A guide to hunting and fishing activities in southern Illinois

A guide to hunting and fishing activities in southern Illinois
Photo submitted by Don Gassaway

Outdoor writer Don Gassaway sent this story over on behalf of the Williamson County Tourism.

Don gets into the outdoors quite a bit, especially in southern Illinois.  Its one of the most beautiful parts of Illinois and it has loads of fishing and hunting possibilities.   Here's what Don has to say.

Teal and Largemouth bass provide a fall “cast and blast” opportunity for sportsmen in southern Illinois. The early teal season is the first of the waterfowl seasons. Long known for its waterfowl hunting opportunities, Williamson County attracts many hunters each year.

The early teal season, however, does not result in crowded hunting conditions. The opportunity is there it is just that some people are still busy with the summer recreational activities such as fishing and hiking. Teal are rather thin-skinned when it comes to cold weather and migrate earlier than do other ducks and geese. They prefer hot, muggy weather and mosquitoes to the frost and ice of the later months. Most hunters use their teal call sparingly. Teal, like other ducks, are social idiots.

Decoys are all one really needs in the way of attractant for teal. They want to be with other ducks. In preparing for teal season, it is advisable to work out at a clay target range with Midi (90mm) and Mini (60mm) targets. Learn to shoot fast, crossing targets. It is the kind of shot presentation you least expect. In the field, the birds are gone before you decide to shoot. Pre-season scouting a few days before the planned hunt is a good idea.

Hot Teal hunting locations are predictable from year to year, if the habitat has not changed. Nevertheless, quick changes in the fall nighttime temperatures cause birds to abandon their favorite haunts. Due in part to the cooler temperature early in the day, teal hunting tends to be an early morning activity. The rest of the day is for bass. Bass fishing in the fall is difficult. More appropriately, it is better defined as different. Wind probably makes the most difference.

If one finds a location where the wind is blowing toward the shore, chances are that the forage fish collect there. Many anglers avoid wind for the problems it presents in boat control and casting. Bass will stay with the forage fish on the down wind side of a bay even after the wind ceases. They will stay in the area for a day or two after the wind dies down or changes direction. Eventually, the baitfish will move to another location and the bass will follow.

Bass gather at the mouth of feeder creeks in the early Fall. Soon they move up into the creeks in search of clean water. The forage fish move into the creeks first. The bass quickly follow them. In the fall, a favorite lure on sunny days is a jig flipped to structure. One of the popular jigs is the Lunker Lure Rattleback jig produced locally by that company and available in most bait and tackle stores.

This pattern is especially effective just after the passing of a cold front. On cloudy days, locals tend to stay with topwater lures. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are typical. On a warm stable weather day, the spinner bait is preferred. Local lakes such as Crab Orchard Lake, Little Grassy Lake, Devils Kitchen and Lake of Egypt are all excellent lakes for the bass angler.

One can make their base of operations in Williamson County at any of the many local motels and fish some 40 major locations within 1-hour driving time. Fall may be the time when a young man’s attention turns to hunting, but a cast and blast vacation in southern Illinois centers in Williamson County.

Free color brochures on both hunting and fishing in Williamson County are available from the Williamson County Tourism Bureau. Additional information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is also available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99. Information is also available online at www.visitsi.com, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website. Their e-mail address is info@visitsi.com.

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