A great mix of opportunities abounds for this Wild Weekend Wandering around Chicago outdoors, from the Great Backyard Bird Count to the great benefit, Walk on Water, to a great weekend with a multitude of options on ice at Shabbona Lake to some great steelhead fishing in Indiana.
GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT: The GBBC, the great citizens' science project, begins today and runs through Monday.
I have participated in this most years over the past two decades or so. That's from staring out my office window and looking at a Chicago alley when we lived on the North Side to now watching our feeders in the hinterlands south of the city.
You don't have to do it for long, so it makes a perfect activity for kids involvement. I find it amazing how many different species you can end up with when you actually try to count them. I mean even staring out a window on Chicago's North Side and looking at an alley.
Click here for information and to register what you observe.
WALK ON WATER: The rescheduled Walk on Water Charity Ice fishing Derby is 7 a.m.-noon Sunday on Bangs Lake in Wauconda. No motorized vehicles. All proceeds go to Andrea Lynn Cancer Fund. Click here for details or go to Facebook.
SHABBONA LAKE: It's one of those packed weekends at Shabbona Lake and the weather cooperated to help solidify the ice.
Lakeside is trying something new with a bluegill/crappie contest this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.
There's a night of ice fishing Saturday. Fishermen need to be out of the park by 10 p.m. Ice conditions vary with thick ice in the deep trees to some spottier areas in the middle where geese had kept holes open.
Saturday is also Rockfest, beginning at 8:30 a.m. This is an ongoing effort to put more cover and structure into the lake each winter.
STEELHEAD IN INDIANA STREAMS: The steelhead have been good enough in the Indiana tributaries that even new fishermen are getting into them.
In an interview I did for the Post-Tribune, Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez's Bait in Lake Station said, ``It got some of these people hooked. [The steelhead] are so pretty this time of year. There are still fish actually coming in. Newbies [fishermen] are coming from Morocco [Ind.] and Indianapolis. We got people coming from 3 ½ hours away to get into these steelhead.''
He said catching is on the basics: spawn sacs, skein or micro ice jigs tipped with shrimp or b-moths. Some of the fishermen end up walking a couple miles.
Indiana's Lake Michigan fisheries bioklogist Brian Breidert emailed, ``Steelhead moving daily in the tributaries and fisherman are have a mixed success.''
Click here for the Indiana DNR's map of Trail Creek access.
SHOW SEASON: The big show is one of the last great 10-day shows. The Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show is opens today at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. I have meant to check this show out for years, but it conflicts with some bowling coverage I do for the Sun-Times. The Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl Expo is fitted into the bigger show from Friday through Sunday.
Our World-Underwater is Friday through Sunday at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. There's another show I would love to visit, but haven't yet.
The Milwaukee Muskie Expo is Friday through Sunday at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis.
The Chicago RV & Camping Show continues through Sunday at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
ICE FISHING: North and west of the city, there is some snow cover, but ice is generally good and thick. That is not true in many areas south of the city, however, even south could change to fishable ice by Saturday.
CHICAGO PERCH FISHING: There has been spotty ice fishing for the perch, that favorite of Chicago fishing, but conditions are in flux and can change even in the course of a day. Some very good reports last weekend from those punching holes in the ice at Navy Pier.
CHICAGO PIER PASSES: Probably a good time to remember that the $6 pier passes for Chicago harbors, except 31st, are available now at Henry's Sports and Bait, 3130 S. Canal.
CONSERVATION CONGRESS: Registration and planning for the 2013 Illinois Conservation Congress is underway. There will also be regional meetings this month and next. To register for the regional meetings (the evenings of March 12-14 in Chicago), click here, then go down to the ``get involved'' section and click on the date you wish to register for.
HUNTING: Hunting for squirrels ends today statewide in Illinois.
YOUTH TURKEY PERMITS: Monday is the deadline for the spring youth turkey special hunt area. Click here. . . . Youth (younger than 16 years old before turkey season) may apply now for outdoors access for youth turkey hunting in one of 23 counties. Click here.
POWERTON FISHING: Make it quick. Boat fishing opens today at the cooling lake near Pekin. However, the lake will be closed to all fishing, boat and shore, from Monday through April 7 for levee repair.
STURGEON SPEARING: Sturgeon spearing closed Tuesday on the upriver lakes of the Lake Winnebago system when the cap was reached. Poor water clarity on Lake Winnebago makes a full 16-day season likely there. Licenses needed to be purchased earlier. But this is one of the great natural cultural events in our greater area. Everybody should experience it at least once, even it is just to watch other people watching a big hole in the ice for hours.
ARCHERY: Archery Bow Range Chicago offers instruction.
PERSONAL PICKS: Once again, the majority of my weekend will be taken up covering Beat the Champs bowling for the Sun-Times. . . . But this afternoon I will meet for law enforcement officials for Sunday's column. (How's that for a tease?) . . . Put several good shows for my Outside radio show on WKCC-FM (91.1) into the bag this week. Suggestions have been coming in for the next round. The shows force me to look ahead, and I realize spring is near.