Fishermen who flocked to Axehead Lake in Park Ridge for the start of trout fishing season on Saturday, Oct. 19, found some new hot spots where the recently stocked fish gathered: fish cribs installed by a Mount Prospect Eagle Scout candidate.
Cameron Sato, a Hersey High School freshman, worked with Jim Phillips, a fisheries biologist with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, to design his project. A chance visit last year to an indoor fishing show led to the partnership.
"My dad and I are big fishermen," Cameron said. "I had never heard of fish cribs, or their purposes, but we thought they would be the best solution for protecting fish."
The structures, Phillips explains, are lowered into the lake and offer protection for smaller fish from larger predators. They also appeal to certain varieties of fish for spawning.
Cameron led more than 25 Scouts from Troop 468 in Arlington Heights in building the cribs, 18 in all. Half were made of tubing donated by a local construction company, while the other half were made of PVC pipe.
The Scouts drilled the pipes and tubing into the structures, and poured concrete into buckets that anchored the cribs. Phillips and a diver from the Forest Preserve District accompanied Cameron and his family out onto the lakes to install the cribs.
In addition to his project, Cameron and Scouts from his troop held a cleanup project, at both Axehead and Belleau Lake in Des Plaines, something which is always appreciated, Phillips said.
Phillips says that because all of the lakes within the forest preserve are man-made, they do not have natural habitat for fish to migrate around. Consequently, adding the cribs, where algae eventually adheres to, offers the fish a diversion and shelter.
"It's always on the back burner to add more," Phillips says. "We build them when we have time, but it's not that often. So that's why we suggest it to Scouts and fishing clubs as good projects."
The timing in this case was good. Axehead Lake was one of four lakes stocked last week with rainbow trout. Other locations included Belleau Lake, the Busse Reservoir North Pool in Elk Grove Village and Horsetail Lake in Palos Park.
They opened after a few days of letting the fish settle into their new habitats and explore their surroundings.
Cameron hopes to play tennis next spring for Hersey, but he says he'll always find time to go fishing. He and his father often fish for largemouth bass at Axehead and Beck lakes, and now he'll know where to go.
"I think the cribs are a big benefit for the lake," Cameron says, "but I've also had compliments from some of the fishermen. Now they know where the good spots are."