Ashland, Ill. — Prairie Lake is on the fringe of becoming a muskie powerhouse in Illinois, as DNR biologists openly suspect there are 50-inch fish swimming the rather small 210-acre lake.
But as the state’s young muskie anglers recently learned a fishing lesson: Catching muskies isn’t as easy as talking about them.
Cole Abbot landed a 36-inch muskie on Prairie Oct. 14 to take home the 2017 Illinois High School Muskie Tournament championship. Abbot, a student at Marmion Academy in Aurora, caught the muskie just after 8:30 a.m.
“I knew it was a muskie, and I knew it was a nice one,” said Abbot, shortly after the tournament ended.
The Shawnee Muskie Hunters Chapter of Muskies Inc. sponsored the fourth annual high school competition, which was started to increase interest in muskie fishing – and fishing in general – by the state’s youth.
Five boats participated in the event at Prairie Lake, part of the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area in Cass County.
Schools represented this year included Marion Central Catholic (Woodstock), Hinckley-Big Rock, Neuqua Valley (Naperville), East Peoria, Morton, and Marmion.
“The challenge of catching muskies can be a tough task at times, but the kids were up for the challenge,” said Jim Beaty, president of the Shawnee Muskie Hunters. “There were two boats that caught muskies. The excitement was on as the first fish was caught – the fish caught by Cole Abbot. The other boats knew that they had to fish hard to get a chance at taking the lead.”
Later in the morning, Aiden Savitski of Hinckley Big Rock had a nice hit on his bait and let his fishing partner know to get the net. His partner, Jake Anderson of Neuqua Valley High School, swiftly picked up the net and after a great battle the beautiful muskie was netted.
Savitski’s fish earned him second place.
The two second place finishers and their fathers are members of the Quad County Hawg Hunters Chapter of Muskies Inc. in Plano.
“The rest of the day the participates beat the water to a froth despite the upper 80-degree air temperatures,” said Beaty. “The fish however did not cooperate for the anglers the rest of the day. Other muskies were seen but not caught. “
The third-place team was determined by a coin flip between Morton High School and Marian Central Catholic High School. Both teams caught a 16-inch bass during the tournament.
All the schools are planning on returning to the event next year, which will be held Oct. 13.
“We’d like to thank the Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail for their contribution, again this year, for purchasing and delivering the trophies,” said Beaty.