Stocked rainbow trout in Illinois opening day and a hazy history

Illinois’ stocking of rainbow trout on inland waters is a wildly popular program with a long and hazy history.

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Aurora Sotelo, 7, enjoys the big rainbow trout caught by her brother Fernando, 6, at a kids fishing program March 25 at Grove Lake in Wood Dale.

Aurora Sotelo, 7, enjoys the big rainbow trout caught by her brother Fernando, 6, at a kids fishing program March 25 at Grove Lake in Wood Dale.

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A small child squealed Saturday as a rainbow trout was reeled in, flashing across Green Lake on opening day for inland trout.

I had thought 12-year-old George Valadez was the only younger angler who had braved the elements. Something vaguely frozen fell: rain, snow and sleet (sometimes all three).

‘‘I’m mad,’’ Valadez said about the conditions.

His dad, Vicente, had just covered them both in plastic rain gear.

Valadez already had caught a trout on PowerBait nuggets, a popular bait. Hatchery rainbows hit many baits: small jigs, wax worms, spikes, worm pieces, small spinners, small spoons, etc.

Vicente Valadez and his son George in their rain gear in the rain, snow and sleet Saturday morning on opening day for inland trout at Green Lake in Calumet City. Credit: Dale Bowman

Vicente Valadez and his son George in their rain gear in the rain, snow and sleet Saturday morning on opening day for inland trout at Green Lake in Calumet City.

Provided

Green, located in Calumet City, is one of six lakes in Cook County open for spring trout. Statewide, 58 bodies of water are open to spring trout this year. Trout stockings are funded by the $6.50 inland-trout stamps required for those 16 and older who need fishing licenses.

Rainbows aren’t native to Illinois, but they’ve been stocked for decades, a history that is hazy. Assistant fisheries chief Kevin Irons noticed that last year.

So he reached out to Mike Conlin, Illinois’ longest-serving fisheries chief (30 years of his 38-year career), who has been retired since 2009.

Conlin remembered in an email: ‘‘Before my time, the feds stocked trout in Illinois DOC Coleta Trout Ponds (three) and a couple of Chicago Park District ponds.

‘‘During the ’70s, fisheries initiated stocking of catchable-size (larger than what the feds stocked) rainbow trout into Coleta Trout Ponds, DOT Lake in Springfield and a state lake near Danville.

‘‘In 1984, I believe, we began stocking those three lakes with fish raised at Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery (Jake Wolf opened in 1983). After raising them at Jake for a few years, we found it was cheaper to buy the trout from a private dealer in Missouri.

‘‘During the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s and beyond, lakes were added to the stocking list. That is it in a nutshell.’’

Stocked trout sometimes make history.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s popular kids program for trout fishing is held the Saturday before regular trout season opens. This year, that was March 25 at Grove Lake in Wood Dale.

Rob Gutierrez and wife Isabel Sotelo had their kids — Fernando, 6, and Aurora, 7 — there. Fernando caught one of the biggest rainbows I’ve heard of during inland-trout fishing. It weighed 4.25 pounds and was about 22 inches long.

‘‘He caught it on a basic Zebco setup: two PowerBait nuggets on a No. 10 single hook and an eighth-ounce egg sinker,’’ Rob messaged.

Family history.

Wild things

Woodcocks are doing their spring mating rituals. Find an event to observe sky dancing or find woodcocks on your own.

Illinois hunting

Turkey hunting opens Monday in the north zone. Remember that other activities are limited to after 1 p.m. in state sites open to turkey hunting.

Stray cast

My pastor emailing an extra ticket for the Sox’ home opener is like having a 10-point buck walk past at dawn on Opening Day.

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