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

January 2009 Archives

Ain't enough

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Both Kurt Granberg and I had the Illinois Senate debate on the hour or so before the 59-0 vote to kick out Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

It was surreal Thursday afternoon interviewing the current head of the IDNR while that historic drama unfolded as a backdrop.

Let me set this surreal scene.

Outdoors 1, Blagojevich 0

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Listening to the countdown of votes in the Illinois Senate, all I can think is YES.

I feel like a blanket has been lifted from Illinois outdoors after six years of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

May Pat Quinn back up his talk and bring back Illinois outdoors to prominence.


Electric barrier delayed

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Activation of the electric barrier on the Sanitary and Ship Canal near Romeoville will be delayed, announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday.

It had been scheduled for activation by Saturday, Jan. 31. Startup may be pushed well into March.

The idea behind the barrier was to prevent or slow the spread of Asian carp and other invasives between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed.

Here's the explanation from the Army Corps.

Mid-winter ice fishing events on Saturday headline this week's Midwest Fishing Report.

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 in the comments section or let me know at

Details of the WOW benefit on Bangs Lake and the extended night of ice fishing at Shabbona Lake, both on Saturday, headline the event.

Geoff Zivic thought Samantha Riemann had the ``hands down qualifier'' for Fish of the Week.

The chairman of the Island Lake Lions Club's ice Ice Fishing Derby had it right.


Her 20-inch largemouth bass with a girth of 16 inches easily earns FOTW honors. It was quickly released, but Zivic guessed it easily weighed 5.5 pounds. She also was picked as the adult division champion in the derby.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times each Wednesday. An extended online version with photos is posted here, usually about midnight Tuesday. I am a little behind today.

Here's Zivic's extended account of the derby, and Riemann's catch.

Wild Monday: Deer on ice

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Chris Clifford sends some interesting notes from his corner of McHenry County in Oakwood Hills.


Here's his latest of the deer on ice and he explained:

``Here is a shot from my backyard (Silver Lake in Oakwood Hills, Illinois) that i thought you would appreciate as it shows 4 deer out on ice which is very rare for them to venture out on ice. I presume because of heavy snow cover they took a shot at walking out on it. Ice fishing has picked up here. I should be sending you a pic of a big walleye or northern soon, I hope!! I hope you enjoy this picture as much as i did sneaking up on them and taking it!''

Sometimes, you just go with what you get in outdoor quests.

On Friday, we never found a gray partridge in Lee County, the Bureau County bear or the snowy owl near Ransom in LaSalle County.

Eurasian collared dove1-23-09

But we did find my first confirmed Eurasian collared doves while taking a side trip at the end through the tiny town of Ransom in LaSalle County.

Let me start at the beginning.

Statewide take on Granberg

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Here's a sampling of the statewide take on the appointment of former Downstate legislator Kurt Granberg by Gov. Blagojevich to head the IDNR.

I am pleased to see such a wide opinion that this is an unqualified selection, which will quickly earn Granberg a significant jump in pension benefits.

Lt. Gov. Quinn has requested an extension from the feds for imposing penalties related to the sweeping of funds connected to Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (16 U.S.C. §§ 669-669k) and the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 (16 U.S.C. §§ 777-777l).

The original deadline was Feb. 2, which could have resulted in the loss of $16 million, and possible permanent loss of other funding. Well noted was the upheaval currently tying up the Illinois Senate with the impeachment proceedings against Gov. Blagojevich, and the unlikelihood that the deadline could be met.

More to come.

Kurt Granberg, who assumed his duties today as director of the IDNR, will meet the public Saturday at the Chicagoland Outdoors Show at Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

The former Downstate legislator, who resigned just before the vote to impeach Gov. Blagojevich, was named IDNR director days later by Blagojevich.

Granberg will be in the IDNR booth at Rosemont and will have explaining to do on why he should have the role.

In a message today, Granberg said he was looking for input for a ``blueprint for the DNR.''

And added, ``My role working for the speaker for years and years, I was a negotiator I would take groups with adverse interests and reach a consensus. That is why I am out here.''

As much as I think negotiations are a wonderful political trait, I'm sorry, but that doesn't fly with me. I think it is a pension grab, pure and simple.

There's more to come.

Ransom snowy owl

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Robert Kelly caught this snowy owl near the border of Grundy and LaSalle counties.


``I have seen this bird 3 times now 1st time with a camera ready. Location is 2 miles NNE of Ransom IL.. Is this a very common occurance in this area?''

If my memory is working right, one or two snowy owls have been regulars around the area near the LaSalle Lake, the cooling lake a few miles north, for the past couple winters.

Still, it is a wonderful sight. Not sure why I think snowy owls are so cool.

I happen to drive through Ransom often, and if anybody knows the town well, drop me a note at, I have a couple things that I wonder about while barreling through.

Ice fishing is the story with Chain O'Lakes remaining the most popular destination, but the Chicago harbors are producing decent perch.

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

But let's lead with a note of caution about the ice.

As he sensed the size of the fish, Ray Hinton realized he needed to chip the hole bigger on Wolf Lake.

Yeah, that's a good fish.


Using his buck knife, he widened the hole enough to lift out this 24-inch largemouth bass weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces. And it most certainly earns the well-rooted Chicago fisherman 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.

Here's Hinton's account of his catch from the lake straddling the Illinois/Indiana border.

Sometimes a Great Notion

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Preliminary deer harvest numbers by Illinois bowhunters came out last week at 64,934. That compares close to recent harvests of 63,441 (2007), 65,154 (2006), and 66,538 (2005), according to forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton.

What I found fascinating is that we have peaked in 2005 and leveled off. Now I found that odd because of a rapid increase in interest in bowhunting for deer. From my friends who bowhunt, I suspected that there is increased effort per deer taken because bowhunters are being more selective.

So I asked Shelton whether I was on to something or off base.

Apparently, he found the question interesting enough to do some quick research.

A veteran outdoorsman pulled me over at the Boat Show Sunday and asked what I knew about Kurt Granberg. This about an hour after another friend had called from the Hammond Outdoor Show wondering the same thing.

That you have to ask that question is all you need to know about the appointment by Gov. Blagojevich of Granberg to head the IDNR.

In 20-plus years in the General Assembly Granberg did nothing memorable for Illinois outdoors. In fact, dug the story about how he tried to have Eastern massasauga rattlesnake removed from the endangered species list so a resort could be built at Carlyle Lake.

I will discuss Blagojevich/Granberg with Mike Murphy at 1:30 today on The Score (670-AM).

That Murph, a guy who hits a state park a couple times a year, invited me on says just how much this touches the general public, not just those of us who are hard-core fishermen/hunters/hikers/birders, etc..

Gov. Blagojevich named former Downstate legislator Kurt Granberg to head the IDNR late Friday.

This is very much a thumb in the eye of every person concerned with the outdoors in Illinois.

Traditionally, such appointments are automatically approved by the Illinois Senate. But as one insider pointed out, these are not ordinary times.

We can only hope the Senate steps up. Here's more on Granberg.

A bighead carp was snagged just downstream of the Kankakee dam by well-known Kankakee River fisherman Bill Ramsey while he fished for walleye on Jan. 10.


``This is one fish I wasn't happy to get,'' the 48-year-old from Manteno said. ``Well, I was happy to get it out of there.''

Nick Carr at the Kankakee River Trading Post sent the photos of the 40-inch, 28.2-pound bighead. The IDNR took the fish over the weekend.

Here's more from Ramsey.

Ice fishing is setting up all across the area, and even well into central Illinois. There's perch, but they take sorting, being taken on the ice from Chicago harbors.
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

We'll start with the Chicago lakefront and the Chain O'Lakes.

Dave Oelschlager has fished the strip pits at Mazonia for 40 years and heard tales of 8- and 9-pound largemouth bass.

FOTW01-14-09Jerry's Bull

Then on March 25, his buddy Jerry Seybert caught a ``FOAL, fish of a lifetime!,'' a largemouth weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces on a Rapala hand-held scale.

``I'm skeptical no more!'' Oelschlager said.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version appears here, generally about midnight Tuesday. We're running behind today.

Here's Oelschlager's account.

This is likely the last Illinois Hunting Report until the fall. Other items, such as late season deer harvest and spring turkey notes, will be handled individually.


The late winter antlerless and CWD deer seasons this weekend are the top story. As a reminder for those with unfilled tags in the applicable counties, I have included the wording from the IDNR below in the deer section.

Otherwise, geese continue to hang around the central zone in areas near the open water of the cooling lakes and the rivers. I think that remaining open water will be greatly reduced over the next several days.

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.

``When I came around the corner [at the Chicago Muskie Show] and saw the mount, I had goose bumps,'' Dale MacNair said.


MacNair posed for me Friday afternoon with the mount of his 57 x 33 muskie from Rick Lax Reproductions.

By contrast, I was disappointed in the mount. Not by the execution, but the conception.

Asking for a show of hands, Dale MacNair wondered how many in the audience would have kept his fish.

This is not an insignificant question. He probably caught and released the world record muskie on the St. Lawrence River on Nov. 28.


That's him immediately behind the mount of the fish. St. Lawrence big-fish specialist Sal Rotolo is in full view. The mount drew a steady stream of onlookers at Rick Lax Reproductions booth at the Chicago Muskie Show at Harper College in Palatine.

At first, Friday night, only a couple hands went up (mine was one of them) to signify they would have kept it. Then a more truthfully more hands went up. MacNair emphatically would not have kept the fish.

Boy, I don't know. I fully understand the push and pull that Larry Ramsell laid out on that question during his interview session with MacNair.

Shows and snows here

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Well, snow season, make that show season is here.

As seems right for mid-January, show season begins in true winter fashion. It should be an adventure today. I plan to hit the All-Canada Show first, then jump north to the Chicago Muskie Show.

If weather allows, I want to make the Muskie Show in time to see Larry Ramsell interview Dale MacNair at 7 p.m. I want to be there as much to see audience reaction during the discussion on his catch of a monster 57 x 33 muskie.

If I have the energy, my reactions late tonight.

Here's the four shows this weekend.

All-Canada Show runs through Sunday at Pheasant Run, St. Charles, Go to

The Chicago Muskie Show runs through Sunday at Harper College in Palatine. Go to

The Adventures in Travel Expo is at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Saturday and Sunday. Go to

A new one is the Outward Bound 2009 with Jimmy Sites at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene. Go to

The preliminary harvest numbers for the muzzleloader deer season on Dec. 12-14 are virtually the same as 2007: 4,310 vs 4,333.

Forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton said,

``Results were higher during 2005 (4873) and 2006 (5941). 2006 was the record year for this season. Top five counties are Pike (219), Jefferson (136), JoDaviess (112), Marion (103), and Schuyler (95). ''

Through Tuesday, the archery harvest stood at 62,374, slightly ahead of 2007 (61,173), and slightly behind 2005 and 2006 totals (63,588 and 62,718, respectively). 2005 was the record year, according to Shelton.

He also noted harvest sex ratios for the season to date are 50% does:50% bucks.

It looks like there's an albino buck around Chicago Heights.

To see the YouTube video, click here.

Jacqueline J. Agee sent the link with this explanation:

``On Christmas day my family was blessed to see a white deer in Chicago Heights. We were able to video tape it. My brother, John Bennett, is such a fan of yours that he insisted that I get the video to you. After many tries I eventually just uploaded it to my youtube account. . . . We saw it on the boarder of Glenwood and Chicago Heights. ''

The location makes me wonder if he is any relation to the white deer that was seen for years around Glenwood Dyer Road.

The deer task force is out with its recommendations for Illinois.

Among the notable recommendations are for extended seasons for some firearm hunting and easier access for some permits.

The complete release is posted below.

One fish matters this week around Chicago.


Canadian Dale MacNair caught and released this 57-inch muskie from the St. Lawrence River on Nov. 28.

The monster muskie with a girth of 33 inches earns Fish of the Week honors because the replica from Rick Lax Reproductions will be unveiled at the Chicago Muskie Show, which runs Friday through Sunday at Harper College in Palatine.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version appears here, generally about midnight Tuesday. We're running behind today because of some other assignments.

More on the monster muskie:

Ice fishing on the Fox Chain O'Lakes remains the prime focus. But ice, even south of Chicago, is building back.


This is the east side of Willow Slough, just across the state line in Indiana an hour south of Chicago, where even in the middle of sunny afternoon Monday, a bunch of guys were trying for bluegills.

Chicago harbors remainy on the tricky side, varying from 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

Again, we begin with the Chain report.

Monday afternoon, I was driving around looking for some outdoor photos when I passed this pheasant warming on the sun-facing ditch across from a CRP field in Iroquois County.


I couldn't believe I was that lucky, but turned around it was still there, basking in the winter sun.

Maybe the cock's internal time table was confused. Hunting season is open for a few more days. Pheasant, partridge, quail and rabbit seasons end Thursday, Jan. 8 in the north zone.

I still hope to sneak in an hour or two of kicking out a fence row for rabbits with my neighbor, but there's only a couple days left. It would be a poor year of hunting if I don't go rabbit hunting at least once.

And the end is near too for goose hunting in the north zone with the season ending on Saturday, Jan. 10.

For a third week, I'll say, 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 or post in the comments.

Full report follows.

Cheryl Balensiefen took these photos of a bear just southwest of Buda in Macon Township on Dec. 30 while her husband Kent drove. Originally, I gave credit to Kent, but after a nice chat with him this morning, I clarified that.


It is apparently the same bear reported in Bureau County since June.

The basic question remains unanswered: Is it a wild bear? My guess is yes, because of the length of time it was reported. Kent thought it was wild because of the way it survived and acted--avoiding buildings and people.

Show season begins next week in the Chicago area with an added bang. A show list is below.


The release of this 57-inch by Dale MacNair set the muskie world on its ear Nov. 28. Was it a world record?

Now you will be able to hear muskie historian Larry Ramsell interview MacNair on opening night of the Chicago Muskie Show at Harper College in Palatine at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9. The replica of the monster 57 x 33 fish will be in the Rick Lax Reproductions booth, as will MacNair.


Here's the three--MacNair, Julie Cashaback and Sal Rotolo--who helped boat and release MacNair's muskie. I run a more complete tale of the catch Sunday in the Sun-Times outdoors.

The All-Canda Show begins the outdoor show season on Thursday, Jan. 8. If you have additions or subtractions to suggest to the show list below, let me know at or post below.

Prairie State Outdoors reports a black bear in Bureau County, assumed to be the one rumored to be in that area for more than half a year, was photographed recently according to this story.

The big question remains whether it is wild or not.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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