Category Archives: Fox River

North_Aurora_Dam_Removal

Fox River North Aurora Dam Removal

On January 8th the above article on the Fox River North Aurora dam removal appeared in the Aurora Beacon News. I thought it would show up on their website, but it never did. Rather than leave it on my Waterdog Journal Facebook page, I thought I would put it up here.

The day the article came out, I put up the following:

Two of the best fishing stretches on the Fox River are between Batavia and Aurora. I say two, though it could be one, but it’s split in half by the North Aurora dam.

These are the stretches where I used to spend the bulk of my time fishing and know them well. I’ve canoed the pool above the dam numerous times and years ago when I spent a lot of time and energy on dam removal issues, I dreamed of the day I could wade around in that area. I already know where I want to go.

In today’s Beacon News there is an article by Denise Linke (I’m assuming she’s related to Rob Linke). It’s about the possible removal of the North Aurora dam. If nothing screws up, it can happen in less than two years.

I’m speechless. I would like to see this happen without a single glitch.

Did you know that between the dam and the mouth of Mill Creek, on the west side, there are small limestone bluffs?

Like I said, I already know exactly where I want to go.

A couple of things I find disturbing about the article is that one North Aurora Village Trustee, Laura Curtis, cast the only dissenting vote. I’ve read other articles where she compares the North Aurora dam to the ones in Geneva and St. Charles. They built their downtowns around their dams, so they have some value, don’t they? She failed to mention that those downtown areas evolved around their dams over a period of over 100 years. In all the years that the North Aurora dam has been in place, the Village has done virtually nothing in the area.

You have Harner’s Bakery and Restaurant on one side (worth stopping there if you get a chance), and a dance studio and the police station on the island. That’s it. There’s nothing really to speak of radiating out from the dam. Old strip malls if you can call that a down town.

The other thing I find bothersome is the insistence of keeping the mill race. The article states that the whole project could be benched if the mill race can’t be preserved.

That I don’t understand at all. I’ve walked the whole length of the mill race numerous times. In the water. I like it because it behaves like a small creek for a relatively short length, the whole thing is not that long, and the fishing isn’t bad on a good day.

But if their reason for preserving it is because it may have some kind of historical significance, I just don’t see it. Again, for all the years the mill race has been there, the Village of North Aurora has done practically nothing with it.

One side can’t be accessed at all because of the handful of homes that line the shore. The island side that’s a park isn’t much better. Most of the shore is overgrown to the point of being nearly impenetrable. And if you could get through it, the bank is too steep to do anything with. My suspicious nature tells me there’s more to it than meets the eye. Has me wondering who lives in those handful of homes along one shore.

Hopefully the engineering studies will show that water will still flow through the mill race if the dam is removed. Over a dozen years ago when I was heavily involved with the dam removal studies and issues on the Fox River, I checked out the area where the mill race starts. There’s a good chance the water will still flow.

I hope so. I’d like to see that dam gone. It would be disappointing for something as insignificant as that mill race to end what could be a vast improvement of a nice sized stretch of the Fox River.

But then, who am I to talk. My own desire to see it gone is so I can go wading around in the river between where the dam currently sits and the mouth of Mill Creek.

Did I mention the small bluffs along the west shore?

Really would be nice to find out if the fishing is as good along there as I think it could be.

Doesn’t get any more self serving than that.

smile for the camera

Year in Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a year in review.

Years ago I ran a fishing guide service out on the Fox River and keeping excruciatingly detailed records, then summarizing them at the end of the year, was pretty much mandatory.

Have to prove your worth.

Now, record keeping is at best sporadic. Probably still better than most, but not like it used to be. If you ever played sports as a kid, keeping stats in your head for whatever game you played was easy. Granted, there was always that game where a brawl ensued because of conflicting stat keeping, but this is just fishing. I still get questioned, criticized is a better word, for the stat keeping in my head, but I have a pretty standard response for that.

Yeah, well, whatever. It’s just fishing.

In the last three years we had near record drought, near record flooding and last winter was one of the coldest on record. Of those three, I’d have to say that the cold had the biggest impact on the fishing. Fish can adjust to high and low water, but freeze everything over and eliminate the oxygen and the fish tend to suffer.

I think that’s what happened and why this was one of the worst years of fishing I’ve had since I started fishing the Fox River in 1996.

I only fish for smallmouth bass, I consider everything else bycatch. Some are entertaining to catch like the gills, crappie, white bass and even creek chubs. The rest are just kind of annoying with carp topping that list.

This year I probably got out fishing 75 times. The wife says more, but I no longer fish the colder months of the year, so I’m not sure. She might be right, but 75 still sounds like a good number to me.

The bulk of the fishing this year was on the Fox River and five of its creeks. I made one trip about 60 miles west to Franklin Creek. Tough access, beautiful surroundings and decent fishing for the second half of July on a creek. I would imagine May could be much better, fishing wise.

I also fish alone. I got out once with a friend in 2014. I tend to go fishing on a whim. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t go. If I decide to turn left at the river rather than the right I had originally planned, then I turn left. If the morning sucks, I go in the afternoon. Hard to make decisions on a whim when plans are made, so I avoid plans. You’ll see the end result of this solitary fishing in the pictures below. No hero shots with fish, no grinning fish holders, no monster bronze bombers, no pictures of me at all. Now and then I’ll do an arms length shot of a fish or a close up, but that’s pretty much it. The rest is just stuff I come across that interested me at the time.

I do a lot of short fishing trips now. An hour or two and at most I’ll go for five hours. Years ago I’d go over a 100 times a year with the average trip being five hours.

Things change.

This year I know I caught at least 400 smallmouth bass, that’s about when I quit paying attention. I know I caught more, but I also know it didn’t get close to the 500 mark. With that ability to keep stats in my head, I also know I had at least another 200 smallies on that I got to see, but they were smart enough to spit the hook before I got to touch them. I quit paying attention to those stats when I hit the 200 mark.

Then there’s that small percentage of bycatch. At least I’m saying it’s a small percentage because I really don’t know. A bunch of other fish might be a good way to say it.

So yes, I know some would argue, but this was a bad year. A bad year in the past was a little over 500 smallies caught in about the same time frame.

I’m blaming the winter we had.

In the past when I did a year in review this is where I would go on and on with theories, strategies, equipment and lures used, but those days are over and so is my interest in elaborating.

So far this winter has been relatively normal. That’s a good thing. If normal continues, by mid March the fish will start moving.

Patience is not a virtue I have, but mid March is only 10 weeks away.

Tick, tock, tick, tockā€¦

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

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Another Gray Day

As I walked out the door into still another gray day, I was beginning to wonder if I was imagining things.

Nope, I checked.

Every weekend since some time in September, when I have the time on the weekend to finally walk out the door to do some wandering around, if it was blue skies out they would soon be gone. The blue was rare enough, the days usually started out gray and stayed that way all day.

It’s getting harder to appreciate another gray day. I need sun, shadows, color, even the muted colors of winter.

Weekdays seem to be faring better, but who cares. I get to catch a glimpse of it as I walk past an office window. I always step outside on my lunch break and if I’m lucky I get a few sun rays, but by the time 4:30 rolls around, the sun is pretty much gone and if it was a blue sky kind of day, I wouldn’t know.

I hear they may finally abolish the archaic and inane daylight savings time next year. It was done away with in the late 70’s and brought back from the grave a few years later.

They should have left well enough alone.

In the mean time, another gray day.

I go for a walk. It doesn’t seem to last that long.

I take some pictures. They all look so flat.

Three more months of this.

This is not going to go well.

If there were trout in Illinois, which there isn't, they would live here.

If there were trout in Illinois, which there isn’t, they would live here.

It's a shame I can't hunt ducks here. It would be so easy.

It’s a shame I can’t hunt ducks here. It would be so easy.

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I can't remember a time when I didn't play around railroad tracks. Over a half century later, I see no point in changing now.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play around railroad tracks. Over a half century later, I see no point in changing now.

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In mid April, I will stand in this very spot and I will catch a smallmouth bass out of that little pool.

In mid April, I will stand in this very spot and I will catch a smallmouth bass out of that little pool.

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A Hard One to Shoot

Sometimes you run into something that’s a hard one to shoot.

This is one of those.

This little valley is maybe 200 yards wide, but I’ll bet it’s a half mile long.

I have no clue what these red leafed things are, burning bushes come to mind, but I have one of those in front of the house I rent.

That’s not it.

Doesn’t really matter.

Knowing the name of something doesn’t make me appreciate it any more, or less.

The ground cover in this valley is pretty sparse. Last week these red leafed bushes were just about all that was left that had any leaves on them.

They were everywhere, for as far as you could see up and down the valley.

None of the other shots I took did them justice.

Not convinced this one does either, but they are a hard one to shoot.

This will do, for now.

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The Last Shot of the Day

There’s always the last shot of the day. That shot when you know you’re done, it’s time to walk away.

There’s a spot I go to at Silver Springs State Park to watch the sun set.

It offers an unobstructed view over a huge prairie.

Seems only fitting to watch sunsets over prairies in Illinois.

After taking this shot I started walking back to the car.

A glance over my shoulder.

There must have been a break in the clouds on the horizon that I couldn’t see. The pink/orange glow was starting to spread across the gray clouds in this shot.

I walked back to my spot, raised the camera, and…

Nothing.

Nothing happened.

The battery was dead.

I think I heard… No shit, really?

I walked backward to the car.

As I drove east, I watched in my rear view mirror as the pink/orange glow grew to cover all that is gray in the shot above.

It covered all of it.

I pointed my rear view mirror downward.

I had seen enough.