The lakes and rivers of McHenry County are Pete Gaic’s playground.
The Crystal Lake man loves the rush that comes from a sudden bend of a fishing pole, and he’s passed that love down to his kids and grandkids.
“There’s an excitement of being out in nature doing something where you get an adrenaline rush,” said Gaic, president of the Crystal Lake Anglers Fishing Club.
Fishing is the ideal family activity, he said, especially during the summer.
And the rewards are endless.
“There’s nothing like getting a kid their first fish, and you see that smile on their face,” Gaic said. “It’s priceless.”
Well, almost priceless – once the initial gear is bought. Still, the pastime doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
“All you need is a hook, bobber and bait [and rod and reel],” said Dave Kranz, owner of Dave’s Bait, Tackle & Taxidermy in Crystal Lake. “You can get a kid into a rod and reel for about 16 bucks. And that’s not just a one-time deal. You can use the rod and reel over and over.”
Those ages 16 and older need a fishing license – available at most sporting goods stores and www.dnr.illinois.gov for $15 a person – and it is a good idea to know the regulations of the body of water being fished, Kranz said.
With that in mind, we offer a brief look at some of McHenry County’s most popular fishing holes.
11750 Country Club Road, Woodstock
One of 16 fishing sites under management by the McHenry County Conservation District, Dufield Pond is in the northern section of the Dufield Pond Conservation Area.
Anglers will find a 7-acre pond that can be fished from the shore. Fish found in the pond include largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish and yellow perch. Once the fishing is done, there is a hiking trail in the southern end of the park to explore.
The fishing and hiking areas are open from sunrise to sunset.
3804 Route 14, Cary
Now here’s an unexpected fishing spot.
Although the park’s in plain sight along Route 14, the lakes in The Hollows kind of have their own hiding places. At about 22 acres, Lake Atwood is the biggest. It can be fished from shore or boat. It has a boat launch that allows canoes, kayaks or electric motorized rowboats.
Little Atwood Lake and West Lake can be fished from the shore. Fish found in the lakes include bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish.
Make a note: No minnows are allowed here. The site is open from sunrise to sunset.
Three Oaks Recreation Area
5517 Route 14, Crystal Lake
One of the newer fishing areas open to anglers, Three Oaks features two lakes. Both the North Lake and the South Lake can be fished from the shore. Signs are placed around each lake to designate shoreline fishing areas.
A marina provides boat rentals for North Lake. Rates for motorized rowboats with a fish finder start at $22 an hour for Crystal Lake residents and $25 for nonresidents.
Ten different species of fish can be caught here, including muskies, smallmouth bass, walleye, largemouth bass and panfish. All fish caught must be released back into the water. The park is open from 5:30 a.m. to sunset.
McHenry Dam at Moraine Hills State Park
1510 S. River Road, McHenry
And now for something completely different – dam fishing.
The McHenry Dam is located across River Road from Moraine Hills State Park and treats anglers to river fishing. At the dam, many different species of fish find the natural barrier is hard to pass, so there’s a tendency for them to congregate. You never know what you might catch. It could be catfish, drum, walleye, largemouth bass and more.
There is a concession stand nearby that sells bait and fishing gear. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Lake Julian Trout Farm
65 S. Route 14, Cary
Lake Julian is a familiar area fishing hole, around since 1937.
There are two lakes here. The Trout Pond is stocked with trout, of course. The Big Lake has trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, catfish, crappie, bluegill and perch. All fishing is done from shore.
There is a fee to fish. Fishing for trout costs $6.99 a pound. The Big Lake costs $8 a person for the entire day. Children younger than age of 10 must pay $4 for a day of fishing. A bait shop offers fishing supplies and snacks.