Smallmouth bass to help map success of DuPage River restoration

Roughly 100 smallmouth bass moved into new homes Wednesday at two DuPage County forest preserves along the West Branch of the DuPage River.

The bass, which began life seven years ago in the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery, are expected to fan out from Warrenville Grove near Warrenville and West DuPage Woods near West Chicago to pretty much have the run, or swim, of the entire DuPage River and its tributaries.

In addition to doing whatever it is fish do, the bass will be participating in a project to help map the success of restoration efforts along the river and, perhaps ironically, assist officials in creating better fishing opportunities.

They’ll do all that with the help of a plastic tag that’s been attached near their dorsal fins, complete with an identification number and a phone number for anglers to call in the event they land — and hopefully release — one of the fish. That data will help the department of natural resources, the DuPage Forest Preserve District and the Illinois Natural History Survey work to continue improving the DuPage River, officials said.

The fish are each about 20 inches long and weigh between 4 and 6 pounds, said Scott Meister, natural resource management coordinator for the forest preserve district.

If you catch one of the bass, you’re supposed to call (630) 553-0164 to report its length and the date and location where it was caught.

The bass are expected to spread throughout the West Branch and tributaries like Kress Creek, Meister said.

The idea is to track their movement and determine, at least in part, the success of a restoration project along eight miles of the river that began in 2005. The work was done in conjunction with efforts to remove long-buried thorium-contaminated sediment stemming from the shuttered Kerr-McGee plant in West Chicago.

Officials say portions of the river were rebuilt to add runs for faster-moving stretches, riffles where shallow water churns over rocks, and pools that contain deeper, cooler water. The different areas are designed to house different creatures, from mussels and darters to northern pike and, of course, smallmouth bass.

Meister said smallmouth bass first were introduced to the river in the mid-1990s and officials hope the new additions will supplement that population.

He said the survey team introduced some of the smallmouth bass upstream at West DuPage Woods because it marks the beginning of the restoration area and provides some of the deeper pools the fish enjoy. Warrenville Grove offers some of those same deep pools and marks the downstream end of the restoration work.

“We’ve put years of work into improving the physical structure of the river,” John Oldenburg, director of the forest preserve’s office of natural resources said in a written statement, “and now we really want to find out how well the fish are doing.”

  Aquatic technician Jim Intihar prepares to release a smallmouth bass at the Warrenville Grove Forest Preserve. Daniel White/
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