Bolingbrook firefighters free heron tangled in fishing line at Whalon Lake

Bolingbrook firefighters were at the right lake at the right time on Wednesday, Aug. 2, to rescue a great blue heron tangled in fishing line.

Volunteer dragonfly monitors Jeanne Golec and Sharon Sullivan were kayaking at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Whalon Lake when they saw the heron eat a fish and become tangled in the fishing line. As Golec and Sullivan were seeking help from the District, they noticed Bolingbrook firefighters performing their annual water rescue training on the lake. One firefighter was in the water and others were in an inflatable boat. Sullivan paddled her kayak over to them to ask if they would help the heron.

“The firefighter in the swimming gear approached from the water,” Golec said. “The heron was standing near the shore when he approached, and the other firefighters were in the boat.”

The firefighters in the boat landed on shore and the team worked together to cut away the fishing line and free the bird.

“The heron flew away, and he looked perfectly fine,” Golec reported. “It brought a tear to my eye. We were so lucky those guys were there. It was a beautiful great blue heron.”

Firefighter Brandon Trower said when the volunteers asked for help, firefighter Jack Jans, who was in the water wearing a swift water rescue suit, waded over to the heron and was able to grab it and bring it to shore. The fishing line and a hook embedded in the bird’s right wing were removed.

“I have 23 years in the fire service, and we rescue ducks and goslings in drains, but this blue heron was a new one for me,” said Trower, who also is a paramedic. “We were glad we were able to assist. Animals are unable to call for help, but it worked out perfectly.”

Fishing line problem
The heron rescue highlights the problem with improperly discarded fishing line at area lakes and rivers. The Forest Preserve District has installed fishing line recycling tubes at its fishing lakes.

Fishing line segments carelessly left behind or tossed away can result in devastating effects on wildlife by ensnaring their feet, wings, necks or bodies and causing injuries or death when they struggle to be free. Anglers are encouraged to cut discarded fishing line into small segments of less than 6 inches and dispose of them in monofilament recycling containers or covered trash containers to protect wildlife.

Chicago Bird Collision Monitor volunteers have rescued at least a dozen birds in the Whalon Lake in Naperville/Bolingbrook and Hidden Lakes Trout Farm in Bolingbrook so far this year. The creatures were tangled in fishing line and/or had hooks in their legs.

“The Forest Preserve District is so very appreciative of Wednesday’s wildlife rescue efforts by the Bolingbrook Fire Department and our volunteers and the ongoing assistance by Chicago Bird Collision Monitor volunteers,” said Cindy Cain, the Forest Preserve’s public information office. “But the best-case scenario is for there to be no fishing line remnants in the environment that can harm creatures. We ask for everyone’s help in making this goal a reality.”

For more information on the Forest Preserve District of Will County, visit