The Illinois trout opener is usually a yearly tradition for my son and I. We awake in the wee hours of the morning, load the truck with our gear, and head to Pickasaw Creek in Chemung,IL. This year was a little different. Typically we would arrive stream side by 4:30 A.M. to get our spot on the grassy banks. Fishing opens at 5, and by then it is shoulder to shoulder combat fishing.
The Illinois trout program is somewhat of a joke in my mind. The fish are stocked in various ponds and small creeks throughout the state. The ponds and streams are typically places that the stocked rainbows have no chance of survival in long term. The trout get fished out usually by opening day, and there may be a handful left for the day after. In the past, the IL DNR used to stock Brown Trout which has a better chance of survival rather than the rainbows that are stocked now. In Pickasaw creek I have heard of a few Brown Trout being caught that where fairly large. I have never personally seen or talked to anyone that has caught one, it has all been fish stories heard from others that gather on the banks for opening day.
This year was different as mentioned before. Due to me being in Colorado, I had to work till noon opening day. As soon as I was off work I raced home to pick-up my son and his friend to head to the creek in hopes that there were some trout left to be caught by these young anglers. As we pulled up to the creek there where only 6 cars there which seemed odd to me. Typically there would be 30-40 still there on opening day. The thought of already being fished out by 2p.m. kind of made me sick. Either way we unloaded our rods and walked down to the stream and talked to an older couple that said it was slow fishing for them, but had seen a couple still cruising through the main deep pool that everyone fishes. I saw a few of the people that were already there leave with there stringer of 5 fish, and there where some fairly large fish on those stringers. I saw one that had to be 4 lbs and 18" long. I was surprised by the size of the fish walking out, as they are usually small 9-12" fish.
The boys and I set up and started fishing, and instantly started catching the thousands of creek chubs and suckers that seemed to be left. Finally around 4:30 I was able to hook into a trout. It was about 8" long, and what seemed to be the smallest trout I had seen all day.
I am not one to eat farm raised pellet fed trout, so I offered it to a friend of mine that met us at the stream. He didn't catch anything besides chubs and suckers as well. I joked around when we packed up to leave telling him to enjoy his snack later. Farm raised trout have a horrible taste to them, that I personally do not enjoy. The thought of releasing the trout crossed my mind, but for what I asked myself. It will just suffer during the warm months when the water starts to boil. Instead I gave it to a friend who I know will consume it rather than the raccoons when the fish comes a float. I question if I was wrong in doing this. As I am typically a catch and release guy except for panfishing through the ice, or when I hook a fish and it's chances for survival seem slim. I would love nothing more than to see a sustainable trout fisherie in Illinois, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Either way it was just good to get the kids out fishing after being cooped up inside all winter. They had a great time even catching creek chubs which is a success in my book.