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Ken Russell "T" Lake now open at Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area
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Ken Russell "T" Lake now open at Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area

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The Ken Russell "T" Lake at Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area opened for public fishing April 1, with some of his family and former coworkers in attendance.

This 22-acre strip-mine lake is located near the junction the Illinois Route 167 and Illinois Route 180, just east of Victoria, Ill. The new parking lot, where you can access this lake, is on Route 167.

This lake and adjoining property are new additions to the Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area through a land purchase facilitated with the help of Pheasants Forever. The lake is dedicated in honor of Ken Russell and his career of stewardship, education and the management of the fishery resources of northern Illinois and beyond.

I say beyond because Ken’s impact on natural resources is not limited to his own personal work.

Ken was an Illinois Department of Natural Resources district fisheries biologist, stationed out of Galesburg, and was responsible for that part of the state from 1962 to 2016. However, he has mentored nearly every fish biologist who has worked in northern Illinois during the past half century, and he has spoken directly to thousands of Knox County children during the past 30 years, so his impact on educating people about the fisheries of northern Illinois is well beyond measure.

While I have been fortunate to have Ken as a mentor, friend and walking encyclopedia of fisheries knowledge for over 25 years, many of our area “fish guys” have known him for over 40 years. To put things in perspective, Ken is a founding member of the Illinois Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, which began in 1962.

He also wrote the book on small pond management in Illinois, the Bible of how to manage farm ponds and other small bodies of water. If Ken’s name sounds familiar to you, you may have seen him on the cover of the Illinois Fisheries Booklet in 2016, a fitting tribute when he retired.

Some of us have even joked that he had been a fish biologist in Illinois so long that he must have brought the water with him when he moved here from Missouri.

When you consider the work to rehabilitate this lake and his overall impact on the fisheries community and area professionals, it would be hard to believe that there is someone more fitting for this honor. Even today, Ken and his wife, Janet, continue to inspire those who are fortunate to share time with them.

The rehabilitation of this lake began in 2012, when Ken utilized a set of siphon tubes to lower it 5 feet, allowing the removal of a very dense common carp population. The lake was then restocked in 2013 with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie and channel catfish. The IDNR was assisted with this project by generous donations of fish and funds from Logan Hollow Fish Farm, Quad City In-Fisherman Club, Quad Cities Conservation Alliance, Mississippi Valley Muskies Inc. and the Fyre Lake Sportmens Club.

Boat access is limited to small portable boats, canoes or kayaks with paddle power or electric motors only allowed. It is approximately 50 yards to the lake access from the parking area. Shoreline fishing spots are present, but be prepared to enjoy a hike to reach the far ends of this lake. Shorelines are on the steeper side of comfortable fishing as this was a former coal mine strip pond.

The fish population is composed of largemouth bass predominately from 8 to 15 inches in length, bluegill up to 8.5 inches in length, redear sunfish up to 11 inches in length, a dense black crappie population from 9 to 11 inches in length, and channel catfish up to 24 inches in length.

The fishing regulations for the lake are identical to the rest of the Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area site.

If you are looking for an opportunity to fish a newly opened lake which has had no historical fishing pressure, consider heading out to the Ken Russell Lake and see a small example of the results of Russell’s lifelong dedication to the fisheries and people of northern Illinois.

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