WALTONVILLE — Fishing was good at Rend Lake’s Waltonville subimpoundment dam Tuesday morning, it just wasn’t yesterday good.

Rick Eskew, a guide for River 2 River Outfitters, and Adam Kays of Springfield returned to the dam bright and early Tuesday morning after filling their crappie limits late Monday afternoon. With the spring bite in full swing, there were already several boats gathered below the dam when the duo arrived.

The boats skirted the roiling current created by the release from the subimpoundment. With most of the anglers being locals, Eskew and Kays merely took their place in the procession. Like the other anglers, they fished with two-jig rigs bounced just off the bottom.

“Over the course of time Rend Lake gets these spells of good and bad,” Eskew said. “Each year in the spring, when they turn the water loose from the subimpoundments, it creates a current. What happens there, those crappie from the lake just follow that current.

“When they get to the subimpoundment, there is just no where else to go. They’re there. It’s the end of the road … and, it’s time to eat. It’s not like it’s a ‘for sure’ deal, but when it comes on it will last a few weeks.”

The morning shone bright and clear. A slight breeze from the south kept the air comfortable cool and the scenery was outstanding with water pouring over the roughly half-mile stretch of rip rap. A lone pelican landed about 75 yards to the east and a dozen or so cormorants kept a close eye on the fishing.

Yet, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t yesterday.

Neither Eskew nor Kays got a bite within the first 30 minutes. More ominous, not a single boat in the group boated a crappie.

“The fish are here,” Eskew said, checking his electronics. “It’s just a matter of time.

“They like to get right to the edge of that current, just back off the current where they don’t have to sit there and swim. They’re just waiting for a shad to come by … and it’s a crappie jig.”

It was a matter of time – two hours to be precise. It was shortly after 10 a.m. when Eskew set the hook on a fish. The hum of the line and the U-bend in the 10-foot crappie rod suggested it was a nice fish.

Eskew’s shoulders slumped visibly when the fish broke the surface – drum.

The drum, although returned safely to the 56-degree water, broke the ice. Within about 30 minutes, Eskew and Kays methodically started filling a cooler with crappie and the occasional white bass.

The bite wasn’t constant, double catches were rare, but the duo rarely went more than 10 minutes without catching a fish.

The action remained steady until shortly afternoon when the southerly wind, a mere annoyance earlier in the day, became untenable. When it became virtually impossible to hold the boat in place, and with a fair number of fish in the cooler, Eskew and Kays called it a day.

“We didn’t get our limit,” Eskew said. “We basically caught more than everybody else out there. What we did is persevered. We stayed out there until the trolling motor wouldn’t hold any more. That’s just what happens.”

The crappie limit at Rend Lake is 25 fish per day, only 10 of which can be over 10 inches.

It was a productive day … it just wasn’t yesterday.

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On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​


Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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