April showers? The first red-breasted robin? The first sure sign of spring for me is the opening of the spring trout fishing season. This year it starts at 5 a.m. April 6.
Every spring, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks more than 60,000 rainbow trout in bodies of water where trout fishing is permitted. This is paid for by the proceeds from inland trout stamps.
You’ll need a valid Illinois fishing license and an inland trout stamp to be a legal trout fisherman on these put-and-take waters. You can buy a 24-hour license that includes trout fishing privileges, but as of July 1, a 24-hour license does not include trout – a trout stamp must be purchased separately.
Don’t try to get a jump on the competition. It is illegal to try to catch these trout before the season opens. Your limit is five trout when the opening bell rings. These stocked trout are fairly good-sized, so please don’t take more than what you need. Just because the limit is five doesn’t mean that you have to keep that many. Also, please don’t be one of those greedy types that catch five, bring them home and go back for five more. The authorities will be on the lookout for people doing that.
Some of the Northern Illinois sites receiving the stocked trout are: Lake Atwood in the Hollows Conservation Area of the McHenry County Conservation District; McHenry County’s Piscasaw Creek; Banana Lake in the Lake County Forest Preserve District; and Sand Lake at Illinois Beach State Park.
These rainbows can be caught in any number of ways. They aren’t all that picky and will readily gulp down both live bait and artificials. Look for a location where the wind is blowing into the shoreline and make long casts into it so you don’t spook the fish. They scare easily.
Use line that is as light as possible. Four-pound test monofilament is the heaviest line you should use. Fluorocarbon line is even better because it is invisible to fish. One teeny split shot sinker is plenty of weight. Even better is to let just the weight of your hook and bait take itself down in the water.
My set-up for these trout is fluoro with no sinker and a No. 8 red hook. I don’t use live bait. I like using Berkley’s Power Bait. It is dough that comes in a small bottle. You roll a ball in the size you like and put it on your hook. I like yellow because I am told that is the color of the pellets that they feed the trout at the fish farms where they are raised.
If you are going for the opener, arrive early. The shorelines will be packed, shoulder-to-shoulder by lunch time.
Fishing report: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “This is a great week to fish the dams on the Fox River for walleyes. I have had reports of 14- to 16-inch males at the McHenry Dam using 1/8-ounce jig heads with an extra-large fathead minnow. I also heard of an 8-pound walleye at the Algonquin Dam but I don’t know what it was caught on. The warmest part of the day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., is sometimes the best bite in the early spring. Many waters have come up to almost normal levels and that will help this year’s spawn.”
Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.
Fishing on ice: Some lakes still have ample ice while a lot of smaller ponds and lakes are empty of ice. Whether open water or ice, this is the time to hit any waters that hold northern pike. Frozen smelt on ice rigs or fished under bobbers on open water should attract any pike in the area.
For up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River, go to foxwaterway.state.il.us/ or call 847-587-8540.
You can call Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Fishing Hotline at 414-382-7920 to hear the latest fishing information for Lake Michigan and its tributaries.
Wisconsin hunting: If you are planning an excursion to the state parks in Wisconsin this April, know that many of the sites are open to hunting. A new Wisconsin state law for 2013 allows some hunting opportunities in the parks, primarily spring turkey season. The parks are also open for beaver and otter trapping, but only north of Highway 64. The spring turkey season opens April 10, and the third period runs through April 30. State park hunting is only allowed in areas that are designated as open. Closed areas include those within 100-feet of designated use areas, such as parking lots, campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as within 100-feet of certain trails. Additional areas may be closed for safety reasons. Also, some state parks have property that is within municipal boundaries where the discharge of firearms is prohibited.
Lake Geneva Fishing Club: On April 10, the Lake Geneva Fishing Club will be meeting at Cabela’s in Hoffman Estates (just west of Route 59 and north of Route 72). The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting rooms on the second floor. This month’s speaker will Mike Mladenik, who is recognized as one of the top smallmouth bass experts in North America. Mike will be speaking about the smallmouth fishery on Wisconsin’s Menominee River system. The meeting is open to all. There is a $5 fee for non-members that will be deducted from your dues if you decide to join at any time this year.
If you wish to join the club, the dues are $40 a year with a $5 one-time charge for processing new members.