Anglers in the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week competition on Lake Shelbyville have different opinions about why the fishing has been relatively poor this week. Some blame a fall turnover. Others say it's the typical transitional malaise between summer and fall patterns. Still others say there just aren't many keepers in the lake. There's no doubt in Mike Mounce's mind that the last explanation is wrong. Mounce is the regional fisheries biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in this area. "We have a good population density of bass in the lake," he said. Electrofishing surveys confirm that. The lake has experienced three consecutive years of flooding, which brought nutrients into the lake, he added, and baitfish populations are good.
So why did 11 of the 12 best bass fishermen in the world fail to catch a five-bass limit yesterday? Mounce doesn't know. "The science of why fish won't bite isn't very good," he said. He suggests the keeper bass -- 14-inchers and longer -- have plenty to eat. Whatever is killing drum and white bass right now might be stressing the bass as well. The thermocline is breaking up in places and that could affect the bite. In addition, shad have yet to migrate en masse to the backs of creeks. I'm sure the answer is a combination of all those factors. I collect excuses for not catching fish, and that conversation added a few to my repertoire.
By the way, Shelbyville regulars should be pleased to know that the bass population is just as high today as it was yesterday. Mounce said all 25 bass weighed in yesterday have been returned safe and healthy to Shelbyville.