just like it was on the holiday, but I’ll take any chance I can get to go fishing no matter what time of day it is.”

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