Sarley: Everything you need to know with trout season here

The weather finally is heading to where it ought to be this time of year. People who have been house-bound for the past months are dying to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Fishermen can’t wait to hit their favorite spots to do battle with northern Illinois’ fantastic array of catchable fish.

If you want to have a blast catching some great fish this week, you really ought to try your hand at the Illinois catchable trout season.

The 2019 Illinois spring trout fishing season opens Saturday at 58 ponds, lakes and streams throughout the state, with four new sites added for this spring. Fortunately, several sites are in our wheelhouse, so there is no excuse to miss a great opportunity.

In McHenry County, Lake Atwood and Piscasaw Creek are sites that have been stocked with ample rainbow trout. In Lake County, Banana Lake in the Lake County Forest Preserve District and Sand Lake at Illinois Beach State Park have received their trout, as well.

The state’s catchable trout program is funded by those who use the program through the sale of Inland Trout Stamps. Please take note that you will need one of these stamps if you decide to fish for these tasty trout. Also, please realize that you need to have a new Illinois fishing license.

Yes, I said the trout were tasty. This is one time of the year that the principle of catch-and-release can be totally ignored. The trout are stocked so that we can catch them and eat them. There is no reason to throw them back. They won’t reproduce and won’t live through next winter. Enjoy them while you can.

You can’t fish for these trout until the season opens at 5 a.m. Saturday. The daily catch limit for each angler is five trout. It’s OK if you only decide to take home a fish or two or three. I think it’s great to take home enough fish to make up a meal. Certainly don’t take more than you can use.

I like to prepare my rainbows by simply broiling them for a couple of minutes on each side after brushing them with a little olive oil and sprinkling on some dill.

Whoa, I got a little ahead of myself there, didn’t I? I’m talking about cooking up some trout, and I haven’t even talked about how to catch them yet.

To go after these fine fish, you need to be stealthy. Walk the banks gently and quietly. You’ll probably see fish leaving the area as you walk to the banks.

I like using a long rod so that I can make long casts to get my offering farther away from me. A long rod and a small- or medium-sized reel is the correct setup.

Light line is the key to catching these rainbows. I’ll tie on a length of 2- or 4-pound test fluorocarbon line to the line on my reel to use as a leader. Trout are not going to break the light line and probably will be scared away by heavier line that you’d use for fishing for other species.

You can cast your bait and retrieve it, or fish it under a slip float. For casting, I favor a No. 2 Mepps Spinner. They seem to do the trick for me.

When I say to use a slip float, I am saying that you should not use a traditional red-and-white plastic bobber. When a trout hits a bait under one of those red-and-white bobbers, the fish can feel the weight of the bobber and will drop it right away before you can set the hook. A balsa slip float is neutrally buoyant, and the fish doesn’t even know that it is there.

For your slip float rig, use a tiny lead slip shot weight and a small hook. You can bait your hook with wax worms or a crappie minnow, but I prefer artificial bait for the trout.

Berkley makes a few products in their Power Bait line that are ideal for the spring catchable trout season. They come in tiny bottles and are available as a paste or formed into little nuggets. There are a lot of colors available, and some even have added sparkles. I’m a fan of the paste that comes in the colors “yellow” or “hatchery pellet.” These are the colors of the food that the fish farm has been feeding these trout up until the time they’ve been moved to our local waters, so why try anything else?

One warning: Don’t be surprised at the massive amount of fishermen that you will be seeing at the spots where the trout have been planted. If the weather is great, you may find yourself standing elbow-to-elbow with your fellow anglers. Don’t be discouraged. It’s worth the effort.

For information on the trout season and other locations, check the website at


Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait and Tackle writes, “The water levels at the McHenry and Algonquin dams have come down to levels that we can fish. Walleyes, smallmouth bass and crappies are being caught with minnows on a jig. The trout fishing season opens Saturday. The local stocked areas are the Hollows and Banana Lake in Wauconda. Berkley Trout Dough or small spoons or spinners will work. Don’t forget to get your new fishing license and trout stamp if fishing for trout. Call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”


Looking for help: Our friends at the Lake County Forest Preserves are looking for people who enjoy fishing and want to share their knowledge with children. They are looking for volunteers for the summer.

"We are seeking volunteers to assist with our popular summer fishing camps," said Mark Hurley, volunteer coordinator at the Lake County Forest Preserves.

The eight-week camps, beginning in June, are held in the mornings at Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville. Campers are eager to learn more about fish, bait, lures and techniques. Hurley said he is looking for volunteers who have a passion for the sport and want to share their experience with children. Volunteers will be provided training on how the camps are run and what they should be teaching the campers.

"The fishing camps are a tremendous opportunity for volunteers to share their knowledge with young, eager children wanting to learn the skill," Hurley said.

Contact Hurley at 847-968-3324 or for more information.

Lake Geneva fishing club: All are welcome to attend the Lake Geneva Fishing Club’s next meeting Wednesday with refreshments beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting at 6 p.m. at the Cabela’s store at 5225 Prairie Stone Parkway in Hoffman Estates.

The April speaker will be Bill Schulz, author and smallmouth angler, his topic will be “Big Sturgeon Bay smallies – all season long.” Nonmembers are assessed a $10 charge per meeting. The club offers a chance to learn about Geneva Lake through club outings and by fishing with members that have fished the lake for many years.

Beginning with the May meeting, the club’s new home for their meetings will be the Poplar Creek Bowl (enter via the banquet entrance) at 2354 W. Higgins Road in Hoffman Estates in the Barrington Square Mall Shopping Center. The club appreciates the generosity that Cabela’s has shown them for many years in allowing the club to meet at their location.

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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