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

April 2009 Archives

The Richard J. Daley Memorial Sportfishing Derby opens Friday this year. During May the eligible fish are coho and perch.

Brett Eggemeyer and Adam Banks weighed a five-fish limit of 14.19 pounds as Coal City Boat 1 won the three-time delayed LaSalle Lake sectional of the IHSA bass fishing tournament today.

The final sectional completed the field for the world's first statewide high school bass fishing tournament to be held at Carlyle Lake on May 8-9.

Bradley-Bourbonnais Boat 1 of Nate Bass (headline writers everywhere are dreaming) and Chris Foster also advanced with a five-fish limit of 11.96.

LaSalle showed its stuff as 10 of the 14 boats weighed fish, including seven teams with limits.

Midwest Fishing Report

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With a string of days in the 70s and 80s, it was a fishing weekend of note: big largemouth, a near-record smallmouth from Lake Michigan and a monster muskie from Wolf Lake.


This is the Maple Lake fish caught by Jason Curci:

Here's a pic of a nice largemouth I caught out of Herrick lake on Monday April 27th, and another out of Maple lake on Friday April 24th. The one in the first pic was 21 inches and 4lbs 14oz caught on a chrome/black jerkbait, the other 18.5 inches about 3.6lbs caught on an XCalibur lipless crankbait(red).

Caught 23 bass at Herrick, all under a foot long then finally nailed the mother. The one at Maple was the only fish caught all day

This weekend may not be quite as perfect. It looks like the rivers may be running high and dirty, and the weather forecast not as good. But for boaters, perch have been good off Waukegan and northwest Indiana, and that should peak over the next week or so.

Wisconsin's traditional opener for fishing looks solid, and leads the 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

By two stinking ounces.


That's by how much Joe Egan missed the Illinois smallmouth record. Thanks to Tom Palmisano for the photo of the scale at Henry's on Saturday. Egan caught the smallie off a Chicago breakwall.

Egan's 22-inch smallmouth and Alex Porubyanski's 48 1/2-inch muskie are Fishes of the Week.


Porubyanski, 78, of Whiting, Ind., caught his 34-pound muskie from Wolf Lake on Thursday. . . on spinning gear with 8-pound mono and a small silver spoon.

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

Here's more info:

HOMES won a legal skirmish in the battle against the proposed mega-dairy along tributaries of the Apple River in Jo Daviess County.


This is a pristine setting a few miles away in the state site, taken in February, 2008, as the legal battle was beginning.

Here's today's release:

The LaSalle sectional of the IHSA bass fishing tournament was postponed a third time to Wednesday, but after a delay the Heidecke section was fished today.

MORRIS, Ill.--They might've been small, but junior Derrick Abels caught five keeper bass Tuesday to lead Grant Park Boat 1 to the title of the twice-delayed Heidecke Lake sectional of Illinois' inaugural high school bass fishing tournament.


IHSA bass fishing notes

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First the facts, the sectionals at LaSalle and Heidecke have been postponed again, this time for Tuesday when the weather looks better.

Second, I was caught off guard by St. Charles North coach Tim Pinks Friday. His boat of kids won the Shabbona Lake sectional on a 4.1-pound largemouth caught by Derrick Hoffman.


That's Pinks holding the sectional championship trophy with his guys.

But here's why I was caught off guard by Pinks.

Joe Egan was fishing in 3-foot waves off a Chicago breakwall Saturday, catching some decent smallmouth, when he caught the fish.


Here's more and a photo (thanks to Ed Bohn) that gives a better sense of its size.

``I thought I had the record,'' Egan said.

Here's the tale of the catch and release of the Oak Lawn man's 22-inch smallmouth, which came up 2 ounces short of the Illinois record.

Alex Porubyanski, of Whiting, Ind. caught a 48 1/2-inch muskie weighing 34 pounds from Wolf Lake on Thursday. . . on spinning gear with 8-pound mono and a small silver spoon. BTW, he's 78.


He sent photos to Indiana biologist Bob Robertson, just in case it is a tiger muskie, in which case it would be an Indiana record. But it sure looks like a pure muskie to me.

Thanks to Sam Noto for the photo taken outside of Mik-Lurch Tackle Outlet in Hammond, Ind. Noto explained,

``The fish was too much for this old timer to handle so I had to help him as you can see, actually the best picture of it is the one with me holding it horizontal, you really get to see truly how big this fish was but he could not hold it up that way.''

But either way, it is a helluva fish and an even better story.

Alex Porubyanski of Whiting, Ind. caught a 48 1/2-inch muskie weighing 34 pounds from the Indiana side of Wolf Lake. If it is a tiger, it will be the state record. The story is posted here on Stray Casts.

Joe Egan caught a 6-5 smallmouth (two ounces short of the Illinois record) off a Chicago breakwall Saturday. The 22-inch fish was weighed on the certified scale at Henrys. it will be released. The story is posted here at Stray Casts.

Here are highlights of the first sectionals for the IHSA bass tournament, the world's first statewide high school bass fishing tournament.


I lead with the Shabbona Lake sectional, where boats were lined up when I arrived, because that is where I spent the day. It was one of several very tough sectionals. Note the big bags that came from the Chain and Busse and the very tough day at Tampier.


I took this photo of the Naperville North team just before they enlivened their day with a 1.35-pound largemouth that qualified them for state.

Details are below.

Waukegan perch (photos)

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Glad I got out to fish jumbo perch straight off Waukegan early this morning.

I went with Capt. Bob Jenkins of Challenger charters, his father Chuck and Capt. Jeff Miltimore.


I only had a few hours and we smacked fish on every drift. The best drift was the first one before dawn when we boated 19.


It was a beautiful morning to fish.

By the time we pulled out about 8:30, there were about 60 boats clustered in 55 feet straight out of the harbor.

There's a fresh batch of fillets.

An elegant single wood duck, painted by 16-year-old Lily Spang of Toledo, Ohio, was selected to appear on the 2009-2010 Federal Junior Duck Stamp.


It was chosen by a panel of judges at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.


Abraham Hunter, 15, of Downstate Vienna took second with his pair of common goldeneyes.

Here's the complete release from U.S. Fish and Wildlife:

Change is coming. This looks like the best weekend of the year so far to fish. Until then, crappie have been the main story and head the Midwest Fishing Report.

crappie 003clifford

Chris Clifford sent this photo:

Hey Dale thought you would appreciate this picture. I caught this crappie while jigging for walleye, Caught on a jig and minnow on Silver Lake in Oakwood Hills Illinois last week! Weighed almost 2 1/2 pounds and was a real fat one full of babies! Fish was caught and released for another day.

I do appreciate it.

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

You have to love the honesty of Romulus Smith.

When I asked how he caught his 2-pound, 4-ounce crappie at Maple Lake on Sunday, he said, ``Pure luck.


Lucky or not, the thick, big-girthed 15 1/4-inch crappie was weighed on the certified scale at Henry's at 2-4. He was fishing with his boys, Jaiden Harris, 9, and Percy Dockery, 12.

As much for the story as anything, the crappie earns Fish of the Week honors.

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

Here's Smith's tale:

``Olden times'' smelting

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Carl Walton called Monday and the 90-year-old West Side man said he had netted more than 500 smelt in four outings. Since I think he is the oldest guy smelting in Chicago I pay attention when he calls.


This is Walton when he was a spry guy of 83. It was opening night of smelt netting in 2002 with a miserable mix of weather. Even so, he was the last guy coming off 31st Street pier.

I admire that kind of toughness.

Any way, Walton said of this spring, ``They ran like they did in olden times. They haven't ran like this in 15-20 years.''

But Walton is more than just smelt memories.

I am always fascinated by Ray Thompson's thoughts on muskie fishing in Illinois, even when we don't agree.

Below are his comments on the 1987-2008 Voluntary Illinois Muskie Creel Survey. It is jammed packed with nuggets. Thompson heads the Illini Muskies Alliance.

My one addition to Thompson's thoughts is that an explanation for the high ranking of the Chain may be related to the number of strong Muskies Inc. clubs nearby--Chicagoland, Fox Valley, SOB, etc.--whose members focus on the Chain and report their catches.

Considering the weather, it comes as no surprise that harvest during the opening season for spring turkey hunting in Illinois' north zone April 13-17 was down.


The toms (only bearded birds are legal in spring) following these hens were just across the track earlier this month in Kankakee County

Here's the word from forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton:

North Zone 1st season spring turkey season ended Friday with a harvest of 2248, down from last years' harvest of 2510. The season opened to cold, raiiny weather on Monday the 13th, and the opening day harvest of 417 was 279 birds less than last year. Weather has come into play again during 2nd season with rain all day on Sunday (4/19), so we're looking forward to some warm, sunny days toward the end of this week. Top 5 counties during the first season were JoDaviess (174), Pike (145), Adams (117), Fulton (116) and Hancock and Macoupin (both 84).

Turkey hunters in the north continue to report birds stopping talking when they are out of the trees. And the weather has not helped either for the first few days of the north zone turkey hunt in Illinois, so it is down so far. The south zone is up a bit.

Here's the early word from Paul Shelton, forest wildlife program manager.

The South Zone has seen slight increases in harvest during both the first and second segments of the spring turkey seasons. Hunters took 1477 birds during first season and 1216 during the second (1430 and 1151 last year, respectively). Top five counties thru 2 complete seasons are Randolph (176), Pope (153), Union (142), Jefferson (139), and Jackson (126). I've attached a spreadsheet with all county totals by season for the south zone.

As expected, the North Zone got off to a slow start on Monday (4/13) with cold weather and rainy conditions prevailing. The first day harvest was 417, down 40% from last year's opener of 696. Weather conditions were significantly better Wednesday through Friday, so hunter success should improve during that period. Through 4 days of hunting, the zone harvest stood at 1728, compared to last year's 2057. Top five counties after four days were JoDaviess (156), Pike (120), Adams (89), Fulton (86), and Calhoun (67).

Here's another sign the IDNR is not out of the woods yet. The Stratton Lock and Dam will have reduced hours and days of operation beginning in May.

Hours at Stratton Lock and Dam Reduced

Lock will close Mondays and Tuesdays; hours reduced during week

McHenry, IL - Starting May 1st, operating hours will be reduced at the William G. Stratton Lock and Dam on the Fox River in McHenry in an effort to manage costs during challenging fiscal times.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which operates the Stratton Lock and Dam, announced today that the lock will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (with the exception of holidays) starting in May. New hours of operation on Wednesdays and Sundays will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The lock will be open from 10 a.m. to midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Holiday hours will be from 10 a.m. to midnight.

Funding availability requires the postponement of hiring staff at this time. IDNR is working on solutions to provide more revenue streams and restore services as quickly as possible.

For a few days, I am relaxing, sharing family time, fishing and morel hunting.

The family time is good. Bass fishing is good, caught all three--spots, largemouth and smallmouth--today. Morel hunting is a walk in the woods, so far.

My Web connections are spotty, so posts and responses will be rare at best for a few more days.

CPOs wanted

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For the Chicago firemen and cops, and everybody else who has asked over the years, here is your chance to apply to be a CPO.

The release on testing dates is below:

Crappie are no surprise this time of year, even with this weather.


Though we don't see that many like this 15-incher faithful reader Nicholas Sellers caught ``at a local pond.''

But it is a surprising run (relatively speaking) of smelt. That and the Shabbona Walleye Open headline the 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

Let's start with smelt.

George Blazek plies the reviving rivers of the western suburbs and knows what is coming back there. Even so, he was surprised by what he caught on April 4.

FOTW4-15-09Fish photo

The Lyons man landed this 28.5-inch walleye on a jig and grub. The prespawn female weighed 10 pounds on a Berkley scale, before it was released.

It earns Fish ot the Week honors. FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times each Wednesday. An extended online version appears here by midnight Tuesday. It E-mail FOTW nominations to

``I fish with a great bunch of guys and we all release, which makes fish like this possible,'' he said.

So Arden Katz was giving me one of his fishing reports a month or so ago and got sidetracked describing some raucous bright birds he sees on his daily walks.

And I said, a colony of monk parakeets must be setting up.


Katz finally took some photographs of the birds around Touhy and McCormick. Monk parakeets have set up colonies at odd places all over the city and suburbs.

I vividly remember the first time I encountered them. It was 20 or so years ago. I was practicing my golf swing at Jackson Park driving range when these odd birds started making an outrageous racket behind me.

Six years ago Katherine Millet wrote a solid background story on the Chicago monk parakeets for Chicago Wilderness Magazine.

Today is opening day of turkey season in the north zone. And the home opener for a team on the North Side.


That's Greg Mroczkowski and his sons Adam, 12, and Cole, 14, with the turkeys bagged during the youth season the first Sunday in April. The south suburban guys were hunting in Brown County.

It was the first turkey for Adam and the third for Cole, described by his father as a cross between Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer when it comes to the outdoors.

Then Mroczkowski added this: ``p.s. Cole and I are cubs fans and Adam is a White Sox fan so if we can hunt together there's hope for Chicago.''

The idea is touching, but reality is only one of the Chicago teams has taken it beyond hope in the past century.

The Bowfishing Association of Illinois reported two bowfishing records in its spring opener out of Three Rivers Marina in Wilmington.


A Bowfishing Association of America record white sucker was taken by 16-year-old bowfisherwomen Liz Kovel of Minooka.


Bill Runchey won the shoot with his 18.2-pound smallmouth buffalo, a BAI club record.

Here's a more complete report from Ed Devries:

Add another first for the historic start to high school bass fishing in Illinois. District 230 held its first bass fishing tournament on April 4.


Congrats to the Andrew team of (left to right) Eric Multon, Robert Pohlman and Mike Oliosi, who won it with a five fish limit weighing 9.47 pounds, including a big anchor fish of 3.86 pounds. Multon caught four of the keepers, Pohlman caught the kicker fish.

Do you have any idea how much pleasure I get out of writing that? And how envious I am that I missed such an opportunity in high school by 30 years.

Here's more on the tournament by the south suburban school district, held on the Kankakee River out of Des Plaines Conservation Area near Wilmington.

Turkeys in town

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It's turkey time in Illinois. More than you can ever say.


These two were part of a group of at least five hens and two gobblers wandering along a railroad in the middle of a Kankakee County town Thursday evening.

This was after I had spent several hours trying to get some fresh turkey photos around Kankakee River State Park.

As nature will, the unexpected blessed us.

So Roy Vivian had a tip on gray partridge in Stephenson County.

Vivian, the guy I prefished the the MWC tournament on the Illinois River last month, grew up in Freeport and had hunted gray partridge near there within the past 10 years. He happened to read the column or Stray Cast about trying to find gray partridge in Illinois with birders Joel Greenberg and Andy Sigler and gave me leads on two specific farms.

Well, Greenberg and Sigler were hot to try again for gray partridge. They are big-time birders and making certain gray partridge still are present in Illinois means something to their record keeping.

(BTW, if anybody has a good lead on wild gray partridge, please e-mail me at

This morning we trekked out there. And we found people at both farms so we could ask permission to look for gray partridge.

The looks we got were priceless. Oh, we got permission, but the looks suggested the people living there had not seen a gray partridge,

And along the quest, we ranged into a discussion of Twittering.

More Melant Muskies

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Ray Thompson had asked if Bryan Melant had filled out a creel survey card. Thompson chairs the Illini Muskies Alliance

Melant caught and released a 27-pound muskie opening morning at Heidecke on April 1. It is one of the biggest caught by a fishermen since the 1980s. It justly earned Fish of the Week honors yesterday.

So I sent Melant a note asking him about the creel survey. And he sent back this photo of his Heidecke muskie No. 2 for 2009 and a brief story.

april82009heidecke 001

(BTW, it is generally recommended to hold all big fish, not just muskies, in photos by supporting the body in more of a horizontal shot.)

Today's weather may bring back fishing by the afternoon, but otherwise it has been a tough stretch for fishing in the Midwest Fishing Report.


Although Greg Kaye likes to send reminders that cold-water largemouth can be good:

I caught this nice bass on April 4 at the Bass and Gill Club in Plainfield. Even though the water temp was only 49 degrees, that fish was sitting in just 2 feet of water. She blasted a Rat-L-Trap in chrome-blue. She weighed about 4 and a half pounds. The cold water bite can be SO awesome!

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

There's a couple bright spots, but any way, here it goes.

Bryan Melant caught and released a muskie, weighing 27 pounds, on his first cast of opening day at Heidecke Lake on Wednesday.


Melant had thought it was a tiger muskie. But when I asked the majority of readers, including all professional responders such as wildlife chief Mike Conlin and fisheries chief Steve Pallo, declared it a pure muskie. Biologist Rob Miller said tigers had not been stocked at Heidecke since 1997.

But either way, it is a helluva fish, and with a good tale, good enough on both counts to earn Fish of the Week honors. FOTW tops the Midwest Fishing Report each Wednesday in the Sun-Times. An extended online version with photos is posted here by midnight Tuesday.

Here's Melant's story:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will activate a new electric barrier, known as Barrier IIA, in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Lockport tomorrow, April 8.

That's the barrier designed to keep Asian carp from spreading toward the Great Lakes.

Here's the complete release from the Corps.

``I wish I had the story about the 30 lbs Tom that came in with both beards dragging in the mud and sparks flying off his spurs when he stepped on the rocks, but it didn't happen,'' e-mailed faithful reader John Vician after a youth hunt with his son. ``All the birds we saw were still grouped up out in the middle of fields, 25 to 30 in both groups.''

He may be on to one explanation for the drop in turkeys bagged during the two youth turkey seasons in Illinois. Reported harvest dropped to 617 from the 638 last year.

But forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton noted that was an increase over 2006 and 2007 (525 and 579, respectively).

The youth hunt in the south zone, held the last weekend in March, had a higher harvest of 254 than the 244 last year. But north zone youth hunt, held Saturday and Sunday, dropped to 363 from 394 in 2008.

The top five counties in the north were Calhoun (23), Fulton (21), Cass (19), Pike (19), and Adams (17). Top five counties in the south were Jefferson (21), Wayne (21), Williamson (19), Randolph (17), and Johnson (12).

If I get the time and figure out how to do it artfully, I will add the complete county by county breakdown.

A wonderfully drawn pair of common goldeneyes by Abraham Hunter won the Illinois segment of the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest.


This photo may only be used with permission of the IDNR. Hunter and the other winners may also be seen here.

It was the second year in a row the home-schooled kid from Vienna took best of show.

The complete release on Hunter and the others is below.

April 6th, 2009, on what was supposed to be opening day for the White Sox, and I shoveled 2 or 3 inches of snow.

A wet heavy slop.


Even the freakin' birds at our front feeder looked surprised.

Last Sunday, you remember the snow Sunday, I finally dragged the younger kids out of the house for a walk.

As we passed one of our family's secret morel spots (first discovered by the oldest boy, now a junior, back when he was in grade school), my 7-year-old daughter asked if we could stop and look for mushrooms.

I started laughing looking at the patches of sloppy snow.

First off, it made me glad that she had made that connection to the natural world.


We found these on May 7 last spring.

Second it made me wonder how the progress of morel picking was going.

So I checked.

Spring trout season opens tomorrow.

I understand it is one of the most popular events in Illinois fishing.

But our family won't be doing it. Last fall, a guy offered to change my mind and maybe I will take him up on it again some time.

Here's why I don't go for spring trout.

Glad I didn't

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Boy, sure glad I didn't write the stray cast I had considered for Wednesday: ``I am more likely to catch the Illinois-record smallmouth than the Bears are to sign Jay Cutler.''

Even after listening to the news conference, I am stunned.

Mink brooks suburbia

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Fred Ungaretta was walking his dog in Sleepy Hollow Park in north suburban Glenview around lunch today when he ``saw an unnatural ripple coming off the bank in the brook (North Branch Chicago River).''

Now, I've heard the North Branch called many things, but that's a first for ``brook.''

There's more to the mystery.

``I figured it would be from the Mallards that nest and mate around here, but holy #@%*%$!.''

And it was something else.

Smelt surprise

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Opening night of smelt netting was better than expected on the Chicago lakefront.

Two spies stopped at Montrose, Belmont and 31st and they reported netters had smelt at all three locations. The best had more than 40. OK, that's not stop the presses, but it sure beats none.

Sight of the night was the guy smelting and doing his bills on his laptop.

I only had a couple hours this morning, so I spent it casting the wind-blown shorelines on the east bank in hopes of a big walleye or muskie.


The parking lot was full, but not overflowing, for bank fishermen. There was a good knot of fishermen around the bridge. I only saw one fish caught, from a distance it looked like a fair hybrid.

About this Archive

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

March 2009 is the previous archive.

May 2009 is the next archive.

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