Steve Sarley: Johnsburg fisherman reels in muskies from kayak

Johnsburg's Jeff Batt shows off a big muskie caught and released while fishing from his kayak on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes.
Johnsburg's Jeff Batt shows off a big muskie caught and released while fishing from his kayak on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes.

Jeff Batt is an extremely avid 44-year-old fisherman from Johnsburg. He lives there with his wife, Carol, and their sons, Jackson, 13, and Tyler, 11. Jeff, like many area anglers, enjoys chasing big muskies on the Fox Chain.

The thing that sets Batt apart from other anglers is that he does his muskie fishing from a kayak. If that isn’t special enough, he loves to troll for muskies. Yes, he paddles around the Chain dragging big baits to tempt those toothy fish.

Batt caught the muskie bug in 2014 during an outing on the Chain with a friend, noted muskie pro Nick Cammarata. He was stricken with muskie fever. As a matter of fact, Batt's two sons shared reeling in a 50-inch fish, which is the Holy Grail for a muskie fisherman. They caught the fish after being on the water for a mere two hours.

Batt had fished from a kayak a few times in the past targeting bass. He thought the concept of muskie fishing from a kayak was something appealing. He read Tom Gelb’s accounts of row-trolling on the internet and thought it was something he’d like to do. Gelb rows a boat. Jeff couldn’t launch a rowboat alone, so he figured a kayak would work best for him.

He decided an Ocean-brand kayak in the Trident 13 model would suit his purposes. It is 13 feet long and weighs 78 pounds. It is a sit-up kayak rather than the kind of kayak in which you sit down in the belly of the boat.

Then Batt began shopping. He found exactly what he was looking for from a private owner located in Fontana, Wisconsin. As a bonus, the kayak he found was orange, lending greater visibility and making it extremely safe for the Chain’s busy waters.

Batt is able to mount the kayak on the roof of his vehicle for transportation purposes. He uses a special rack with three “V’s” in it to hold the watercraft while he puts it on and takes it off his Honda Pilot all by himself.

Batt launches his kayak at the Musky Tales tackle shop on Channel Lake in Antioch. Batt’s muskie fishing usually takes place on Channel Lake, Lake Catherine, Lake Marie, Petite Lake and in Pistakee Bay.

He loves his kayak and has outfitted it exactly the way he wants it.

“It’s really stable and tracks quite well," Batt said. "I did some modifications, and it took a couple of fishing seasons to get it exactly where I wanted it to be.”

Batt's kayak is outfitted with three rod holders for trolling, two pointed to the outside and one pointed up so he can troll a bait directly behind the boat. The rod holders are mounted to a plastic crate that serves double-duty as a tackle box and supply storage unit. He has a holder for his muskie net. The kayak is set up with a Lowrance depth finder/GPS electronics unit, so of course, he has a deep cycle battery in the boat. He usually hits the water with three muskie rods and a complete complement of muskie baits.

You can usually find Batt out on the Chain in spring and summer and then later in the fall.

“When the water temperatures climb up into the 80s, it’s very dangerous to the health of a muskie to release it," Batts said. "I don’t want to take a chance on killing a fish, so I just stop fishing no later than the first of July and then start again at the end of August when the water temperatures start to drop. Then I will fish through November.”

Batt hits the Chain two to three mornings a week when he deems the water cool enough to fish for muskies in a safe manner.

“I usually hit the water before daybreak, and I am off the water by 8:30," he said. "I fish for a few hours and am usually able to paddle about 8 to 12 miles by the time I am done.”

I will finish up Batt's tale next week, filling you in on kayak safety on the Chain, his successes on the water and something really cool he accomplished with the Muskies, Inc. national organization.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville have returned to somewhat normal water levels. Catfishing with cut bait, stinkbait and nightcrawlers will all work. Smallmouth bass are hitting below the dams. I like small spinners or craw pattern crank baits.

"The McHenry County Conservation District site, Lake Atwood at the Hollows has non-stop bluegill action. Redworms or waxworms work well.

"Crystal Lake’s Vulcan Lake at the Three Oaks Recreation Area is a great summer bet for bass. A Defender jig and a craw trailer is all you need from shore or from a boat. This is a no-minnow area and also catch-and-release only.

"For more 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, “Largemouth bass have been very good on plastics and spinnerbaits. Walleyes have slowed, but there are still some available on live bait and crankbaits. Bluegills are good near weeds on plastics or live bait.”

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan Fishing Report is provided by Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters: “I have never seen so many coho salmon in July. Fishing was excellent this past week. Loads of cohoes, steelhead and the occasional king have been hitting the deck of the Migrator. Fishing early in the week was best out between 150 and 200 feet of water, but over the last few days, 60 to 100 feet was very good. The best lures were the Moonshine Shelly Snack, the RV Moonshine Happy Meal and the RV Flounder Pounder. For flies, the blue/green/gold and the blue/black/purple behind little red dodgers were steady for the coho and steelhead. The coho have all been loaded with bait fish, and our graphs have been loaded with big pods of bait. The lake seems to be doing great. We cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer has to bring. For information about charters, give us a call at 224-234-3704 or check out our website at”


Waterfowl drawings: Waterfowl hunters should mark their calendars for random blind site drawings for several public Illinois hunting areas that will be held July 28 and 29. Duck and goose hunters must register in-person for waterfowl blind site drawings and must be present at the drawing to claim their site. The drawings are held at each location immediately after the registration period. Mail-in registrations are not accepted.

To participate in a drawing, all applicants must present a 2017 or 2018 regular Illinois hunting license (no apprentice or youth license) and a 2017 or 2018 Illinois Migratory Waterfowl Stamp at the time they register, unless exempted by law, and have valid photo identification. Applicants must be at least 16 years old by the date of the drawing.

Applicants needing to purchase new licenses and stamps should do so before the drawing. Most blind drawing locations will not have license sales available. Licenses and stamps are available at any DNR Direct license and permit vendor, through the IDNR website at, or by calling 1-888-6-PERMIT (1-888-673-7648).

Registrants no longer are required to possess a valid Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification card from the Illinois State Police to participate in blind drawings.

Check the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website for dates and locations for the blind drawings.

• 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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