For more than a decade, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Exelon Generation and local fishermen have teamed up to provide artificial fish habitats at the Mazonia-Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area.
On Monday, a few fishermen and DNR officials were out again to dump dozens of habitats into the more than 2,000-acre lake.
The habitats, made of PVC pipes attached to a plastic base, don’t look like much outside of the water, but they are used to provide an ecosystem for the fish in the lake, replacing the natural vegetation underwater.
Because the Mazonia-Braidwood complex includes a cooling lake for the nearby Braidwood Generation Station, the water is warmer than normal, allowing algae to flourish. On Monday, the lake was about 85 degrees.
The algae prevents sunlight from penetrating the water, which stops the natural vegetation from growing in the lake.
“That basically eliminates the chance for any real significant growth of aquatic vegetation,” said Rob Miller, a fisheries biologist with the DNR.
Miller said the lake’s conditions have changed since it was impounded during the 1970s. The lack of natural habitats caused the fish population to decline over the years.
That’s why for more than a decade, the DNR, Exelon and local fishermen have worked together to dump about 1,200 of the habitats into the lake.
On Monday, the local fishermen and DNR officials loaded the dozens of habitats onto their own boats and spread across different parts of the lake to toss them in. The habitats’ design allows for them to sink rapidly and nestle in at the bottom of the lake, so fishing lines don’t hook them.
Jeff Wepprecht, the DNR site superintendent for the complex, said this is a mutually beneficial effort because his department leases the lake from Exelon, and many people and families come to fish there. He said nearly every weekend there is some sort of fishing tournament at the lake.
“It’s a very heavily fished area,” Wepprecht said. “There’s people out here every day.”
For Exelon, partnering with the DNR to help improve the environment for the fish is important, and the fishermen that helped install the habitats Monday said they were grateful for the effort.
“It’s a good neighbor thing for us,” said Brett Nauman, a spokesman for Exelon. “We’re trying to do our part to improve the habitat.”