After being closed for three months for its winter hiatus, the Monee Reservoir Visitor Center will reopen Friday, March 1, and fishing licenses will be on sale for anglers who want to get ready for the season.
But fishing won’t resume at the 46-acre lake until the ice melts, said Mark Loekle, facility concessions manager.
“Currently, we have ice on the reservoir so the public can’t fish until open water is present. As soon as I see the lake’s transition from ice to open water, that’s when I order live bait that will be sold from the visitor center.”
A reduced menu of pop, candy, chips and coffee are available now and more items will be added later. Fishing tackle will be available for rental once the weather breaks, but watercraft rentals at Monee Reservoir aren't scheduled to begin until April 2.
The weather this time of year is unpredictable, so it’s mostly hardcore anglers who show up to fish at the reservoir, Loekle said.
“March is a month that can be all over the board: cold or pleasant temperatures, calm or windy, rainy or dry. It’s a month when I keep an eye on the nightly forecast to determine the start of the fishing season. As of now, it appears the temperature pattern is going to start to break the second week of March with the temperatures being above freezing multiple days in a row.”
As for spring fishing advice, largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill seem to be the ones to target this early in the season, he said.
“In early spring, the baits of choice for largemouth bass are artificial baits such as rattle traps, jerk baits, spinner baits or various crank baits," Loekle advised. "Bluegill will be biting live bait – wax worms and jumbo red worms – which we will have for sale.”
While the fish tend to stay deeper this time of year, which can make it tough for shoreline fishing, the largemouth bass are at their heaviest weight, he added.
“This is why dedicated anglers deal with all of the tough elements to catch a trophy fish.”
In addition to selling fishing licenses and bait and renting fishing tackle, the visitor center rents anchors, pedalboats, rowboats and trolling motors during boating season, which typically begins April 1 and runs through October 31. The launch of personal fishing boats is not permitted at this preserve. Kayak and canoe rentals are available May 1-September 30. Daily and seasonal launch passes for personal kayaks and canoes are available for purchase.
Visitor center hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. in March. But the hours lengthen as the weather gets warmer. The hours are 6 a.m.-5 p.m. in April, and 6 a.m.-7 p.m. May 1-September 14. Hours shorten in fall and winter and the visitor center will be closed annually from December through February.
Visitor center hours are separate from the hours for the 248-acre Monee Reservoir preserve. Preserve hours are: 6 a.m.-sunset April-October and 8 a.m.-sunset November-March.
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