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A Lesson in Trout Fishing

a Forest Preserves biologist stocks fish in a lake

With the start of the inland trout fishing season around the corner, the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are busy stocking nearly 7,000 pounds of rainbow trout in several of the Forest Preserves’ lakes. Mike Feldman, Fisheries technician, and Steve Silic, Fisheries biologist, shared some information about trout fishing and how to prepare and enjoy your catch!

The fish stocked in Forest Preserves lakes are farm raised, which means there are different techniques and bait that can be used while fishing in the preserves.

“In the wild, rainbow trout live in larger bodies of water and move upstream to breed. During this time trout forage on smaller fish, flies and macroinvertebrates,” explained Feldman. “Since the trout stocked in our lakes are farm raised, they haven’t been able to feed on these types of food as heavily as their wild family members. Farm-raised trout are fed mainly pellet food for most of their adolescent and adult life, and because of this the best bait to use would be something that imitates these pellets.”

According to Feldman, the best time of day to catch rainbow trout in the Forest Preserves lakes is early to mid-morning and late afternoon to sunset because this is when trout are feeding the most.

“Rainbow trout are a cold water fish and prefer cooler water between 55-60 F. Normally you want to find where the lake bottom drops off a few feet and fish there because of the colder water. You don’t have to go far from the shoreline, maybe 10 feet out,” said Feldman.

Something to keep in mind is trout are a schooling fish. Feldman said that if fishers aren’t catching anything, they may have better luck looking where there is a large group of fishermen as it may mean they’ve found a school, but remember to be respectful of their space if you decide to fish nearby.

Whether you’re an experienced fisher and accustomed to preparing and cooking your catches, or a fishing or cooking novice, know that trout is a healthy meat to include in your diet.

“The simplest way to cook trout for the novice cook is to bake them in the oven with salt, pepper and lemon,” said Feldman. “Be careful when cleaning and eating them! Trout have very fine bones that run along their back. These can be annoying to pick out. The best thing to do is to take your time and eat around them.”

According to Silic, the Forest Preserves of Cook County stocks approximately 500,000 fish each year, from about eight different species, in roughly 20 of the preserves’ lakes. On most lakes, fishing is permitted year round.

For a list of all of the lakes and waters open to public fishing within the forest preserves, download the Fishing Guide. The guide includes maps that show the location and depths of each lake, all fishing and boating regulations, and lists principal fish species. Guides are also available at the six Forest Preserves Nature Centers, General Headquarters, and the Fisheries Field Office.