Catfishing on the floodwaters: Ill. Mayor pictured with 63 pound fish

Flooding brings big catfish to Grand Tower

JACKSON COUNTY, IL. (KFVS) - Rising river levels tend to bring a lot of anxiety for homeowners, work for crews, and calls for emergency responders. What people don’t talk about that often, is the great catfishing conditions it brings as well.

John Wanless runs Frank’s Real Bait Shop at the corner of IL Route 3 and Route 149 for the past 20 years. So he’s heard a lot of fishing stories, and seen a lot of big catfish.

“There’s a lot of 50-pounders, 80-pounders,” he said, “I saw one that was 109-pounds.”

He says conditions for catfishing are much better during flooding.

“The water in the river is so muddy it’s like chocolate milk. They can’t see anything in there,” he said. "All the freshwater is by the bank.”

That means when there’s extra water in the river from flooding, the water close to the shore is clearer, so they can hunt for their food better. That, and there’s more food for them there.

Even though he’s got all the know-how, he says he hasn’t had much time to go out fishing himself this year.

Keith Delmore from Carbondale, Ill. had a little more time to do so when he spoke to Heartland News reporters.

“I’m off work, got some spare time,” he said. "What better place to be and what better thing to do?”

We tried to get him to tell us how to catch the big ones, but he wasn’t giving out any tips.

“Well if I told you that, it wouldn’t be a secret now would it?” he said.

Wanless was more willing to give out some dos and don’ts.

He said you mainly want to use good bait; he recommends nightcrawlers, shad, and, surprisingly enough, goldfish.

Wanless said you want to have a sharp hook as well. New hooks won’t be sharp according to him. You know when it’s sharp enough when you can set it on your fingernail at a 45 degree angle he said.

A good fishing story he shared offers some advice you might not think of. Like don’t overdue the bug spray like a fisherman he told a fishing story about from a few years ago.

He talked about a customer who wasn’t able to catch any fish despite how hard he was trying. He had good bait, sharp hooks, and a good spot.

Wanless asked the fisherman if he’d been using bug spray. The man replied saying the bugs had been really bad. That’s when Wanless knew what was going on.

The fisherman was spraying himself down with ‘Off’ pretty heavily. The bug spray got on his hands and therefore on all the bait and lines he was using.

“I said, ‘you’re not gonna catch any fish.’ It’s that simple,” Wanless said.

Even though the fishermen we talked to were having some fun with all the flood waters, they know it’s still a serious problem in certain areas. Still, it’s a good way to ease the mind in times like these.

“You know, one of these levee’s breaks, it’ll wash a town out in no time,” Delmore said, “it would ease my mind a little more if it bends down.”

Weeks later, the Grand Tower Mayor, Randy Ellet, got in on the action. He was photographed with a 63 pound blue catfish on June 18 by a KFVS reporter.

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