A telling recovery discovery for Des Plaines River

Written By BY DALE BOWMAN For Sun-Times Media Posted: 06/08/2014, 02:30am

‘Rosyface shiner’’ sounds like something that should happen in a dirty Bears-Packers tussle, but the small minnow actually indicates clean, healthy water.

So understand the wonderment and joy from Illinois streams specialist Steve Pescitelli over finding them on a riffle outside the mouth of Salt Creek on the Des Plaines River.

‘‘We found a bunch of them, both below the former dam and upstream,’’ Pescitelli said. ‘‘It wasn’t just one.’’

The rosyface shiners, minnows of about 2 ½ inches, are yet another sign of the remarkable recovery of the Des Plaines since the removal of the Hofmann Dam in 2012.

‘‘It really indicates that the water quality is getting better,’’ Pescitelli said. ‘‘Where in the heck it is they came from is the other mystery.’’

The mouth of Salt Creek is just upstream of the former dam in Lyons.

‘‘They are a native species and were never found anywhere near there,’’ Pescitelli said. ‘‘We found a few at Hickory and Jackson creeks [in previous surveys].’’

While things look good — ‘‘These dam removals are working better than we expected,’’ Pescitelli said — it is not quite shout-hallelujah-we’re-in-heaven time.

There’s work to be done.

Modern reality is that post-industrial rivers in recovery can use some help. So both the Fox and Des Plaines rivers received intensive stockings this spring.

On May 30, 256,500 sauger fingerlings of 1 ½ to 2 inches were stocked in the Des Plaines from the Plank Road boat ramp, near the former dam.

‘‘They will go wherever they want anyway,’’ Pescitelli said. ‘‘Hopefully we will get them re-established.’’

Sauger had taken hold in earlier stockings on the Des Plaines, then dropped off. It is relatively easy to follow what the stocked sauger are doing for a simple reason: ‘‘They weren’t there before we put them there,’’ Pescitelli said.

Biologists found out the sauger (and walleye) are overwintering in the deep hole below the Lockport Lock.

‘‘So these fish move around quite a bit,’’ Pescitelli said.

There were 55,782 walleye fingerlings of that 1½-to-2-inch size, stocked in the Fox at Silver Springs State Park and Yorkville.

‘‘They seem to go all over the place,’’ Pescitelli said. ‘‘We have a little trouble following them. There is quite a few downstream of Yorkville. We thought they would make a run up to Montgomery.’’

So far, it doesn’t appear that has happened to any great extent.

‘‘But between Yorkville and Montgomery, there is a ton of riffles, so they may be trying to spawn in through there,’’ Pescitelli said.

Speaking of spawning, in the fall of 2012, dozens of big broodstock smallmouth bass were stocked near the former dam on the Des Plaines. Early on, there were reports and calls from miles upstream and downstream. But reports have slacked off lately. If you do happen to catch one those colored-fin tagged smallmouth, report the number to (630) 553-0164.

In healthy river systems, fish move around all over the place and regain some early mystery.

Email: straycasts@sbcglobal.net

Twitter: @BowmanOutside

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