Quad Cities & Beyond

On a bright, but overcast Saturday morning, Alexis Castillo, Rock Island, IL told me, “With the girls out of school, we spend a lot of time here at Sunset Park. We bike down and around the water. Sometimes, we bring the dogs down and walk around the lake on the path. But most of the time, the girls really like to just pick one of the fishing piers or platforms, bait up with worms and catch fish.” While we talked, Anali (7) and Gabrilla (12) finished setting their poles and then moved the bait can into the shade under a bench. Like this trio, there were several family groups fishing in this west end Rock Island park.

After restrictions on outdoor recreation were relaxed, a positive byproduct of the Covid-19 Virus has been the renewed use of local outdoor recreational areas. On this particular day, the parking lot for the end boat launch was full, and one of the lots for the side launch was at about half capacity. There were lots of anglers fishing from shore and piers. While I was there, I saw boats taking fish while casting for bass, and lots of buckets or stringers with small catfish, drum and sunfish.

An hour later, when I stopped at Illiniwek Forest Preserve, Hampton, Ill., Melvin Gates from East Moline, his grandson Mel, and best pal VJ also boasted about the catfish they caught from shore at the end of the campground. Spots like these, which have been overlooked for years, have now become favorite fishing holes. It’s about time!

This month’s column will cover the fishing opportunities for the really warm weather months of late June through August. The information is based on what the various bait shops tell me, a few bits of information that I have taken from more than two decades of personal fishing diaries, and tidbits offered by shore and boat fishermen at various launch sites.

Note: Due to the construction of the new I-74 bridge, the River Drive access to the western end of Moline’s Ben Butterworth Parkway is closed. If you want to fish the very productive riprap in this area, park in the lots east of 34th Streets and walk back. The last time I was down there, the walking/jogging/bike trail along the river’s edge and the riprap were open for use without restriction, although the picnic areas and trash barrels were not being regularly serviced.

 

ILLINOIS LOCATIONS

Carbon Cliff

Catfish will be king for all of us who eat our catch. The very large flatheads are caught almost exclusively after sunset. Use large shiners, chubs, goldfish or bluegills. The good-eating-size cats will bite through hot weather along Ben Butterworth Parkway along the riprap. Use chicken livers, leeches or dip bait. Largemouth bass can be taken around structure in the first pool in the Hennepin on Big Island. Panfish and crappies will slow during these warmer-water days.

 

Dixon

In this stretch of the Rock, catfish are taking cheese and dip baits, as well as balls of dog food, chicken liver, shrimp, nightcrawlers and chunks of shad. Smallmouths and walleyes will be few and far between except in the roiling water below dams. Use minnows or the smallest of leeches. Crappies will bite on minnows throughout most of July, but typically slow in August, picking up as the water cools. Carp will stay in the deeper water, especially off streams and discharges. Marble-size dough, cheese or stink bait balls work best.

 

East Moline

If campgrounds are open, this one sits on a bend in the Rock that annually produces more large flatheads than any place else in the Quad Cities area. In a good year, several cats over 20 pounds will be caught each month. There will be panfish biting along the bank, and kids can have a great time catching them. Smaller cats will undoubtedly be caught here as well, but for big flatheads, this is the place to go.

 

Lake Clinton

The local bait shop owner says that these hot-weather months are really good fishing on Lake Clinton. Guides are available in the area. Catfish are probably the #1 most popular fish now. They bite on shrimp, nightcrawlers, cut baits, stink, cheese or dip baits and even small shad caught in the lake and cut or fished whole. The deeper and cooler water is west of De Witte bridge. In this area, you can troll for cats with a light weight that keeps the bait 18 inches to a couple feet off the bottom. If you like to crappie fish, try finding the deepest holes and use lively mid-sized minnows. Use your depth finder to locate schools in at least 10 feet of water.

 

Milan

With a decrease in tournaments, you can keep up your largemouth skills throwing lures in the Hennepin. Probably the best pool is the first on Big Island. There is quite a bit of structure, plus off-bank humps and drop-offs. This pool is also good for bluegills, using red or waxworms in the Berkley egg-type baits. In Sunset, there has been a good panfish bite when the water is at normal levels. Along the river, they have been taking 3- to 5-pound catfish late in the day using large balls of nightcrawlers, chicken livers, leeches or dip bait, usually on a 3-way bottom rig fished 10 to 20 feet out from the bank.

 

Pekin

Even in the hot weather months, there is usually a morning and evening crappie bite on minnow-tipped jigs at Banner Marsh and Lake Evergreen. Catfish will bite through the warmer water months at Rice Lake where there is deeper water. On the Illinois, the white bass have been active, but locals wouldn’t say where. However, in the past, white bass have schooled in the backwaters, at the mouth of the Mackinaw River and below the lock and dam. White bass bite are caught almost exclusively on minnows, although small spinnerbaits occasionally work.

 

Rock Island

In Sylvan Slough, white bass, drum and stripers are working along the wall at the Moline end. Using red worms or small minnows, anchor almost against the wall, and let a slip bobber carry your bait downstream against the wall so it bumps the moss. There will be drum in this area all day, and stripers and white bass early and late. Whichever species moves in will be what you catch. Some days, it will change almost hourly; some days, it will be one species all day long. We have had an influx of pelicans, and at times they take over Sylvan Slough. If they are in, find another place to fish. Walleyes will hang along the downstream sides of the wing dams off Credit Island and those just downstream of the I-280 bridge. Either troll small Rapalas, or anchor and let minnows or leeches drift along and around the dam. For catfish action, be sure to try walking the long, lateral dam in the mid-Mississippi channel, orienting your position with shore sighting between the large tanks on the Iowa shore and Ben Butterworth Parkway in Illinois. Use red worms, nightcrawlers, leeches or dip baits. (For more information, look up last month’s article on walking this two-mile long, mid-Mississippi River structure).

 

Savana

Catfish are active along riprap, shoreline structure, overhanging bank vegetation and in backwaters. Leeches, nightcrawlers and dip baits have been the best. Walleyes are active below dams and around structure, but they are not really abundant right now.

 

IOWA LOCATIONS

Bettendorf

Catfish are everywhere. In the Clinton canal, they are around any structure, bridge abutments and along overgrown shorelines. In the canal behind the Le Claire locks, they lurk along shaded shorelines and wherever there are prominent drop-offs or deep holes. The best-selling baits have been leeches, nightcrawlers and dip baits. There are no reports of walleyes right now. Some bigger flatheads and nice-sized catfish taken from the Wapsi, but it is a tricky river to fish unless you are familiar with it. There are deeper stretches and some that barely float a canoe, but summer fishing can be spectacular. Lost Grove continues to be the hot spot for local fishermen with an Iowa fishing license. The stocked fish are now mature, and for family fishing, it can’t be beat. There are lots of nice panfish, catfish and other popular midwestern species. For an all-day experience, consider fishing this newest of Iowa’s man-made lakes.

 

Davenport

There are still a few walleyes being caught below the dam, but they are small. Catfish are biting off Credit Island at the far western tip, in all backwaters, and in ten or more feet of water along the Iowa Shore. Fish both up and downstream from Buffalo, and around the old abandoned barges, both visible above the surface and sunken. The best baits have been cheese and regular dip baits, chicken livers, leeches and nightcrawlers. Also there has been good catfish catches taken in the Wapsi when the water levels are normal.

 

Dubuque

Look for catfish off rocky shores, around rotting structure and in holes and drop-offs. Early and late in the day, nightcrawlers, chicken livers and leeches have worked best. But during the heat of the day, dip baits and doughballs are most effective. You can also take some nice channels using leeches and nightcrawlers along the shorelines. But, when we hit the 90’s the cats will move deep and you will only find them in the deepest water and holes. Northerns are less active, but a few will be caught all summer long. Use the biggest baits, a faster troll over deeper water. Trolling is about the only way to take walleye in hot weather. Use trolling baits, a fast troll in the churning water below dams. On darker or cooler days jigging will work below dams. But keep in mind that even though the temperature has dropped overnight, the water temperature is only a degree or two cooler than it was in the mid-day sun. Find shaded lily pads and work a loud plastic frog for largemouth bass that hide under them.

 

Lake Rathbun

There will be catfish in the deeper water near the spillway. Leeches or nightcrawlers bottom, bounced at the spillway or fished on a three-way rig in the deeper holes, will take nice fish. Walleyes congregate at the spillway and at Island View. Use leeches or minnows on a jig for them. If you have never fished this lake, purchase a contour map, find one online or go with a buddy familiar with it. This is one of those larger waters that you have to “know” to be successful.

Whether you fish the river or a small lake just down the street, or jump in the car for a day out and away, enjoy our great Midwest outdoors and go catch a bunch!

One last note: Some of these shops are keeping different hours during this period. Some have closed for a few weeks, but almost all of them have bait-dispensing machines near their entrances. For fishing licenses, both Iowa and Illinois sell them online, and some big box stores and hardware stores still have some on hand if your favorite bait shop is out or closed. You do have to carry a valid fishing license, even in this emergency. MWO