Sarley: Fishing TV shows rigged? It depends what you mean

Photo provided
This hybrid striped bass, caught by Robert Vericella of Bloomington, is one of seven new state-record fish caught in Illinois so far this year. A normal year produces only one new record.
Photo provided This hybrid striped bass, caught by Robert Vericella of Bloomington, is one of seven new state-record fish caught in Illinois so far this year. A normal year produces only one new record.

Are there enough channels available through your TV provider to fill your demands for hunting and fishing shows? Whether you have cable or satellite, I am sure there are more than enough choices to satisfy even the most demanding viewer.

How much hunting and TV programming do you watch? Which type do you watch? What are your favorite shows? Who are your favorite hosts? I’d really like to know, so please shoot me an email with your choices.

Over the years, I’ve talked to many people who have told me that they feel that TV fishing shows are phony. They think the shows are rigged like professional wrestling. I know people who actually believe that some of the pros who have their own TV programs have scuba divers who put fish onto their hooks for the benefit of the cameras. Can you believe that? Where would divers get the fish from in the first place?

I am not saying that everything that you see on TV is always 100 percent on the square. Sponsors have to be catered to, and there is a slight chance that if a fish is caught on a competing brand of lure, that fact may be altered. But that’s really minor, isn’t it? Most of the stuff you see is perfectly legit.

Think about how difficult it is to tape a show where the host catches enough fish and enough big fish to hold the interest of viewers. They may have to film all week to come up with 30 minutes worth of quality program. They have to battle the weather and the fact that maybe the fish just aren’t in the mood to cooperate. Filming a fishing TV show is no easy task.

Do the TV fishermen get help? You bet they do. Some episodes are financed by lodges or resorts as publicity for themselves. When a lodge books a TV show to come out and film, it’s in their best interest to have the TV star catch some big fish. They make sure their guides are able to provide the TV fishermen with the best spots and the baits that are working the best at that time.

I filmed an episode of "Midwest Outdoors" at an Ontario resort. The owner said he wanted me to catch a 50-inch fish on camera. I told him that, of course, there were no guarantees. He said he had the 10 best spots on the lake shut off from having his guides take clients to them for four weeks before we filmed. It would be like fishing virgin water. I turned up 14 fish, of which half were at least 48 inches long. Unfortunately, all I could do was to get them to follow my offerings. I did the figure-eight dance at boat side over and over again to no avail. We were not able to hook a fish for the camera.

Some times on a shoot, a number of boats will go out on a lake to find fish. When one of the boats does indeed begin to catch fish, they’ll stop and call the producer. He’ll have the TV star’s boat go to the spot and start fishing and using the method that the scout boat was using to catch fish. That’s fair, isn’t it?

Sometimes you may want to do a show on a particular type of fish, and the fish don’t cooperate, and you have to change on the fly. I did a couple of episodes of Don Dziedzina’s “Illinois Outdoors” program where I was lucky to save the day by catching a really nice catfish by accident. One show we targeted crappies on Rend Lake and weren’t having much success when the cat hit my line. It made for good TV and saved the show. The other time I got a nice cat when we were taping a walleye outing on the Chain and the ‘eyes weren’t hungry.

So, please share with me what your favorite outdoor TV shows are and your favorite hosts. I’ll share your responses and will share a funny story about a taping I did when we get together again next week.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville have gone from low water to high and muddy water due to the heavy rains. Catfish are still being caught on stinkbait. Fishing will improve as the water stabilizes.

"The McHenry County Conservation Area, the Hollows, fished well for the “Hooked on Fishing” event Saturday. Almost all that showed up caught fish, and several nice largemouth bass were caught by the kids. Nightcrawlers were the bait of choice. No minnows are allowed here.

"Crystal Lake’s Three Oaks Recreation Area is home to Vulcan Lakes, which is a reclaimed gravel pit, and the heavy rain does not muddy the water as it does in other natural lakes. Bass fishing is good. Use a drop shot Roboworm or a Defender jig with a craw trailer for good results.

"For info on Northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”

Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service ( – 630-330-9090) sends word, “Walleye fishing continues to be good with a lot of fish still shallow. Jigs and cranks are best bet. Muskie fishing is just fair, but some good ones are being caught. A mix of trolling and casting is a good bet. White bass are active in the morning on a variety of offerings.”

As of Wednesday, the Lower Fox River, Upper Fox River and the entire Chain O’ Lakes were all deemed to be open to boating. With our unpredictable weather, you should always get up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River. Spring rains can change water conditions in a matter of hours. Go to or call 847-587-8540.

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan fishing report is provided by Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters – 815-338-8093: “The coho salmon keep on coming. Limits of coho are still showing up in northern Illinois off North Point Marina. The best action has been between 60 to 130 feet of water. As the coho have gotten bigger, they have began to start hitting the larger flies rather than the peanut flies. The best flies have been the slider blue/green/gold fly and the blue/black and purple.

Mixed in with the coho salmon you will find the occasional king salmon. Leads, coppers and riggers with RV Moonshine spoons, specifically the RV Moonshine Wonder Bread and RV Green Flounder, seem to be working the best for the kings. While you are running your high planer boards for coho, don’t forget to check your line for frays because the acrobatic steelhead are starting to show up waiting for a chance to break some tackle.”

Delavan Lake: Carl Kaufmann (Carl Kaufmann Guide Service – 815-245-4615) reports, “Delavan Lake has reached temperatures of 74 to 75 degrees throughout the lake, and the bass, pike and walleye have transitioned to the deeper weed edges and even deeper. Action has been better in 10 to 15 feet of water. Big-lipped crankbaits and rattle-type baits have provided the best action for both bass and pike. Position your boat in 13 to 15 feet of water and cast in and out to try to find active fish. Bluegills and crappies have been a little tougher to find lately but fishermen who kept moving and hunting for them did better. The gills seem to be going deeper and are still being taken on ice fishing jigs tipped with waxies and fished underneath slip floats.”

Wisconsin: Call Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Fishing Hotline at 414-382-7920 to hear the latest fishing information for Lake Michigan and its tributaries. Excellent Wisconsin Lake Michigan fishing is posted at

Illinois: The IDNR offers fishing reports on a number of waterways across the state. The fishing reports for lakes, rivers and streams are updated weekly.


New record: Dan Stephenson, Chief of Fisheries for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, sent some exciting news. Robert Vericella of Bloomington caught a 21-pound, 7.2-ounce hybrid striped bass on Lake Bloomington on June 12. It has been certified as a state record, surpassing the old record by more than a pound.

Stephenson said, “We did not do a genetic test since pure striped bass have never been stocked in the lake or any nearby waters, and we haven't stocked pure stripers in the state much since 2000 for various reasons I won't go into at this time. Also the meristic and morphological characteristics are that of a hybrid not a pure. This makes the seventh state record to fall this year (three were lake whitefish). Normally, we average roughly one state record per year, so 2017 is definitely an outlier."

Scholarship winners: The Illinois Conservation Foundation has announced the selections of Patricia Calderon of Chicago and Jacob Handel of Sycamore as recipients of the 2017 Conservation Achievement Scholarships. Both of these high school seniors will receive $2,000 each to apply to specified expenses at the two- or four-year college or university of their choice.

"Through the Conservation Achievement Scholarship program, the ICF is able to recognize and reward the hard work on conservation stewardship and natural resources protection being done by outstanding youth in Illinois. We congratulate Patty Calderon and Jacob Handel for their passion and dedication to making our natural world a better place, and setting a great example for all of us,” said Wayne Rosenthal, chairman of the ICF.

Applicants for the ICF Conservation Achievement Scholarship program must be outstanding high school seniors in Illinois who have demonstrated effective, voluntary, long-term dedication to the preservation, protection, enhancement and/or promotion of Illinois' natural resources. Other criteria also apply. ICF Conservation Achievement Scholarships are made possible through donations to the foundation. For more information, check the ICF website at

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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