Mazon Creek fossil collecting at Braceville Hill
You might remember my post about fossil hunting in Mazon Creek near Braidwood, IL at the Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area. It’s a preserve on the way outskirts of Chicago loaded with Pennsylvanian age fossils, one of the largest deposits in the world actually. Geologists and collectors come from all over the country to try their hand at finding concretions, and you can see many on display at the Field Museum.
Anyway, last year I ranted that the place was way overgrown and filled with ticks and I walked out with barely a bucket of fossils. And on my post, somebody commented about joining the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois (ESCONI) and attending one of their trips to a private dig site called Braceville Hill for collecting fossils. As you can see from the pictures, I had much better luck. It’s a great time and I recommend you join and take the trip led by John Good. Pictures from Braceville Hill trip are below.
Fishing on the Mazon River
Dehydrated, covered in dirt, and carrying 80 lbs of rocks, I left the hill at around 2 to try my luck fishing on the Mazon River. NOTE: I did my homework before trying this spot. And the first thing to know about fishing the Mazon River: It’s virtually ALL private property (including the river itself). And it’s in full-on farm country where land owners don’t use their guns just for deer.
That being said, those of the avid fisherman that manage to get on the river nearly always brag about landing trophy-size smallmouth bass like the one in the picture. Below are some of their warnings and tips for fishing the Mazon River found on the Chicagoland Fishing Forum:
“The mazon river is virtually all private property and I doubt you’ll get permission to fish. You have a right by state law to fish I think 12-15ft either side of the bridges. People do go down there and fish but there is some guy who feels it’s his civic duty to protect the area and he drives around looking for parked cars to call the sheriff on.” – BassBuster2222 on Chicagolandfishing.com.
“I think the key is to ask the property owner nearest to the put in point you plan to use beforehand, and if you gain permission to thank them, and let them know how long your car will be there. The last guy I spoke with told me I can park on the shoulder as long as I didn’t leave any trash behind, and as a courtesy I also picked up all the trash I found along the side of street nearest to the access point that I was allowed to use.”- Carlisle on Chicagolandfishing.com
My tips for fishing the Mazon Creek River
I surfed the web, checked the forums, and scanned Google Maps for an accessible spot to try my luck fishing the Mazon River. Bingo! I scribbled a few notes about some potential access points to the river, but upon actually driving the area I found that it was all private property with nowhere to park. I wasn’t exactly surprised though. But I finally came across a road with some seemingly semi-public river access and a few cars parked near a worn path. Taking advice from the internet anglers, I asked permission from a resident at a nearby house (there was someone outside doing yardwork). And I got the green light to cast away!
It was a bit of a walk down to the actual fishing spot, but well worth it. The river is beautifully scenic and loaded with smallmouth.
I spent about an hour or two walking up and down the river and didn’t catch a single thing! I saw about a dozen nice-sized smallmouth and largemouth. However, the water was crystal clear and they saw me too. They wouldn’t hit at a single thing I threw at ’em! I think some of the bigger ones were spawning, and weren’t too interested in my bait. Also, it wasn’t late enough in the day for them to be feeding. But if you had the right gear, they were biting. Right before I left another fisherman showed up using a fly-rod and caught a nice smallmouth before moving on up the river.
If you choose to give the Mazon River a shot:
Bring a flyfishing rod
Be polite: ask permission from a local and do not trespass
Clean up after yourself
If you are interested in or would like to take a trip to Mazon Creek Pit 11, I recommend you consider buying a Field Guide that I crated. It features maps of collecting sites and tips that are not found elsewhere online.
I created this field guide for those who may be interested in fossil hunting Pit 11. You can read more about it in this Chicago Rants post.