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Jason Johns makes his life in the outdoors

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Updated: August 4, 2013 6:32AM

WHITTINGTON, Ill. — Heading back to the launch last month, Jason Johns made a swing to a buoy, marking the foundation of the home where his mother grew up on the family farm before Rend Lake was impounded.

Home waters hold special meaning for Johns, a hunting and fishing guide on Rend. Johns has held special meaning for me since he taught me the finer points of picking wild asparagus along country roads a few years ago.

That was no accident. Johns started as a fishing guide (Boneyard Fishing) but has expanded far beyond that to be a lodge owner and hunting guide (Boneyard Outfitters).

‘‘Trying to keep busy all year in the outdoors,’’ he said while we caught crappie off a mid-lake brush pile.

And he means all year. Crappie fishing remains the bulk of his business, and he invited me down to experience open-water crappie fishing in summer.

But he also fishes for channel catfish, largemouth bass and white bass. Deer hunting grows more important. There’s duck hunting, turkey hunting and even the occasional quail hunt, not to mention looking for morel mushrooms and wild asparagus. Associated guides Nick Shafer (Crappie Predator Guide Service) and brothers Craig and Jason Miles (Rend Lake Crappie Masters) built a hoggin’ business, too.

One of Johns’ favorite times of the year is May, when there is a chance to shoot a turkey in the morning, hunt for morels in the afternoon and limit on crappie in the evening.

I prefer open-water crappie fishing. You can talk. Our talk ranged across the religious journey of his mother (an interesting former teacher), our own religious journeys (such as they are) after kids came into our lives and ‘‘rural activities’’ for urban people around Rend.

Johns had us fishing stumps, root wads, old crappie stake beds and brush piles, primarily in 15 to 20 feet, on the main lake south of Route 154.

‘‘Anybody can catch these crappie,’’ Johns said. ‘‘That is what I like about summer crappie fishing.’’

He fished plastic on a jig, while I used a jig and minnow. In summer, it’s not an active jigging action as much as it’s sitting and holding the bait at the right depth above the spot. If you hold it, they will come.

In the years I have fished for crappie at Rend, I have noticed a good change in size since the introduction of the 25-fish daily bag (only 10 may be 10 inches or longer).

The biggest crappie Johns boated on Rend was caught on a July 5. It was 17.75 inches long and weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces.

‘‘I think before long you will see 3-pound crappie come out of here,’’ Johns said. ‘‘We’re seeing 2-pound crappie.’’

It was time.

For Johns, go to or
For Shafer, go to For the Miles brothers, go to

Stamp stumped

As of Monday, Illinois has a water-usage stamp for non-motorized watercraft, canoes, kayaks and paddle boats. It’s confusing as hell. I suggest going to, where it is the lead item.

Perch revolution

Going into the 2014 gubernatorial election,
fed-up Chicago perch fishermen are organizing on multiple levels. More to come as movements jell.

Stray cast

The Fishmobile (above) strikes me as the perfect thing to lead those who fish in the Pride Parade. After 44 years, it’s time to march along.

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