Fish record book slung wide open

At Kinkaid Lake, an Illinois record that had held for nearly 41 years was broken by a fraction of an ounce when Ryan Povolish, fishing for bass, caught a black crappie weighing 4 pounds, 8.8 ounces. It’s the largest crappie of any kind recorded in the state, edging out the previous record 4-pound, 8-ounce black crappie caught by John Hampton at Rend Lake on May 15, 1976.

Murphysboro, Ill. — Lakes at both ends of the state are sharing the spotlight after record fish were landed amid what can only be described as “March Madness.”

At Kinkaid Lake, an Illinois record that had held for nearly 41 years was broken by a fraction of an ounce when Ryan Povolish, fishing for bass, caught a black crappie weighing 4 pounds, 8.8 ounces. It’s the largest crappie of any kind recorded in the state, edging out the previous record 4-pound, 8-ounce black crappie caught by John Hampton at Rend Lake on May 15, 1976. The state record white crappie weighed 4 pounds, 7 ounces. The record hybrid crappie was 4 pounds, 8.3 ounces.

DNR did send a sample of the crappie to a lab for DNA testing to confirm it as a black crappie or a hybrid. As of March 31, it was unclear how long the testing would take. Black crappie or hybrid, it is a new state record.

March Madness defined

More than 350 miles to the north, a barrage of whitefish catches on Lake Michigan’s shore resulted in a state record being broken three times over a 33-day period, with the most recent record catch made March 22. Incidentally, the angler who caught the state record 7.5-pound whitefish also caught a state record 9.3-pound burbot on the same day.

In fact, DNR’s Division of Fisheries had barely finished engraving the latest State Record Fish plaque when Dan Stephenson’s phone rang on March 28. Shawn Hirst, DNR fisheries biologist in southern Illinois, was on the other end, calling in the report of the record black crappie.

Povolish, of Carbondale, was fishing with Josh Jackson, of Cobden. He was casting a bluegill-colored 1⁄2-ounce swim jig. Biologists say the diet of black crappies is similar to white crappies: smaller fish, aquatic insects larvae, worms, and crustaceans.

After the catch was reported, Hirst arrived on the scene with a certified scale and confirmed the new state record.

Whitefish craziness

Ken Maggiore caught Illinois’ newest record lake whitefish – along with the record burbot – at Lake Michigan’s Montrose Harbor on the north side of Chicago. Both fish were weighed on the certified scale at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop in Bridgeport. His whitefish and burbot were both caught on the bottom of the lake using shrimp.

Tim Wojnicz held Illinois’ first burbot state record, an 8-pound, 13.6-ouncer he caught at Waukegan on April 27, 2012.

As for the whitefish, on Feb. 17, Christian Howe caught a new record 4.45-pound whitefish on the Calumet River at 95th Street. Vincent Chan topped that on March 18 with a 6.55-pound catch. Then, less than a week later, Maggiore checked in.

DNR fisheries biologists say there are much bigger whitefish swimming in Lake Michigan – and the fish appears to be expanding its range to the point where shore fisherman in Chicago are likely to land more and more.

A coldwater species, whitefish were rarely caught on the Illinois shoreline 20 years ago, said Vic Santucci, DNR’s Lake Michigan program manager.

“They’ve always been seen as a more northern fish, and commercial fishermen have always caught a lot of them farther north,” Santucci said. “But we’ve really started to see them feeding on the lake’s southern shore the past decade or so. One possibility for a change in foraging behavior is the lack of Diporeia [a shrimp-like food source] from all but the deepest portions of the lake, and the increase in abundance of round goby. Foraging whitefish may be drawn to the Chicago shore areas when the temperature is right. That’s why you see a lot of perch anglers catching them.”

Santucci said 10-pound whitefish are regularly caught by DNR sampling crews, suggesting, “The records may keep falling.”

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