CARY – The Lake Julian Trout Farm in Cary began from a family’s passion for raising fish and now 60 years later has become a regional attraction for other families wanting to fish.
The former gravel pit turned trout farm annually serves about 10,000 visitors, many of whom come from the urban bustle of Chicago to escape and take their children and grandchildren fishing for the first time.
“I have many generations fishing here. I have people who came here with their grandparents and now are bringing their grandchildren,” owner Dorothy Miller said. “It’s run by a family, and it’s really run for families.”
Miller’s father, Julian Dvorak, had the idea for the lake after he started raising trout on the property. Like his father and grandfather before him, Dvorak had worked the 40-acre area off Route 14 when it was a gravel pit.
He initially purchased 18 acres on the back end of the property and eventually purchased the entire area, transforming it into a recreational park for fishing. Miller took over the business in the 1960s in an effort to keep Lake Julian in the family.
Miller and her two brothers still own separate homes on the land.
Miller changed the operating hours and relocated office space, but the lake’s main features are still intact from when her father opened it to the public 60 years ago.
Right inside the entrance, there is a trout farm holding 12,000 pounds of trout. Families have to keep what they catch from the small trout pond, but are allowed to catch-and-release trout, bass and other fish at the Big Lake, located on the lower level of the old gravel pit.
“As a rule, it is very quiet, very peaceful, and it is very rural,” Miller said. “People are coming to have a day in the country, more or less.”
The lake has also served as a place for company retreats and celebrity outings. Retired NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher even used Lake Julian while he was still in a Chicago Bears uniform for a fan event a few years ago, Miller said.
Lake Julian’s longstanding presence in Cary has helped the area thrive throughout the decades, said Suzanne Corr, executive director of the Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce.
People also rely on other area businesses for supplies for their trips to the lake, she said.
“It has put Cary on the map, especially with outdoor enthusiasts,” Corr said. “It’s also just a wonderful recreational site for local residents.”
Looking forward, Miller said she has no plans to give up the lake, hoping to keep the family business as long as she can.
“It’s an ideal business. That’s probably why it’s still going because I enjoy it so much,” Miller said. “I’m quite content.”
Lake Julian Trout Farm
Located at 65 S. Route 14 in Cary, the 40-acre recreational park hosts 10,000 visitors a year and offers an array of fishing, including a trout farm. For information, call the Lake Julian staff at 847-639-3734 or go to www.lakejulian.com.