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Maciulis: Going fishing? Know the keys

Heidecke Lake Goose Lake Praire State Natural Area. | File photo

Heidecke Lake at Goose Lake Praire State Natural Area. | File photo

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Updated: July 19, 2014 5:02PM



Regardless where you fish or for what you fish, there are basics which will help you catch more fish.

During recent weeks, we focused on segments from an extensive interview with Ed Rieck, who was an avid fisherman on Heidecke Lake.

Ed once held the Illinois record for the hybrid striper. He guided at Heidecke for many years, and was the Park Ranger overseeing the 1,600-some acre cooling lake.

Heidecke, which is within the Goose Lake Prairie State Fish and Wildlife Area, between Route 47 and Interstate 55 on Pine Bluff Road, just north of Lorenzo Road, is a remarkably fertile perched lake that is, quite literally, a fish factory.

We continue with the interview of Rieck.

“Normally, as I’d mentioned, when the lake opens on April 1,” he said, “the water is pretty cold. Right around 38 or 40 degrees, and the fishing is pretty slow. By the middle of April, she starts heating up. Once you get water temperatures up around 50, then you really start getting into the fish and you’ll start catching the bigger hybrids — you won’t get a lot, but it just seems the ones you do catch are going to be the bigger fish.

“I caught my record striper in May, and I caught it on the cold water side, in about two feet of water. A few years later, there was an 18-pounder, caught and she was caught on the cold side. The guy caught her on a surface lure in really shallow water, casting into the rocks (shoreline rip-rap) for smallmouth.

“The rip-rap in the shallow water is essential to the feeding patterns of all species at Heidecke Lake. The natural shoreline also is a very good area to fish, but very few people seem to fish it. They think you have to fish the deeper holes, but the fish seem to be in that shallow water. In two feet, even in one foot, of water.

“The natural shoreline, east of the boat launch, it’s all big rocks, boulders, in three-quarter-inch gravel,” Rieck added. “Then, as you get toward the east side of the lake, it’s all gravel. West of the boat launch, it’s all pretty much sand and a few dead trees still laying out there.”

He confirmed that structure is important, especially on natural, northern glacial lakes.

Longtime Kanakakee River guide Geno Altiery once summed it up simply.

“You don’t want to fish. You want to catch. Fish where they eat. Find the restaurant and you’ll find the fish. Usually, it’s quite shallow because that’s where the forage is.”

“Still,” Rieck emphasized, “the key to it all are the shad. Heidecke Lake has an unbelievable number of shad. And, when you consider that the seagulls and the fish ducks and the fish are all eating the shad, it seems like there’s just an endless supply of them.

“There are three or four different hatches of shad out here during a typical year. You’ll have different sizes of them most of the year and that provides a super-forage base. That’s the key, the forage. When you find the forage, most of the time, you’ll find the fish. Sounds simple, like all fishing.”

Ed Rieck, like all successful anglers, dissects where water temp conditions, location of forage and physical structure collide.

I call them “The Three Cs.” Anywhere you fish, for any species determine, Comfort, Cover and Convenience and you will be on your way to enjoying being on the water much more because you will be catching more.



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