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Drought changes the way people fish

River communities reliant on business from people fishing are taking the good with the bad with this summer’s drought.

In New Boston, Illinois the Mississippi River is at almost four and a half feet.

Compare that to four years ago, when the river here was at 25-feet and Don Defrieze’s bait shop was under water.

“It was up to this line and all the way across,” said Defrieze.

A lower river has caused boat traffic to seemingly drop off.

“I’ve seen five or six go up and that’s just about it,” he said.

The number of people fishing has also diminished along with the amount of fish to be caught.

“They might catch a few up there by the locks, but not like they are up here.”

One of the reasons there aren’t as many people out fishing is because they can’t physically get their boats through an inlet leading to the bay, where they’re normally fishing for crappie.

“I can’t even get my boat out,” said Joe Hunt.

Catfish have replaced crappie as the catch of the day because they’re the ones in the deeper water the boats can actually get to.  

“They go out to the channel and the water’s dropped off so much,” said Hunt.

Defrieze says, compared to high water, a low river is the lesser of two evils because the fish are still, for the most part, accessible.

When the river is flooded, the fish move to harder to reach areas.

Right now, all boat launches are still open across the state.

But, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources urges boaters to use extra caution because low water levels increase the risk of boats being damaged when they’re put into or pulled out of the water.

Click here for more news from Mercer County


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