McKendree Magazine - Summer 2018

Bass Fishing Team Improves Lake Ecosystem for Future Generations of Anglers

Bass Fishing Team
by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney, ’10

Volunteering in the community is an important part of what it means to be a Bearcat, but what if the future of your sport depended upon your efforts to preserve the environment? As one of the fastest-growing high school and collegiate sports in Illinois, bass fishing is also one of the most unique. Competitions usually last about eight hours, and much of the action plays out away from spectators, on miles of man-made and natural lakes. Perhaps even more important than the skill of the anglers and weight of their catch, however, is the health of the fish and waterways they inhabit.

When Coach Jon Rinderer started the McKendree bass fishing program in 2014, he had the perfect lake in mind for his anglers to call home. Just 25 minutes from campus, Carlyle Lake, a 26,000-acre reservoir in Clinton County, Ill., was an ideal base for team practices with a fishery capable of hosting large-scale tournaments. The Bearcats discovered after a couple of seasons, however, that the lake’s bass population needed greater attention to ensure a thriving ecosystem for the future.

“We shared our findings with the Army Corps of Engineers, and they began working on a grant to address the issues,” Jon said. “The initial grant in 2016 was to dredge silted areas and build and distribute man-made structures into the lake to increase the bass habitat. We took part in locating areas for dredging and the construction of structures, as well as distribution and placement of the structures.”

Bass Fishing Team Improves Lake Ecosystem for Future Generations of AnglersAfter the dredging was completed, Bearcat anglers built and strategically placed 75 artificial structures to provide new habitat and spawning areas for the fish. In 2017, a new grant was awarded to improve the eroding shoreline, and the McKendree team built and installed an additional 250 habitat structures throughout the lake. Jon said the Corps of Engineers plans to continue conservation projects at the lake each year, and McKendree bass fishing is committed to assisting.

For the Bearcat anglers, fish care and environmental conservation efforts are one way they show their passion and respect for the sport. “As a biology major and animal enthusiast, conservation has always been one of my governing principles,” said junior Andrew Althoff. “Aquatic ecosystems not only provide fresh water for every species on Earth that requires it, but they also serve as migratory markers, environmental regulators, and habitat for many endangered species that inhabit the planet.”

Environmental studies major sophomore Ethan Jones is also reminded of the privilege and responsibility of being an angler each time he goes out on the lake. “It was a lot of fun creating the fish habitat structures, and it made me feel glad to improve a lake that means so much to myself and many others,” he said. “It’s important to lead conservation efforts to make sure there is a future for our fisheries and for the sport. If we misuse this resource, future generations won’t be able to experience the thrill of fishing.”

Bass fishing organizations are some of the only sporting entities that frequently use their platform to speak out against issues like pollution and encourage environmental action among young competitors. In addition to catch and release rules, high school anglers learn how to properly handle the fish to ensure their survival, and conservation projects, such as recycling drives and lake clean-up days, are just as important as success on the water and in the classroom.

“These high school and college teams are definitely increasing the awareness of young anglers to the importance of clean waterways,” Jon said. “Here at McKendree, I felt it was important for our anglers to work with the youth to encourage this sport and all that goes with it. We joined with the Corps in order to help our anglers see the importance of their involvement in creating better conditions for the future. They are the stewards of these waterways and ecosystems for all those to follow.”




Anglers Rescue Competitors’ Boat in Tournament


Trevor McKinney and Shane Campbell ’18Although the Bearcats bass fishing team finished 18th overall at the Texas Lunker Challenge on Feb. 11, it posted a more important victory before the event was complete.

Sophomore Trevor McKinney and Shane Campbell ’18 helped thwart a potentially life-threatening situation on Lake Sam Rayburn in southeast Texas when they came to the aid of three fellow anglers from Louisiana State University (LSU), whose boat suffered structural damage. In less-than-ideal conditions including cold temperatures and high winds, Trevor and Shane worked quickly to get the trio from the slowly sinking craft to safety.

“We were all battling the elements out there, but we saw they were in trouble and knew we needed to do something quick,” said Trevor, an elementary education major from Benton, Ill. “At that point, catching fish is not nearly as important as saving someone’s life.”

Trevor and Shane were finishing up at their first spot of the day and getting ready to head to another location when they saw the LSU boat was in trouble. Trevor thought the boat was sitting lower than usual in the water, and then he saw his fellow anglers begin to wave back at them, signaling they were in distress.

Anglers Rescue Competitors’ Boat in TournamentAs they approached, Trevor could see the boat was taking on water. “We could see that it was filling up at a pretty decent rate, so we knew we had to get those guys, get their equipment and get them to safety,” he said. The LSU team had tried to guide its boat to a nearby island but the hull had split in two. Within 15 to 20 seconds, water had risen to the steering wheel. When the McKendree boat reached them, it was knee-high.

In 35-degree weather, with the water temperature hovering in the low 50s, the teams transferred LSU’s equipment into the McKendree boat. The five anglers made their way to a nearby dock, where the LSU team called officials for help in retrieving their boat. Trevor and Shane alerted their head coach, Jon Rinderer, to the situation.

“I’m extremely proud of Trevor and Shane for their actions,” said Jon. “They put the needs of those who needed assistance ahead of theirs and helped avert a lifethreatening situation. It shows the type of character and compassion they have for others.”