Because of a comprehensive fish-stocking program, Heidecke Lake has good fish populations producing trophy-size bass. Only pole-and-line fishing is permitted, with each angler limited to using two poles. There are no fishing fees, but each angler must have a valid Illinois fishing license unless exempted by law.
To avoid the possibility of overharvest and to assure a good fishery, DNR's Fisheries Division has established minimum length and daily catch limits at the lake. Strict adherence to size and catch limits will result in Heidecke Lake providing a quality fishing experience now and in the future.
Fish are measured while positioned flat on a ruler from the tip of the mouth when closed to the tip of the tail when compressed. All sub-legal-size fish must be immediately released to maximize their chance for survival.
Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged for anglers who catch legal-size fish but don't want to keep them. Anglers should handle fish with care and release them immediately after catching so the fish can survive to later provide other anglers similar recreation.
The fishing season at Heidecke Lake opens on or about April 1 each year and closes prior to the waterfowl season. Call the park at (815) 942-6352 for dates.
Bank fishing access is open from 6:30 a.m. to sunset. The boating access area is open from 6 a.m. to sunset. Both areas are open seven days a week.
Only boats for fishing or waterfowl hunting are allowed on the lake. Each must have a gasoline-powered motor as its main propulsion unit. There is no charge for launching. Water skiing, swimming, wading, sailboating or personal watercraft are not allowed.
On Wednesdays through Sundays during waterfowl season, water sites are allocated by a lottery drawing 90 minutes before sunrise. Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. The lake is closed to hunting Mondays and Tuesdays. For waterfowl hunting, boats must be at least 16 feet in length and have at least a 60-inch beam with the blind built on the boat.
Shotgun and archery deer hunting are offered at Heidecke Lake. Hunting fact sheets are available by contacting the site.
Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area
Adjacent to Heidecke Lake is the biggest prairie remnant remaining in the Prairie State, and one of the largest prairies in the United States.
Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, totaling 2,527 acres, provides a link with Illinois' past.
Nearly 60 percent of Illinois once was covered with tall prairie grasses and broad-leaved flowering plants, known as forbs. Big bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass and cord grass dominated much of the landscape, accented by goldenrod, New England aster, cream false indigo and shooting star. Today, only a tiny fraction of one percent of Illinois land remains as high-quality, original prairie. Consequently, Goose Lake Prairie is of historical and natural importance and is a reminder of the terrain encountered by Native Americans and early settlers. It also serves as a haven for wildlife, including ducks, geese, rare Henslow's sparrows, plains pocket gophers and larger animals, such as deer and coyote.
To increase your understanding and appreciation for Goose Lake Prairie, its Visitor Center features nature displays and multi-media presentations. Different programs are presented throughout the year, with a schedule available at the information counter. Groups providing advance notice can arrange videos, lectures and guided hikes. Call (815) 942-2899 for more information.
The Youth Conservation Corps built a replica of one of the first homes in Grundy County at Goose Lake Prairie. John and Agnes Cragg and their six children lived in the original cabin, which was built in the late 1830s near the town of Mazon. Nicknamed "The Palace" because of its two-story design, the home served as a stop on the Old Chicago-Bloomington Teamster Trail, making it the predecessor to a truck stop.
Hikers have many options. The Tallgrass Nature Trail winds through the prairie and its marshes. Depending on the route, Prairie View Trail can be from 1 or 3.5 miles long. Self-guiding trail maps are available.
Cross-country skiers enjoy Goose Lake Prairie in the winter. The Visitor Center, which serves as a warming area, offers trail maps.