Almost six years of doing this column has been an eye-opening experience. Although limited by numbers of lakes and streams and public accessible hunting areas, we are blessed with some of the best anglers and hunters in the country. If you can catch them here you can catch them anywhere is our mantra and time and again that proves true.
Why is it we cannot manage our lakes better? The folks at IDNR work their tails off and continue to emphasize habitat and water quality, but lakes north and south of Illinois just seem to be better. In my humble opinion, it truly has something to do with catch and release versus catch and eat, better creel enforcement and the fact that no matter where you live, lakes with the most and best cover are the best fisheries.
Vegetation and wood structure both on the shore and off shore have to be difficult to fish and we need our lake managers to check livewells, too. We also need a possession limit. Illinois currently does not have one. Freezers full of fish do not help anyone except the freezer companies. As I have said many times, I am all for people keeping and eating a few fish, but when is enough, enough?
Our area lakes, Evergreen, Lake Bloomington and Dawson, are very small. Clinton is larger but also is small by large lake standards at 4,500 acres. Shelbyville is one of the larger lakes within a short drive from the Twin Cities at just a bit under 12,000 acres, but anglers make trips to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kentucky as fishing destinations because of tough fishing. Can we improve it?
The IDNR Fisheries Division is understaffed, but those who are on board are diligent and do more with less. Our area biologists should be applauded for their efforts, but we need clubs, communities and other organizations to get involved.
Our lakes are community resources that if properly managed and protected can have a huge positive economic impact. Local angler clubs who use these lakes should be the first to be involved. The truth is it is more than the fishing. The “all I want to do is fish” mentality doesn’t cut the mustard.
Convention and Visitors Bureaus, city government/parks and recreation and others who see the forest and not just the trees can make a huge impact. Pick a lake and pick a project and get involved. It can be something as simple as a donation, trash pickup or an event that can make a difference.
Local business can benefit significantly, too. We saw that when Leman Automotive Group teamed with local outdoors folks to build the Sam Leman Recreational Pavilion at Comlara Park. The finished product is something special and those who put in the time working on it have a sense of pride in a job well done.
We hope to revitalize the Boat Rental Facility at the park after Labor Day with county board approval and park staff and volunteer help. Some of the monies needed are in hand, but we would gladly take donations and offers to help, too.
Runners, bike riders, kayakers, hikers, campers, church groups, swimmers and anglers can benefit from this upgrade and we can use the help. We welcome Boys and Girl Scout Troops and others who currently use the park to participate.
We have a lot of momentum with groups such as Friends of EverBloom and Friends of Dawson Lake and all the work on stream and shore improvements there, but could gain strength in numbers with like organizations at Clinton and Shelbyville.
If you love the outdoors, volunteer. Even if you do not participate, know that resource provides water and green space that benefits us all.
The Friends of EverBloom will have its annual Lakes Fest at Lake Road Inn at Lake Bloomington on Sept. 16 from 2 to 7 p.m. There will be live bands, raffles and a silent auction, with proceeds benefit Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake projects.
On Sept. 17, the Prairieland Anglers Association will hold a kids fishing derby (up to age 14) at Bob Hartzold’s pond west of Bloomington. Rods and reels, bait and lifejackets are provided. It is a catch and release event.
A safety presentation will begin at 12:30 p.m. Fishing will begin at 1 p.m. and conclude at 4 p.m., with a wiener roast to follow. Sign up is free by contacting Roger Hagar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-275-4494. It is limited to 25 kids and cut off to register is Sept. 10.
Sam Leman event
The last regular Sam Leman EverBloom tournament of the year will be Saturday at Lake Bloomington starting at safe light and concluding at 2 p.m.