Jun 17, 2009

Slowly swinging, the gate opened again

If enough people know you fish, private water gates will open from time to time. A couple years ago, I was invited to fish a series of spring fed ponds in East Peoria. The ponds are owned by a local seafood retailer and were built in the 1920's as a fish storage facility. A few years later it became, what some claim, the first pay-to-fish operation in the nation. Over the years, Dixon's fishing ponds were the scene for many family memories but in 1992, the ponds were closed and went dormant. About 12 years later I got my chance on a sticky summer night. My host was a Dixon's employee and decedent of the company founder. One stipulation was to stay out of view of the highway to keep people from thinking the ponds were reopened because they were constantly being asked. Despite those pesky rules, we spent a few hours having great fun and not catching a thing. The years of dormancy must have stunted the fish population, but change is in the air...

Picture courtesy of the Peoria Journal Star.

Dixon's ponds will be opening as Hooked on Fishing Park this summer. The parks mission is
  • "to teach the sport and joy of fishing to local children, senior citizens, and special needs groups by providing the equipment, place, and education free of charge.."
According to an article in the Peoria Journal Star, the goal is for kids to "catch a fish every cast." The ponds are fed by artesian springs and arranged in such a way that the cool spring water visits each of the 4-5 ponds before emptying into the Illinois River. This unique setup allows for unique possibilities such as trout, and I think they've got the right guys for the job. Herman Brothers Pond Management has been heavily involved and they're the premier pond management company around (well they at least advertise the most). Nate Herman maintains a blog and I've noticed a few posts regarding the HOF project. See here for his latest post on trap net surveys and see here for his outing with a high school fishing team (I hope that rainbow wasn't lost in recent flooding). Larry Dozard is also involved. Larry is a local fishing celebrity due to his thorough, and mostly reliable, fishing reports for central Illinois (yours truly is an occasional contributor).

In my most recent conversation with the Dixon's family contact, he mentioned we should go fish it this summer. I'm afraid doing so will first require some soul searching. I'd hate to use this privilege to undercut the good work being done but surely a couple hours won't hurt...

I think I'll wait until I can bring my own kids out to "catch a fish on every cast."

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