Braidwood Lake opening day: From ice/snow to warmth of a cooling lake, plus notes and Stray Cast

Braidwood Lake opening day: From ice/snow to warmth of a cooling lake, plus notes and Stray Cast

Dawn over Braidwood Lake last year on opening day March 1; opening day on Monday is much anticipated after a year of pandemic. | Dale Bowman

Opening day at Braidwood Lake for fishing is, as usual, on March 1, Monday, and prospects look hopeful; there are other notes and the Stray Cast, too.

Anglers are particularly primed this winter for the opener Monday at Braidwood Lake. Some will even line up Sunday night.

Braidwood, the cooling lake in southwestern Will County, should be ready, too.

It was stocked with its usual largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass and blue catfish in 2020.

“The lake has a standing annual request for all three species, so they’ll be stocked this year and I haven’t requested any changes,” emailed Seth Love, district fisheries biologist. “For a few years, hybrid striped bass were not stocked due to a decline in the gizzard shad forage base. Braidwood will get surveyed this upcoming October (it’s on a biennial survey rotation with Heidecke Lake), so I’ll be keeping my eye on those gizzard shad numbers for the 2022 stocking season.”

Love will be keeping a particularly sharp eye on the numbers in the survey this fall. In July of 2020, Braidwood had a fish kill of uncertain severity, which at first seemed mainly to be gizzard shad.

“Towards the end of the fish kill event, we noticed that there was some other fish mortality taking place besides gizzard shad,” Love emailed. “This was most apparent in and around the old rearing pond on the eastern side of the lake. These were larger bodied fish like largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass and bluegill. Still, gizzard shad appeared to have experienced the highest mortality. Ultimately, the July 2020 fish kill didn’t match the one that happened in 2008 so I’m hopeful that there won’t be any long term consequences.”

Braidwood has evolved over from a very down period early in this millennium.

“You can’t go wrong fishing for largemouth bass and blue catfish,” Love emailed. “The most recent survey showed that about a quarter of the adult largemouth captured were 15 inches or larger and three percent were 18 inches or larger.”

Chaser Ellison with his best largemouth bass on opening day in 2020 on Braidwood Lake, his father Jimmy is in the front of the boat. Credit: Dale Bowman Dale Bowman
Chaser Ellison with his best largemouth bass on opening day in 2020 on Braidwood Lake, his father Jimmy is in the front of the boat.

That’s a good sign for those who came back in recent years for bass at Braidwood.

I agree with Love that blue catfish receive as much interest and effort as the largemouth bass, for big reasons.

“The biggest blue cat that has been collected in an IDNR survey was a 20 pounder in 2013,” Love emailed. “The biggest hook-and-line blue that I’m aware of would be the 68 pounder caught in 2016. The lake has been stocked with blue catfish since 2003 so the fishery has had a chance to really develop. I’d love to hear from people who target Braidwood blues; whether you catch a whopper or get skunked I’m all ears!”

He may be reached at Seth.Love@illinois.gov.

One more thing.

“While not a prime fishery by any stretch, there is a very low-density population of flathead catfish in Braidwood,” Love emailed. “There’s always a chance a lucky angler may hook into one.”

One thing to keep an eye on is the lingering snow. Site superintendent Jeff Wepprecht said the lots were plowed after the big snows, but lots of snow remains and the weekend forecast includes a mix. You haven’t really enjoyed shore fishing at Braidwood until you climbed icy or snowy rip-rap.

Braidwood has no new regulations and is open 6 a.m. to sunset daily.

FOID

So far, the longest wait on a FOID card by a reader is 11 months.

ONLINE/OFFLINE

Licensing and permitting, including camping reservations, will be offline for Illinois Department of Natural Resources services through Sunday while a new enhanced system is implemented.

BIRKIE

The Wisconsin DNR partnered with the American Birkebeiner for the 2021 Birkebeiner (Birkie) Ski Race, held virtually this year through Sunday. See birkie.com/ski/events/virtual-events/.

WILD THINGS

Maple syrup time should kick in big time, especially south, this week.

STRAY CAST

Apparently a real Bears quarterback is like a 10-pound walleye: the stuff of dreams.

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