• Dale Bowman

Carlyle Lake: Evening of fish & sounds

CARLYLE, Ill.--Two guys crappie fishing next to me began arguing about whether a scar on a crappie's side came from her knocking against rocks to knock out her eggs.

That's the kind of idiotic guy argument I like to chime in on. But since southern Illinois is not really my home turf I kept my thoughts to myself.

It was a beautiful evening to fish down the darkness. I did not catch any big ones, but I did end up with six species and 13 fish in an hour and a half.


It was the kind of evening where owls began hooting in the distance; where great blue herons squawked past, where unknown fish splashed all around and the sounds of people talking drifted over the water.

I am camping out at the Army Corps of Engineeers Dam West Campground while I am covering the Illinois High School Association's state championship for bass fishing on Carlyle Lake.

This year I did not have to write my usual four or five stories (I only had online stuff and my Sunday column, which I will update tomorrow) for the Sun-Times, so I was finished working with a couple hours of light left.

I drove the back way over to Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area and fished the shore area by the boat launch at Allen Branch to try for crappie. One of the coaches today said they saw lots of crappie being caught.

As I parked, a guy in a pickup drifted up and held his fingers a few inches apart and said they were only getting little ones.

Turns out he was right. I only saw a couple keepers caught. There is a 10-inch minimum on crappie on Carlyle Lake.

But I enjoyed myself, working a jig and light line. The other fishermen around our little cover were all using minnows under a float or bobber.


My first fish was a surprise, a small largemouth bass. I was half afraid I would catch a bigger bass, which I did not want to do because Allen Branch is one of the favorite spots for bass fishermen in boats. Such as the high school teams.

I flipped a couple more small bass, but then I began to catch small fat green sunfish. Then a redear. Then one good bluegill. One of the guys having the idiotic guy argument didn't bleieve I caught a bluegill and wanted to see it.

When he saw it was actually a bluegill, he launched a tale of using bluegill to catch up to 90-pound flathed. Carlyle did give up the Illinois record flathead, but it was not 90 pounds.

I do attract or tolerate a certain class of when it comes to outdoors stuff.

Then I caught a good crappie. Good enough that the two guys took time to launch into another argument of whether it was 10 inches or not.


I guessed 9 1/2 inches and the younger guy, who was sipping a Coors, agreed with me.

The older guy, the one who thought crappie may bang rocks to lose eggs, thought it might go 10 inches.

So I carried it over and measured it in their slide-in measururer. It was 9 1/4 inches. A beautiful fish nonetheless.

It was my 10th fish.

I probably should have quit on that note so I could now write, ``It was time.''

But the evening was too nice. I kept fishing and ended up catching a white crappie, a small one, and a few more green sunfish, before I truly had to admit it was time.

As I drove home, or rather back to the campground, with darkness building, I watched a couple guys stalking gar, I assume, as they bowfished in a backwater area by the park entrance.

No deer in the park or the fields on the way back to the campground.

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