A little frigid weather can’t stop ice fishermen. Even as temps were dipping below zero on Monday, they were dipping their lines into Wolf Lake waiting for a nibble.
Chris Rollins, the site superintendent of the William W. Powers State Fish and Wildlife Area in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, said, “It’s cold but it’s not stopping people from enjoying the park.” The park is at 12949 Avenue O.
This year has brought more anglers to the park than any year in recent memory, he said. They use sleds to load gear and set up nylon shelters along the now extremely frozen lake.
“We’ve had ice cover now for weeks and weeks,” Rollins said, adding that the anglers report some areas of ice as thick as 9 to 12 inches. “It’s a good solid ice cover.”
I asked him what brings fish seekers out this time of year and he said for some, it is a chance to fish areas they can’t reach in other seasons. It gives them a shot at reeling in a big northern pike or another noteworthy catch.
“If you’re local and don’t have a boat, this is a time of year you have access to all of the lake,” he said. This is also the best time to catch fish to eat, the fishermen tell Rollins.
“They’re all season guys. Fishing doesn’t stop just because the lake is frozen.” Due to Wolf Lake’s waterfowl season, access to all of the lake was limited until mid-January. The new free rein also brings out many folks and having the rest period early in winter helps preserve the fishery.
Rollins does caution there are still dangerous spots on the lake.
“Ice fishing is a fish at your own risk activity. We have no ability to rescue people,” Rollins said, adding that most of the anglers are extremely safety conscious.
In addition to ice fishing, the park also offers visitors a chance to glimpse some pretty special birds. With no foliage to block your view in winter, you can look for bluebirds, woodpeckers and other feathered creatures. It’s also a good nature pastime that can even be enjoyed while in the warmth of your car.
Earlier this year, spotted snowy owls were seen and bald eagles appear from time to time, Rollins said.
Indian Creek, the outlet of Wolf Lake, attracts waterfowl including swans, geese and few kinds of ducks such as blue bills and red headed ducks. Diving ducks enjoy the open water created by the creek.
Park visitors are not allowed to feed the birds and should not bring bread. For swans, in particular, feeding can be dangerous. It stops them from diving to the bottom of the water, an activity needed to keep them warm.
Snow shoeing, cross country skiing and hiking are other popular winter activities at the park.
“If those are the hobbies you enjoy, this is the time for that,” Rollins said.
The north end of Wolf Lake is currently closed to vehicles due to issues with keeping it clear of snow, but it is accessible to those on foot, boot or snowshoe.
The frigid temps haven’t stopped activity at the lake, with visitors coming every day, Rollins said.
“It’s surprising to me because I’m not much of a cold weather guy. I’ve gained a new appreciation for my fellow humans and sportsmen.
“If people like the winter scenery, the lake is a great place to see that. It’s beautiful with the snow on it. It’s different for sure than it would be in spring or summer but it’s still nice to get out and enjoy the outdoors here.”