Chicago Sun-Times
Stray Casts will intelligently report and observe, hopefully with a touch of wit, on daily occurrences, reports and releases related to Chicago-area outdoors from bucks to bass to birds to bugs

July 2008 Archives

Weather will be the whether or not Friday when perch fishing on Illinois' Lake Michigan reopens and hunting season for squirrels in Illinois opens.


We can only hope the reopening of perch season on Aug. 1, what has become the outdoor event of the year in Illinois, is as good as it was two years ago at dawn when Angel Gomez was slinging in perch one after another on the south rocks at Montrose.

And the heat, not to mention green canopies like this one at Iroquois County FWA two years ago, will likely lead to only a handful of squirrel hunters venturing out for the opener on Friday.


My hope for Friday is to perch fish in the morning at Montrose or Navy Pier, then catch the setting sun while listening for squirrels.

Here's details of both openers.

Jasmine Klecka caught one of those special fish that at first feel as immovable as a snag.


She landed this hybrid striper, estimated at 23 inches, while fishing from the shore at Heidecke Lake, the former cooling lake near Morris, on July 10.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times each Wednesday.

Here's how her dad Brian described it:

So what the heck is a black-necked stilt?

And can we find the answer on, the site launched by the IDNR and the University of Illinois Extension to help Illinois residents (especially urban/suburban) live and deal with wildlife?

Kids Expo Stilt Walker

This is not a black-necked stilt, but a stilt walker at Kid's Expo in Tinley Park this spring. They're different animals, so to speak.

``I am heartsick by this,'' Manning said as we finished a phone interview this week.


On the record, Brent Manning has kept his mouth relatively shut about the gutting of the IDNR under Gov. Blagojevich.

That changed this week. The latest $14 million cut to the IDNR had the man who headed the IDNR the longest talking, on the record.

On Sunday, I had a column in the Sun-Times where Manning outlines an idea for using a commission with a professional director to head the IDNR. It's idea that came out of the discontinued Conservation Congress. It's posted here.

Here are other tidbits from his conversation.

We're on schedule to run ``Borrowed hooks and other looks'' as planned on Fridays. (The first one--Bill Fuhry's memories of ``The Amazon''--posted Tuesday.)

This is a report from Norm Minas on Wednesday's farmers' meeting in Indiana on more dredging. Here's a sample.

``From statements made some of the delays were due in part in bats nesting, fish spawning and deer season, all of which they thought were totally without reason. They couldn't understand why wildlife was important despite comments from their spokesman on the tour bus they are working in conjunction with nature and didn't want to harm any fish or wildlife.''


Norm is one of the most dedicated fishermen of the Kankakee, and one of its great protectors. Four years ago, I happened to catch him on one of my prowls along my favorite river and thought I should take a picture of him talking to Mike Clifford, another Kankakee protector.

``Borrowed hooks'' should be sent to

Here's Minas'.

Controlled pheasant hunting at public sites will fly again in Illinois, despite asinine recommendations earlier this year from Gov. Blagojevich's numbers crunchers.

And, in related matters, the online applications for pheasant habitat areas, etc. is up and going, with a notable change . . . it's available only online.

pheasants11-09-06amberPaul BoestcheLoriSuddeth

I'm not a huge fan of controlled pheasant hunts, but in Illinois, they are essential for many people like Paul Boestche and Lori Suddeth to work Amber at Iroquois SWA.

I enjoy simply hunting them without a dog too.

To me, the ideal scenario for public pheasant or upland game hunting in Illinois is the PHAs, or Upland Game Areas or Quall Management Areas. But you can only draw one permit per year, and that only with a good bit of luck, and there's only some 30 of those sites.

Let's start with that info.

The same rod, for the first time, makes a piece of Fish of the Week.

minnesota 009

Dan Shapiro used his fishing buddy Frank Munizzi's ``xxx-tra heavy St. Croix rod'' to boat and release a 47-inch spotted muskie on Cass Lake in Minnesota earlier this month.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times.

It's a month later than I hoped, but let's start ``Borrowed Hooks and Other Looks'' with an e-mail sent by Bill Fuhry in response to my memories of the area around Bubbly Creek and the South Branch in the July 13, 2008 Sun-Times.


Originally, I thought of ``Borrowed Hooks'' only as a chance for others to voice a divergent point of view on the outdoors. But I thought Fuhry's note on his memories of ``The Amazon'' was riveting enough to be the first.

Here it goes.

Yeah, I know it is Monday, but Wild Sunday can move a few hours.

For once, I actually saw those warning signals along parts of the Indiana Toll Road--``Animal present when flashing''--flashing.

I kept expecting to see a deer hurtling out of the ditch and across the highway, but it never happened.


It's one thing to see a deer feeding in a field at dusk while vacationing Downstate at Pyramid SRA.

It's another to cross paths with one while hurtling down the highway at dawn.

Outdoor things to do, indoors and out, this weekend.


1) Shabbona Lake produced a pig of a muskie on Thursday.

I know because of a friend of mine took the picture posted on the message board at

The muskie is a beaut, but bass and catfish, as usual about now, are still the top choices there.

She's keeping on a family tradition.


Kathyrn Maher, 12, ended up with a monster coho (12 pounds, 7 ounces) on an outing with her grandfather Capt. Bob White last week.

It was big enough to earn Fish of the Week honors. FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday.

Here we go again, another plan to re-dredge a portion of the Kankakee River in Indiana, while Illinois continues to battle the inflow of sand and sediment.


Jim Sweeney, one of the great guardians of the Kankakee River on the Indiana side and a member of the national board of directors of the Izaak Walton League, has an extended look at the latest proposal to re-dredge the aportion of the Kankakee in Indiana, under the guise, of course, of the threat of flooding.

Time is of the essence here, as one meeting is set for next week.

This is an extended and ranging email from Sweeney, but if you are a Kankakee supporter (hunter, fisherman, birder), it's worth the effort to read it. Then do your part.

The body is posted below.

I enjoy Quixotic quests in the outdoors, which is why every couple months I explore Island Park in Momence with my younger kids.

OK, it's partially so the young ones can play on the swings and stuff.

But it's also one of my silly outdoor quests.

In this case, to see gray, fox and red squirrels in the same place at the same time. I've seen all three there--Island Park is one of the rare places in Illinois where that is possible--but never at the same time.


Grays are the common squirrels in Illinois, so common many of us (I am chief among those) consider them a nuisance in the backyard.

But last Sunday ended up being about berries more than squirrels.

Fish jumping in other coves. Kids playing at camp sites. Metallic bangs from distant boats. At night, sounds carry over water as if hand delivered.

The dampness of the night settles on skin like a fresh experience. Lightening in another state seems close enough to be a threat.

Night fishing pulls me into a near dream state. Every sense sharpens. Life grows livelier.

Only near sight diminishes.


There must be light

Think of this as a sensory poem to a late June night of crappie fishing on Evergreen Lake.

The mailed applications went out late for the first lottery for Illinois deer hunters, but it looks like the IDNR is getting back on track.

On Tuesday, forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton e-mailed, ``Both the muzzleloader season and the firearm season lotteries have been completed.''


Bucks like these are why deer hunting is the big cash cow for Illinois.

There's one surprise in waterfowl season recommendations from the IDNR: a daily bag of five geese in the early September Canada goose season in both the north and central zones.


The IDNR is recommending 60-day duck seasons in all three zones. For the regular Canada goose seasons, the IDNR is recommending an 85-day Canada goose season in the north zone, a split 85-day season in the central and a split 66-day season in the south.

The USFWS will not make their recommendations on season length until about July 25.

The IDNR is recommending duck and Canada goose seasons open on Oct. 18 in the north, Oct. 25 in the central and Nov. 27 in the south.


The complete release is posted below.

Move over Quick Hits.


Stray Casts is a team player . . . with a little help from Mike Lynch, the Southwest spoonplugger/guide who sent this photo.

Since QH, that eclectic collection of sports shorts, is vacationing, I thought the photo of Katie Subject and Kelly Hermley with a 20-inch walleye from Heidecke Lake was perfect for Fish of the Week.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times each Wednesday.

More to savor the final minutes of the first wet wade of the summer (old sneakers and swim trunks) than anything, I was fan casting downstream as I slowly waded back to the car.

When I rolled a big smallmouth in a nondescript stretch of the Kankakee River Saturday evening, curiosity got the better of me.

On the way home from checking out the just opened small-boat launch on the Sanitary and Ship Canal Sunday afternoon, I stopped at the mouth of Bubbly Creek to fish a bit.

It'd been years. Man, has it changed.


It's all guzzied up (and renamed Canal Origins Park) from the first time I fished it more than a decade ago when there was still rubble scattered about from the burnt out Anderson Fish House.

But neighborhood people were still fishing it. (And neighborhood people are putting their stamp on the launch too, but more on that another day.)

I'm a back roads sort of guy. It's one reason I do the job I do.

Put it this way, I have something like six different routes to reach Powerton Lake, the cooling lake outside of Pekin.

Back roads driving, that wonderful habit and window to wildlife, came from my dad. He's closing in on 80, but the one-time truck driver still has the back-roads itch.

When I saw on Prairie State Outdoors what looked like reliable reports of a black bear in Bureau County, I thought about driving out there and doing some back roads driving. The reports have been reliable enough that in the last couple weeks even sheriffs have been looking for it.

So I dropped PSO's Jeff Lampe a note saying I was thinking about a possible weekend quest for the black bear.

Outdoor things to do, indoors and out, this weekend.


1) The small-boat launch on the Chicago river system is open. It's a perfect time to explore fishing downtown for largemouth and smallmouth. I hope to sneak along with somebody on Saturday.

The launch for the Chicago river system is open.


Westrec expects to staff the site from noon to 6 p.m. today, Thursday, July 3. and from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday, July 4. For this weekend, it will be staffed from 8-4.

Launch fee is the usual $20.

It's located on the southwest corner of Western Avenue and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

I will try to post anticipated staffing hours for weekends, as I get them. But it should be open, though unmanned during the week.

(Just received word that apparently a boat caught fire next to the dock Thursday night or Friday morning and part of the dock is burned.)

The inevitable confirmation of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia in Illinois fish came with the finding of the virus in rock bass and round gobies, collected from Winthrop Harbor on June 10-11, on June 25.

With it, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had emergency regulations ready to go today, Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

``We're not stupid enough to think we can stop it,'' said Mike Conlin, office director of resource conservation for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. ``They can transfer it from one fish to another. They can live and swim in the water and get it. I think it is inevitable that it will spread. Whether it will be devastating, we don't know.''

``The urgency is amplified by the fact that a significant amount of Lake Michigan water enters the Illinois River system through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal,'' fisheries chief Steve Pallo said. ``These emergency regulations and the cooperation of anglers, boaters, and the aquaculture industry are keys to slowing the spread of VHS into other waters in Illinois.''

The important details are in the INDR release posted below. The Sun-Times news story is posted here.

It's the fish of a lifetime.


In other words, a perfect fish for Fish of the Week, which tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times each Wednesday.

Frank Munizzi caught his, a 47-inch muskie topping 30 pounds, from Indiana's fabled Webster Lake on a stormy Thursday, June 26.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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