Tag Archives: kane county forest preserves

More Creek Hopping

Virtually overnight the plowed and planted farm fields around me had perfectly spaced ribbons of green running through them for as far as you could see. The corn had sprouted one to two inches in the past 24 hours. There were now very few farm fields that didn’t have these ribbons of green. A little rain and a little sun works wonders.

I decided to try to repeat the success I had on a creek the day before. This time I would start a few miles further up. There’s a stretch of this creek I probably haven’t waded in over 5 years. It was time to see if I had been missing anything. Another nearby creek already had smallies 9 miles inland. I don’t think I was that far up this creek. They should be there.

My put in point was no longer a put in point, unless I felt like swimming. This was always a sharp bend in the creek, but the whole thing had been scoured out. I used to be able to hug one shore to get through, but no longer.

Since this looked just like a stretch from 24 hours earlier, I thought for sure it would be loaded with smallies, not a bite. I had to do a bit of bush whacking to find a place to hop in the water. I don’t remember things being this way. Luckily the forest floor is still mainly wild flowers. A few more weeks it will all be tall grass, brambles and poison ivy, just like the stretch I know further up stream.

A lot changes in over 5 years. Gravel bars I remember walking were gone. There were considerably less trees in the water and many more deep sections that I could no longer walk through. There was a flood a few years ago that completely altered another section of this creek. Apparently it tore the hell out of this one section too.

I thought all this new deeper water would be a good thing, but the fish weren’t cooperating. They simply weren’t there. I covered the pools from top to bottom and one side to the other. Not even a tap. I wound up having to walk the shore for a long stretch that I could no longer wade.

Again I covered the water with nothing to show for my efforts. Odd how one creek can have smallies and lots of creek chubs 9 miles up stream already and a very similar creek can be devoid of fish. I decided to cut my losses and go try a section miles down stream from where I was the day before.

At the next spot, after 10 minutes of casting, I had landed 8 smallies. They were annihilating the lure. One came over a boulder, hit it, chased it over another boulder that brought the fish up out of the water, hit it, flipped the lure up into the air and when the lure hit the water, attacked it again right at my feet. I hooked it.

All of the smallies caught were the red eye variety. Supposedly the smallie is supposed to have red eyes, but I’ve caught probably more that aren’t this bright. If you could even call them red eyes.

Then I caught one that had markings I had never seen before. It looked like it had stuck it’s head in a can of black paint.

Even it’s eyes were black, you couldn’t see the pupils.

By the time I was done, 11 of the 12 smallies caught all came out of this one area. I fished down stream for a couple of hundred yards to pick up the last one.

Odd part is that this pool where all the fish were is about a quarter mile long. All of the fish came out of the last 100 feet of the pool before it narrowed down and went over a set of riffles. I walked up stream in this pool for a hundred yards and never got a hit. They liked that lift before the riffles.

For the next 2 days I’ll be fishing the Fox River. I have a couple of guys that want to get out for guided trips. Based on what I’ve been running into on the creek, I’ll be sizing up a bit on the lure, tossing it into some of the fastest water I could find and getting it down into the indents in the bottom of the river.

Hopefully the fish will cooperate and hit now and then.

Lakes and Ponds Love/Hate Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with lakes and ponds in the greater Chicagoland area. More hate than love.

I fished 2 lakes and 2 ponds on Saturday with nothing to show for my efforts. I know some are thinking that I’m a river fisherman, what would I know about fishing lakes. If I would take the time to learn them, I would come to enjoy fishing them. That’s not it.

Before I was 27, I recall going fishing 3 times. I was young enough for two of them that I have no idea where I was. I know it was around Chicago somewhere. One was a pond where I sat around with my brother and some cousins catching potato chip gills till we got bored and ran off to cause trouble, I’m sure.

I know the second one was a strip mine pit. I distinctly remember the long narrow body of water. Since we were living on the southwest side of Chicago by then, I’m sure we went to some place down past Joliet. I remember mobile homes as vacation homes. People in that neighborhood of Chicago either went to these lakes for cheap vacation property or out to Lake Holiday. I remember catching a bullhead. I was totally unimpressed.

When I was 15 or 16, I went on a wilderness trip to the boundary waters and stayed in Quetico Park. I brought my Zebco 33 (which I still have) that had been used twice in almost 10 years, and a bunch of my dad’s lures that hadn’t seen the water since before I was born. He had a few failed attempts at fishing and gave up long before I was even in the picture. I remember standing in knee deep water off sandbars and catching quite a few northern pike on a red and white DareDevil thrown around the lakes. For whatever reason, I wasn’t impressed, but I did learn that pike are good eating baked over an open fire.

One of the things I inherited from my dad is the inability to sit still. When kids, he had us doing something all the time. We spent a lot of time down along the lake front. That’s when Lake Michigan was the color of pea soup. I remember walking from Meigs Field north for as far as we felt like walking. We would come across old guys, disheveled, unshaven, chain smoking, (I think I just described myself), sitting in beat to hell lawn chairs with 5 gallon paint buckets at their sides. They would sit staring at a bobber sitting in the pea soup.

We would walk up and stand next to them, waiting to get their attention. Then we would say “wow, looks like fun” then go running laughing down the long expanse of concrete.

Later I spent 6 years in the Boy Scouts. My dad was in charge. We went camping at least once a month every month of the year. And we hiked, everywhere. I have a vest full of patches showing the amount of miles I covered over those 6 years. Then there’s the ones where you don’t get a patch. I remember walking around lakes. I remember walking past more disheveled guys sitting around with buckets. I remember thinking what a stupid way to pass the time.

I got married for the first time when I was 27. My then father-in-law was a member of a private rod and gun club in Virginia. He got me involved and I eventually became a member. There was 440 acres of land and three 30 acre lakes.

The only way they could be fished was by canoe. You could put an electric trolling motor on the canoe, but that was it.

For the next 13 years I went out to Virginia for about 10 days each year and fished.

I like to think I was learning to do it well and I loved every minute of it.

When I turned 40, I started fishing rivers. That became an obsession that carried over to the lake fishing out in Virginia. I started spending 30 to 45 days a year out in Virginia and all I did was fish while out there.

The perfect fish cleaning station.

My personal record was 17 hours on the water in one day. Fished 2 of the lakes with my daughter and my dad. They didn’t want to be part of my marathon. I remember doing well.

Hooked, fought and landed all by herself.

I believe he said "it wasn't like this when I tried fishing years ago."

I went out there for another 10 years before divorce ended my affiliation with the club. I was being a gentleman by bowing out in deference to my now ex-father-in-law. I should have never done that.

And that’s where the problem lies. No, not the divorce. I got spoiled. Attached to the club land there was a hunting club where I knew most of the members. They had another 600 acres that they gave me access to for hunting. Around all that land there was, well, not much of anything.

I got spoiled fishing pristine waters where only 35 other members were allowed to fish. There were no shore access spots. There was nowhere to walk if you had the foolish idea that you wanted to walk around the lakes and fish.

You had to be fishing from a canoe, or you were delegated to a 30 foot wide beach used for the canoes.

I mastered fishing from a canoe. Standing on the seats or the gunwales and paddling through a massive lily pad field with one hand. Balancing the paddle against me so I could cast to an opening in the pads no bigger than a bath tub. In the spring, I taught myself to locate spawning fish by smell. Eventually I learned the difference between the smell of bass and bluegills. I do give credit to my ex-father-in-law, he was a finesse fisherman and taught me skills at catching big lake bass that also benefited me on the rivers and creeks.

And for all those years, when I was writing endlessly about my river fishing trips here in Illinois, I’ve written virtually nothing about the lake fishing in Virginia.

That was on purpose.

Back here in Illinois, you walk well worn banks. There are approximately 9.5 million people in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, out of a state with a population of 12.9 million. There are 500,000 Illinois fishing licenses bought every year. Break it down and that means there’s a chance that over 300,000 anglers live in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Based on how few people I see out walking around in the rivers and creeks, that means most of them are looking for lakes and ponds to fish. Based on the beaten paths around the lakes and ponds, they’ve all been found and the waters get beat to hell.

Personally, I have an affinity for the natural surroundings of hidden lakes. Around here, they’re man-made bowls of water and few can be said to have natural surroundings. Since I no longer have a canoe, I’m stuck to walking these beaten paths like everyone else. As for Lake Michigan, I feel about as stupid as a human being can get standing on the shore and casting into all that water.

The trip I took on Saturday will be the last time I walk the shores of a lake or pond, except for one. It’s next to a creek I like to fish. It’s surrounded by woods. It’s a bitch to get to and worth the effort.

But then, I hear that some new public land has been purchased near me. I’ve done some initial scouting. There’s a small creek. Lots of woods. I hear there are a couple of ponds buried out there somewhere. I can’t find a road or a path. I’ll have to make a path of my own.

I may have to make one more exception to my new rule, if I could ever find the damn things.

About the Kane County Illinois
Forest Preserve Referendum

I am on the email list of a number of conservation groups that work in and around the Fox River Valley. They like when I pass info along to those in the fishing and hunting community in this area. It’s not an audience they normally have access to. Since we have a vested interest in preserving and protecting the Fox River and the surrounding area, I thought I would pass on info that I think is important to know about and to possibly act on.

With the ever growing population of Kane County, I think this one is important. If you live in Kane County, you might want to consider this.

The Forest Preserve District of Kane County will ask Kane County voters if they want more forest preserves and protected open space on the April 5, 2011 ballot. Please support this issue of improving the quality of life and keeping our environment clean by voting in favor for the referendum on April 5.

If approved by the voters, approximately 1,500-2,000 acres of additional land will be added to the Kane County forest preserves as open space for people and wildlife. This would make the forest preserve eligible for matching funds that would allow them to accomplish even more.

The Kane County forest preserve system currently consists of approximately 19,000 acres and lags behind several adjacent counties in terms of total acres preserved and percentage of overall land. If approved by the voters, the funds will be used to purchase open space and natural lands and to make some improvements in existing and new forest preserves that will provide access to the land. Most of the land purchases will be high quality natural areas and land along streams to create greenways and connect other open spaces together. Greenways are important for recreation, flood control, water quality improvement and wildlife habitat.

Preserving more open space will help alleviate traffic congestion and urban sprawl Kane County has witnessed over the past few years. Open space adds value to our properties and provides recreational opportunities for you and your families. Plus, land prices today are at their lowest levels in years and now is the best time to purchase land from willing sellers at a fraction of the cost.

The amount of the bond is $30 million and the annual average tax for this referendum will be around $12 a year per household for 20 years. That is about $1 per month, 25 cents per week for a home valued at $268,000.

In 1999, 2005 and again in 2007, voters approved a $230 million in bonds for the forest preserve district with two-thirds support. The forest preserve district has preserved around 10,000 acres of natural areas since 1999 in all areas of Kane County.

We need you, your family and friends to make an extra effort to go vote on April 5 and say “yes” for more open space and forest preserve property in Kane County. A clean and healthy environment for our children is easily worth a quarter (25 cents) per week. This is a sound investment for our future.

Call The Conservation Foundation at (630) 428-4500, ext. 12 if you would like more information or to volunteer for the campaign. Or visit www.kaneopenspace.org.