Maciulis: Heidecke Lake a true outdoors gem
By Bob Maciulis For Sun-Times Media July 4, 2014 10:57PM
It looks like more dawns on Heidecke Lake will be forthcoming for fisherman and hunters in northeast Illinois. Credit: Dale Bowman
Updated: July 6, 2014 2:15AM
It’s a fitting story during a weekend when we celebrate America’s unique freedoms.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, that would include what was the cornerstone of our culture: Our great hunting and fishing traditions, living within the environment not from it and our yearning for self-reliance.
For many years Exelon Generation was known as Midwest Generating. It was the parent company which owned Collins Station. That was the coal-fired generating facility east of Morris, surrounded by the vast natural prairie grasslands that once covered the Midwest.
The generating process required water to cool its generators, so a large, perched reservoir was built alongside it.
In 1978, Midwest Generating signed a long-term lease with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (then the Illinois Conservation Department) and it opened 1,300 acres for recreational fishing.
Within weeks, Hedeicke Lake was the talk of the entire Midwest and began to attract anglers from throughout the Midwest. The fishing was that incredible.
Some years ago, the parent company announced it planned to mothball the plant at the end of that year and area anglers were shocked at the prospect they might lose the phenomenal “backyard fishery”.
Will Heidecke Lake remain open until its traditional seasonal closing in October? Will the lake be open for the waterfowling season? What if access is increased for year-round fishing? Can you imagine an ice fishing season on a frozen cooling lake?
Some time ago, we sat down with Ed Rieck to discuss the fishery at this remarkable close-to-home impoundment.
Ed has fished the 3-mile-long cooling lake since it opened. He spent years guiding on it, has caught countless fish of all species from it over the years, including a state record hybrid striped bass. Ed also has worked at the Goose Lake Prairie State Area as a Ranger, so his familiarity with the lake and the recreational resources it provides for northern Illinoisans is broad-based, and his knowledge of the fishery is as good as one will find.
The following is a summary of our conversation about Heidecke Lake, about its fishery, about the secrets Ed has unraveled over the years and of how you can catch more and larger fish on this lake.
Each of the three northern Illinois cooling lakes is different from the others, like each of the generating facilities they serve is different.
Braidwood, LaSalle, even nearby Clinton, were and remain all very different from Heidecke, despite that they share the common trait of being impoundments built to supply generating facilities with cooling water. That aspect of these cooling lakes makes them very different from natural lakes —although since the generating plant was torn down, Heidecke is more like a natural lake, because its bottom contours and elevation specifically were designed to catch the wind. It can cool down in less time than any natural lake.
It also can be treacherous, with waves topping out at six to eight feet.
Different does not always mean better, or easier to fish. Just different.
Understand those differences and how they affect the various species of fish that are stocked in these impoundments, and one could open the door to an incredible fishing experience.
Ed Rieck has provided us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be that fly on the wall, to listen to a fisherman describe his home lake in great detail, holding nothing back.