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Kankakee river slot limit and the derby

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Ever since the 12-18 inch slot limit for smallies went into effect there have been isuues with people bringing in slot limit fish for the Big Board portion of the Kankakee River Derby. This is partly because of the split regulation where the slot limit is in effect below the Kankakee Dam to the confluence but not from the Illinois state line to the Kankakee dam. It also is due to a lot of inexperienced fisherman who don't fish for smallies much outside of the derby and don't really know how to judge the size. While they should carry a tape measure and be aware of the law many just don't bother to read the rule book and don't look at the multitude of signs. Of course there is the small minority of poachers who don't care but they are a year round problem and not just at derby time. For that minority , well a willingness to turn them in is the best tool we have at this point.


For the inexperienced education is the key. The IDNR makes the rule book availible whereever you get your license . The ISA does it's part with the signs and a few years back the IDNR had signs made with smallie and walleye regs which I personally put up. The local paper always mentions the regs in it's article on the day the derby opens. The NIAA makes sure no slot limit fish get tagged for the tagged fish part of the derby and reminds folks it's thier responsibility to obey the applicable laws in the derby rules provided to each entrant. I also make a point of trying to steer folks away from the slot limit fish in comments I make at the yearly pre derby interview. Even with all this there are still slot limit fish being weighed in an effort to gain a place on the Big Board part of the derby.


Now those that wish to cheat can simply catch a slot limit fish below the dam , drive to a bait shop above the dam and fill out an affadavit that they caught it above the dam. There isn't much to do with them but hope they get caught with the fish in thier possession by a CPO or have folks that see them lodge a protest with the derby officials to try and disqualify the fish. Like the poachers and truth be told some of them are one and the same what I propose ain't gonna help.


This effort is to be part of an attempt to educate those that need it and are willing to follow the rules. Some of these folks a 15 or 16 inch smallie is the biggest fish they ever caught and they think it's just gotta be big enough to win a prize. I hope to provide them with a visual aid that will keep them from breaking the law and seeing that slot limit fish released immediately.


I am looking into having a ruler printed up on some sort of stock that won't fall apart immediately but that also isn't too expensive to do. I have a local printer looking into options and prices right now.

The thinking right now is a 24 inch ruler with the size limits for walleyes, smallies and northern pike as those are the only three fish in the river managed by size limits. There may also be a bit of advice about possible fines. The group and /or business that sponsored the ruler would also have it's contact info printed up. The best scenario would be for the ruler to be distributed to every derby registrant at the time of sign up.


Now ideally the derby rules would get modified to make only 18 inch or better smallies eligible for the Big Board. In the real world that won't happen because of the split regulatory zone and the fact that such a rule would have an impact on the derby registrants legally catching fish above the dam and would also have an adverse affect on the businesses there. So there would have to be a bit more verbage on the ruler increasing the price.


Now if I can get this sponsored and sell the idea to the NIAA which organizes the derby than that is Plan A.


If the NIAA doesn't want to get involved there is Plan B. That would be to maybe shorten the ruler to 20 inches and make it for smallies only. There would still be verbage on the back explaining the slot limit and contact info of the sponsor. I may have a local business that would partly sponsor this idea but the ISA may also need to get involved . With this plan the ruler would be distributed throuhout the year in bait shops below the dam.


This concept was hatched today in a chance meeting at a local establishment of a couple people looking for a solution to the slot limit issue. I am going to handle finding out the costs involved, trying to get it sponsored and talking to the NIAA. I would also handle the distribution end of Plan B. All I may need of the ISA is some cash to help sponsor this if it is deemed something we want to get involved with.


If this works, it would be a worthwhile effort at educating those who need a little extra help.


Another concept discussed today was trying to organize an educational seminar at the Fishing College the NIAA and the Daily Journal did this year. It would be aimed at teaching people the rules and strive for visual aids in learning what an 18 inch smallie really looks like. Maybe I'd get one of those life sized pictures Jamie does although a mount of an 18 incher may work better. I'm not sure if this one would be effective as I'd like and still needs a lot of planning.


Any comments , ideas or ways to improve these concepts are welcome.


Yes Mike, the old war horse is slowly coming back again.

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I do like the idea a lot, Norm.

We'll definitely discuss how the ISA might help.


Listen, there is a lot of give and take where this watershed is involved.

I worked my butt off by volunteering my time and efforts in giving a presentation at their Fishing College....a big part of promoting this Derby.

Yourself (and son) worked hard with the event as well.


I should think some sort of understanding can be reached to better care for the smallmouth bass, as there are unquestionably more smallies being killed or otherwise illegally pulled from the river during this event, and as a direct result of an oversight in the planning.


Thanks for your undying respect for this watershed, Norm.

The rest of us are better off for it.

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Guest Don R

Helping to prevent illegal harvesting and educating anglers is certainly well within the realm of what the ISA stands for.

Hopefully the rulers will expand far and beyond just this one derby.




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The ISA is not involved with the K3 Derby operation in any way. I used to be on the NIAA board and helped run the derby. I was also the ISA rep to the Kankakee River Basin Partnership[now Committee] which was a lot of the same folks.


Like Don said this effort is to try and educate people and keep smallies from being needlessly killed. I thought that I would bring the effort to the attention of the ISA as it sounded like something that fit into the mission of the ISA.


It could help our our relationship with the NIAA as well as help get the ISA brand out to those that may not have heard of us. It also could make the lives of the CPOS a little easier if some more people were made aware of and obeyed the current regulations.

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Helping to prevent illegal harvesting and educating anglers is certainly well within the realm of what the ISA stands for.

Hopefully the rulers will expand far and beyond just this one derby.



Going well beyond this one derby is indeed something to shoot for. My first thought was to try and alleviate a local problem on one of our premier fisheries and than expand the effort later. However Plan B is easily expandable to other areas with the appropriate regs for those waters.


When I get word back from the printer I consulted with the ballpark figures I requested I'll pass it on to Mike unless all concerned would rather have the information on this thread.

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I like Eric's suggestion about keeping SMB out of the derby, but I suspect it will meet resistance.


Not to open another can of worms, but I've actually been involved with small catch and release tournaments among groups of friends. They worked well. I suppose it's not practical for a larger derby where cheating is already an issue (although if everyone had a camera and Norm's ruler..and judges spaced along the bank...and helicopters ;):blink: ...).

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I like Eric's ideas regarding the use of technology, but the fact remains....Norm is just trying to get a ruler for the event, with the smallie regulations for this river printed on it.

A hard plastic ruler.


To ask for anything else (and actually expect anyone to take it seriously) is a stretch.

A big stretch.


Norm has his hands full just to convince them that the damn ruler is a good idea.


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I'm not sure what the purpose of the derby is for...to win money? If that's the case, prize money should be taken out of the derby...let people fish for pride...then there would be less chance of cheating and small fish brought it. I didn't know about this derby but I think it would be good for ISA members to supervise fisherman on the water during the derby...is that possible? Can ISA member be deputized to be on-sight supervisors?



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All reverts back to educating the people in length, catch allowed, catch/release, this is a two language system even though English is supposed to be our spoken tongue yet has not been recogized by some states as such, besides regardless of size its food to be ground up into fish burgers, after WW 2, Vietnam Conflict and Mid East Conflict, lots of people emigrated to my home country, Australia, on many occasions it was reported people keeping anything for the pot needles to say some species near died out and restrictions imposed on the recreational fisherman on certain areas off limits plus c/r created a stir, this is mainly to salt water fishing I'am referring to, still regulations remain to be adhered to.

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Jim B-


Sponsorship and money are the key factors that keep the event afloat.

Without both of them working in harmony, the Derby would not exist.

It isn't our job to police the anglers, it is theirs.

It is imperative that the group sponsoring the Derby make whatever adjustments are necessary to ensure that laws are being adhered to, and that species are not being diminished in quality or numbers as a result of their event. The event inherently becomes a factor to consider in the management of the fish populations in the absence of preventive measures.

That is their responsibility, especially given the fact they have a strong conservation ethic and preach it.


Nobody should expect that they can put a price tag on the species and unleash 500+ anglers upon them without a workable plan towards managing the added pressure on the resource.

If it was us, we'd have found ourselves answering to somebody after the first event.

Nobody is above accountability in this regard.

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Sorry guys been stuck with work being real heavy haven't had time to get on line. It was that or fish and you can guess which took precedence.


The derby lasts ten days, it has a top prize of $300 for the biggest fish of each species as of the last couple years. Smallmouth bass under 12 inches generally make up 1/2 of the fish tagged for the tagged fish portion of the derby. The are usually about 115 to 120 tagged fish in total. The big board consists of the three heaviest fish in several different species. The NIAA would not get rid of smallmouth from the derby , it's the best smallie river in the state, they wouldn't have a derby without them.


The NIAA uses the money to support fishing events for kids as well as mentally disabled people. They also use the funds to support the IDNR, stuff like jet motors , shocking hoops and refrigeration units that are being used in the walleye restocking program. They used some of the money to help fund the sand studies that Nani Bhowmik of the Illinois Water Survey did. They were active in river conservation long before the ISA ever came about, it's not a bunch of guys sticking the money in their pockets.


I personally would prefer that it was a catch and release event but except for some cheaters and some uneducated folks it's people catching fish in a legal manner per the rules set forth by the state. I and Mark K wanted a no kill stretch for the river years back when the regs got changed but the current slot limits was what came of the meeting between the ISA and IDNR. If we could get the rules changed I would love it but realistically the state does not support that viewpoint.


As far as totally stopping the cheaters , if we mustered every member of the ISA , we couldn't pull it off. The best we can do is to do what I do all the time , if I see poachers I turn them in derby or not. If I think they are cheating during derby time I'll drop a dime to the NIAA right after I call the CPO.


What I propose is simply an effort to further educate those in need of it and try to prevent the harvest of slot limit fish. This will benefit the fishery beyond the ten days of the derby as once the folks that need to know are educated they won't harvest at other times of the year. I first proposed doing this for the derby as it is a high profile event in this area. I figured it would be a means to educate between 1,000 and 1,400 fisherman [derby figures] in a very limited time. I had hoped that once that was accomplished the mission could be expanded to every flow in the state that has site specific smallie regs.


Helicopters accepted as long as they aren't black and filled with jackbooted stormtroopers. :P

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is one study I called around about to get my hands on:

Mobility of Riverine Smallmouth Bass Related to Derby Displacement and Seasonal Habitat Use Christopher Bunt, Steven Cooke, and David P. Philipp


Been thinking more and more about some of the tournaments that take place on the Kankakee around the confluence area, the Derby and other factors...and how they affect the overall species populations throughout the river.

I have no pre-conceived notions regarding tournaments (I have fished them myself), just very interested in reading what others have found scientifically.


What's interesting is that Dr. Philip told me he believes that it won't be long before B.A.S.S. will go to catch and immediate release style tournaments.

Apparently got the notion from reliable sources, but I'm not so sure I see it in the near future.

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