As fish farmers dumped 7,500 pounds of rainbow trout into select Cook County Forest Preserve District fishing holes this week, a district official explained why they’re going through the effort.
Rainbow trout “are highly sought after, because they’re not available as much around here,” said Steve Silic, head fisheries biologist for the district. “People love to catch them and to eat them.”
As proof of that love, he pointed to the hundreds of anglers — perhaps even up to a thousand per location, Silic said — who were expected to show up when trout season opens Saturday and on Sunday as well. The opportunity to hook the fresh batch of “catchable-sized” trout may not last, though.
“Within a couple of weeks we figure the majority have been caught,” Silic said. “But we sometimes find a few later.”
The three south suburban areas that were stocked with rainbow trout are Horsetail Lake in Palos Park, Green Lake in Calumet City and Sag Quarry East in Lemont. The district also added hundreds of fish to Busse Reservoir in Elk Grove Village, and Belleau and Axehead lakes in Park Ridge.
Each angler can legally catch up to five rainbow trout a day and culling is not allowed — people can’t throw a smaller trout back into the water in hopes of catching a larger one.
He said rainbow trout aren’t naturally found in the area, so the stocking program is a real treat for anglers.
Typical fish found in district fishing holes include bass, bluegill and catfish, but Silic said many people enjoy the taste of rainbow trout, calling it similar to that of salmon.
On Thursday, 850 pounds of rainbow trout were pumped into Sag Quarry East.
At about a half-pound and up to a pound for each fish that’s about 1,600 rainbow trout, Silic said.
The entire process only took about five minutes as a truck with 10 200-gallon tanks delivered the fish and placed them in the water via large tubes.
Thursday’s delivery came from Crystal Lake Fisheries in Missouri.
The park was closed to vehicles this week and fishing was illegal in advance of Saturday’s open to the season to allow time for the fish to spread out and become acclimated to the water.
Rainbow trout is a cold water fish and Silic said Sag Quarry East was chosen because it can get very cold at 17 feet deep.
The 17-acre waterbody is situated near Archer Avenue along the Calumet Sag Canal and was once a limestone quarry.
In fact, all the waterbodies in the district are manmade and had been initially stocked with native fish, such as bass.
Silic said native fish populations are regularly monitored by biologists and are restocked as needed.
He said for a $15 annual fishing license, a resident can catch up to six bass a day to feed to their family.
But the real joy for Cook County residents, Silic said, is the recreation that’s available just minutes away from their home without having to travel to places such as Wisconsin or Michigan.
Silic said having a successful fishing venture comes down to a combination of skill and luck. But even those who don’t land their limit typically don’t regret the effort.
“Fishing is a great activity that any age and skill level can do,” he said. “To me, the most important aspect is exposing people to nature.”
The rainbow trout stamp add-on to the fishing license is $6.50. Discounts are available for senior citizens. Licenses are available for purchase on the website dnr.illinois.gov.
Frank Vaisvilas is a freelancer for the Daily Southtown.