Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Wolf Lake, Cook County

Northern pike still king at Wolf Lake

By Ralph Loos

 Good-sized northern pike have long been the jewel of Wolf Lake, an odd configuration of pools that straddle the Illinois-Indiana border.

It’s a shallow lake that is well vegetated and has clear water, which is perfect for pike. In the past, anglers have reported pike larger than 12 pounds. DNR typically collects fish up to 28 inches. 

Also, some hybrid muskies are hooked, but they usually come from the Indiana side, as Illinois has not stocked them since the 1990s.

To understand the fishing of Wolf Lake, you must understand the lake’s history. Prior to 1947 Wolf Lake was a small, shallow glacial lake situated in a wetland area between the confluence of the Grand Calumet and Calumet Rivers. 

Since then, the lake and its fishery have developed into a haven for fishermen to enjoy some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago.

The Illinois portion of Wolf Lake consists of 390 acres of water and is managed by DNR. That portion of the lake is abutted by William Powers State Recreation Area, a 600-acre mixed use nature and recreation site. 

Illinois hasn’t recorded a survey of fish in Wolf Lake in a few years, but Indiana – it shares half of the 800-acre lake – provided a sampling in 2020.

There was good news for pike and walleye anglers.

According to Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Indiana side of Wolf produced 14 walleyes over 6 pounds, including one nearly 8 pounds. Other fish, especially bass, perch and crappies, also had impressive numbers.

“Wolf Lake is a pretty neat resource, in the middle of a city, that has nice fish population,” Tom Bacula, fisheries biologist for the Indiana DNR, told Bowman.

 “That lake, for being in such a highly populous area, and the pressure it gets, I am really impressed.”

Illinois DNR’s most recentsurvey of Wolf Lake had the following results:

Largemouth bass: A total of 85 bass were found in one hour of shocking. These fish measured 4 to 19 inches and weighed up to 3.6 pounds. Of the bass sampled, 69% were greater than 12 inches long and 56% were over 14 inches. 

“This size structure creates high reproductive potential and should help expand the population,” DNR noted. “The lake includes some pondweed species, it’s a balancing act between managing vegetation and protecting listed species.”

Bluegills: About 20% of the bluegill captured exceeded 6 inches. The bluegills ranged from 2 to 7½ inches, the largest weighing 0.29 pounds.

With good habitat and food sources, the bluegills in Wolf Lake do fairly well. 

“Abundant aquatic vegetation provides hiding cover and reduces predator efficiency,” DNR explained.

Northern pike: Wolf Lake is a good match for northern pike, as the lake is shallow, well vegetated and has clear water. Anglers report fish up to 20 pounds and DNR typically collects pike from 22 to 28 inches.

“Northern pike stockings were stopped in 2017 but fish will be present for the next 5 or 6 years,” DNR noted.

Black crappies: Seven black crappies were collected in DNR’s sample. These fish measured from 4.2 to 10.2 inches and weighed up to 0.54 pounds. 

Changes coming

Notably, Wolf Lake is part of a conservation project involving the eventual restoration of Powderhorn Lake, which will be connected to Wolf Lake, creating a link extending all the way to Lake Michigan. The project, part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, involves a larger effort to restore or protect more than 250,000 acres in the next decade.

Wolf Lake

Nearest city: Chicago

Surface area: 390 acres

Average depth: 6 feet

Shoreline: 8 miles

Species present include:

Largemouth bass, northern pike, channel catfish, bluegills, crappies, walleyes

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