Hennepin-Hopper: Will reopen (undecided date) to really good fishing

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The best news for Illinois fishing in a while is that Hennepin-Hopper lakes will reopen to public fishing this year. The exact date is undecided.

I am excited. When Hennepin-Hopper originally opened, it had the best public fishing in the state. But common carp issues destroyed the fishing and altered the ecosystem, which shut down the public fishing for years.

Here is the word from The Wetlands Initiative:

Fishing at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes will reopen to the public in 2015; starting date not yet determined March 13, 2015 — The Wetlands Initiative (TWI) is committed to public fishing at its Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes in north-central Illinois starting this year. The organization is currently working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the specifics, including a starting date, according to TWI Executive Director Paul Botts. The lakes are healthier than they’ve been at any time since TWI has been involved, and the fishery is doing great, Botts said. We’ve always planned to open it back up for fishing and this is the year. In contrast to the fishing access that was suspended several years ago due to problems with the invasive common carp, access going forward will be freely open to the public. There won’t be any sort of fishing club with extra days or hours, nor any membership-type fee, said Botts. Public fishing at the Dixon Refuge will now be just that, public fishing open to all. Specifics like when fishing will begin in 2015 and what the hours will be aren’t yet determined. We’re working with the DNR on that and we’d hoped to have it nailed down by now, said Botts. However, with the change in state administration it’s not a fast process right now working with any agency on a written agreement. The DNR is involved in the fishing at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes for two reasons. The DNR has been our great partner in all of the work to develop and manage the fishery, providing expertise and staff time to help us rid the lakes of carp, and also covering some of the costs including restocking the lakes with native fish, Botts said. Although this is a private refuge, we and the DNR had agreed several years ago that when the lakes were ready for fishing again it would be free and open to the public, similar to one of the DNR’s own sites. Botts added, One of our primary goals at the Dixon Refuge is to have a sustainable fishery, and DNR staff are the experts on successfully managing public fisheries. TWI also plans to explore the idea of recruiting local volunteer stewards to help the small not-for-profit organization manage the public fishing. That’s just an idea at this point, and it wouldn’t include any sort of special access for those volunteers, Botts said. The fishing will be freely open to the public, as we and the DNR have agreed, and 2015 is the year. The details will follow just as soon as we can work through the state’s review process.

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