A Smallmouth Sanctuary - The DuPage River

Last summer I took my sons to Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota and we caught some GIANT smallmouth bass. When I told my son Kyle we were going to hit the DuPage River to catch some smallies, I'm not sure if he believed me. But when he saw a 3-pound bronze bullet explode from the water last Saturday morning, I didn't need to say a word.

The DuPage River is one of the best smallmouth fisheries in Northern Illinois. Although not as popular as the Fox or Kankakee Rivers, the "Dupe" holds plenty of smallmouth, and some big ones at that. A tributary of the DesPlaines River, The DuPage River stretches for 84 miles, and most of it is wadable. There are plenty of deep channels and holes that hold smallies. And there are plenty of public access points to fish it. One of the coolest aspects of fishing the Dupe is the adventure of exploring new water. You can fish that river every day for three months and not cover all the water. Add in the fluctuating water levels from rainfall, and you can enjoy the challenge of figuring out the river and finding fish. I grew up fishing the Dupage from Plainfield down through Channahon where it pours into the DesPlaines River.

A River Recovers
40 or more years ago, The "Dirty Dupe" was considered unfishable. It was rumored to be a dumping ground for industrial and radioactive waste between 1945 and 1963, before industrial waste disposal was regulated. But since enforcement and ultimate reduction of industrial dumping practices, The DuPage River ecosystem has continued to stabilize over the years. With clean water and an abundance of crwafish, the Dupe has become a fantastic smallmouth fishery. The DuPage has a massive abundance of crawfish, which are a primary food source for smallmouth bass.

Given the abundance of crawfish — a primary food source for smallmouth— it makes sense that my favorite lures are crawfish-imitator baits. There are small crankbaits by Rebel, which I use earlier in the year. Rapalas will also work on smallies early in the year, but the crawfish crankbaits are my favorite in May and June. Unless you like cleaning moss off your lure after each cast, mid-June is the ideal time to switch from crankbaits to weedless soft plastics like the Chigger Craw, or 4" tube jigs. Target the deeper pools and channels, working the lures in and around rock structure, and eddies from the main current. And in July, nothing beats netting real crawfish for bait — use a J-hook with splitshot and drift it in the current.

Smallmouth bass are a catch-and-release specie on the DuPage River. Their comeback is a fishery success story — so do your part and provide a quick and safe release if you catch any. If you're looking for an awesome "small river" experience and the chance to catch some smallmouth bass, give the Dupe a shot this summer.

For more information, visit www.danstefoutdoors.com.

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