Lake County, Illinois
By Ken Poor
Great fishing opportunities are available on many of the lakes located in Northeastern Illinois. The combined effort of community groups, environmentalist, fishermen, and an increased public concern about lake water quality, has resulted in vastly improved fishing. Bangs Lake is an excellent example of quality lake management and a great local fishing opportunity.
Bangs Lake is located in Wauconda, Illinois, on the north side of Route 176, about one mile east of Route 12. Main Street and the downtown business district are on the southwest side of the lake.
The lake is two, distinctly diverse large bays, one on the east side and the other on the west. North and south main lake points delineate the two bays. Between the two main lake points is a 16-foot-deep, well defined, gravel bar. Total surface area of the lake is approximately 309 acres.
Bottom composition varies from primarily muck in the east bay to sand and gravel in the west bay. The shoreline of the west bay is primarily a combination of sand/gravel with numerous piers, launch ramps, and sea walls. A large, weed covered, mid lake hump is located approximately one hundred yards off the south shore of the west bay.
Along the north side of the east bay you will find several shallow man-made channels. Except for the man-made beaches, the majority of the shoreline is muck or a combination of muck and sand. Several cribs or Christmas trees have been placed in 16 to 18-feet of water.
Maximum depth in the east bay is 18-feet and 32-feet in the west bay. During normal weather the water is relatively clear through-out the lake. On a few occasions I have found muddy water, close to the shoreline and in run-off areas. Wind or rain sets up this temporary condition and not surprisingly it can produce some great fishing.
Plant growth is abundant in the lake and includes an interesting mixture of both deep and shallow growing varieties. Plant growth, or weed beds as they are more commonly referred to, is the primary source of cover for fish within the lake.
Outside or deep weed edges are well defined and typically follow the 10 to 12-foot contour line. Shallow or inside weed edges, in 4 to 6-feet of water, are common around the west section of the lake. In the east bay, other than around man-made beaches, there is very little definition to the inside weed edge.
Wauconda Boats, located on Route 176, has a launch ramp, boat rental, bait shop and parking available – for a fee – phone number (847)526-2203. Boat rental is also available at Lindy’s Landing just north of Route 176 on the west end of the lake, at Park and Main Street – phone (847)526-9789.
Bangs Lake is patrolled and no-wake hours are in effect from 8 PM to 10 AM. No wake zones are clearly marked. A boat sticker/safety inspection is required and must be purchased from the lake patrol boat. Daily or seasonal stickers are available and the cost varies according to horsepower. Maximum speed limit is 30 mph on the lake. For additional information contact the Wauconda Village Hall, phone (847) 526-9600.
Largemouth bass are the predominant gamefish during the open water season, but other species such as bluegill, crappie, and catfish deserve mention. Walleye, northern pike and muskie have been stocked in the lake and hopefully they will, in time, establish a good population. It should be noted that sticker fees support the efforts to stock fish in Bangs Lake.
Largemouth bass hold in the weed beds and will take a variety of surface lures or deeper presentations depending on the time of day. Small (3 to 4-inch), silver/black, floating minnow imitators, twitched on the surface close to weeds is a very effective early morning or evening presentation. Inside weed edges, channel entrances, piers, and open pockets in weed beds close to shore (2 to 4-feet of water) are all good early morning choices.
As the day progresses stay in the weed beds, but move away from the shoreline and shallow areas into deeper water (6 to 12-feet). Concentrate your efforts in areas with 2 to 4-feet of water above the weeds. The intent is to work your lure below the surface and just over the tops of submerged plant growth.
White, 3/8-ounce, over-arm spinner baits, with a white split-tail dressing, or a Texas rigged plastic worm are both reliable alternatives for these conditions. Work your worm through the weed bed very slow and allow it to fall to the bottom when it reaches open pockets in the weed bed.
Mid-day (10 AM to 3 PM) concentrate your efforts along the outside weed edges and the “low growing” deep weed patches adjacent to these areas (12 to 16-feet.). Perch colored, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2-inch, wide body, floating crankbaits with rattles are a good choice for this type of action.
When selecting your crankbaits for this technique it is normally a good option to start with a deep diving model that will reach a depth of at least 12-feet. Try a variety of different retrieves including pause-pull, fast, slow, or ripping it through the weeds.
Crankbaits can be worked effectively on spinning gear, but my recommendation is a 6-1/2 or 7-foot., medium action bait-casting rod with a soft tip. Spool your reel with a high quality 14-pound test (or heavier)
line. Normally I will use a snap or snap-swivel with crankbaits. If you prefer to tie your line directly to the lure, either remove the split-ring or check your line for “nicks” every few cast.
Panfish will hold along weed edges and in the deep weed pockets. Good areas to find them include, along the gravel bar, just outside the channel entrances on both side of the lake and in the lily pads on the east end of the lake. Work these areas with slip-bobbers and small ice fishing jigs tipped with grubs, pieces of night crawler, or crickets.
Small bluegill are abundant, especially in the channels and close to the shoreline, throughout Bangs Lake. Locating larger bluegill can be a challenge at times. It does require plenty of moving around and fishing outside weed edges or open pockets in the weed beds in deeper water.
Walleye and catfish hold on or close to the low growing weeds just off the deep weed edges and are most active at night. Drift these areas with a slip-sinker rig, on the bottom, dressed with a leech or night-crawlers. A medium action, 6ft. spinning rod and 6 or 8-pound test line is a good choice for this type of effort.
The techniques and locations discussed in this article are intended to provide a starting point for your initial fishing trips to Bangs Lake. All the methods mentioned have provided my fishing friends and me with exciting bass, walleye, or panfish action. Time on the water will help you refine these techniques, add your methods, and locate the most productive areas.