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

February 2009 Archives

James ``Pepsi'' Buonomo , 93, died Sunday night. Nick Micek called early Monday with the news.

Hands down, Pepsi, was central to the oddest story I have covered and written about in the outdoors.

He was a friend to and often the driver for the late ``Joey Doves'' Aiuppa.

Thanks to Don Beltrame of Suburban Sporting Goods catching that Pepsi's passing was exactly 12 years after Aiuppa's.

The funeral is at 10 a.m Friday at the Ed Prignano Funeral Home, 1815 W. North Ave., Melrose Park. Visitation is 3-9 p.m. tonight. Info is (708) 344-0635.

The notice in the Sun-Times is here. I did a brief obit for the S-T, which should be here for a few more days.

It's well worth a revisit to the whole story.

Gov. Quinn is reopening the seven closed state parks closed by former Gov. Blagojevich. That fulfills a commitment Quinn made days after Blagojevich was arrested and was first reported here Dec. 12.


And may signs like this go far back into storage.

Below is the office release on the reopening.

The crowd was smaller and it looked even older at the informational meeting the Lake Michigan Program held in Des Plaines Wednesday night. In the long run, that may be just as worrisome as the collapse of the forage in the big lake.

Biologist Steve Robillard did a good job leading the meeting, then sticking around afterward to field all questions.

Here's a few quick thoughts and notes before I collapse.

Parks to open?

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Gov. Quinn has scheduled an announcement with IDNR director Marc Miller at 10:30 Thursday morning in Springfield on ``the state's renewed focus on its natural resources and recreational opportunities for its citizens.''

That will likely translate, as promised earlier by Quinn and first reported here on Dec. 12, into reopening of the state parks closed by former Gov. Blagojevich.

The interesting part in this will be how they will manage to open the parks without rehiring staff in thses tough times.

So far the people I've talked with don't have an answer on that.


But from the bottom of my heart I hope signs like this go back to being seasonal.

The opening of the Braidwood cooling lake on Sunday provides hope for those sick of winter and leads the Midwest Fishing Report.


This was the hopeful scene when I fished along the rocks on the west end of the hot side opening morning last year.

But there's plenty of ice from Chicago north. There will be ice fishing in places like the Fox Chain well into March.


I couldn't resist this photo Sunday when fishermen lined up for the weigh-in of the NAIFC event behind The Thirsty Turtle Beach Bar & Grill on Channel Lake Sunday. I thought it pretty much summed up this time of the year around Chicago.

And those headed to Wisconsin, remember that game fish season ends at midnight Sunday, March 1, on most inland waters.

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

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at

We begin with a meeting reminder and a Braidwood preview.

Hector Escobedo caught a surprise Saturday at Navy Pier Saturday.


The 9-year-old from Chicago was fishing for perch at Navy Pier with minnows when he latched into this 16.5-pound brown trout about 8 a.m.

Thanks to Chris Taglieri at Henry's for thinking it would make a worthy Fish of the Week.

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

E-mail FOTW nominations to

Eagles down in Illinois?

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I would take the slight downturn in the mid-winter count of bald eagles in Illinois with a touch of realism. Some routes were not covered. And at least in the Chicago area, eagles are pushing into new territories rapidly, areas not on the routes.


Such as these three (two adults and an immature) on the Southeast Side in late January.

The count breakdown from the Illinois Audubon Society is below.

This probably doesn't come as a shock, but it looks like waterfowl hunting in llinois in 2008 was on the tough side. Although goose hunting looks near average in the central and north zones.


Buck was not only in staring long and hard at the sky.

The prime suspects were the summer floods that led to poor food conditions along the major rivers and the early freeze-up.

First the compact view from state waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla, then the more extended overview.

Erath/Bauer repeat

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Despite missing prefishing on Saturday to plow snow, Dale Erath and Mark Bauer won their second straight NAIFC tournament on Sunday on Channel Lake.


The foremans at Manning Concrete weighed in 9.35 pounds. Each team weighed their best eight bluegill and best eight crappie. They were coming off a victory on Delavan earlier this month.

For the day, Channel Lake showed its worth. And the big fish stories were some big crappie.


The biggest was a 1.74-pound white crappie caught by T.J. Foss of Wonder Lake.


And Debbie Compton of Kingston brought in this nice 1.39-pound crappie.

Mike Clifford posted this as a comment. It is important enough to stand on its own.

Below is Clifford's account of a meeting he and Illinois Smallmouth Alliance president Don Rego had Friday with state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), she of the SB1269 fame.

Rinchich on Lead

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John Rinchich is an original member of WindyCity Bassmasters and one of the foremost members of the bass-fishing scene in the south and southwest suburbs. And the proprietor of J.J.'s Bait & Tackle in Bridgeview.

Frankly, I probably should have done a full-blown story on him by now, but haven't yet.

I hadn't heard from him in a while, but Pat Rinchich sent an extended email from him on the issue of banning lead fishing tackle in response to my column in Sunday's Sun-Times.


Before posting it, I want to stress that I think SB1269..introduced by Chicago state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) last week is what I called a ``half-baked idea.'' In part because it would be utterly unenforcable.

However, my prime point is and remains, fishermen should be taking the lead on lead, not following.

Here's Rinchich's response and taking me to task:

A mixed bag of open-water fishing and ice fishing form the Midwest Fishing Report.


Perch fishing at Navy Pier is the top open-water story around Chicago as this scene Tuesday morning shows. Downstate it is ice-out muskie on places like Evergreen.

Such as this brute from guide Thad Hinshaw.


The extended online version of the MFR, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is normally posted online by Wednesday morning. I'm running behind today.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at

Let's start with the perch at Navy Pier.

It was a good clean bet between Brad Remington and his son Riley.


The end result was this 5.6-pound largemouth caught by Riley, fine enough for Fish of the Week, and kitchen duty for Remington.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times each Wednesday. An extended online version appears here, usually by midnight Tuesday (I'm running late today).

Here's the set-up from Brad.

A few minutes ago, the ISHA posted the sectional sites for Illinois' first high school bass fishing tournament.

No real surprises in the northeast, other than not having Lake Calumet/Cal-Sag included. I think that would have been a good choice and I know some of the coaches were hoping for that as a venue.

Here's the sites for the northeast sectionals on Friday, April 24: Busse Woods, Chain North, Chain South, Heidecke, LaSalle, Shabbona, Skokie Lagoons and Tampier.

Oh, and I think it would have been neat to have one of the sectionals go out of Chicago from the Western Avenue launch on the Sanitary and Ship Canal, too.

Asian carp were found in the Lincoln Park lagoon being renovated at the zoo. That's the lagoon on Chicago's North Side lakefront, which was treated with rotenone in November.


Paul Bleers sent this photo, one of six from Bill Pohl. The skateboard was put in for perspective. Pohl guessed the weight around 20 pounds.

Mike Conlin , wildlife head for the IDNR, couldn't tell for certain what the fish was, but confirmed Asian carp had been found during the renovation project. He did not think the finds were cause for concern.

Let's set up with the e-mail from Bleers.

Backyard birds

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The Great Backyard Bird Count begins today.


It's one of my favorite weekends. In part because it can involve the whole family in the outdoors, and you can make it as short or long as you want, and do it anywhere.

I grabbed the photo of the woodpecker above near our suet feeder while the kids played in the backyard a few years ago.

The GBBC, which runs through Monday, is something I highly recommend for teachers.

Details are at

At the Salmon Unlimited meeting on Tuesday, lakefront walleye were discussed. Kevin Massard sent the extended letter pasted below, of which the key sentence is ``If the IDNR wants to put more Walleye in the Chicago area I think our members would be fine with it and support it.''

The discussion was ignited by a question in Sunday's Mailbag in the Feb. 9, 2009 Sun-Times outdoors.

SU would be a powerful force to get behind walleye stocking. It's an idea I think would ignite fishing interest on the Chicago lakefront.


Like the buzz caused by the 7-5.5 walleye Mike Osuch caught off Northerly Island in September, 2008.

First is the Mailbag question and my response, then the long and interesting letter from Massard.

From freshly opened waters to sloppy-topped ice, a very mixed bag of conditions makes this week's Midwest Fishing Report a touch-and-go one.

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

The break in the weekend weather brought out many fishermen.

It really paid off for Brad Carder.


The 49-year-old concrete worker from Aurora had a photo finish on this 19-inch smallmouth from the Fox River near Oswego.

FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. Photos and an extended version appears here, usually by midnight Tuesday.

Here's Carder's snapshot of his catch: :

At the end of Day 4 as newly appointed director of the IDNR, Marc Miller took time for an interview Monday evening.


He was appointed on Thursday, and was all smiles outside Gov. Quinn's office. The response across the board was so positive that Miller said he was ``humbled and honored.''

Then he got down to work the next day in Springfield.

And there's work to do, as the interview shows.

I knew there had to be a back story to the yellow bass/white bass hybrid caught by Jon Adam Zettler, then 18, from Rend Lake on Nov. 3, 2008.


In January, it became the first Illinois record for that category.

The tale involves guide Nick Shafer, the adult, in the photo below with Zettler. Jon's father Bob clued me in Monday, and sent the photos.


My initial question was: How the hell did you know it was a yellow bass/white bass hybrid?

``We didn't know,'' Bob said. ``That's what is so great about it.''

With that, settle back and enjoy the improbable journey, twisting and turning, to a record fish, the fourth Illinois record caught by a teen in 2008.


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I vividly remember the first bighead carp I caught.


I had no sure idea what it was. That's southern Illinois guide Todd Gessner holding the fish so I could later get a positive ID.

We'll get to that story.

First I need to apologize for not catching that it was a grass carp, not a bighead carp, that Don Rego found on the Fox River near Montgomery on Saturday.

I made a post without photos Saturday night, then reposted with a photo Sunday morning.

The late addition of 18-year-old Jon A. Zettler of Chatham makes it four teens who caught and verified record fish in Illinois in 2008.

The fourth is a newly created category: yellow bass/white bass hybrid. Zettler established the record (2.06 pounds) with the fish he caught on Nov. 3, 2008 at Rend Lake in Franklin County.

The idea that four teens caught record fish goes gives a bit of a rebuttal to all the doomsaying about teens and the outdoors.

Brothers John and Andrew Chione started the teen revolution in April when both caught record redhorse suckers from the Fox River. John, 13, caught his 6.71-pound silver redhorse on April 24. Then, Andrew, 15, caught his 3.74-pound shorthead redhorse the next day. Click here for photos and story.

That was neat enough.

But Marcus Miller followed that up with the record hybrid crappie (4.52 pounds) caught on May 14. The 15-year-old Centralia High freshman caught it from the family's farm pond in Jefferson County. IDNR fisheries biologist Mike Hooe confirmed that the crappie, 18.75 inches long with a girth of 16 7/8 inches, was a hybrid. Click here for photos and story.

Here's the announcement on Zettler's fish:

A dead bighead carp was found floating on the Fox River near Montgomery on Saturday. Upon farther review, as the commenter noted, and several professionals agreed, it is a grass carp.


Don Rego, president of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance, reported the find. He said the IDNR will be notified within a day of the 36-inch carp.

The Dayton Dam had been considered a block to the advance of Asian carp--bigheads and silvers--on the Fox from the Illinois River. Many are stacked up below the Dayton Dam.

A floating dead carp doesn't necessarily signify anything. It could be a rogue fish or a bad joke by an angler who snagged it at Dayton or Starved Rock and took it upstream.

Or as it apparently turned out, be a grass carp.

I had high hopes when Ralph Greenslade sent this sequence of a red-tailed hawk in action. High hopes that dinner was a backyard squirrel.


This is the first of a sequence of five shots of the red-tail in a Glenview backyward.

So, I'm clearing out e-mail Wednesday morning and hey? What's this?

There's one from Ramblin' Ray. And it's not one of my faithful e-mailers giving me a rough ride, it's the US99 morning guy.

``Enjoy your column every day, I thought you might like to see the deer I shot in Land O' Lakes Wisconsin.''



``It was a lean year up north on big deer But this was a nice one. 8 point with a 20 1/4 inside spread. Dressed out at 189lbs. One of the larger deer taken in Vilas county. Ramblin Ray US99 (CBS) Chicago''

My little deer looks smaller every day.

Out Loud on Springfield

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Charlie Potter invited me on his Great Outdoors Show on WGN Sunday.

We will discuss all that is going on and did go on in Springfield related to Illinois outdoors in the last 10 days.

With that, we will have no trouble filling the whole show (5-5:30 a.m. on 720-AM).

Before naming Marc Miller the IDNR director on Thursday, Gov. Quinn celebrated the signing of Senate Bill 1132.

SB1132 restored the funds swept by Gov. Blagojevich from six wild funds: Wildlife and Fish Fund, Fish and Wildlife Endowment Fund, State Pheasant Fund, Illinois Habitat Endowment Trust Fund, Illinois Habitat Fund and State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) and Rep. Gary Hannig (D-Gillespie.)

The original deadline from the feds for restoring the funds was Monday, but an extension was given for Quinn to formally sign it Wednesday night.

Miller said it should lead to the restoring of more than $15 million in funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but he wasn't sure how interest would impact all the funds.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.--Gov. Quinn opened a new era in Illinois outdoors on Thursday, appointing Marc Miller to head the IDNR.


The feeling was almost giddy outside the governor's office in the capitol with the announcement and from a multitude of conservation groups.

Miller was senior policy advisor for Quinn, specializing in environmental and conservation issues, after working for Prairie Rivers Network from 1999-2004.


Here's a sampling of response from the capitol and across the state.

Bob Shirley sent a note that he had to cancel the Chicago Fishing Sports Show & Outdoors Expo.

The new show was scheduled for Ho-Chunk Sports and Expo Center in Lynwood Feb. 27-March 1.

``In reality the economy got us.We were unable to sell even a single bulk booth to a boat or R.V. dealer,'' Shirley e-mailed

The veteran of the Chicago outdoor scene promised, ``If the economy turns around later this year I intend to try it again in 2010.''.

Granberg out; Miller in?

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As expected since Pat Quinn became governor, Kurt Granberg is out as IDNR director.

Two good sources and my gut says Marc Miller will be in.

An annoucement is expected after a 2:30 p.m. news conference by Gov. Quinn tomorrow afternoon in Springfield.

Cheryl Balensiefen took the best photos of the Bureau County bear, the photos that will preserve it for history. She shot them just southwest of Buda in Macon Township on Dec. 30 while her husband Kent drove.



Apparently, the Bureau County bear was captured yesterday two or three miles to the west of their farm and shipped to southern Illinois, according to this report in the News Tribune.

So I called for Cheryl's reaction.

I'm glad the Lake Michigan Program is back to holding informational meetings for Chicago-area fishermen

I just wish the one for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 included more than the scheduled discussion on the trout and salmon fisheries. I say that knowing how strapped that office is for staffing.

Walleye are what fires up lakefront fishermen.


Like the 7-5.5 walleye Mike Osuch off Northerly Island in September, 2008.


And especially the 6.75-pound walleye caught by Toni Pellegrino on the Chicago River side of DuSable harbor on Oct. 8, 2007, which earned her a spot on the front page of the Sun-Times.

Ice fishing again dominates the Midwest Fishing Report.

But we may be looking at the best weekend in months to get and enjoy all this ice. The forecast sure sounds like a weekend to go fish. Ice fishing in 40 degrees sure beats ice fishing in 0.

The ice is reaching the point where it is having impacts.

Minocqua (Wis.) guide Kurt Justice said ice is reaching the thickness in places that extensions may be needed for augers.

Don Schurr, one of the two guys who caught big northern pike in the Chicago area on Saturday and earned a share of Fishes of the Week, added a P.S. to his fish story:

``I didn't measure it but the ice at North Point is so thick I recommend a power auger or big muscles.'' That's in a Lake Michigan harbor.''

At the shallow Willow Slough just across the line in Indiana, reducing oxygen levels are moving fish out of the back and toward the front of the lake, said Ed McCain of Mik-Lurch.

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

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at

A pair of northern pike, both caught by ice fishermen on Saturday, earn rare double Fish of the Week honors.


Don Schurr caught his 37.25-inch pike at North Point Marina.


Jim Kachel caught his 39-inch pike from Bangs Lake in Wauconda during the Walk on Water benefit.

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.

Let's start with Schurr's account:

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Quinn's senior policy advisor Marc Miller reiterated that Quinn thinks a ``natural resources professional'' should run the IDNR.

And that the appointment of former Downstate legislator Kurt Granberg as IDNR director on Jan. 16 by disposed Gov. Blagojevich will get a quick review.

Miller said,

``The governor is reviewing all recent appointments [by Blagojevich] and no decision has been made yet about DNR. And, as he said in his [initial] press conference, it is his belief a natural resources professional should run the agency.''

Granberg was appointed IDNR director by Blagojevich, days after Granberg resigned his House seat just before the vote to impeach Blagojevich.

So far nothing official or unofficial on the timetable for reopening the seven state parks shuttered by Blagojevich.

Exactly ``professional what?'' needs to head the IDNR, Joel Brunsvold wonders.

I think what the former IDNR director had to say Monday is worth hearing.


Here he answered question at a conference in May, 2004.

About this Archive

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

January 2009 is the previous archive.

March 2009 is the next archive.

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