Braidwood opens 2022 by showcasing its bass status
By Ralph Loos
Braidwood Lake swung open its proverbial fishing doors March 1 and quickly proved to anglers what it has become.
A darned good bass lake.
Several reports of nice largemouths – and even some hybrid striped bass – being pulled out of the Will County cooling lake were made throughout the month of March.
A look at DNR’s accounting of the 16 fishing tournaments held on Braidwood last year adds to the notion that the lake has earned respect among bass anglers. Two bass over 7 pounds were weighed in at 2021 tournaments, with one of them just a tick under 8 pounds. Several bass over 4 pounds were weighed in.
All this while DNR’s 2021 survey of the lake produced the lowest catch rate for largemouths in four years. However, the same survey showed that the number of bass over 8 inches greatly improved compared to the previous survey in 2019.
“The Proportional Size Distribution was 88, which means that 88% of the adult population was comprised of largemouths over 8 inches – double the 2019 value,” DNR noted in its most recent survey report on Braidwood. “The proportion of adults larger than 15 inches remained unchanged at 26%. The proportion of adults over 18-inches declined, as these fish remain somewhat rare in Fall surveys at this lake.”
The State Hatchery System produces largemouths for Braidwood on an annual basis to augment natural reproduction. DNR stocked roughly 55,000 largemouths in 2021.
Braidwood has a 15-inch minimum length limit and three-fish daily harvest limit for largemouth bass.
Some notes on other fish species from DNR’s most recent survey of Braidwood Lake:
• Hybrid striped bass – Fall sampling has generally provided an inadequate sample of the population for the most part, and ancillary sampling is needed to obtain a more accurate assessment. The hybrid striped bass stocking program began in 2011. With the exception of 2013, 2017, and 2018, fingerlings have been stocked annually. Roughly 51,500 fish were stocked in 2021 (split between fingerlings and advanced fingerlings received from the State Hatchery System and Exelon’s Quad Cities Hatchery).
Braidwood has a 10-fish daily limit of hybrid striped bass and only 3 of those 10 may be 17 inches or larger.
• Blue catfish – The 2021 survey results fell short from the previous survey as a total of 10 blue catfish were collected ranging from 22½ to 30½ inches (average length was 28 inches).
Blue catfish stockings were initiated in 2003, and with few exceptions, have occurred annually to 2018. None were stocked in 2019.
• Channel catfish – Channel Catfish collected in the 2021 survey ranged from 6½ to 36.2 inches. The average size from the 2021 collection increased to 15.6 inches. A combination of very successful natural reproduction and high survival of young fish leads to a population dominated by smaller fish.
• Bluegills – The 2021 Bluegill catch rate increased over the 2019 survey, though fish over 8 inches remain elusive. The average length was 4.6 inches. Found throughout the lake, bluegills are more commonly collected in or near rip-rapped shorelines.
Located just south of the Village of Braidwood, adjacent to U.S. Route 53, Braidwood Lake is a partially perched cooling lake. When impounded in 1981, several old strip-mine pits were flooded within the lake proper.
A majority of the shoreline is open to bank fishing, and these areas are clearly marked. Access to the interior islands by anglers is prohibited. Steep drop-offs, rock piles, man-made habitat, current and thermal breaks and woody cover are all present.
Braidwood Lake is maintained by periodically pumping water from the Kankakee River. As a result, the lake supports a variety of fish species which include common carp, quillback, freshwater drum and others.
Braidwood is supported by a thriving gizzard and threadfin shad forage base as well as various other minnow species.
Swimming, wading, water skiing and sail boating are prohibited. Braidwood Lake is open to fishing daily from 6 a.m. till sunset from March 1 until 10 days prior to the opening of the waterfowl season (central zone).
Braidwood Lake is a 2,241-acre, partially perched cooling lake. No horsepower limitations exist, but the maximum speed limit is 40 mph, except in designated “no wake” and “hazard” areas. Boats under 14-foot long are not recommended.
County Line Road Access (south access) has a four-lane concrete boat ramp with parking. An additional parking lot is located adjacent to the ramp area. Cemetery Road Access (north access) has a two-lane concrete boat ramp, also with parking. A majority of the shoreline is open to bank fishing, and these areas are clearly marked for anglers.
Nearest town Braidwood
Surface area 2,241 acres
Avg. depth 9 feet
Shoreline 15 miles
Horsepower limit …….. None
Primary species present:
Bluegills, largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish