Bears-less Sunday? Wander to Monee Reservoir, then catch a bass while pondering life and side offices

A Sunday without a Bears game was a perfect time to wander to Monee Reservoir to catch a bass while pondering life and side offices.

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Fall settled in at Monee Reservoir and there was even fish to be caught. Credit: Dale Bowman

Fall settled in at Monee Reservoir and there was even fish to be caught.

Dale Bowman

After skipping a good cast under a browning tree bent over the water, I looked down Sunday to kick my blue tackle bag back from the water’s edge. When I looked up, my tiny red-and-white bobber was gone.

I have a curious relationship with Monee Reservoir.

Over the years, I’ve used it most as a side office. The preserve has good cell reception and the pavilions are usually empty during the week. I find it a comforting spot to work in. A couple years ago, fishing guru Mike Norris told me he did the same thing.

I have side offices all over: Coal City Public Library District (Heidecke Lake/Goose Lake Prairie); Fossil Ridge Library (Braidwood Lake/Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area); when weather allows, a picnic table at Mazonia North Unit (Braidwood/Mazonia); Prairie Creek Public Library District (LaSalle Lake); Sulzer Regional Library on North Lincoln (Montrose Harbor); Case-Halstead Public Library in Carlyle (IHSA bass fishing finals) and Funk’s Grove Rest Area on I-55 (Springfield/IDNR headquarters).

When our kids were young, our family sporadically had Sunday picnics and hikes at Monee Reservoir. I fish it sporadically, usually in spring or summer. I prefer topwater fishing summer slop and lily pads over the slowed-down fishing of fall.

But, with several free hours Sunday, I wandered back roads to Monee Reservoir, thinking of crappie. I’m not crazy about crappie fishing, but love eating them.

I debated renting a boat, but two guys next to me in the parking lot said they came in early without any bites. So I walked the shore instead. After an hour without even a nibble, I decided to hike. A railroad used the 46-acre lake for water for steam engines before the Forest Preserve District of Will County acquired it. I love nuggets like that.

Even while hiking, I stopped at likely spots to fancast with jigs and either minnows or wax worms.

When I was about to give up, I found the leaning tree next to an intermittent stream bed. Bam, first cast.

I would love to say a Battle Royale ensued, but no. I basically lugged the largemouth bass in. Only question was whether I could pull it through the dying aquatic vegetation. When I beached it, it’s gaping maw was stuffed with salad.

After quick photos and a video, I released it. The bass swam off with more spunk then when I reeled it in.

Dale Bowman with his only bite and only fish caught, but a worthy one, on a cold fall day Sunday at Monee Reservoir. Credit: Dale Bowman

Dale Bowman with his only bite and only fish caught, but a worthy one, on a cold fall day Sunday at Monee Reservoir.

Dale Bowman

While bushwhacking back to the trail, I crossed the tangled edge of what I think is a beaver house. A couple beavers slapped their tails loudly, the natural world’s equivalent of a “Here’s to you, pal.”

It was time.

I crawled out of the brambles and tangles with just enough time to drive out of the preserve before sunset.

Monee Reservoir is open 6 a.m. to sunset. On Sunday, start goes to 8 a.m. Information is at reconnectwithnature.org/preserves-trails/preserves/monee-reservoir.

ILLINOIS HUNTING

Maybe the early freeze far north is having an impact. Hunting heritage biologist Nicky Strahl emailed this count from Wolf Lake last week: 31 hunters, three Canada geese, 10 mallards and 21 other ducks. . . . At Heidecke Lake, 57 hunters bagged 20 mallards and 86 other ducks last week (Wednesday to Sunday).

WILD THINGS

As surely as snow spit Monday, rutting bucks will be wandering around the next several weeks. Drive carefully.

RECAST

Johnathan Inman caught the Illinois record freshwater drum (38.25 pounds) on May 24, 2018 from Clinton Lake. Last week I had the old record in Fish of the Week.

STRAY CAST

My dream Super Bowl of Steelers and Bears now reminds me of an ephemeral pool.

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