Fishing the Rock River

Fishing the Rock River
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During the dog days of summer, those who love to fish are always looking for a new hot spot.  There is one that I learned about and it just gets better and better as the fishing season seems to be shutting down.  But I’m not talking about bass, walleye or muskie fishing.  I’m talking catfishing and I’m talking the Rock River.

Fall fishing is great on the Rock River and believe it or not, it’s just as good in November and December.

Some bass and walleye anglers will tell you they had a great day on the water when they caught 4 or 5 fish in the 3 or 4 pound range.  They’ll be doing cartwheels if they got a 6 pound bass or walleye.  Muskie anglers we’ll often be happy if they see one swirl on their bait.  I think an avid catfish angler will laugh at all this.  Why?  On the Rock River (as well as other locations) they’ll catch channel cats in the 10 pound range and shrug their shoulders about it.  They get excited when they have a 15 pounder or larger.  Flathead anglers probably get more 20, 30, and 40 pound fish than any muskie angler would hope for.

Here in Illinois, the Rock meanders south from the Wisconsin state line by Rockford and continues through residential and farmlands all the way down to the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area.

I had the opportunity to fish the river below the dam at Rock Falls and Sterling.  The river here is easy to navigate and there public ramps are easily found.  And for being a place to get catfish, it has grown to be one of my favorite destinations here in Illinois.

Avid cat anglers most always anchor to stay on their catfish holding spots.  They’ll place the boat up river from the location that they want to check out.  They’ll set out an anchor, and then fish out the back of the boat.  One thing about anchoring though, you’ll need some very strong rope, have some chain between the anchor and rope and have an anchor that doesn’t easily snag in big rocks.

I don’t want to paint too rosy of a  picture here for you.  Fishing is fishing and it’s not called catching.  Some days the fishing is good, some times it could be better.  I’ve been on this river in the Rock Falls area a few times and had good days and bad days.  I guess it’s best to say that the better the cat angler you are, the better you’ll do on the Rock River.

I’d never profess to be a catfishing authority.  But I keep an open mind and am always anxious to learn.  I do my best to get out as often as possible and learn what I can to improve my catch.  To become a better angler, get out on the river with a catfishing guide.  Watch, listen and learn.

Bone up on catfish angling by reading every article you can find.  Catfishing magazines and books are plentiful and you have to believe me here; the more you read the more you’ll learn.  The more often you get out, the better you’ll do. That’s the ticket to getting more fish.

By studying the art of catfishing you’ll learn about rigging, boat position, bait selection, and more.  You’ll also get an education on when to go for catfish and where.

“A lot of people don’t believe that we can anchor in one spot and catch fifteen to twenty inch channel cats one after another, all day long.” one catfish guide told me.  “And when I tell them that the time to do that can be in October, November or even the dead of winter.  They just think I’m kidding them.”

It’s true though.  In the fall and winter catfish anglers can catch dozens upon dozens of cats from one wintering hole on a river.  The fish just stack up like cordwood and if you can find them, you’re in for some heavy action.

If you’d like to give the Rock River a try, there’s a free boat launch about 5 miles west of Rt. 40 on Rt. 30 (west of Rock Falls/Sterling).

Spend a day on the Rock River and you will quickly learn that the Rock River is truly a catfish haven.  But that’s not all.  You’ll also see that great fishing is not that far away.

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