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rll

Drainage Ditches

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       I live in a heavy agricultural area and many of the creeks around here have been channelized and made into ditches.  I have never fished them but have been told there are bass in them. Anyone have any experience fishing these?

        Most are about ten yards wide max and I am not sure of depth. Odd structure is few and far between but there is fairly large riprap down the sides and there are bank wash ins and undercuts in some spots. There are also many drain tiles that come out of the fields and fall about 3-4 feet into the ditch producing pretty good aeration and it keeps the water flowing even when there has been no rain.

         We are suppose to get some nice weather later this week and I plan on going out. Any tips or techniques would be helpful. Thanks.

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I have fished rip-rap lined canals in the past for smallmouth, crappie, walleye, and largemouth in appropriate places. I found small fish relating to the rip-rap all summer -nearer the shorelines in spring and then they dropped deeper in summer. These canal sections were 14ft deep.

Better (mature) fish were found at irregularities that were anything form obvious to subtle: Locks, spillways, oxbows, embayments, shelves, turns in the canal that altered the mild current (eddies), docks, deadfalls, overhangs. Usually the cover type stuff was better when in conjunction with the structural characteristics.

My guess, from the scant description you've offered, that most of the water will produce small fish, but if you can find areas that offer larger water, cover, vegetation, ... you might find something interesting. In my canals, over time, I did find bass up to 2lbs, walleyes to 4lbs, and crappies to 14inches.

I used to fish a small creek that was channelized in certain areas. It held northern pike -no one fished it. Most areas gave up 15 to 18 inch fish, great fun on light tackle. But I found a few areas that were widened and deeper, like small ponds. These areas gave up pike to 26inches.

I like what you've got -something to explore with a fishing rod.

Let us know what you find.

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rll, I'm wondering if these drainage ditches you speak of are similar to the ones I fished in Southeast Missouri in my youth. Is the Kaskaskia area of Illinois a flat agricultural area? If so, it is similar. As a kid I caught a number of fish species from ditches like this, and some of the ditches had decent populations of bass. Most of those bass were less than 2 lbs in size but occasionally I would find a chunky one. The ditches I fished had cover and some deeper holes. The fishing quality has declined for a number of these ditches due to silt and chemicals from the surrounding fields, but there are still a few ditches that produce some fish. I would check with some local fishermen and see what they know about these ditches.

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What supplies these ditches and or causes them to continously hold water?  I have a few around home that are supplied by a river through pumps for irrigating fields, and when it floods fish get in there.  The hold water much of the year but dont get much deeper than 3 or 4 ft, and I imagine alot of stuff dies off when we get cold winters.  If I were you and you are just scouting, use something very basic that may catch several species, just to see whats in there.  Something like a small crankbait, inline spinner, or road runner jig.  Then once you know a species is in there you can go about targeting it specifically.  

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Thanks guys. I just went and did some scouting this morning after I got off work. I just  checked it out from the bridges. There is still a skim of ice in places but I could see a gravely bottom. I am mainly looking for a place to do some ultralight fishing and am praying that there are smallmouth in there.  It looks pretty promising.

I used google earth to narrow down some areas I think will hold fish and then found road crossings,bends, spots were two converge and many other interesting spots. After following it's course downstream I realized that it is not just a ditch it is actually the headwaters for a fairly good sized river. I really like using this google earth for pre-scouting deer and think it may work pretty well for fishing too. If you have not given it a try I would suggest it. It has saved me hours of walking in the deer woods, and I think it may do the same for fishing.

Will fish stack up in the last hole they can get to upstream? I think I may have found a money spot when they spawn.

I am stoked, I love fishing small water.  I can't wait till Friday when temps are suppose to be in the 60's. I will take some pics to give a better I idea of what I am dealing with and let you know how I do.

Senile1- It is funny you ask if it is like S.E. Mo. I usually drive down to the ozarks to get my creek smallmouth fix, I am searching for somewhere to catch some closer to home. And yes the area is very flat. The chemical runoff does bother me, but I don't plan on keeping anything. Hopefully it won't effect the fishing.

TommyBass- Many parts of Illinois were unfarmable back in the day due to poor drainage. That is why these creeks were channelized. Farmers here try to get the water out of the fields as quick as possible so they put corrugated drain pipes under the field and the pipes stick out the side of the ditch and water falls down into the creek below. No worry of stagnation. Water will come out in the middle of july when there has been no rain for weeks so I bet there are tons of springs around also. Which means cold water, which I am hoping means smallies.

Sorry for running on but I have been waiting to go fishing since November.I AM PUMPED!

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Will fish stack up in the last hole they can get to upstream? I think I may have found a money spot when they spawn.

I've seen this with trout. Not with other fish, but definitely something to keep in mind.

BTW: Your DNR should be able to tell you if there are SM there, and where the nearest SM fisheries are.

Cool stuff. Keep us up on what you find.

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Sounds like it shouldn't be a problem being as its the headwater for a larger river.  

Ive seen catfish, gar, carp and the occaisional blugill stackup in the last available holes, but normally bass, blugill, crappie, etc will follow the water out as it falls when levels  get low.

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I went out yesterday and checked out the ditch. I did not have any luck, but the water is still really cold, so I am not too discouraged. It was a beautiful day and I was even able to take my shirt off for a while.

I mainly threw a 3/16ths chart/white single colorado spinnerbait which is my go to bait on unknown water. I also tried a white grub, a fluke, and a torpedo. Found several interesting features, including a small dam. Saw no baitfish in the water but did see many turtles.

I went a little farther downstream than I scouted the other day. The bottom here was mud/sand and the water was fairly shallow from what I could tell, 3-4ft deep. How do you guys check depth without getting in the water? Around the bends the walls of the ditch where washed away with dirt going right into the creek. Staining the water pretty good. I now understand why the Mississippi is so muddy. They never should have channelized these creeks. Lots of corn chaffe and trash from roadway ditches floating.

As steep as the walls are it was hard to find spots to fish. I don't think this is going to hold the smallmouth like I had hoped, but I think the largemouth will be here when the water warms up. I also think I may get into some white bass, especially around the dam.

I want to post pics but I don't have enough posts.

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Interesting. Keep us updated.

Looks like there is some current moving through it, right now at least. This may be due to spring run-off. They might end up really low in summer. The summer levels will tell you what habitat you really have. Many stream anglers that only fish in the spring can be fooled as to real stream size and habitat for game fish by spring water levels. If this is the case, you may be better off elsewhere. Are you sure there are bass there? Are there others that fish this water too?

Since there is current, in general I'd avoid it for largemouths, as they generally will too. This is especially important now that the water is cold. If there are mature largemouth they will have winter holds somewhere, and may travel a distance to get there. You would need to concentrate there.

My guess is, by the looks of the size of that water (pretty small) and that current (that might impede LM movements in general), the good LM fishing year round (if there is any) will most likely be close to what wintering water there is.

I did fish one water that had some current (at just a few moderate bottlenecks) and was surprised at the decent bass fishing there -up to 2lbs or so. I did well on small marabou jigs, in-line spinners, and small lipless cranks. This water was a bit larger than yours and was an outlet to and within a few miles of a bass lake.

Just some thoughts after looking at the pictures.

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Rll,

Not all channelized ditches are born alike. It partly depends on what they feed into. But they are certainly worth a look see. There is one channel near a buddies house that offers a nice run of white bass every year and it holds some decent little smallies too. But other ditches are mostly carp and sucker havens. It just depends.

Good luck.

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I grew up fishing ditches.  You might catch 5 different species in one day.  We mainly fished worms but sometimes we tried spinnerbaits or buzzbaits if the water was deep.

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