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Meet Dick Phelps, the walleye master of the Kankakee River

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Updated: June 24, 2014 8:43PM

Dick ‘‘Flip’’ Phelps knows walleye on the Kankakee River.

He was at it again this month before the high water came with another pair of big ones on the Indiana side.

Phelps, who has fished the Kankakee system since 1946, has a history with walleye on the river. His first one as a kid was an ounce shy of 10 pounds.

Teaching fishing on the Kankakee is something Phelps has done for years. He has helped the Sportsman’s Letter’s Ed Mullady with classes. Mullady uses Phelps extensively for updating the Indiana edition of the Kankakee River Atlas.

‘‘He is one heck of a fisherman,’’ Mullady said. ‘‘He fishes a lot.’’

Though Phelps, 74, is retired, he still puts in a couple of days a week at the Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park in Lake County, Indiana.

As to the walleye, he said, ‘‘There is nothing to it.’’

Yes and no.

Phelps fishes worms on a small hook (No. 6) Texas-rigged (hooked through the head with the hook buried in the body) on 4-pound line with No. 5 split shot. There’s logic in the light line and small hooks. He fishes current, and smaller-diameter line allows for a more realistic presentation of the bait.

‘‘I do a lot of back-reeling to relieve pressure off the drag,’’ he said.

Phelps primarily fishes inlets from shore and drifts the current. Bigger hooks would rip through the worms more quickly. But he switches worms out often.

One trick Phelps uses is putting the walleye on a stringer, then releasing them when he is finished. He found that if he released them right away, they somehow alerted other walleye of danger.

As might be expected, Phelps catches other things with his presentation, including northern pike to 46 inches and bluegills to 9 inches. And being out on the river, he notices the changes. There has been a big influx of flathead catfish, there’s white bass and some of the creeks hold spotted (Kentucky) bass to 19.5 inches. The invasive white perch have made their way into the river, and yellow bass have been there for
a while.

Phelps has caught his share of big walleye with the light presentation. His biggest went 13.5 pounds, and he has 33 longer than
30 inches.

‘‘There are a lot of big walleye, but they are hard to catch,’’ he said. ‘‘But if you fish for them, you will catch them.’’


Monday is the deadline for the second lottery for firearm deer seasons in Illinois.

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Fireflies emerged in force in the last week. Enjoy them and keep the night bright by practicing catch-and-release.

Stray cast

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