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An angler hooks a bass at Windsor Lake in Loves Park. Photo by Scott Morgan.

Rock River Valley Insider: Fishing records are waiting to be broken

April 07, 2013 at 04:01 PM

Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — There’s a stretch in early spring when fishing is at its best.

When walleye and bass are fat and active after a long winter, and when bluegills, crappies and other panfish will bite almost anything thrown on a hook.

Now is the time to put in the hours on the muddy shorelines in the still-cold mornings to fish the rivers and lakes in northern Illinois.

Most eyes are on the Pecatonica River in northern Winnebago County, where by this time last year the state record for walleye was broken twice.

The record had been standing since 1961, until Nick Tassoni, a freshman at Auburn High School, netted a 14-pound, 12-ounce fish. Tassoni held the title for less than two months, when Jim Zimmerman of Wisconsin came down to the Pecatonica and reeled in a 15-pound behemoth and weighed the new state record at Blackhawk Meats in South Beloit.

But the Pec isn’t the only spot for walleye in the area. Coon Creek Casters, a Belvidere fishing club, has been stocking walleye in the Kishwaukee River above the dam in Belvidere Park for several years.

“People are starting to catch 15- to 17-inch walleye above the dam,” club President Bill Myers said.

Parts of the Kishwaukee can also be hot beds for smallmouth bass, Myers said.

Smallmouth love rocky waters and, in the spring, a stretch of the Kishwaukee between Cherry Valley and Belvidere can be productive for bass.

If you can navigate it, the Rock River near Rockton is a good place to try, said Mike Levans, president of the Rockford Hawghunters Bass Fishing Club.

“The Rock River can be good very early in the season,” Levans said. “You’ve got to look out for the rocks, though.”

Lakes and rivers in the area are good for bass, walleye and panfish. If you’re after northern pike or musky, you would probably be better off heading north to Wisconsin and the Madison or Waupaca chain of lakes (an annual out-of-state license costs $50).

Most accessible
Pierce Lake in Rock Cut State Park may be the most accessible fishing spot in the area. The scenic 162-acre lake has boat rentals, a boat launch and a concession stand. Panfish are ready to bite near the fishing pier or just above the dam.

It’s also one of the most popular fishing spots, so to avoid the crowds, anglers can head north to South Beloit’s manmade Lake Victoria. At 17 acres, Lake Victoria is just big enough to bring a boat, and most of the lake can be fished from shore in City Park.


Rumors about the size of the small lake’s fish have started to spread in the past few years. The park was flooded and closed to the public from 2008 to 2010, during which time the fish enjoyed little to no fishing pressure.

Lake Le Aqua Na in Lena is also regularly stocked, with a fishing pier and a healthy bass population.

Best for kids
One of the safest bets to see regular action is on the shallow fishing ponds of Four Lakes on Fish Hatchery Road in Pecatonica. The four ponds are stocked with trout, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish.

The ponds aren’t much for trophy fish, but they are perfect for kids who may get antsy when nothing’s biting.


Need to know
Annual license: $15, available at any sporting store or at dnr.illinois.gov
Lifetime license: $435
Free weekend: June 7 to 10 (no license necessary)
April 6: Spring trout season opens


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