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Conservation areas still beckon, but trout will have to wait

The McHenry County Conservation District announced that many of the county’s most popular locations for trout fishing won't be home to anglers quite yet.

The Hollows in Cary, Beck's Woods and Picasaw North in Chemung will be closed for fishing through April 30 in compliance with Gov. JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order, according to a news release.

The hiking trails at The Hollows reopened April 6 after the first weekend of the Illinois spring trout season, but Lake Atwood at The Hollows as well as Picasaw North and Beck's Woods remain closed to the public.

Because of the large number of anglers that fish these areas at the start of the spring trout season, the MCCD said that keeping the sites open would go against social distancing guidelines and would put public safety at risk.

The opening days of trout season also have been postponed at Lakewood Forest Preserve's Banana Lake in Wauconda as well, according to the Lake County Forest Preserves website.

In preparation for the spring season, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks more than 80,000 rainbow trout in bodies of water across the state where trout fishing is allowed.

According to the IDNR website, fish are stocked in mid-March to prepare for the beginning of the season.

While some more eager anglers may be disappointed by the delay of this year's trout season, the owner of Algonquin bait shop, Bait Shanty, took to Facebook to provide assurance that catching that first rainbow trout will be worth the wait.

"The fish are in already, and will be there May 1, and by then they will be spread out evenly and taking natural baits," according to the post.

The owner of Bait Shanty, Larry Kirchner, said that as local anglers wait for trout season to begin, they should remember that there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

As his post pointed out, "Crappie continue to crush it, walleye are wackin' em,' bass are battlin'" and "Carp are cruising."

Kirchner said anglers should adhere to restrictions set by the district because "it’s our duty to help take care of not only the environment but also our fellow persons."

“If too many people try to bend the rules or they start crowding one area, then they’ll end up just shutting it all down which is what Wisconsin has been doing,” Kirchner said.

The majority of the MCCD's conservation areas remain open to the public and the district encourages residents to explore less frequented areas to hike, fish or even just for a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Residents should be sure to practice social distancing by going alone to conservation areas and by staying 6 feet away from other visitors at all times, according to the MCCD.

If the parking lot of a conservation site is more than half full, visitors should consider going elsewhere, the news release stated. It is also important to remember that all public restrooms maintained by the district have been closed until further notice.

For information on conservation district closures and guidelines, visit

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