Kayaking with Janee

Kayak Morris is owned and operated by Janee Matteson.  I asked if she’d take me out in one of her rental Kayaks and we’d go fish the Mazon River. She was kind enough to say yes and so last fall; I met up with Janee at her location in the William G. Stratton State Park, in Morris on the Illinois River.

Janee grew up outdoors. I think her parents put her outside on the porch and said, “It’s big out there, now go play!” And she did. She’s done a whole lot more than just play; she built a private campground, drove her Bobcat around to clear the land and make safe campsites. And she’s come up with an inventive word, “Glamping” which is a contraction of the words, glamour and camping. So what you get is an evening under the stars, a gourmet potluck dinner, a movie, popcorn and in the morning, breakfast on the beach. And she’s priced it to meet most budgets.

If you’ve never been Kayak fishing, try it first. I don’t think it’s for everyone especially if you’re not in good to reasonable shape and comfortable sitting down low or next to the water or if you tend to drop stuff.  So I suggest that if you’re interested in Kayaking, you rent one and take it out for a spin on a lake or slower moving river or stream. This is what is great about Janee. She fishes, she kayaks and most importantly of all, she knows the waters in her neighborhood: Illinois River, Mazon and the IM Canal and there are some other waters as well but these waters are great for the beginner and advanced kayaker.

Janee is good with beginners. She is safe, certified, she offers eco tours and if you’re into fossils,  she’ll take you on a kayak tour where you find the state fossil, yes sir, Illinois has a state fossil, the Tully Monster, and it can be found in the path of the Mazon river. Also the wildlife viewing and most importantly,  the fishing is good. There are excellent smallmouth bass, white bass, and even gar. I know that a fifty four inch gar was taken out of the Mazon two years ago on the fly and the conversation went like this, “How big is that thing?”
“Giant, don’t bring it in the boat. Get the glove!”
“It’s huge!”
Then came the regret period, where you wished you’d of used a ten weight and brought a camera.
“Get the damn glove and knife!”

You don’t fish with a hook for gar, you take a piece of white or yellow, polypropylene rope and fray it out and tie it to a hook. Add the biggest red hackle feather you can to the front, palmer it back and forth to make a head ,tie it off and glue it. That’s it. Then toss and when one hits, hang on. They pull hard and did I mention this part, they have teeth?  The fifty four incher has probably grown to sixty by now. I might go back this coming summer and this time I’m bringing Brad, camera and a box of Band-Aids.

I don’t know if I’d go gar fishing in a kayak, kind of like shark fishing from a kayak, I guess. But the smallmouths are fun, as are some of the other fish you’d catch which can vary from white bass to walleye. So if you’re thinking of getting a kayak, check out Kayak Morris for a day rental, and then I’d check out Wildcat Creek outfitters to see what they have in stock. They are very knowledgeable and carry a good stock of fishing kayaks from sit upon to sit ins.

Sites: kayakmorris.com and www.wildcatcreekoutfitters.com 


Stuart Van Dorn