When It Comes to Fishing, He’s the Reel Deal
If you want to catch crappie (as well as white bass, sauger and other varieties), J.P. Onhiser can hook you up. He is owner-operator of Hookin-Em Up Fishin, where he guides fishing expeditions on southern Illinois’ Carlyle and Rend lakes. When fishing the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters National Championship in 2015, he ran into other avid fishermen including television’s Jay Stone and John Godwin of “Duck Dynasty.”
RailWorks Bridge Division
When he isn’t working – and that isn’t often for the superintendent in RailWorks’ Bridge Division – J.P. Onhiser is probably fishing.
That’s what he’s been doing for fun since he was a boy in southern Illinois, where he still makes his home. His earliest fishing memories are of “Grandpa taking me fishing when I was a kid. … There was a pond down by the house. Would just walk down to the pond and go fishing right (after I got) off the bus, even before I went to the house.” J.P.’s grandfather also took him to Carlyle Lake and its backwater creeks like the East Fork and North Fork, which he says remain some of his favorite fishing locations.
Years of success landing crappie, bass, channel cats and flatheads led J.P. to found Hook-Em Up Fishin, where he guides individuals and groups on fishing excursions. On 24,000-plus acre Carlyle Lake and 18,900-acre Rend Lake, clients cast for white bass, sauger and J.P.’s favorite: crappie.
“That’s my favorite; they’re good eating fish,” he says. Another appeal for J.P. are the multiple techniques for catching crappie, including the spider rigging he uses on guided excursions, in order to increase the chances his fishing group will bring in a big catch.
J.P. likes the challenge of fishing. But he especially likes the peace of mind his sport brings to him after extended time on the road building bridges for RailWorks. “It gets me my break,” he says. “I can recharge.”
He also finds it fun to interact with people when he’s guiding. “I have some pretty interesting clients, and they come back a couple times of year. An Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cut man has been out with J.P. a few times, as has a scout with Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves. A favorite pair that stands out for J.P. is a couple who, for their 39th wedding anniversary, chose to celebrate with a fishing trip.
Not long ago, J.P. experienced one of his fishing season’s highlights: participating in the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters championship. He qualified for the tournament – on Kentucky Lake, which straddles Kentucky and Ohio – by placing well in an earlier tournament. While at the championship, he ran into a pair of avid fishermen known more for their association with duck calls: John Godwin and Jay Stone of “Duck Dynasty.”
As far as notable catches, any fisherman worth his tackle box has a story about “the one that got away.” J.P.’s are too numerous to recount, although he does mention a 3.4-lb. crappie he caught while pre-fishing at a tournament, and “the one that cost a tournament.”
“I’ve got a million fish stories,” he acknowledges. “Every fisherman does, right?”