Rock River's cry: August already?
Forget about the beautiful Northern Pike you saw caught last week.
Forget about the 23-pound flathead that won the Cabela’s catfish tournament.
Forget about the basket of white bass the Asian man shows you below the power plant.
Even when fishing is terrible – and it is – someone always catches a fish.
Forget about fishing. Stay home and watch baseball.
Never heard me so negative, you say?
May and June are like August this year. What’s wrong with August on the Rock River? It’s the worst month of the year for fishing.
The river’s at its lowest point, unless we’re lucky and a hurricane comes up the Mississippi from the Gulf.
The water is too warm, the algae is blooming, and the carp are sucking scum. The fish are hunkered down in the deep holes, too lethargic to move about or eat.
I don’t remember the drought of 1988-89 very well, but a farm woman was telling me about it the other day.
“My boy was born the middle of May, that was in ’88, and we didn’t have any meaningful rainfall for 90 days that summer,” she said.
And the sure sign these are August conditions? The turtles are biting. I stopped to ask a fisherman in Page Park how the fishing was. He was just pulling the hook out of a 20-pound snapping turtle.
“I’ve had it,” he said. “I’m going home.”
He reached down to reel in his second pole.
“Oh, no. What’s this?” he lamented. “Feels like I’ve got another turtle.”
Indeed, his second catch was a painted pond turtle which had grabbed his chicken liver bait.
Where’s the rain? May and June are the wettest months we have in Dixon. Not this year. How much rain did we get in May? Two inches?
Isn’t anyone declaring a drought yet? Why not? Look at the corn. Take a close look, and you’ll see that it’s very stressed. No significant rain in sight, say the forecasts, and temps will climb into the mid-80s this week. The rain we had last Saturday was just shy of half an inch. That only washed the dust off the corn leaves, not enough to wet the soil to root depth.
I stopped to chat with an old fisherman down by the dam. I left my pole in the car, because I was too discouraged to fish.
This older man was born and raised in Dixon and knows the river well. He fishes a lot. Retired.
“I’ve never seen the fishing so poor for June,” he said. “Remember last June, and the June before? The river was running a foot high over the walkway we’re sitting on. Kids were catching carp and buffalo off the concrete. The water was swirling around behind that old cottonwood tree in the corner. That’s normal for June. This looks more like August.”
I asked him how the fishing was. He said it was the worst he’d experienced in more than 20 years.
“And the corn?” he said. “Well, it won’t make it.”
Edward Gasser is a local fisherman and guest contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.