Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kayak Fishin' the DPR

the s.s. goby slayer

Yesterday I studied a year's worth of posts about the desplaines, boned up on the behavior of pike, and set my alarm for early- I was going to hit the DPR and catch me some of those toothy buggers!

point me to some fish!
Woke up this morning, had my coffee, oatmeal, packed my gear, and loaded the s.s. goby slayer on the car. (That's what I call my kayak, since that is what I seem to be best at catching.) 

Made sure I had all my spinners and crankbaits, cause today I was fishing for PIKE! I'd never caught a pike, and I hoped this would be the day. The impression I got from the posts I'd been reading is that it wouldn't be too difficult to get on some pike, and I was super excited.

Wanted to stop a walgreens on the way to get some bug spray (I've heard the bugs are CRAZY on the river) but all three I drove by weren't open yet. Oh well, I had the little fan thing so it would probably be ok.

Got to Irving Park and Desplaines, where there was supposed to be a kayak launch. I saw a forest preserve entrance and a parking lot, so I figured that was it. I parked, and checked out the river. Lots of bugs, lots of rocks, lots of mud, and a pretty steep drop to the river. Well, I guess this is the kayak launch, let's do it!

Got the yak down to the shore, almost fell in about thirty times on account of the super sticky mud, but I was ready to launch. Pushed off, and I was on the water. I had this crazy idea I would start getting some bites- it was a little cloudy, there was a storm coming, the pressure was falling, it seemed like everything was good for fishing. Apparently, not the case.

where I should have launched
I paddled upstream, so once I was tired I could coast back with the current. Soon after I paddled under the Irving Park bridge, I saw what was clearly the actual kayak/canoe launch. Looked like a great place to launch, no steep incline, and much less chance of falling in! Awesome. Remember that for next time.

There was a ton of fishy-looking spots, lots of submerged timber, fallen trees, overhanging branches; lots of those pools and eddies I've heard so much about from river fishermen, the places that hold fish. Things were looking good to find some fish- the only problem with so much cover is figuring out which were the best places to hit.

There was also more trash and debris than I have ever seen on any body of water, even Busse! Seeing all the beautiful pictures of the river online, I was not prepared for the onslaught of waste that filled the tree branches and banks. Things you might expect, like plastic bags and some bottles, and other stuff like a condom in a branch that made me scratch my head. How!?!? 

Under the Lawrence bridge I saw some homeless dudes, and I have to say it really weirded me out... I wondered what they thought of this yuppie dude with many $'s worth of fishing gear hanging out in a kayak while they struggled to avoid the elements and feed themselves.. I could go home to my air conditioning and shower and fridge full of delicious food; they didn't have that option.

shouldn't there be some fish here?
Every so often I would stop at an especially fishy spot, tie a line to a branch or stump, and cast away. I mostly threw 1 oz. (I think) white spinners, and some crankbaits. Amazingly, in the course of the entire 3 1/2 hour trip, I only lost 2 lures! It's a lot easier to get your lures back when you can paddle out to them and unhook them. 

After a while I needed to get to the shore to take care of some business... As soon as I stepped out of the kayak, my foot went straight down and the mud came up to my knee! When I pulled my foot back up, my croc was gone. I reached my arm deep into the mud, and two minutes later pulled up my shoe. Awesome!

hangups aren't so bad
when you can paddle to them
No bites, no nibbles, many hangups, but so far no lost lures. I kept paddling upstream, every spot looking fishier than the last. After a few spots with no bites, I started to get discouraged. What the heck! There are supposed to be fish here! I saw a lone carp looking for a snack in some shallow water. In one particularly promising spot, where the current was mostly blocked by logs and branches, I thought there must be fish here.

I was right! I found a bunch of tiny minnows, and there were a few slightly larger fish chasing them and eating them! I'd never seen this before, and it was pretty cool. This spot had tons of cover, a change from shallow to deep, a change in current, lots of forage in the form of baitfish and crawfish I saw along the bottom; how could there NOT be some pike or bass nearby?

I hung out there for about a half hour, and tired a few different lures. I even busted out my magic green tube jig, hoping for at least some bites. Even without bites, it was cool to be on the river in the s.s. goby- every five minutes or so a plane would fly overhead.

this one flew right over me
I started to hear some thunder... My lovely wife texted me to suggest I'd better get a move on, the storm was coming. Crap! I looked at the radar and it wasn't looking good.

I turned the boat around, and headed back down the river. The sharp eruptions of thunder were getting closer together, and it was freaking me out! I started to see lightning.. I wondered if my paddle was made of metal...

Little drops of rain started pinging the water, and I intensified my paddling. I had been casually casting my white spinnerbait as the current pushed me down the river, but now I stowed my rods and paddled in earnest. My arms started to burn- I'm not used to this much physical activity! The rain started to fall harder, and the breaks between thunder and lightning got shorter. Oh jeez!

After what seemed like a very long time of what seemed like paddling very fast, I made it to the kayak launch. (Turns out I was only going 4 mph, but that was much faster than I had been paddling.) About that time the rain started to fall like crazy, and I decided to land there, and bring my car around. Hopefully nobody would steal the s.s. goby slayer.

Walked quickly to the car, made it back to the launch, and loaded everything up in record time. Almost as soon as I got in the car, the sky opened up! Good timing. Thanks wife! I was soaked, my arms were burning, my legs were covered in mud, and I didn't catch so much as a bluegill... I was pretty frustrated I didn't even get a hit from any of my pike or bass friends... but I couldn't wait to get back on the water and go fishin'!

No fish here? Really?


  1. Nice write up Bud!! I love reading reports of our own Des Plaines River. :)

    Better luck next time!!

    Dan Sims

  2. i just started to fish the DPR this year also. it has been pretty good for me up in the lake county area. very secluded. just keep after em'

  3. thanks for the words of encouragement!

  4. Next time I definitely have to try some Sims spinners...


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