Artificial Aquatic Habitats
Did you know all of the Forest Preserve District’s fishing lakes are man-made? Many of our lakes began as borrow pits (enormous holes left behind after land is excavated) for road and highway construction—not the ideal location for fish, wildlife or plant life. Creating our lakes has been about much more than simply filling the pits with water and stocking fish there. We’ve to make them sustainable environments. Our fisheries biologists have worked for nearly thirty years to create artificial habitats—turning the land into safe and healthy habitats for fish and welcoming places for our visitors to enjoy recreation. By increasing the number of fish habitats in our lakes, they’ve increased the lakes carrying capacities and allowed for more angling (fishing with a hook and line) opportunities. And they’ve had to find some really creative ways to do so.
In the late `80’s they built pyramids out of old car tires and had several large dead oak trees cut and dropped into the lakes. After the rehab of Skokie Lagoons in the mid ‘90s we had 117 fish cribs (artificial places for fish to hide, feed and reproduce) built by a contractor. Our Fisheries Section then sunk them into the lagoons using clean broken concrete that was donated to us. In the late ‘90s volunteers helped to build additional fish cribs out of old lumber and sunk them into the lakes using donated broken concrete. And since 2000 they have been making bucket habitats—five gallon buckets with plastic tubing sticking out. These are filled with cement and then sunk to the bottom of the lakes in clusters. Once in the water they look like and serve the same purpose as groups of old bushes.
Our biologists maintain the lakes year-round so that visitors may enjoy fishing our lakes anytime, whether a leisurely summer afternoon or a brisk winter morning. Our Fisheries team continually works to stock our lakes and regulate population as is seasonally appropriate. This fall they’re working in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to stock Axehead Lake, Belleau Lake, and Horsetail Lake with catchable-sized (1/2 to 1 lbs. average) rainbow trout. Each lake will receive approximately 1000 lbs of trout. The lakes will be closed for five days October 15 – October 20, giving the trout time to disperse, and will be available for sport fishing beginning dawn October 20, the third Saturday in October, which is the traditional Fall Inland Trout opening date.