BRACEVILLE, Ill.–I should have had a machete or maybe that crossword
favorite, an epee.
Then, with a hearty “On Guard!, I could have attacked shoreline reeds and brush at
Instead, I stomped down spots on shore, where I could, enough to fan cast at the North
Finding or stomping down openings is the hardest part of fishing and getting away at Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Credit: Dale Bowman
That made for some added exercise with my getaway.
There are two great places to walk into and disappear in the wilds near Chicago. One is
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The other is Mazonia, both the original North Unit
and the more recent Mazonia South.
I disappeared at dawn Thursday at Mazonia North.
After parking at the Carp Lake access, I pulled two spinning rods–one with light line
for in-line spinners and a heavier one with topwaters–then walked in a path
and began disappearing.
If my aim was strictly fishing, I would have brought live bait; but what I really wanted
do was wander in, keep walking and disappear.
I saw one mature bald eagle, heads of snakes cutting Vs on the surface, red-winged
blackbirds trilling, several ducks I could not identify swim by, Canada geese honking
and splash landing with regularity, and great blue herons flapping off and squawking.
One heron fished the other side of one lake. She eyed me. I eyed her. We eyed each other.
She was a better fishermen than I was.
My fishing started wonderfully with a small largemouth sucking down a Pop-R on
my second cast. But it came unhinged. I started switching between the Pop-R, a frog
and a ChatterBait.
I would fan cast first with the various topwaters, then switch and fan cast with the inline
spinners, which were more effective at landing fish.
My original plan was to fish topwaters for a couple hours on the walk in, then switch to
spinner baits or crankbaits on the hike out.
The largemouth kept busting the surface until late morning when the winds picked up.
There is something frustrating about having largemouth corralling and busting schools of
shad in front of you and not be able to catch them.
That frustration aside, I took my getaway cure. I fished half a dozen small lakes, could
not get into three others I would have liked to fish because of shoreline growth so intense
I could not stomp it down; and caught a few fish.
Mid-morning, I hung and lost my second lure in 10 casts trying to get too cute
with presentation, and decided to hike back out.
Though of Gary Snyder and his poem, “Work to Do Toward Town,” which ends with the line, “all roads descend toward town.”
Working in the wild at the North Unit of Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Credit: Dale Bowman
But I opted to stay wild, away from town, and work. I drove to a favorite picnic table on a
wooden dock over the water at what I think is Bufflehead Lake. (There are some 200 lakes
at Mazonia North and I have only fished a couple dozen.)
Pulled out a couple fried-egg sandwiches, a bottle of orange juice, then set up my laptop
It was time.
The last day to fish Mazonia is Oct. 13; except that Monster Lake at Mazonia South
stays open year-round to fishing.
To reach Mazonia, take the Braidwood exit from I-55. In town turn south on Route 53,
then, south of Braceville, left on Huston Road.