Category Archives: Conservation Issues

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Successful Spawn

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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For whatever reason, fish of all species like to migrate up creeks in the spring looking for spawning grounds. Was out along Blackberry Creek the other day when I saw the first sign of a successful spawn.

Black bass, smallies I’m sure. This is well above where the dam was removed and a good sign.

Since I started fishing the creek around the first of April, I’ve caught around 300 smallies, give or take a few. I’ve missed the hookset on nearly as many. As I’ve worked my way upstream I know I’ve mentioned in my fishing reports that I could smell the fish spawning. Was nice to see that my nose doesn’t fail me.

In a short 20 foot stretch I saw a few hundred of these baby bass. I can only imagine how many more are further upstream.

Not much in the way of pictures for all the fishing I’ve been doing on the creek. The weather has been kind of dreary, not much sun. I rely on the sun to give dimension and bright color to the surroundings. We’ve had little of that.

Hope to change that this coming weekend. Supposed to be beautiful out, lots of sunshine for at least one day and I’ll be venturing much further upstream.

In the mean time, I did find a flower growing on the bank…

I did take some pictures of some nice fish, but they’re pictures of fish.

Picture a fish, specifically a smallmouth bass.

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Fishing Test 4-5-6

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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I seem to have a problem remaining consistent in finishing what I start. It’s been a week since I put up the last post, leaving it hanging that I went back to the creek for the evening fish.

I got sidetracked putting up another post with some pictures about the real Blackberry Creek. Then, I got busy hanging out doing not much of anything.

In a way it does seem a bit absurd to put up posts about my first adventure up a creek after a dam has been removed and it’s back to a semi-normal flow for the first time in 175 years. The absurdity comes from following the fish up stream, throwing a piece of plastic around that mimics some form of baitfish, impaling the fish on a single piece of sharp steel and reeling it in to my hand.

Then I put the fish back in the water after all this effort.

For those that have questioned my use of these single hook, small lures for years, I use them because they cause less damage than impaling fish on anywhere from three to six hooks. I’ve seen guys throw lures with three treble hooks on them, all to catch a smallmouth bass. I have seen those cause considerable damage to the fish.

Though I avoid talking about the whole catch and release ethos and I do have a Smallie Taste Test and a website called Eat More Smallmouth, I release 99.9% of the smallies I catch. May as well do as little damage to them as possible while out there fishing for them. For all those out there that use multiple hook lures and practice C&R, I’m tired of catching your butchered up fish. Why don’t you take the time to learn how to catch a fish on a single hook. So you lose some, it’s not like you’re taking them home for dinner anyway.

Well enough of that. I’ve delayed finishing this off long enough to have forgotten the things I wanted to say, so the following is a fishing report sent to Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun Times about my results and I’ve added some pictures. Some fish, some scenery, one good looking creek…

Went back to the creek again on Saturday at 4 PM and fished for two hours. I started at the head of the construction and went upstream for three quarters of a mile.

Last time I fished this stretch was a few years ago and I got two largemouth bass for my troubles. Never went back there or anywhere upstream on this creek again.  This time I wound up with 23 smallies,

1 largemouth

and 1 bluegill caught

and another 22 missed fish. The water was so clear that I know they were all smallies.

Got to see two huge ones before they spit the hook.

Over the years I’ve done my own little stocking program on Blackberry Creek. Now and then I would fish below the dam and every smallie caught would be tossed over the dam. A couple of years ago I heard reports of a few being caught upstream.

Also over the years I’ve explored quite a bit of the creek, but never bothered fishing it. I have spots all planned out up to and just beyond Jericho Road. Not sure how many miles that is, but it’s a few. Now I have a reason to fish and explore.

Will be interesting to see how far up the smallies go this year. It’s also interesting to see how quickly fish take advantage of a now dam free creek.

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Got out fishing a few days later and went upstream of the construction again. Caught 16, which includes two largemouth and a crappie. Missed 28. Couldn’t set a hook to save my life today. It’s really beautiful up in there and if anyone tries it I have some advice, don’t take a shortcut through the woods. Did that years ago. It will be one of the most miserable experiences of your life.

That’s about a 50 foot tall, nearly sheer bluff on one side.

Went in there a couple of years ago. You really don’t want to do that.

The smell of spawning fish, based on memory a combination of carp and suckers, was very strong on the creek. I love that smell.

The Real Blackberry Creek

The real Blackberry Creek and why I like to wander it.

Actually, most of the creeks around here that I fish look a lot like this, which is why I fish as many of them as possible.

You don’t get this out on the Fox River.

That would be a deer watching me fish off in the background.

That would be a deer watching me fish off in the background.

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Post storm.

Post storm.

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Fishing Test 1-2-3

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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I got out on Thursday, May 17th after work and it had to happen sooner or later. The bite on the creeks started to die off. I started at the creek that has not turned on for me at all this year and only caught five smallies in about 45 minutes. Still another day the bite in this was virtually non-existent, I should have had at least 20 hits in that 45 minutes.

I cut it short and headed off to Blackberry Creek where I’ve been cleaning up and caught seven. One of the seven was a two foot catfish.

I despise catching these things as much as carp, for the same slime reasons.

There gar were all over the creek. One was sitting in shallow water tucked into some rocks. It never saw me coming, so I tried to pick it up. Just about had it, but they’re fast little buggers.

This was the slowest fishing I’ve had on Blackberry Creek all month.

While there I noticed that the creek was now flowing like a normal creek again. The bypass culvert was completely removed. By the way the remaining culvert was destroyed, it wasn’t going to get used again.

This meant the coffer dam was gone and the work in the creek itself was coming to an end. I didn’t bother to go look till Saturday, a couple of days later. I hadn’t bothered fishing upstream of where the dam was yet. I’ve been waiting for this day when the creek was pretty much free and clear.

Below the dam so far this spring, and that’s a very short stretch before it flows into the Fox, I’m somewhere over 200 caught and another 200 or so missed. That’s mainly where I’ve been fishing and it’s only been about a month. Amazing how one creek can be loaded with fish while another not that far away is practically barren.

Went out Saturday morning, the 19th, for barely an hour and fished for the first time the brand spankin’ new 500 yard stretch above the Blackberry now gone dam. The coffer dam was gone and shore work was being done.

The whole area looks pretty well destroyed, but I bet by fall you won’t even be able to tell. It’s been a week since I took that picture and even since then the area has started to green up considerably.

Wound up with 12 caught and 17 missed, all smallies. Not bad for just a few hundred yards of fishing in a stretch that hasn’t seen a smallie migration in 175 years. Saw a quillback carpsucker cruising by too. I don’t know if they were in the creek before the dam removal, but at least one is now.

I started fishing above the first set of riffles…

…and caught one.

I thought this was an indication that the fishing was going to be slow, but I was dead wrong. All through the new channeled creek were fish. The tighter the lure could be tossed along the rocks the better. They were loving the new structure.

The third set of riffles has the shallowest pool directly above them, but the fish were stacked up pretty well there too.

At this spot I got an extremely hard hit, so hard that it snapped my line. This is no small feat considering that I use 10 lb. test and 2 lb. diameter PowerPro. I’ve hauled small logs off the bottom of the river with this line. It’s virtually indestructible. I had a mental image of the biggest smallie in the creek now swimming around with my lure stuck in it’s mouth.

But this just goes to show why I fish for smallies and practically nothing else. A few casts later I caught a fish and reeled in your typical foot long river smallie. Hanging out of it’s mouth was a length of my line. This was the smallie that had snapped my line, a foot long fish. My lure was all the way down in it’s gullet and obviously not causing too much concern for the fish. It had just snapped my line barely five minutes earlier and was still hungry enough to hit again.

Just below my thumb in the picture you can see the green line hanging out of its mouth.

I was intrigued by my fishing test results. Smallmouth bass migrating up a creek for the first time in 175 years, within days of the creek being returned to a normal flow.

I was so intrigued, I went back again later in the day…

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, So, What’s the Point?

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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So, what’s the point of removing an eight to ten foot tall 175 year old dam near the mouth of a creek and not making fish migrations up the creek as easy as possible on the fish?

This isn’t happening on the new and improved Blackberry Creek. I’ve been harping on this subject since I’ve seen them put in riffles that make no sense and not taking the old dam down about another foot.

If you take the time to go through some of these posts you’ll see a number of those comments.

To get this gripe session out of the way, it starts with riffle #1. I can’t think of one logical reason why this is built the way it is.

It’s too high, there’s no need to have those wing dams on the side in order to increase the water velocity. If you look at the pictures on the post I made with flood pictures in it, this area looked like a whitewater park. There’s no need for that. From this spot to the base of the now gone dam is about 500 yards. In that distance the creek bed drops around eight feet. That’s plenty of velocity. Plus, I can’t imagine this makes this riffle any more convenient for fish passage.

The same goes for riffle #2.

A half hour on each riffle and those wing dams could be pulled off to the side and the height of them taken down a foot or two.

At the dam, it should have been taken down another foot. It should not look like this.

In another post I suggest filling the old scour hole below the dam with rock till it comes up to the same level as the base of the dam. I don’t want to hear about how they’re unwilling to do this. In the last few days they’ve already dumped a lot of rock in here up against the bridge abutment.

What’s the big deal to extend that out further, it doesn’t even have to be that high. Just enough to get rid of the mini waterfall that’s been created and to make fish passage that much easier. Just this past week I was fishing in this spot. Why not make things easier for fish like this…

They changed the course of Blackberry Creek again in order to fix the damage done by the floods and to finally get the coffer dam out of there. I’ll bet they’re done by the end of the week with the weather the way it is.

This killed the fishing in the pool below the old dam. Eight missed little hits and three little things barely worth reeling in.

Did finally get to see the ever elusive gar. I’ve heard that they dwell in the stretch from Yorkville all the way down. I’ve assumed some of the porpoising I’ve seen over the years were them, it’s different than carp, but never could verify that.

Saw a school of a half dozen gar cruising around the pool. Maybe that’s why all the other fish went away. I have no clue what gar snack on. Beautiful fish though. Two of them were well over three feet long.

In another recent post I put up a summary of the amount of time I’ve spent on the Fox River over the past 18 years…

This year marks my 18th year of fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks.

On the low side I estimate I’ve made a little over 1,300 trips out to the river or one of it’s creeks.

Each wading trip consisted of at least two miles for an estimate of 2,600 miles. Since I also have to walk the shores to get to where I want to wade, that’s another 2,600 miles walking along their banks. I know both those numbers are actually higher.

Add to this the amount of time I’ve spent canoeing, wandering along the river just for the stroll or simply sitting on the bank watching the water flow. I may not have a wide variety of degrees to justify my opinion on how the creek has been screwed up, but I do know one thing, I know how rivers and creeks work and look and what’s been done to Blackberry Creek completely misses the mark.

Okay, done with that. I think I’m going to track down the engineering firm responsible for this project and send them a link to this post. Somebody has to listen sooner or later.

With the dry weather and the creek flow back to normal, they’ve shut down the creek again so they can finish off the work and repair all the damage done by the flood.

All the water is again being squeezed through the bypass.

Upstream at the coffer dam the hole has been plugged.

The massive washout caused by the flood has been filled.

A lot of what was left behind the coffer dam and in the creek has been removed and the shores are getting rebuilt with rock.

I wish I could be there the day they yank the coffer dam. Then it’s a sure sign that things are pretty much done.

I’m hoping they do a pretty thorough clean up inspection. I’m starting to get the feeling that a big steel plate lying on the creek bed just above riffle #1 has been forgotten about. It’s still sitting buried in the water.

And of course I guess I should mention the other reason for this project, the rebuilding of the bridge. This past week has seen quite a bit of progress made…

I’ll probably take more pictures of the bridge as it gets worked on, but I won’t talk about it much.

Frankly, I wish they wouldn’t bother with it. I like things the way they are and the lack of car traffic through here is no great loss.