Former sheriff’s fishing ponds open to public Saturday
Rockford Register Star
Three fishing ponds the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District bought from former Sheriff Don Gasparini last year will open to the public for the first time on Saturday.
The ponds are opening for the start of trout season on Saturday. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources began stocking those waters and the neighboring Four Lakes Forest Preserve with roughly 3,000 rainbow trout around 9:30 a.m. today.
There are still several improvements that must be made to the 18-acre addition to Four Lakes Forest Preserve that the district purchased from Gasparini before it can open to the public permanently. The ponds are too shallow to sustain trout and other aquatic wildlife for the long haul. But commissioners wanted to make sure the public had an opportunity to enjoy the fishing ponds before the property is given a face-lift.
Buying the property from Gasparini was criticized by some who felt it was an example of political favoritism. The district also had an empty land acquisition fund and had to agree to pay the $216,500 price from its corporate fund, which covers main operations, over five years.
“We bought it because we wanted to improve the fishing in the area,” said Randy Olson, president of the district’s board of commissioners. “Because of the controversy, I think it was very important that we get the property open to show the public, contrary to what other articles have said, it is a good addition to Four Lakes. It’s going to add a dimension of fishing that we wouldn’t have with the previous Four Lakes.”
The state DNR stocked the trout at no cost to the district. Four Lakes waters also have blue gill, crappie, channel catfish, large mouth bass and northern pike.
The district expects all the trout to be fished out. The cold-water fish can’t survive in the shallow ponds for long, said Tom Hartley, director of Forest Preserve District Land and Development.
“There’s no survivability for the trout that are in those facilities,” Hartley said.
Olson said the new addition will be perfect for young people fishing for the first time because they won’t have to make too many casts before reeling in a catch.
“When I took my grandson out there a couple of years ago, we no more than had a line in the water and he had a fish on it,” Olson said. “For a young person trying to get involved in fishing, if they don’t catch something in the first 15 minutes or so,they get sort of discouraged and want to go home. It’s good for young people and I think we’ll see a lot of families and young people using it this weekend.”