Snow today Braidwood tomorrow (Well... March 1)

Last night we got our first real Chicagoland snowfall.  It's early January but I can't help but think of March first and fishing the open water of Braidwood Lake.

Seems like a long time since we’ve fished Braidwood Lake.  But it won’t be long now.  The first local power plant lake will be opened in about a week and a half.  I think a lot of anglers will be at the ramps on March first looking to catch some of the lakes bass, catfish and bluegills.

Anglers who venture out the Braidwood for the first time will find water temperatures warm for this time of year.  This is a power plant lake.  The water will be in the mid to upper 50’s and increase daily as the air temperatures warm.  Most fishing will be done on the west side of the lake which is the discharge side.  The shortest distance to warmer water on this lake can be had by launching from the Kankakee Road ramps.

March fishing at Braidwood has been successful for me by using spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and plastics.  Everything seems to work well for the bass early on.  I cannot lie to you though.  The fishing will be getting tougher and tougher as every day passes with more fishing pressure.  Fishing is usually the best during the first month of being open.  But even though the bass seem to get a bit scarce, there are always the catfish and bluegills that will bite all summer long keeping anglers quite happy when the water really warms up.

The key to finding spring fish at Braidwood is to watch the winds.  The warm surface temperature of the water will be pushed from one side of a pool to the other.  Let’s take the big pool on the discharge side of the lake for an example.

After launching at the K-3 road ramps, you’ll head northeast around the big island.  Some people call it the Big Island or Torino Island while others call it something else.  The big island is where the old town or Torino was once located.  Now that whole area is flooded with lake water and that big pool between the island and the power plant can have some of the warmest water in the lake all year round.

When the winds blow from the west, warmer water will be found by the eastern islands by that pool.  Fish will migrate to that warmer water.  Should the winds switch to out of the east, then fish will migrate to the riprap wall that runs north and south along Kankakee Road.

Let me say something else about the big island if I can.  If anyone has been to the lake when it first opened years ago, it was at that time, a big island.  Like any big mound of dirt and rock, winds and rain will wash away the surface which ends up in the lake.   The island is much smaller now.  For the most part, I’ve investigated the waters around that island and found them to be non-productive.  The water is pretty shallow with the wash off from the island, so check it out if you want, but I’d give it a pass.

The islands to the east of that big pool do hold some nice fish.  Many areas have deep water close to shore and that’s a good thing.  Be cautions while navigating some areas because they do run shallow with rock piles.  Hot Spots has a good map of the lake and most all hazards are marked.  The DNR puts out hazard buoys, but still, some are unmarked.  Just be careful.

Some areas just to the west of these islands can run to depths of nearly fifty feet.  Watching your depth finder can show you that fish will often hold on these drop offs and stage themselves below schools of shad that love to suspend over these deep holes.

The south wall by the K-3 Ramps is good too when the winds come out of the north.  Here you have a double banger.  Wind from the north blows warm water to that south wall.  The discharge of the plant pushes water south.  It hits that wall then turns to the east to go around the islands to return to the plant.

This portion of the lake is perched above the normal terrain.  This is how the lake is capable of having a current that starts at the north end and travels around the lake and back up north again.   By building manmade dikes at this part of the lake, the water level is much higher than the surrounding area at the northwest side of the lake than it is at the northeast side.

Fog can be an issue at Braidwood in the spring, but when it is navigable, the DNR will open the gates to launch.  Watch the flags at the boat ramps.  Red flags warn boaters that the seas can be very rough because of high winds.  When it’s really rough, the DNR will just close the ramps.  Yellow flags are most often seen and they indicated that there is a good wind out there but use caution when on the water.  The green flag indicates that the waters are calm.

Braidwood is a fun lake to fish and will be busy with boaters and shore anglers in its first couple of weeks.  Get your boat ready by checking everything before heading to the ramps.  It won’t be long before we experience some good times at Braidwood and see that great fishing is not that far away.

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