BLOOMINGTON -- Central Illinois anglers have great fishing opportunities right in their own backyard. Reservoirs and rivers near home are teeming with a variety of fish. Some nearby destinations offer a real chance to catch a state record. Others yield the makings of a neighborhood fish fry.
Here's a brief rundown of places to go and what to expect when you get there.
Evergreen Lake/Comlara Park in northern McLean County is perhaps one of the best fishing destinations in Illinois. Big toothy muskies add excitement at the 900-acre reservoir.
"It's a great fishery, we pick up all sizes in the netting survey," said IDNR fisheries biologist Mike Garthaus.
Crappies, a tasty panfish, are present in big numbers in the 8.5-to-9-inch range. As of April 1, anglers could begin taking 15 crappies of any size each day. Previously, the fish had to be at least 9 inches long.
The largemouth bass reproduction in 2008 and 2009 was good. Expect fair fishing this year, improving to good in 2011.
Evergreen Lake has held the state saugeye record of 9 pound, 10.88 ounces for several years. Catfish and bluegill are fair.
The lake has a 10 horsepower outboard limit and daily or yearly launching fees.
Largemouth bass, crappies, walleyes and catfish are the primary fish in this 600-acre reservoir just north of Normal. Bass have good reproduction and are rated good this year. Smallmouth stockings began in 2009. Crappies have a good population of larger fish. Walleyes also are rated good. Catfish are fair. Bluegills offer some larger fish. Hybrid stripers also reside in the lake, including some big ones.
Horsepower limit is 40. Anglers may fish to the shoreline from sunrise to sunset, but must pull away from the shore at night. One change this year: trolling is allowed.
Dawson Lake at Moraine View State Park near LeRoy is a popular fishing destination.
"There are big bass in there, but definitely it's a numbers lake, lots of 12-15 inch fish," said Garthaus, who rates saugeye fishing good with most fish between 14 and 18 inches. Some larger walleyes call Dawson home.
Crappies are "greatly improving," he said, adding he stocked crappies there last year. "We are getting fish over 12 inches."
Catfish are rated good while bluegill are improving. Redear sunfish also are stocked at Dawson.
Boats with any horsepower are allowed, but it is an idle-only lake for motors larger than 10 horsepower.
Black-nose crappie, which have done well in other large cooling lakes, have been stocked at Clinton Lake for a couple of years.
"We're already seeing 9-inch fish," said Garthaus.
Largemouth bass are stable. Catfishing is always very good.
Exelon, which operates the nuclear power plant at the lake, helped the state buy additional hybrid striped bass for the reservoir, doubling the annual stocking.
Most are 15 to 18 inches, but older ones are bigger.
Walleyes are good thanks to a switch from stocking tiny fry with low survival rates to stocking larger fingerlings that have a better change to reach adulthood.
"Some people said they had the best walleye fishing they ever had (last year)," he said.
The entire lake has an idle-only speed limit after dark.
IDNR fisheries biologist Ken Clodfelter says LaSalle Lake north of Streator has a growing blue catfish fishery. Two or three beasts over 50 pounds have been caught in the last couple of years along with many more blues in the 20- to 30-pound range. Channel catfish are always excellent at the lake.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass numbers are good. Hybrid striped bass are in good numbers up to 7 pounds. For people looking for something smaller, bluegills are dandy up to 8½ inches.
The Illinois River is one of America's top destinations for sauger, the smaller cousin of the walleye, especially in spring and fall. White bass are nice-sized. Peak time is usually near Mother's Day.
Catfish on the river remain good.
Sangchris Lake is teeming with crappies.
"I picked up more crappie in the fall 2009 fish population survey than I have in 20-plus years," said IDNR fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson. "The crappie are doing well and should for years to come."
The lake has white crappie, black-nosed crappie and black crappie.
Stephenson said the bass population is fair with many fish in the mid-range. Overall, striped bass are up with the strongest year class ranging from 5 to 8 pounds. Anglers report smaller white bass are good.
The lake has excellent numbers of channel and flathead catfish.
The spillway below Lake Shelbyville holds the state record for muskies at 38½ pounds. The Shelbyville reservoir also is known for its good crappie and white bass and solid bass and catfish fisheries. Walleyes have been coming on there in recent years, but probably remain underfished.
• Spring lake near Manito has good bass and muskies.
• Lake Springfield has one of the best bass and catfish populations in the state. After a blue catfish stocking program in 2005-2006, a 70-pound fish was caught there last fall. The white bass and bluegill populations are very good.
• Prairie Lake in the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area in Cass County has very good largemouth bass. Muskies are doing well.
• Lake Jacksonville and Coffeen Lake also are among the best bass lakes in the state.
"Overall, fishing has never been better," Stephenson said.