Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Top Fishing Destinations in Illinois: Heidecke Lake

Top Fishing Destinations in Illinois: Heidecke Lake

By: Jon Giacalone

Located in Grundy County, Heidecke Lake was a power plant cooling lake considered to be one of the best of its kind in the nation for hybrid striped bass. Heidecke Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is maintained and operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).  The IDNR  provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including fishing, hiking, hunting and picnicking. Fishing is allowed from April 1 through the second Sunday in October. The only water sport permitted is fishing - swimming, wading, water skiing and other water activities are prohibited.

Intensive stocking by the state has taken place since 1980, including striped bass, walleye and muskie. The recent accidental introduction of zebra mussels into Heidecke Lake has prompted the IDNR to enact special regulations to prevent their spread into other lakes. These regulations are posted at all the access sites.  Be a Hero and Transport Zero, learn what to do to help stop the spread of invasive species to more lakes and rivers.

Fish location at Heidecke Lake was often dictated by the amount of current and hot water produced by the power plant. The circulation of water from the outlet to the intake created current edges and pockets of hot water which affected baitfish and gamefish locations. However, with the closing of power plant in 2005, Heidecke has become natural. Fish can be found on drop offs and humps along the center dike as well as the riprap along the 75% of the lake.

Interactive Lake Map

To find a detailed lake map and real-time fishing reports follow the Heidecke Lake waterway page on

Here are some tips for locating and catching fish on Heidecke Lake:
  • Spring walleye fishing is concentrated on the north side of the center dike. Walleye are found along the edges of the riprap, especially near steep drop-offs. Work the mudline at the base of the riprap with jig and minnow combos, but when the fish are active, a jig tipped with a twister tail can also be effective.
  • Largemouth bass relate to riprap and the limited natural cover found along the south shoreline.  Work the available cover by pitching four-to six-inch Texas-rigged plastic worms or jig and pig combos.
  • The deep-water zone on the north side of the center dike is locally known as “Striper Alley” and  is popular throughout the season. Drifting soft-shell crayfish (butterballs) is a popular method for working the irregular bottom in this stretch. Many local anglers use an egg sinker above a barrel swivel with an 18-inch snell down to a baited long-shank hook.
  • Channel catfish are found throughout Heidecke Lake and are the favorite species of many anglers. Most of the fishing occurs along the edges of the riprap. Soft-shelled crayfish, nightcrawlers, minnows (golden roaches), stink baits and cut bait are worked tight to the bottom. Drifting the steep drop-offs with bottom rigs and live bait can also be very effective.
  • Muskie tend to be scattered and often relate to the roaming schools of shad. Surface baits, such as Hawg Wobblers and Topper Stoppers, are excellent choices under calm conditions, particularly early or late in the day. Bucktails, jerkbaits and deep-diving crankbaits in hot colors are also frequently used.

Fishidy is the premier, map-based social network that gives anglers the ability to track their on-the-water experiences and view detailed fishing maps on thousands of the most popular fishing destinations across the U.S.

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