SAHARA WOODS – A PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES   Leave a comment

Pond 0010

Sahara Woods Fish and Wildlife Area has risen from a plated out strip coal mine operation to an interesting outdoor recreational complex despite an unprecedented uphill battle.

First there was the site itself. When first deeded to the state it was in the middle of a law mandated reclamation process. Then there was the legislative atmosphere that saw the budget for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources budget reduced by over 50%. It tightened expenditures for such new projects. Improvements made through a phased development plan now allow use by the public.

Somehow the property has made what looked like a scrap yard for old mining equipment into a habitat for wildlife with the flooded pits now holding game fish.

The plan included grading, covering and planting vegetation on eroded mine refuse piles, reclaiming mine roads, removing dilapidated mine building, tree planting to control erosion and enhance wildlife habitat as well as treatment of ponds damaged by mine refuse runoff.

Today, the Sahara State Fish & Wildlife Area is 4,000-acres on the south side of Illinois Route 13, about 5 miles west of Harrisburg. The fishable waters are composed of the 98-acre Sahara Lake and numerous strip cuts. There is a 35-hp motor limit on the lake and electric motor only limit on the cuts. Two boat ramps are available. On is on the lake and the other on one of the cuts just to the east.

Shore fishing is available on all the cuts and the lake. Anglers wishing to fish from canoes, kayaks and small jon boats have to carry them into the cuts.

The main lake is about 98-acres and does have a handicap accessible boat ramp, parking lot and restroom. Parking is limited in the rest of the park and there are no other facilities.

Fish surveys done by IDNR Fisheries Manager Kurt Daine (618-949-3432) show this area now has a quality bass fishery with most fish in the 8 to 22-inch class. Most of them are in the 15 to 18 inch size. There is a one fish limit that must be over 18-inches in length. Daine rates the fishing for this year as good to excellent.

The majority of bluegills in the area are between 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches in length. There is a daily creel limit of 15 fish per day for both bluegills and redear sunfish. The rating for fishing is good to excellent.

Anglers report good crappie fishing. Both black and white crappie are present with a total daily creel limit of 15 per day.

Kurt reports good fishing for channel catfish between 16 and 18 inches in length. The daily limit is six fish.

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