Chicago Sun-Times
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Chicago lakefront: Riding a reality check

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I covered the Chicago Triathlon for the Sun-Times on Sunday. For somebody like me, it forced a reality check.

The transition areas and start and finish for the race were concentrated around Monroe Harbor. So I had a lot of running around on the lakefront back and forth between Balbo and Randolph through massive crowds.

That's an area I fish usually a couple times a year from boat and occassionally from shore. Even in the best of times, there are only a few dozen who shore fish in that area, primarily i think because of the parking issues. (I dropped $24 in the Grant Park South lot, after giving up on finding street parking.)

By contrast, there were 9,000 competitors alone for the triathlon. Factor in families and friends, you can probably triple or quadruple that easily. Throw in the usual crowd on the downtown lakefront on a beautiful, if windy, Sunday, and simply put there were a thousands of people there for a race.

That's a reality of lakefront use.

And there was spillover from a music event at Grant Park.

When the perch are in good is one of the few times that the lakefront will draw thousands of fishermen. And they are concentrated mainly at Montrose.

And did I mention the hundreds who, despite the triathlon, were trying to do their usual Sunday lakefront bike ride and weaving through the crowds.

Believe me, I looked hard while walking around Sunday morning, and never saw a fishermen. Not even one dabbling around for rock bass or bluegill.

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So, what's your conclusion? That not enough fisherman warrant special attention at Monroe, or the opposite, that the situation unfairly penalizes fisherman? As a college kid at Northwestern back in the 90's, I fished all the harbors. It was good stuff, but darned difficult at some harbors.

Good question, and one I don't have an answer to yet.

I didn't draw a conclusion. Still trying to let it sink in. I'm try to go along Monroe Harbor twice a month, in part because I like the area and in part to look for fishermen, and there's usually at least a few.

None on Sunday, even north of Randolph, that I could see, an area out of the main race hubbub.

I really don't know if there is a cause and effect: other lakefront uses driving out fishermen, or access issues limiting fishermen from reaching the water easily.

Limited street parking and the expense of lot parking are killers. They really are. And the pay meters aren't going to help.

Or if it just less interest in lakefront fishing period, even if the access and other uses didn't have an impact.

I do know that other lakefront uses have surpassed fishing (I think an estimate of 50,000 people related to the triathlon would be conservative), except at a handful of times of the year.

The exceptions are at times in the depth of winter or very early morning when the perch are in during the spring and summer, even then I would bet there's nearly as many joggers and bikers.

Sadly, what it reminds me of is kids and pickup baseball. At least I usually see some fishermen on the lakefront downtown. I never see kids playing pickup baseball any more.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on August 31, 2009 6:07 AM.

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