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

December 2008 Archives

The balminess of early in the week is gone, and good ice-building came back with a vengeance Tuesday night. Ice fishing is still the story.

Shoreline conditions became a little tricky on the Fox Chain O'Lakes after the warm-up and rain, but they should stabilize relatively quickly and the main pad of ice is fine.

Chicago harbors are tricky, varying from pieces of fishable ice to open water, but there's been some decent perch catches.

This is the extended online version of the Midwest Fishing Report, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.

We begin with the Chain report.

Faithful contributor Arden Katz thought it was time for a Fish of the Week on ice.

FOTW12-31-08Arden%20Katz%2012-24-08

So the North Side man submitted this pair of browns from Kenosha harbor across the line in Wisconsin.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version appears here, generally about midnight Tuesday. I was covering some basketball, so this one is a bit late.

Here's Arden's tale.

Only a few days ago, a brutal winter was setting in and Canada geese were being pushed south toward traditional haunts.

Dale 002goose12-23-08

Yeah, that's me (right) and Jim DaRosa after we had collected goose decoys last Tuesday morning in Will County. Don Dziedzina of Illinois Outdoors couldn't resist snapping this shot to illustrate the point. DaRosa feared that might be the end of goose hunting at his Will County sites.

Then things changed over the weekend with the rains and warmth.

Jeff Norris of Fox Valley Guide Service in Kane County sent this Monday afternoon:

``Yo-yo mode is in effect. Good numbers of Canada geese have returned from points south to infest the flooded cornfields of the Fox Valley. It's party time.

Come kill geese!''

geese12-28-08-2x

The ground was so brown and barren by Sunday afternoon I nearly missed this flock that had returned to a cornfield on the Iroquois/Kankakee line.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the Illinois hunting report, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays.

If you have suggestions, email me at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net or post in the comments.

Full report follows.

After the big snow/ice storm on Dec. 18/19, the limbs of our neighbor's pine dragged tthe ground under the burden.

icestorm12-19-08pine

I waited for limbs to begin busting. After one of the brutally cold nights, I expected to wake up and find it shattered under the weight and fierce winds.

But for days it brushed the ground and survived. Then the warm-up and rain on Wednesday was enough, it snapped upright.

icestorm12-28-08afterpine

Just like that it was 8 feet off the sidewalk again, and Storm and I could walk under it again.

With the snow/ice melt Friday night and Saturday, the Canada geese came back too. They are working the corn stubble freed of ice and are trying to figure out how to stand on the slop on top of the the ponds and lakes..

The rebound begins.

Icy Midwest Fishing Report

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OVERALL OUTLOOK

Quote of the week goes to Greg Dickson at Triangle in Antioch: ``It's been colder than a brass tiolet seat in the Yukon.''

icestorm12-19-08mapledogwood

Between the ice storm south of Chicago--this is Kankakee County Friday morning--and the heavy snow north of Chicago into southern Wisconsin, there's been a limiting factor on fishermen venturing out.

Not to mention the life-threatening cold early in the week. But the moderating conditions should make for better fishing over the holiday weekend.

This is the extended online version of the Midwest Fishing Report, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.

Let's begin with the Chain.

Holiday Fish of the Week

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May all our holiday fish look like this.

FOTW12-24-08

Caleb Remington caught this 7-pound largemouth bass on a jig-and-pig on Thanksgiving Day in Lake Galena.

His uncle Rick Remington sent the photo and story that earned Caleb Fish of the Week honors.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version appears here, generally about midnight Tuesday. I was hunting and doing kid running in the snow today, and am running late (night).

Here's Rick's story:

Marty McGinnis sent this photo of a 10-pointer shot with bow and arrow by her husband, Dave, on November 14th in Will County

BOTW12-24-08Deer #3 2008 002

For the story, as much as the buck, it earns Buck of the Week honors. BOTW tops the Illinois Hunting Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. I will probably run BOTW into January.

An extended online version usually appears here on Tuesdays. I was hunting and doing holiday driving with the kids in the snow today, so this is a bit late (night).

Here's Marty's tale:

OVERALL OUTLOOK

Canada geese are all over north and central Illinois, especially around the open-water areas of the rivers and the cooling lakes. Braidwood, as is generally the case in times like this, has exploded for goose hunting.

This week's weather should only keep things interesting, especially for goose hunters around Braidwood, Morris and along rivers that retain open water.

The keys are open water and access to fields close to that open water.

But the freeze-up across northern Illinois is the concern.

goose12-23-08jimdarosablind

Jim DaRosa, a retired parks honcho in the south suburbs, peers out of his own styled portable blind in the snow Tuesday. He wondered if that was the last goose of fhe year in his Lockport field with the north zone Canada goose season ending Jan. 10. I had a fun hunt in the snow with him and Don Dziedzina Tuesday morning in the snow, but the geese were not flying.

When harvest numbers for the muzzleloader-only deer season come in, we will post separately.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the Illinois hunting report, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays.

If you have suggestions, email me at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net or post in the comments.

Full report follows.

The post-storm feeding frenzy always surprises me. Before, birds disappear, even the starlings. Then the change comes.

icestorm12-19-08squirrel

It didn't take the squirrels long to figure out Friday morning that the ice-hardened snow made a perfect surface for running. They were everywhere.

As was other life, and with it some natural consequences.

Pricks and petals on ice

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You can run from the bad girl
or dance

Let's dance

icestorm12-19-08rose


Sprinkling sand on the icy steps
it's bad you know
but not as bad as I had expected.

Then it sinks in--the beautiful carnage
tree limbs litter the street, east and west
blackening ice-encrusted snow
pistol shots of limbs shattering ring
like the sounds of a bad neighborhood
Our neighbor's pine blocks the walk
it's limbs, normally high enough to walk under
brush the ground
a widow's green shawl dragging in muck

Multi-colored lights of the police at an accident
frame the end of night
Firemen in their trucks
clearing streets of downed limbs
flash a dash of yellow
Red caution signs--Road closed--on the cross street

Downed lines in the alley
Our power holds, but I doubt for long

At dawn, Storm and I pass the shimmering dogwood
I wonder if it will survive the day
without cleaving in half

We stay to the middle of the road
in case a big branch snaps
He's jittery from all the shots of limbs shattering
for once he hangs close like a needy lover

Back in the dry warmth, I watch birds at the feeder
A male cardinal splashes red in the dogwood

Gray squirrels sprint across ice-hardened snow
(Can't keep the bastards down)
A hairy woodpecker jitters toward the suet basket

The neighbors and I begin dragging limbs
stacking them by the curb

icestorm12-19-08dogwooddawn

Phil Brady passes (add)

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Phil Brady died Saturday, according to his cousin Bob Shirley.

Mr. Brady, who was born in Chicago, ran the Countryside location of Ed Shirley Sports from many years from the 1970s to the early '90s.

``He was a big part of the success of Ed Shirley Sports and will be missed by everyone who knew him,'' Shirley said. ``I'm sure many of Phil's old customers are readers of yours and would like to know about his passing.''

Mr. Brady, 64, died after a long battle with cancer and donated his body to cancer research. He is survived by his wife Kathy, sons Matt and Joe, and daughter Karen.

OVERALL OUTLOOK

With ice setting up, ice fishing beginning across the area is the main story. The hot spot has been the Fox Chain O'Lakes, where even main lake areas are icing in.

In the words of Greg Dickson, proprietor of Triangle Sports & Marine in Antioch, ``Things are good, dude.''

This is the extended online version of the Midwest Fishing Report, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.

Let's begin with the Chain.

Think summer patterns for a wintry day.

FOTW12-17-08

James Ramirez, 17, of Des Plaines, caught this nice largemouth from a small lake in DuPage County on Nov. 15. And wondered if he was too late for Fish of the Week honors when he e-mailed on Monday.

No, I would call it the perfect fish for a day like Tuesday.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version is posted here usually by midnight Tuesday.

Doug Koehler arrowed this 11-point buck in Schuyler County on Nov. 8 in short order.

BOTW12-17-08

The Naperville man said his buck, which earns a delayed Buck of the Week honors, weighed more than 200 pounds (the first post had it incorrectly scoring more than 200, my apologies).

``I was in my stand for ten minutes my whole hunting trip when he came chasing some other deer,'' he said.

BOTW tops the Illinois Hunting Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. The extended online version is usually posted here on Tuesday. I will probably run BOTW longer than usual, probably into January because of a backlog of good bucks.

After Koehler sent this photo, I asked him if he hunted during the firearm season. Here's his answer:

OVERALL OUTLOOK

Canada geese are all over north and central Illinois, especially around the open-water areas of the rivers and the cooling lakes. It will be interesting to see how today's snow reshuffles the deck.

geese12-15-08

The keys are open water and access to fields like this close to that open water. These geese were part of a large contingent that kept swimming an area of a farm pond open.

When harvest numbers for the muzzleloader-only deer season come in, we will post separately.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the Illinois hunting report, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays.

With the aerial surveys for waterfowl being flown (they are weather dependent), I will update if needed.

If you have suggestions, email me at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net or post in the comments.

Full report follows.

If, as seems inevitable, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn takes over as governor, he would open the closed ``state parks and state historic sites immediately,'' according to senior policy advisor Marc Miller.

And Quinn indicated to Miller that naming a director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would be ``promptly reviewed.'' Sam Flood has languished as acting IDNR director for nearly three years and is symbolic of the disdain in which Gov. Blagojevich held the interests of Illinois outdoors.

starvedrock2-21-05quinn2

Quinn has a history of championing outdoor and environmental issues. Here he was on Starved Rock overlooking Plum Island, which he helped preserve from development, in February, 2005.

Airing it out

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Week's like this and the phone starts ringing for radio appearances.

I will be on Mike North's ``The Mike North Webio Show'' around 10:20 this morning. It is on Wildfirerestaurant.com. Not sure yet what will be the topics or if I will simply be keeping pace with North's questions.

On Saturday, I will be on Steve Sarley's ``The Outdoor Experience'' on WIND-AM (560) from 8-9 a.m. I think it's going to be one of the earlier segments. We will discuss the impact of the latest crisis in state government and what it means for Illinois outdoors.

Here are several photos from Frank Girardi of the snowy owl on North Long in the Belmont Cragin area. The owl stayed until late afternoon Sunday. He has not seen it since.

Maybe somebody can tell if it is the same owl seen elsewhere in Chicago.

Snowy owl 017girardi

A couple more photos are below.

Illinois deer hunters are picking up the slack for the firearm hunters.

Through Wednesday, Illinois bowhunters reported 57,565, a little over 1,000 behind the record pace of 2005, when 58,908 were killed by this point.

The other interesting note is the sex ration is near 50-50.

The update from forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton is below:

I have a hard time believing that Illinois deer hunters topped both 30,000 deer for the second firearm season that ended Sunday and 100,000 for both firearm seasons.

But the official word this morning is hunters in Illinois harvested ``a preliminary total of 105,595 deer during the seven-day firearm deer hunting season Nov. 21-23 and Dec. 4-7.''

The preliminary second-season harvest was 33,701, despite very tough weather conditions all four days. That total compares with the 31,218 in second season 2007.

Full release is below.

OVERALL OUTLOOK

Cautious ice fishing on the Fox Chain leads the Midwest Fishing Report. The backwaters have had explosive action for bluegill and some crappie. But, the key word is cautious as main lake area areas have open water.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.

If you have suggestions, post a comment or let me know at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.

I mislaid this wonderful smallmouth.

FOTW12-10-08

Fortunately, Mark Bulaw sent a reminder, and it warmed my heart to dig up this photo of a 20-inch smallmouth bass his son Christopher caught and released on the DuPage River on Oct. 4. The 13-year-old from Wheaton earns a belated Fish of the Week honor.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version is posted here usually by midnight Tuesday.

Ken Murphy had reason to be proud for both himself and his son Mike. Maybe this should be Bucks of the Week.

BOTW12-10-08

They bagged these in Lawrence County opening day of the first firearm season.

BOTW tops the Illinois Hunting Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. The extended online version is usually posted here about midnight Tuesday. I will probably run BOTW longer than usual, probably into January because of a backlog of good bucks.

Here's Murphy's brief explanation of these beauts.

What a day!

Oh, what a day for those of us who love the outdoors in Illinois, hell, let's just make it what a day for those of us who still believe in good government with the arrest of Gov. Blagojevich.

All day responses have been coming in. I know most of you hate going through the captcha crap at the end of a post and are simply e-mailing me at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net. That's fine.

So let'er fly.

The first call came from my wife on her way to work: ``Did you hear? Blagojevich is in custody.''

I couldn't believe it and flipped on WGN-AM in time to hear Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on Spike O'Dell.

Then North Side fisherman Cary Gelfond called and summed up the feeling of all outdoors sorts--birders, fishermen, hunters, hikers, walkers, talkers, picnicers--with this heartfelt: ``I just got the best Christmas present ever. I hate that sucker with every bone in my body.''

Quinn has grandstanded a lot on outdoor and environmental issues. If power goes to him, now we will see if he actually means all his talk and actually reopens closed parks and puts funding back into the IDNR.

OVERALL OUTLOOK

With local waters icing in, geese are concentrating around the cooling lakes and the open waters of the rivers.

geeseonice12-07-08tight

These geese had kept a spot open until it froze overnight Sunday. They were not on the lake Monday morning.

Kane County Jeff Norris reported migrant Canada geese arrived in force last week. Many more should be on the way with a foot of snow forecast for some areas just to our north. It should be an outstanding week for goose hunting.

On a related note, state waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla said Illinois will not follow the lead of Indiana and hold a February Canada goose season. Indiana will hold its second straight February Canada goose season in select counties Feb. 1-15.

``No, we have too many migrants in IL then [in February],'' Marshalla e-mailed.

I expect harvest numbers for the second firearm deer season in the next day or two. When they come, I will post separately. I will be very surprised if the total for both seasons tops 100,000. Weather, especially second season, was tough.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the Illinois hunting report, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Monday or Tuesday.

If you have suggestions, email me at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net or post in the comments.

Full report follows.

There's a beauty in rabbit tracks, and sometimes a story.

tracks12-07-08

Accessing Chain ice

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Ice fishing draws the greatest fishing effort on the Fox Chain, in part because of the access for ordinary fishermen. You don't need a boat, just a good set of feet.

But the parking access has become tougher in recent years. Here's the updates on access points and general conditions as ice fishing spreads over much of the Fox Chain and Fox River backwaters this weekend.

The one area of major caution comes from Tom Cahill at Barnacle Bob's on Marie, there is still some open water on Marie and he thought it would be at least early next week before it filled in.

Here are views of access. Generally it's $5 to park.

Deer down

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I don't know what to think. My deer hunting is over, unless I decide to do the late-winter hunt.

Deer hunting is my favorite time of the year.

I should rephrase that, sitting on the deer stand is my favorite time of the year. I'm not very good at deer hunting, I have the yips too much and deer spook often.

But not this morning.

The call-around count of deer registration stations was off 20 percent for Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer season that ended Sunday, Nov. 30. The preliminary kill was 276,985.

The most interesting part of this was the possible explanation from Keith Warnke, DNR big game biologist:

``Hunters have been doing a good job, and deer populations may be moving toward healthy goals. Their commitment and involvement are having a positive effect and will help to ensure a healthy deer herd in the future for them and for a younger generation of hunters who are coming up through the ranks.

``We still need to look at all the numbers from all deer seasons before we can say anything for sure," said Warnke, "but it looks like our estimates of winter mortality and fawn production may be off, which if it proves true, would lead to over estimation of the pre-hunt population.

``Preliminary counts seem to indicate a lower than predicted deer population. That may indicate that deer populations could be moving toward healthy population goals.''

The complete release is below.

The application period for Illinois residents to hunt in the late-winter antlerless-only deer season has been extended until Monday, Dec. 8.

IDNR spokesman Chris McCloud sent a list of the open counties. I posted it after the details from the IDNR:

``The IDNR has reopened the online application system for permits for the Late-Winter Antlerless-only Deer Hunting Season. Hunters may apply for the permits in select counties through the online DNR Direct Permit System through Mon., Dec. 8. (No paper applications for these permits can be accepted at this time). The Late-Winter Antlerless-only Deer Season is Jan. 16-18, 2009. Due to a change in designating some northern Illinois counties for the upcoming Late-Winter season, some hunters missed the previous application deadline on Nov. 14. To accommodate those and other hunters, the online application system has been reopened through Dec. 8. Hunters can access DNR Direct online through the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us. Click on the DNR Direct button on the right side of the home page. The Late-Winter Antlerless-only Deer Season is open to Illinois residents only. ''

Missouri resident Scott Daniels wanted to make sure there was a clarification for non-resident hunters, as stated on the information form for the late season:

``Nonresident hunters must have an unfilled firearm or muzzleloader deer permit valid for the previous firearm or muzzleloader deer season and valid for one of the open counties.''

Open counties:

OVERALL OUTLOOK

The ice in northern Wisconsin is the big story. That and, if winter weather, allows perch are around on the Chicago lakefront.

And with this weather, it seemed like the week to update the ice fishing information on Chicago-area public waters.

This is the extended online version of the Midwest Fishing Report, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.

OVERALL OUTLOOK

The big news is the second season for firearm deer, Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 4-7.

And there's hope for those of us with unfilled tags.

The relatively low harvest for first firearm season-- 71,894 vs 85,490 in 2007--may mean good news for second-season hunters, according to forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton, who said:

``The good news for managers and for deer hunters with permits remaining for the second season is that most of the decline in harvest was a drop in buck harvest. This means that our doe harvest was fairly comparable to last year and that there are plenty of both bucks and does still out there for second season hunters.''

First season saw about 59 percent of the harvest were bucks, compared with 62 percent first season in 2007.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the Illinois hunting report, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays. I was hunting so it was posted on a Wednesday today.

With the aerial surveys for waterfowl being flown (they are weather dependent), I will update if needed.

If you have suggestions, email me at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net or post in the comments.

Full report follows.

It arrived under the heading, ``Why i don't golf. . . '' That's bonus points right away.

FOTW12-03-08mchenrybass

Of course it helps that it was a good-looking largemouth bass caught with one of my favorite methods (scum frog) and you have a Fish of the Week for Dan Beam.

Yeah, I know it has been wintry, but let's think back to late summer. Oh, there's some fun at the end of Tim O'Meara's email about his friend. Pay attention.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. An extended online version appears here about midnight Tuesdays.

This buck with 19 scorable points and a 20-point spread is one of the best I've seen this year.

BOTW12-03-08daddys dear 001

Joel Carpenter bagged this beauty with a bow in Grundy County on Nov. 12. The Coal City man He said it green-scored at 222 and earns Buck of the Week honors.

BOTW tops the Illinois Hunting Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, and an extended online version is usually posted here on Tuesdays.

Here's Carpenter's tale:

About this Archive

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

November 2008 is the previous archive.

January 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.