After a week off from this column, I was hoping to be writing about warm sunshine and the beauty of spring.
Winter may be officially over, but the cold temperatures appear to be making their last stand over the next 10+ days. Ice fishing was on my bucket list for this past winter, but that opportunity appears to have melted away.
However, I have my eye on a new experience this spring.
The spring catch-and-release fly-fishing season opened at nine sites across Illinois last Saturday, including one here in the Sauk Valley at Ogle County’s Pine Creek in White Pines Forest State Park. The portion of the Apple River in JoDaviess County’s Apple River State Park is also one of the sites, one of northwest Illinois’ true hidden gems.
All trout caught by anglers must be released until after the opening of the regular spring trout season on April 7 at 5 a.m.
To participate in any trout fishing in the Land of Lincoln, anglers will need a fishing license and an Inland Trout Stamp, unless they are under the age of 16, blind, disabled, or are an Illinois resident on leave from active duty in the Armed Forces.
Fishing, hunting and combination licenses for the 2018-19 season are now available at many bait shops, sporting goods stores, and other retailers. Every year, anglers and hunters are reminded to renew their licenses, and every year the DNR issues hundreds of citations for those who refuse to do so. How this happens still boggles my mind.
Before I go fishing for the first time of a new year, I drive my happy self to the local grocery store and buy my combination license. That way I’m set until March 31 of the following year, and don’t have to worry about it one bit.
The Illinois DNR stocks 54 ponds, lakes and streams throughout the state with more than 80,000 rainbow trout each year. Local trout fishing may not be as well-known as the streams out west in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, but the luxury of not having to go far for a unique expierence is something that piques my interest.
Two additional trout-stocked areas are now open as well in the Sauk Valley. Locals near Centennial Park Pond in Rock Falls and Hennepin Canal Parkway in Bureau County are only a short drive away from a chance at a unique fishing experience.
There are also several other areas located in northern Illinois that offer trout fishing: Illinois and Michigan Canal in LaSalle and Lake Mendota (both in LaSalle County), Prospect Park in Moline (Rock Island County), Waddams Creek at Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Recreation Area in Lena and Yellow Creek at Krape Park in Freeport (both in Stephenson County), and Four Lakes in the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District.
Krape Park is 5 minutes from my house in Freeport, and Waddams Creek is just 15 minutes away. Those are likely spots you might see me trout fishing this spring – but I just might check out what the Sauk Valley spots have to offer, too.