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Maciulis: Some new big thinking for smallmouth bass

The Illinois standard for smallmouth bass — record largest caught is 6 pounds 7 ounces may have been eclipsed. |

The Illinois standard for smallmouth bass — on record the largest caught is 6 pounds, 7 ounces, may have been eclipsed. | File photo

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Updated: August 14, 2014 6:25AM



Can it ever get better than this?

I received an email Wednesday from Doug Petrousek, of Douglas Taxidermy (Elburn). It read:

“Hi, Bob, You may already have heard about a new state record smallmouth caught out of Lake Michigan. If not, I received a call from a lady who said she caught an 8-pound, 9-ounce smallie that has been checked by a state biologist and is being certified for a state record. She said she will come by my shop in the next few days. Just thought I would pass on the info.”

The standing Illinois record is Mark Samp’s 6-pound, 7-ounce fish caught March 26, 1985, from a strip mine lake in Fulton County.

The fish Doug referred to in his email confirms what so many anglers catching huge smallmouth bass on Lake Michigan have reported for years. Now, the proof is in the putting.

Last week, we began a series which will recount an interview with Ed Rieck during which he unraveled the secrets of fishing nearby Heidecke Lake.

Once a cooling lake for the Collins Station generating facility that sat beside Lorenzo Road, between Route 47 and I-55, Morris, Heidecke is composed of two pools, separated by a rock dike over which coal was brought by rail to fuel the generators. It was built to catch the cooling power of the wind, its bottom contours to roll the water as it flowed from the plant three miles to the connecting channel that joined the two pools.

Rieck once held the Illinois record for hybrid striped bass, with a 17-pound, 4-ounce fish he took from Heidecke, and he shared the keys to his success on the 1,600-acre impoundment.

“During the years when the plant was operating,” Rieck began, “starting in April, the fishermen just tore up the walleyes. We had 65 degree water — in April.

“Normally, (now) when the lake opens in April, the water is pretty cold, maybe 38 or 40 degrees at the surface. The fishing usually is pretty slow when it first opens but then, maybe the middle of April, she starts heating up, getting up to maybe 48 or 50 degrees.

“It seems that once the water gets up to about 50, you can really start getting into the fish. That’s the magic number. After 50, you’ll start catching the big hybrids. You won’t get a lot, but the ones you get are going to be the bigger fish.”

(The plant was torn down so there is no hot water discharge, but Ed’s insights can be applied according to the surface temps when you are fishing.)

Rieck continued.

“I caught my record striper in May and I caught it on the cold-water side, in about two feet of water.

“The rip-rap in the shallow water is essential to the feeding patterns of all species at Heidecke Lake. The natural shoreline also is a very good area to fish but very few people seem to fish it. In the springtime, especially, the fish seem to be in shallow water. In two feet. Even in one foot of water.

“The time of the year, the water temperature and conditions all determine what you’re fishing for and where.”

Rieck’s emphasis on temperature being key is fundamental to success anywhere.



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