Tag Archives: fox river fishing

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, tock…

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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Last Weeks Fishing Report

Last weeks fishing report that Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun Times didn’t include in his weekly summary. I kind of liked it even though I didn’t get out fishing much and didn’t catch much either. Didn’t write much, but I put in a few paragraphs by someone that did. I don’t know, I liked it…
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Not much to report this week, only got out twice and both were short ventures. Two creeks, two smallies caught, two missed. The creeks were high running chocolate. Hit the river once, it was even worse and produced nothing.

The spot on the river I hit is a good spot I used to frequent and while living in Yorkville, I didn’t get to it much. Now it’s just upstream. Nobody goes there cause it’s pretty much a haven for the homeless. They even put a bike path and bridge over the river. Now the homeless don’t have to walk over the rail road bridge to get to the island.

I’ll go back there. Me and the homeless get along well for some reason. I don’t judge them and I’m good for a cheap cigar.

I think that makes the following from Big Two Hearted River a good thing to run, if you feel like it and nobody else sends you anything. Just substitute smallie for trout. Wish I ran into more river anglers that embody this sentiment. They seem to have all disappeared.
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Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there. It swirled against the log spires of the bridge. Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their again by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again. Nick watched them a long time. 

He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not see them at first. Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current. 

Nick looked down into the pool from the bridge. It was a hot day. A kingfisher flew up the stream. It was a long time since Nick had looked into a stream and seen trout. They were very satisfactory. As the shadow of the kingfisher moved up the stream, a big trout shot upstream in a long angle, only his shadow marking the angle, then lost his shadow as he came through the surface of the water, caught the sun, and then, as he went back into the stream under the surface, his shadow seemed to float down the stream with the current unresisting, to his post under the bridge where he tightened facing up into the current. 

Nick’s heart tightened as the trout moved. He felt all the old feeling. He turned and looked down the stream. It stretched away, pebbly-bottomed with shallows and big boulders and a deep pool as it curved away around the foot of a bluff. 

Nick walked back up the ties to where his pack lay in the cinders beside the railway track. He was happy. He adjusted the pack harness around the bundle, pulling straps tight, slung the pack on his back, got his arms through the shoulder straps and took some of the pull off his shoulders by leaning his forehead against the wide band of the tump-line. Still, it was too heavy. It was much too heavy. He had his leather rod-case in his hand and leaning forward to keep the weight of the pack high on his shoulders he walked along the road that paralleled the railway track, leaving the burned town behind in the heat, and he turned off around a hill with a high, fire-scarred hill on either side onto a road that went back into the country. He walked along the road feeling the ache from the pull of the heavy pack. The road climbed steadily. It was hard work walking up-hill. His muscles ached and the day was hot, but Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for  thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him.

Lost up the Creeks

Since the last week of March I’ve been spending the bulk of my fishing time getting lost up the creeks that feed the Fox River.

I don’t keep detailed fishing records like I did over a decade ago. For the past few years I barely wrote any totals down at all. This year, since I’m trying to send Dale Bowman a fishing report every week, I’ve been putting most of my results up on Facebook. On my personal page I only have 45 friends, I eliminated about 100 others over the past year. Of those 45 only six fish. Of those six, maybe two will get out to the places I fish, but even that I doubt. I already know nobody reads anything I send to Dale, tested that over the past year.

So, all that wonderful information being read by maybe 10 fishermen total did exactly what I planned.

I run into virtually no one out there and it’s extremely rare that I see another set of foot prints where I go.

Best I can tell is that I started fishing this year toward the end of March and have got out on average three times a week. Lately 4, sometimes 5, but we’ll stick with a 3 average. That makes approximately 33 fishing trips which I know is on the low side.

I didn’t bother writing some of it down, but I know I’ve been on the Fox a half dozen times and the rest have all been spread across 5 different creeks. The totals so far this year show 273 fish caught, 98 percent of those are all smallies. I hooked but blew the landing on another 198.

Those numbers do show that I suck at setting the hook.

Treble hooks on some hard lure would probably fix that, but they destroy the mouths on fish and I don’t think I’ve used treble hooks in well over a dozen years because of that. Single hooks on a jig is all I ever use. I catch smallies all the time that have severely damaged mouths from treble hooks. It’s very apparent that the average angler pretty much sucks at extracting treble hooks from the mouth of a fish. One of the other things I don’t like about them is how a smallie will take the front hook, thrash around and get a back hook jammed into it’s gill plate. You’ll see the result of that in the pictures below.

Impressive numbers overall perhaps until I compare it to previous years, at least what my memory allows. This has been the slowest spring of the past three. I did much better the last few years. Last year alone in this same time frame I hit the same amount of water. I only bothered counting the fish caught on one creek and the rest I didn’t bother with, but I remember doing well.

On the one creek alone that I tracked my caught/miss ratio last year, by now I had stopped counting at 300 caught and another 200 that I blew the hook set on.

That was on one creek.

So, what’s this mean? Brutal winter, delayed spring, less than usual rain keeping the fish from running up the creek. I know nowhere near as many carp and suckers came up the creeks, they never materialized like years past. Who knows, rivers and creeks are too hard to judge. Moving water will screw up theories quickly.

I guess I’ve had a good start to the year and should shut up and be happy with what I’ve caught so far, but the half of my brain that is always asking questions is badgering me for answers as to why. Why are things different this year?

No wonder I don’t sleep much.

I recently went through all the photos I’ve taken since the end of March. I haven’t felt much like dealing with them so far. The ones I liked are all below.

Unless I get distracted by fishing, watching the garden grow or sitting and staring off into space, maybe I’ll put another post up in July.

Based on the lip damage this smallie had, I’m certain the gill damage was done by some kind of stick bait with multiple treble hooks.

I thought there were five.

Two weeks later, over a quarter of a mile inland, same fish.

Why there are never any shore fishermen around here.

A gratuitous wild asparagus hunting shot.

This spot on this creek has changed dramatically over the past dozen years. This used to be a braided shallow set of riffles.

I missed the more impressive flower show that goes on here.

Church of the Holy Fish

It was mating with a much bigger one, but the big one got camera shy.

The hike through the woods to fishing spots are always hard, but sometimes I get a bit of a break.

One of the few trips to the Fox was met by a massive bug hatch.

I only find them on the edge of the water lines. Makes me wonder if the bulbs are washing out of yards further upstream.

My Little Dickie is insisting on getting aired out more often this year.