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Outdoors: January thaw? It’s finally here

Bob Maciulis

Bob Maciulis

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Updated: April 19, 2014 6:33AM



When I wrote about the impending “January thaw” several months ago, brother, was I wrong in predicting the annual event was weeks away.

For two months, the nation was pounded by a merciless arctic air mass.

Well, I saw Michael Jordan miss a free throw once. So, I’ve dusted myself off.

Seems things finally have begun to thaw and spring conditions are imminent.

Just east of Morris, Heidecke Lake is a huge, sprawling fish factory that will open on April 1 (unless there’s a howling blizzard, the ramps are iced up or there are tornado warnings, all of which can be lumped beneath the subtitle “weather permitting.”

The DNR negotiated a long-term lease for public access on Heidecke, including the management of the fishery, and it continues to be one of the finest, most under-fished lakes.

Swimming, wading, water skiing and sail boating are prohibited. The boat access is open daily from 6 a.m. to sunset; bank fishing access on the center and eastern dikes opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at sunset.

Since windy conditions can produce treacherous waves, the lake can be closed at the discretion of the site superintendent.

For more information, call (815) 942-6352.

Nearby, LaSalle Lake, the cooling lake south of Seneca that is just minutes south of I-80, is a 2,000-acre perched cooling lake.

We may never see the heydays that existed when the lake first opened almost two decades ago — in those days vehicles on opening weeks were lined up three and four deep clear out to the highway.

Yet, LaSalle still should be on everyone’s top 10 list. It is a spectacular fishery with almost eight miles of bank fishing and three magnificent pools for boaters to fish.

I am aware that the talk on the street during recent years dismisses LaSalle.

“Since the fish kill, I don’t go there anymore,” is a common mantra.

But even now, years after the lake froze while the plant was shut down for major repairs, it is an exceptional fishery that’s close to home.

With less angling pressure, LaSalle is the sleeper for huge striper and giant bluegill that will measure a true 12 inches. And the cooling lake has a supporting cast, including state-record sized yellow bass, channel catfish averaging two to three pounds, sauger, smallmouth, drum and carp.

During recent years, LaSalle’s population of huge blue catfish has catapaulted it back onto everyone’s to-do list.

With wide, concrete launch ramps, a handicapped fishing pier at the entrance and sufficient parking for hundreds of trailers and vehicles, LaSalle Lake always will be a prime venue during the early season.



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