‘Light’ year for breaking state fish records

Springfield – When it comes to state record fish, 2009 could be
considered the “Year of Ounce.”

Only two fish caught in Illinois last year set new records – and
it just so happened that both fish were battling for the same
record.

A pumpkinseed sunfish caught by Pat Crumrine on Sept. 15 at
Emiquon Preserve is officially the only state-record fish caught in
2009.

It weighed 10.24 ounces.

Crumrine, of Washington, broke a record that had been set on
July 21 by Todd Kent, of Peoria. Kent‘s pumpkinseed, also caught at
Emiquon, weighed 6.5 ounces.

The record catches are a long way from the heady days of the
1980s, when state-record northern pike, bluegills and channel
catfish were being weighed by pounds.

One 2009 fish of relative size that nearly nabbed a record was
the 6-pound, 5-ounce smallmouth bass caught April 25 by Joe Egan,
of Oak Lawn. Egan was fishing off a Lake Michigan breakwall when he
landed the monster smallie.

As it turns out, Egan’s catch was not enough to top the
state-record smallmouth caught in March of 1985 by Mark Samp at a
Fulton County strip pit. Samp’s smallmouth weighed 6 pounds, 7
ounces, meaning Egan missed the record by a mere two ounces.

And, once again, 2009 proved to be the “Year of the Ounce.”

Heading into the spring of 2010 fishing season, the state’s
anglers are again predicting big records to fall.

During the winter outdoors show season, visitors to the Illinois
Outdoor News booth were drawn to replicas of Walter Klenzak’s
state-record 26-pound, 15-ounce northern pike and Darren May’s
state-record 3-pound, 8-ounce bluegill.

The concensus was that the pike record would be the next big
record to fall.

Klenzak, who passed away in 2008, was fishing at Monster Lake, a
strip-mine lake in northwestern Kankakee County, on Nov. 9, 1989.
He was using a Hellbender lure, hoping for largemouth bass, and
hooked the 44-inch monster on a cold, dreary day.

“He always told me that it was an accident, but I guess all big
catches are really accidents when you think of it,” Joe Wall, a
friend of Klenzaks who discussed the catch during the Tinley Park
Fishing and Outdoor Show in February. “Even after he pulled it on,
I don’t think Walter even thought about it being a state record. It
was just a big fish. But man, was he proud of that fish, and well
he should’ve been.”

Interestingly, much like the pumpkinseed battle of 2009,
Klenzak’s big northern was the second record pike of 1989. In July
of 1989, Kris Koeser, of Machesney Park, caught a 23-pound, 4-ounce
northern pike at Pierce Lake in Rock Cut State Park.

The previous Illinois record was 22 pounds, 12 ounces and had
been caught in 1976 at Lake Marie on the Chain of Lakes.

May’s state-record bluegill was caught on a night crawler in
Jasper County farm pond.

The Illinois record channel catfish record, a cat weighing 45
pounds, 4 ounces, was caught out of Baldwin Lake – that record also
was last broken in 1987.

Becoming an award-winning angler in Illinois

The Division of Fisheries offers several angler recognition
awards for fish caught in Illinois waters. Junior angler awards are
for young anglers under 16 years of age catching their first
Illinois fish. Catch and Release, Big Fish, Master Angler, Grand
Slam, and State Record are available to any angler meeting the
eligibility requirements outlined in the rules.

A state record

An award patch, engraved wall plaque, and certificate will be
awarded to the angler who catches a fish which equals or exceeds
the weight of the current state record. All state record fish must
be certified by a DNR fisheries biologist. Applications for the
award are available at www.ifishillinois.org. Completed
applications, DNR certification, and a photo documenting your catch
must be mailed into DNR’s Division of Fisheries.

A Grand Slam Award

A certificate, pin, and patch are awarded annually to anglers
catching at least one representative from five of the six family
categories of Illinois fish.

A Master Angler Award

A certificate and pin are awarded annually to anglers catching
five different species of fish which meet or exceed the minimum
lengths or minimum weights.

A Big Fish Award

A certificate will be awarded to the angler who catches and
keeps a fish which equals or exceeds the minimum qualifying
weight.

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