It began with this e-mail from Nick Pezdek about a big smallmouth caught from the Mazon River.
Hey there Dale, my name is Nick Pezdek. I just thought I'd throw you an email to show you a gorgeous Illinois river smallie I caught yesterday. I was out on the Mazon River in Coal City with my brother and father [Ed Jr. and Sr.], and along with several 3-4lb smallmouth I managed a 5+ pound fish that very well could have been near 6. Prior to the spawn it would probably be the new state record. I didn't get a weight, but the girth was gigantic on this fish and it was about 21 inches long when measured against my rod after I got home. Now I know your typical 6 pounders are over 22 inches, and so is the current record, albeit barely, but this fish was fat as could be even in mid-summer where smallmouth in general tend to run a little skinnier in rivers. I'll include a couple pics and maybe you can put her in the paper. She deserves to be seen!!! She was released to fight another day and maybe I'll have the good fortune to come back next year and get her for the state record heh. There's SO many fisheries within an hour drive of Chicago that are highly overlooked, though. This was only my third trip to the Mazon and I already pulled a fish of a lifetime out of it! I typically fish the Fox and Dupage, and I'm just starting to fish the Kank on a consistent basis. Anyways, thanks a lot and hopefully people will start to realize what great fisheries Illinois has to offer, which in turn will help manage and maintain those fisheries for many years to come!!! Thanks!!! - Nick
That's just the kind of excuse that allows me to go over the history of big Illinois smallmouth. Streams biologist Steve Pescitelli came in early one morning before doing stream work on the Aux Sable and gave some perspective on NE Illinois strreams and the size of smallmouth.
Looked at our data and here's the biggest smallmouth for each of the following rivers and the number of fish collected in each
Aux Sable: for 141 fish collected, largest was 16.5 in. 2.3 lbs.
Kankakee River: for 4151 fish collected, largest was 18.9 in. 3.8 lbs.
Fox River for 4104 fish, largest was 19.3 in. 3.3 lbs.
Hope this helps.
That's from a sample size going back to around 1980.
I tried to bring it and other ideas together in my column this morning in the Sun-Times. Including my Gordon Beckham love.