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The article below was contributed by 

Illinois Outdoors
With Don Dziedzina

Braidwood Lake, one of the Commonwealth Edison cooling ponds, will be the
first power plant lake to open this year and many anglers are ready to get into the line for opening day. The Lake is located just outside the town of Braidwood near Rts. 53 & 113 in Will County. Using I-55 makes access to the lake quick and easy.

Several years ago when Braidwood opened for the first time, anglers came with campers, tents (that were set up in the back of pick up trucks, as camping is not allowed), barbecues, and plenty of warm clothing.  Braidwood lake opens in March and depending on the weather, anglers could experience a mild warmth from an early spring to a harsh, cold and windy wintry opener. 

Braidwood is very similar in some ways to Peoria's popular Powerton Lake. The lake was built for the purpose of having water to cool down the power plant. Seasoned Braidwood anglers know that this lake is built up above the surrounding terrain, making it a "perched" lake. Dikes were built to construct the sides of the lake so that when it was filled with water, its surface would be higher than the nearby farm lands. Bringing the water to a higher level helps it capture the prevailing winds, helping it cool down. As the water circulates through the plant, it is discharged at a higher temperature. Currents caused by the intake and discharge causes the water to travel literally miles around the islands where it cools down, sometimes, over 20 degrees.

Knowing what happens at Braidwood actually helps anglers catch fish. Currents at this lake make it somewhat like a river. Fish will hold in current break areas and use cover to ambush passing baitfish. Water temperature changes cause fish to seek warmer water in the spring and cooler water in the summer. Since there are times when the power plant generates power, it then pumps water into the plant causing a stronger current swirling around the lake. On the other hand, when the plant is
inactive, there is very little water movement. 

Fish become more active when the plant turns on after a short spell of inactivity. Fish will tend to move out of their deep water sanctuaries to shallow cover where they will sit behind mid-lake weed patches or on the lee side of points to ambush baitfish passing by. Should you ever find a strong current by these areas, don't pass them up and cast crankbaits and spinner baits as well as using your favorite live bait
presentations. These areas can produce walleyes, bass, stripers and more.

In early spring, start by fishing the areas on the west side of the lake. This is the warmest side as it is closest to the hot water discharge.   Watch the winds too, especially if the plant is not running. At times, you can find that a west wind will push the warmer water to the island shoreline east of the big island. Depending on how harsh our winter puts a toll on the lake will depend on what type of water temperatures will be found in March. Naturally, the colder the water, the slower your
presentation should be. As water warms, you can pick up the speed of your retrieve. During Braidwood's first year of opening, a mid-March date on the water showed anglers water temperatures of 74 degrees by the big island.

Some favorite baits for Braidwood Lake in early spring include white Colorado blade spinnerbaits and shallow and medium depth crankbaits in shad patterns. Good colors are blue or black back with white bodies as well as the fire tiger patterns. Only one soft bait should hit the waters of Braidwood. That's a plastic lizard. First choice of color should be blue, then crayfish pattern to a dark green. Rig them Texas style and peg the bullet weight. Hooks with the lead molded just below the eye of the hook make this rig a done deal with less effort. 

If you're not an ice angler and are long awaiting the opening of warm water fishing, think of the month of February as the time to get your boat and tackle ready. Make sure the batteries have been charged and everything works. Give the tackle box a once over, re-spool line on the reels, and treat yourself to a few new lures at one of the fishing shows or the local tackle shop. Everything points to another great year on the water, so get ready now!


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