Disappearing at Mazonia on annual escape, rewarded with largemouth bass on topwater

The annual wandering/disappearing at Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area delivered the rewards of largemouth bass on frogs and a popper, and a visit by a beaver; plus the Stray Cast.

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Setting the scene at Mazonia North State Fish and Wildlife Area with phragmites and scum-covered weeds as the sun dropped.

Setting the scene at Mazonia North State Fish and Wildlife Area with phragmites and scum-covered weeds as the sun dropped.

Dale Bowman

BRACEVILLE — A diving red-winged blackbird let me know what he thought of my stomping a path through phragmites to reach the edge of an unknown little lake at Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area.

God, I love disappearing around the 200-plus lakes at Mazonia, something most readers know by now.

My chance came Sunday evening.

Even better, I was the only person in the area of the North Unit I decided to wander. It was so overgrown on my half-hour trek in that I suspect it had been weeks since anyone had walked there. I took my time, trying not to overheat in the rubber boots I wore to deter the notorious ticks at Mazonia.

Distant pops of Fourth of July festivities drifted by.

With much anticipation, I began throwing a natural-colored frog imitation into shaded areas for a half-hour. Nothing. At my destination lake, I switched to targeting bluegills with a wax worm on a white Instinctrix tail (panfishpro.com) and jig. On my second cast, I landed a good crappie. Then five largemouth bass in the next 15 minutes. No bluegills, but I didn’t complain.

I switched to a 2-inch silver Skitter Pop with a white bottom and went 2-for-8 in the next 15 minutes on largemouth.

Smartly, I downsized to a smaller white frog from the big natural one I first threw and went 2-for-8 in 15 minutes. As I untangled the last largemouth from a mass of weeds, a beaver swam up. (I so hoped it would be an otter.) It finally realized I was not normal, slapped its tail and disappeared. Here’s to a disappearing friend.

A just-landed largemouth bass, weighed down with lots of weeds, was caught on a frog imitation at Mazonia North State Fish and Wildlife Area. Credit: Dale Bowman

A just-landed largemouth bass, weighed down with lots of weeds, was caught on a frog imitation at Mazonia North State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Dale Bowman

I went 1-for-3 in the next 15 minutes before a bird’s nest of braided line convinced me to take a break. The bird’s nest came when I overexcitedly set the hook on a big blowup and missed.

I found a spot shaded by phragmites to chill as the sun dropped, then savored the isolation while I ate my dinner of ham and muenster on a ciabatta roll (holds up better in my backpack) with a low-sodium V8. When I unwound, I undid the bird’s nest.

While I relaxed, the bright idea came of exploring the possibility of volunteering to open access points in the phragmites. I need lots of volunteer hours to maintain my Master Gardener/Master Naturalist status. I hope I can.

In the next 15 minutes, I went 1-for-1 on the Skitter Pop.

For the final 15 minutes, I switched back to the small white frog in hopes of a big largemouth to punctuate the evening. I caught the big one of the day (15 inches), but not the 4- or 5-pounder I was hoping for. Good enough.

It was time.

Driving out, I passed four kayakers sitting at a launch, talking and watching the sun sink. Mazonia is a top spot — the best in my opinion — for kayak-fishing around Chicago.

Mazonia is located a few miles southwest of Braidwood.

Sunset spotted over Goose Lake on the way out of Mazonia North State Fish and Wildlife Area. Credit: Dale Bowman

Sunset spotted over Goose Lake on the way out of Mazonia North State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Dale Bowman

Fishing media

Good to see a guy I’ve fished with (Score host Dan Bernstein) and another I’ve fished next to (former DJ Victor Blackful) mentioned in the same column, one of the final ones by Robert Feder, who retired from the Chicago media beat after 42 years.

Wild things

It’s a good part of summer: Monarch butterflies, fireflies, cicadas, fox kits (if you’re lucky), hummingbirds, blooming milkweed, fawns and the antics of young squirrels and rabbits.

Stray cast

Hearing professional sports smartass Steve Rosenbloom fill in on a holiday is as glorious as dragging an Old Town canoe out of the quackgrass behind a garage.

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