I remember the days when Heidecke was know as Collins Lake. That’s putting a few years on me isn’t it? That’s okay, because I can still enjoy the lake that offers bass, panfish, striper, walleye, catfish and muskie.
Back then, Heidecke was a power plant lake that used the waters to cool down the electricity generators that were powered by coal. A handful of years ago, the plant was shut down which resulted in the lake being like any of the other natural lakes in the area.
Spring is a great time to fish Heidecke. Walleye and bass fishing will be fun. Boating anglers will catch more fish as shore access is limited to the bridge area. Boaters have the run of almost the whole lake.
When the plant was shut down, there was talk that the buoy line that marked the “restricted area” would be moved further west giving more area to fish, all of which would be virgin fishing waters. It was said that we would have to wait until the plant is completely disassembled and hauled away. Well, the plant is gone. Piece by piece it was taken away by railroad cars that traveled down the center dike. But still, the buoy line remains the same. Maybe some day.
Many anglers like to work the rocky rip rap of the center dike. They’ll throw spinnerbaits, crankbaits, work plastics, or float bobbers with big golden roaches for a variety of fish. Some will troll along the banks with a variety of hard baits. They all find success with their confidence baits, but yet others will go off shore.
Heidecke has a lot of structure in the form of holes and drop offs. These are favorite spots for working a bait down the drop. Jigs and minnows are popular
Many years ago, and now I’m talking about over 20 years, I had a neighbor who loved to fish at Heidecke. His favorite thing was to be there when the carp are spawning on the banks. I’m sure you’ve seen this, where the carp would be splashing up a storm in the rocks making all kinds of noise.
Well my old neighbor claimed that when the carp did that, it would kick up crayfish and after the carp moved off, the bass would move in. It was the perfect time to toss a plastic cray up on the bank. It worked more often than not.
Buzzbaits on the south pool, the one where the boat ramp is found, often produced springtime muskie for bass anglers. They fished the western edge where there are a lot of boulders in the water. Yes, the buzzbaits produced some nice bass, but they also hooked into a respectable muskie now and then.
The northern pool is often thought of the place to fish, maybe because some cannot navigate the low bridge. We always want what we cannot have. But those who get on the north end do get some nice fish.
I like working the far northern rip rap wall, especially on the west end of the lake. I’ve thrown a lot of crankbaits up there and did very well. Early on in the spring, spinnerbaits worked well too.
As the lake warms up, so does the catfishing. A favorite bait of many cat anglers is chicken liver. That can catch a lot of nice cats, but don’t be surprised if you catch a nice sized striper while fishing for catfish. It happens. But for the cats you can also try shad, cut bait, shrimp, dip baits, or big dead minnows. Forget the night crawlers. They’ll catch cats, but most of the time they’ll all be small. Give these fish some meat and they’ll bite well for you.
Walleye fishing is good on the north end of the lake. There are a couple of nice drop offs in the middle of the lake on the far west end by the buoy line. The both run in an east – west direction and meet in the middle. It’s like a big “V”. Find the drop and pick a depth of about 15 feet and troll it with crankbaits. If you happen to run across some shad, try to select a lure that’s close to the same size as the shad. Match the hatch.
A slower presentation, like a jig and minnow will work well if the fish are a bit finicky. Sometimes we have to put the bait right in front of their nose. Experiment a little to see what they want. Be aware of the action on that jig because it can make a difference. Should be bait be lifted off the bottom or dragged? Pay attention to what works to get more fish.
Heidecke Lake is a without a doubt one of the better lakes we have to fish here in northeastern Illinois. If offers a variety of fish, plenty of water and on occasion, gives up a real trophy. Being located just outside of Morris Illinois and only about 30 minutes from where I live in the south suburbs, that makes great fishing not that far away.
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