Illinois River Road Report: Manito and Topeka

By WEEK Producer

June 10, 2014 Updated Jun 10, 2014 at 6:33 PM CDT

We continue to make our way to the hottest tourist spots this summer in our "Illinois River Road Special Report".

This week, News 25's Beau Ebenezer makes his third stop in "Fish Central".

Get your hiking boots on and load up the tackle box, because this week's trip is quite the catch.

We head to Manito; home to Spring Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area.

The park highlights more than six miles of hiking trails. But the constant bites on the lake are what keep fisherman coming back every summer.

The north and south lakes bring a variety of fish from Largemouth Bass to Northern Pike.

"I am just out here fishing with my grandpa and having fun,” said Dilon Allen, a fisherman from Pekin. “I like it out here. It is quiet.”

"I primarily fish this lake because we do so well down here,” said Tony Brown, a fisherman from East Peoria. “It's close to home as well. Then at the end of the week, we'll have a fish-fry with my whole family. We get the family together and just enjoy what we caught."

But how do these lakes stay so populated to make sure fisherman, like Tony Brown, don't run out of food for his fish fry?

Just 20 minutes away, in the town of Topeka, sits the state's largest fish breeding ground: The Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery.

Here, they breed millions of fish every year. They directly stock lakes across the state with them, including Spring Lake. You can see just how these fish are born with a full tour of their site.

"In some cases we are stocking lakes that have been killed out by the bad winter last year,” said Tom Hays, the fish hatchery’s Assistant Manager. “You need fish to be able to start a fishery again. In other cases we are simply stocking fish just to have fish that weren't present there before like Muskie and Northern Pike down here in Spring Lake."

And last but not least, we head over to Sand Ridge State Forest in Forest City, only four miles away.

This 7,200 acre forest is the largest in the state. It's full of nature and wildlife if you’re looking to take a scenic walk.

It's no secret how Sand Ridge State Forest got its name. It has more than 150 trails, all covered in this unique sand, which supports the forrest.

And if one day isn't enough, several on-site camping areas make this the ultimate overnight stop.

So, this summer, if you’re looking for a place to go, just take a ride with us on the Illinois River Road.

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