Debated not posting this Wild Weekend Wandering around Chicago outdoors, but then figured enough of us are looking for an excuse to escape the extended family that I put it up; and there's stuff going on outside.
Considering our goofy weather, there are open water options that we don't usually have and many fewer ice fishing options going into the long holiday week.
One of the reasons for posting is the Christmas tradition in Chicago fishing of perch fishing on the Chicago lakefront. Navy Pier has been the hot spot. Still debating whether I get up early Christmas morning and join the mob at Navy Pier or not. There are other options: Montrose and even Diversey. The fishing inside the river at 92nd has been holding well, too. All in all, there's perch options. Considering the weather, there's even boat options around the Indiana/Illinois line. The bite tight to the wall at the Hole-in-the-Wall off East Chicago has been holding for weeks. And it doesn't look like the weather will screw it up.
OPEN WATER FISHING: Powerton Lake outside of Pekin is open to shore fishermen, for those looking for a holiday week excursion. . . . Closer to home, for those who haven't put their boats away, I suspect the sauger bite should go in the deeper holes on the Illinois River as the water recedes. . . . There's plenty of opportunities for shore fishing, and even some for wacky waders, on the Fox and Kankakee; though it's mostly hard-cores like Norm Minas. . . . Usually at this point, I am thinking about getting out to ice fish on Willow Slough, but it is wide open.
ICE FISHING: Head north, way north. In northern Wisconsin, some very good early ice fishing is underway. From central Wisconsin south, ice fishing is much iffier, though this is the probably the week when things start to lock in. Not sure if the back channels in the Chain will start locking in again next week or not. Might have to wait until 2012.
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNTS: CBC's are in their 112th year and have been going on for a couple weeks. The famous Chicago lakefront count is right on Christmas Day. For options on CBC's in Illinois, click here.
WATERFOWL HUNTING: In the Chicago area, it was a slow duck season. Goose season, which runs through Jan. 7 in Illinois' north zone, has been only marginally better. I suspect some of the dedicated goose hunters will be out on the holiday weekend. I saw some migrators down again this morning on our town pond and heard of some geese being shot at Wolf Lake, so there's some to be had.
SNOWY OWLS: This has been one of the most remarkable late falls and winters for snowy owls. Many have been spotted along the southern Lake Michigan lakefront from Waukegan through Chicago across Indiana to the Port of Indiana and Michigan City. Put it this way, they are even being sighted along Lake Shore Drive. Do not be surprised to spot one. Many reports have come from deep inland, too. Keep an eye open on your holiday travels.
SANDHILL CRANES: I think the peak finally came and dropped off, but plenty are still there. Tuesday's count of sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski FWA near Medaryville, Ind. dropped to 8,634, down from the 12,000-plus the previous week. Even with the drop-off, plenty of sandhills remain for those, like myself, who have the kids to watch during the extended holiday week break.
The sight and sounds of the cranes at the site southeast of Valparaiso, Ind. is something to behold. Best viewing is sunrise or sunset at Goose Pasture Viewing Area. But I find it worth touring the area to watch the sandhills in the surrounding fields, too. Click here to see, listen and learn details of the site.
INDIANA STREAMS FOR STEELHEAD: Streams still have steelhead in them, water will keep clearing. For those without experience on the Indiana streams, click here for access points on Salt, Trail and the Little Cal.
UPLAND HUNTING: We are nearing the end of the season, but the lack of snow cover is not helping. Not sure if I will get in one last hunt or not for pheasants and rabbits or not; probably depends on how busy I get.
ILLINOIS HUNTING PERMITS: Permits for the late-winter and CWD deer seasons are available over-the-counter.
ARCHERY: Archery Bow Range Chicago offers instruction.
SALMON SNAGGING: Snagging for chinook and coho on the Illinois lakefront ends Dec. 31. It is open only at four locations only: Lincoln Park Lagoon south of Fullerton Avenue, Waukegan Harbor (North Harbor Basin only); Winnetka Power Plant discharge area and Jackson Park Harbor (inner and outer harbors). No snagging is allowed at any time within 200 feet of a moored watercraft or as posted.
PERSONAL PICKS: We will do a Christmas hike, just not sure where yet. I had hoped to do some sledding, but that is almost laughable. . . . I may get out Christmas morning at Navy Pier. See how Christmas Eve goes around the family. . . . Years ago, I would do a Christmas hunt, but not sure if I will have the time next week or not. . . . Otherwise, work continues on an ongoing writing project.. . . And I am getting back into the swing of my Outside radio show on WKCC-FM (91.1), for which I am soloing beginning in 2012.