Water's a bit cool, but that won't stop weekend boaters
DANVILLE — Cool, rainy weather this spring hasn't helped warm up water temperatures at local lakes and rivers, but state conservation officials still expect recreational boaters to be out in force this holiday weekend.
"This weekend is the big kickoff, but the water is still a bit cool," said Bill Cottrell, Illinois State Conservation Police officer for East Central Illinois.
According to one fisherman Cottrell heard from, the water temperature late this week was only in the low 60s. But Cottrell doesn't expect that to keep away boaters and water skiers, especially the diehards with wet suits and those flocking to the generally warmer water at Clinton Lake.
Tom Jackson, state superintendent at Clinton Lake State Recreation Area, said the beach opened Friday, and the water temperature as of Friday afternoon was already up to 72 degrees.
"The lake will be busy this weekend," said Jackson, who added that the campsites are all booked and all the boat ramps are open for access.
Jackson expects a lot of boaters to hit Lake Shelbyville as well as Clinton and other area lakes this weekend. The concession and gas pump at the boat ramp at Lake Vermilion in Danville is open seven days a week now, according to Ken Konsis, director of the Vermilion County Conservation District.
Canoers and kayakers were rolling into Kickapoo Landing on Friday for weekend float trips on the Middle Fork River.
Todd Alcorn with Kickapoo Landing said some slots were still open for river trips, but strongly advised people to call for reservations to ensure canoes and kayaks are still available.
He said they always sell out the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Conservation officers will also be out in droves this weekend, making sure everyone is being safe.
Cottrell said the most important precaution on the water is a life jacket. Boats must have one for everyone on board — and that means jackets that properly fit each adult and child, he said. Adults aren't required to wear them, but they must be accessible. All children under 13 must wear jackets when on the water, and they must be designed for each child's weight.
"It's like a seat belt. It's very important, and what we are looking for when on the water," Cottrell said.
Boats also must have a horn or a whistle, and those with gas engines must have working fire extinguishers.
Outside of equipment, boaters need to be aware of their surroundings, Cottrell stressed.
"People have a tendency to pay attention only to what they are doing," said Cottrell, adding that people need to watch for skiers and tubers who fall into the water.
"This is the kickoff to summer," he added, "and we just want everybody to be safe."