Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Is Illinois’ No.12 ranking just another ‘fish story?’

Springfield — When it comes to the best states for fishing, one survey has named Illinois No. 12, right behind No. 11 Georgia.

Who is No. 1? Florida. Alaska is second and Montana is third.

What puts the Land of Lincoln in the Top 12? That depends on who you ask. Anglers up and down the state quizzed about the ranking had a common reaction: a shrug, then a folding of the arms.

“They can’t ask the fish and if they are relying on fishermen to give an honest answer about who is best then they really aren’t putting much thought into it,” cracked Mike Logan, who fishes Lake of Egypt and Rend Lake on a weekly basis.

Still, Logan conceded that it’s nice to be part of a positive “story about fish, if you will.”

The non-typical thing about Illinois is that there is a wide variety of lakes, farm ponds and rivers. There also are a variety of anglers – bass anglers, salmon anglers, crappie anglers and catfish anglers.

At least one bait shop owner thinks catfishing opportunities
is what sets Illinois apart from the 38 states behind it on the
survey’s long “Best Fishing States” list. Travis Miller, owner of Big
Red’s Bait and Tackle in Springfield, is a catfish fan. He also told The Center Square that another reason for the high ranking could be that getting to a good fishing spot anywhere in Illinois is easy.

The state has 1.5 million acres of water from ponds and lakes and rivers to the deep waters of Lake Michigan.

“Everybody
fishes,” Miller said. “From the guys getting ready to go to jail, to
the judges that put ‘em there. Everybody fishes.”

Access
and affordability were two of the survey categories where Illinois
stands out, Lawn Love, the company that commissioned the study, noted.
Illinois ranked No. 3 for fishing affordability – no surprise to Miller.

“You
can fish at any level,” Miller said. “Get a stick and a string and dig
some worms … or spend lots of money to go bass fishing in a $60,000
boat.”

Miller prefers river fishing, where he catches catfish.

The survey said the number of catfish clubs in the
state helped Illinois’ ranking. Miller also gives DNR credit for
promoting fishing for kids in the state. He has two grown daughters who
he taught to fish. “Probably my most proud moments were when they
learned to bait the hooks and take the fish off themselves,” Miller
said.

Zeta Cross writes for The Center Square. Ralph Loos contributed to this report.

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