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 2009 Archives

I found 2009 a depressing year in Illinois and Chicago outdoors, but I also clutched pieces of hope, here and there.


Ice conditions rapidly stabilized over the area after the rains and heavy snows around Christmas. Nearly all areas should have safe ice, even corners of the Chicago harbors were borderline Tuesday afternoon. Ice fishing leads the Midwest Fishing Report.

Jim Donahoe allowed 20 other deer to pass before he bagged this Buck of the Week in Jo Daviess County on Steve Frederick's farm.


On a May day with a heavy chop on Lake Erie, Mike Mangano latched into a heavy fish, worthy of year-ending Fish of the Week honors.


If you stuck your head outside over the weekend, you already know one of the leads for this Illinois Hunting Report--the reshuffling of Canada geese after the heavy snows and re-icing of waterways. That and the new split of late-winter firearm antlerless-only deer season opening later this week.

Heidecke Lake: Water word

| 7 Comments | No TrackBacks

It sounds like the winter water drawndown woes are over at Heidecke Lake.


From the beginning, Joe Duggan was in the coalition that finally pushed through dedicated funding for conservation efforts in Minnesota, finally pushed it through after a decade of work.


Again, I say, Oak Forest is the premier spot for big bucks in the Chicago area. The latest proof came from Vicki Brudnicki, who earned well-deserved honors for Buck of the Week: Unplugged..


Bill McCormick of has occasionally posted one of my outdoor items.


The Christmas spirt is everywhere, even in this Wild Weekend Wanderings around Chicago outdoors.


Clete Boyer came to mind.


I hate stretches like this. The good ice across almost the entire Chicago area will be impacted by the incoming weather, if not completely taken out by heavy rains. Even so, ice conditions and perch at Navy Pier lead this fishing report.


It only seems apt to run the weekly Stray Cast here online.

Tom Hamilton nominated his brother Tim's buck, a nine-pointer taken during shotgun season on the north side of the Kankakee River west of Momence, as a worthy Buck of the Week.


Chuck Atkins caught and released a brown he put at more than 25 pounds, one of the biggest he's ever caught, on the Root River about three weeks ago and it earns him Fish of the Week honors.


John Saban put a nice perspective on hunting as holiday hunting leads this week's Illinois Hunting Report.

Alfred Hayden, John "Jack" Jadel, Denny Sands, and Mary Jo Trimble are the 2010 inductees into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be hold at the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet, to be held on March 13 at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

Readers who called and one poster below have suggested, this is a mudpuppy and not a hellbender.


I thought Buck of the Week: Unplugged, the celebration of live big bucks around Chicago and the suburbs, was over for the year, but several good nominations came in, including this from Steve Rachman.


Is it wrong?


I love muddling about bait shops, but Blain's Farm and Fleet, now that's as close as I come to understanding women . .. and shopping. And, at least in my world, that connects to a hairy woodpecker.

There's no secret what leads this Wild Weekend Wanderings around Chicago, ice fishing.


Willow Slough: A brief take

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Bluegill like this is why Willow Slough is so favored by those who love panfishing.


There's a couple updates for the Midwest Fishing Report.


Ice blade sharpener

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Fran Connelly sharpens blades for ice augers.


Wednesday Stray Cast

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

It only seems apt to run the weekly Stray Cast here online.

Illinois hunters harvested a few more deer during the muzzleloader season, which ended Sunday, than in 2008. Considering everything, I think it is about where it would be expected to be.

Ice fishing leads this Midwest Fishing Report. And we will begin with public access points for the Chain O'Lakes and Fox River backwaters area.

Mike Thomas arrowed a broad nine-pointer in Will County on Nov. 27 to earn multi-media Buck of the Week honors.

Some fish, say one worthy of Fish of the Week, are worth busting a mile of ice to reach. Mike Davis did that.


Considering the weather, it's not surprising that the arrival and movement of Canada geese leads this week's Illinois Hunting Report. The problem is the weather is also locking most shallower waters into thick ice.

I tried to put some perspective on the species both saved and killed during the Great Fish Kill on the Sanitary and Ship Canal in my outdoors column for the Sun-Times on today. To read it, click here.

I hope to add my own photos later today, but for now, this came from Hermann's Lowlife Bar & Grill.


The quick arrival of ice fishing and the other usual winter sports lead this week's Wild Weekend Wanderings around Chicago outdoors.


There's a few surprises on the list of fish saved during ``pre rotenone application salvage,'' prior to the fish kill on the Sanitary and Ship Canal. And a surprise missing species too.


As expected the vast majority of the fish killed in the officially-sanctioned fish kill on the Sanitary and Ship Canal were common carp.


Today started ice fishing on the Chain and Fox River backwaters. Please take that with extreme caution. That's not true for ordinary sane people, but for those wackos who know how to get around on very thin ice, as in a couple inches.

Like this scene on Nielsen's Channel off the Fox River at Port Barrington six years ago at first ice. (I can't believe it is that long since I did first ice there.)


For the first time in a decade, Illinois hunters failed to harvest more than 100,000 deer during the firearm seasons. The preliminary total was 99,419.

The hulking storm has put all ice fishing into question. It's a very fluid situation for first-ice fishing, even in northern Wisconsin. Even so, ice fishing, well, what survives the storm, leads this week's Midwest Fishing Report.


Nick ``BuckSlayer'' Schwerin arrowed a lifetime buck at 17 and earns a special Buck of the Week. And a special posting of an entire e-mailed tale of some lenghth and in deer camp language, a first I believe in the several years of BOTW. So be forewarned, if deer camp language might offend you, do not continue.


Brandyn Shepherd caught and released on the Fox River what he figures was an Illinois-record silver redhorse sucker on Nov. 29. He's just fine with that decision, and earns a special Fish of the Week honor.


We haven't heard the last from this group, but here is the official wrap-up from the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup of the nearly six-mile officially sanctioned fish kill on the Sanitary and Ship Canal:

I don't think Illinois' harvest during the firearms seasons will drop off nearly as much as similar seasons in Wisconsin and Michigan did, but there will be a drop. Waiting on firearm deer totals leads this week's Illinois Hunting Report.

Philip Willink had enough. So he did something.

Here's some stray thoughts from Don Dubin on the fish kill and Asian carp.


It's not hard to tell what my status was if I am posting a photo of a sunset after the final day of the second firearm season in Illinois.


I had been waiting for this nomination for Buck of the Week: Unplugged ever since the feature started. And John Lillig finally sent it, a photo of one of the bucks at North Park Village Nature Center on the North Side.


The second firearm deer season in Illinois, perch fishing around Chicago, ice fishing in northern Wisconsin and the fish kill on the Sanitary and Ship Canal highlight this Wild Weekend Wanderings around Chicago outdoors.


Hunters registered a preliminary total of 195,647 deer during Wisconsin's nine-dayt gun deer hunt. That compares to a preliminary harvest count in 2008 of 276,895.

Hunters might think deer hunting during firearm seasons in Illinois has been tough, but it looks like Michigan hunters had an even tougher time with harvest down 10-20 percent during the firearm season that ended last month..

I did run down to check out the scene this afternoon. But apparently missed all the excitement. A bighead carp was found.


Fish Kill: Day 2

| 15 Comments | No TrackBacks

I am very frustrated, this fish kill sanctioned by local, state, federal and international groups just blows my mind.


A sizeable flock of sandhill cranes wheeled overhead as I pulled off the 9th Street bridge in Lockport around noon today. That was about the only natural and true thing that happened at the beginning of the fish kill, sanctioned by local, state, federal and international groups, on a nearly six-mile stretch of Sanitary and Ship Canal.


Well, it's more than two weeks late, but the promise of first-ice fishing in northern Wisconsin leads this week's Midwest Fishing Report, as does the start of shore fishing for perch in Chicago.


OK, I envy Joe Sierocki. The Chicago man was deer hunting about 10 or so miles east of me and bagged this buck, an 11-point buck from the Hopkins Park area of Kankakee county on Nov. 21.


On Nov. 22, Mike Planthaber caught the biggest brown of his life and earned Fish of the Week honors.


I think it will be a reach, but Paul Shelton believes firearm hunters will top the 100,000 mark in harvest by the time the second firearm season ends Sunday. Obviously, deer hunting leads this week's Illinois Hunting Report.


My take on the latest plan to halt the spread of the Asian carp to the Great Lakes--the six-mile kill zone on the Sanitary and Ship canal--is published at,CST-NWS-bowman01.article as part of the Sun-Times coverage of the plan.


About this Archive

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

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

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