How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fox Chain is one-of-a-kind

Fox Chain is one-of-a-kind

Thursday, May 11, 2006

By Bob Maciulis/Outdoor Notebook, The Star

The Fox Chain is— well, it's the Chain.

Those who fish it often, who've taken the time to learn its nuances, consider it one of the premier fisheries within a day's drive. Where else can they catch huge walleyes, muskies sneaking up on the magic 50-inch mark, slab crappies and big bass? The 10 inch bluegills are back along with deep water stripers and there are pods of brilliantly-colored perch weighing a pound apiece.

The kind of fishing baby boomers remember when their grandfathers took them to the Chain during the memorable 50's.

On the other hand, those who's only experience on the Chain is crossing over it on the Route 12 bridge en route to a favorite northwoods lake would rather cut grass than spend time playing bumper cars with the endless stream of pleasure boats that typically invade the 7,000 acre playpen once the mercury climbs over 70.

The credit for the remarkable fishery falls to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and to the Clean Water Act signed by President Richard Nixon.

Since the late 1970s, fisheries teams have massaged and supplemented stocking programs, the open sewers and drain tiles that once poured pollution directly into the Chain have been plugged and the water is in better shape than it's been in more than 50 years.

One of the constants has been the DNR's fish-taking operations every spring.

Fish trapped in nets are taken to the hatchery, milked and the eggs incubated, hatched then the fry raised until they are at an optimum size for stocking back into Illinois waters.

The stocking program supplements any natural reproduction that occurs and, between them, the fishery has exploded.

Now, incredible news that poachers have tampered with the fyke nets set by DNR fisheries teams on the Fox Chain recently. If these guys are ever caught, they will probably need armored security to drive them to court.

Nets are set over night and some of them have been robbed of their catch.

While the matter has been getting a lot of play on local chat rooms, the DNR staffers said that only two nets had been tampered with, out of nearly 70 that had been set by that time.

The muskie population is in great shape, based on the survey, with the largest specimen almost surpassing the current state record which weighed 38.8 pounds (Kaskaskia River, below Lake Shelbyville).

The DNR netting was encouraging.

According to Steve Pallo, "The walleye run lasted three days. We sent La Salle about 145 males and 98 females... In total we collected 743 walleye the first week in 40 lifts (18.6 fish per net night). In those 40 net nights of effort, we collected 54 muskies in Channel, Catherine, Marie and Bluff (1.35 fish per net night). During the second week we collected 35 muskies in 24 net nights of effort (1.45 fish per net night) in Fox and Pistakee Lakes.

We collected the largest fish, to date, a female measuring 49.3 inches and weighing 36.4 pounds. It came from Pistakee Lake. Recent big fish include two fish measuring 49.5 inch from the northern lakes and a couple of fatties weighing 31 pounds. and 34.5 pounds. (one came from Bluff and one below the McHenry Dam). Those fish are old news now, there's a new queen in town.

The southern lakes were loaded with fish. Most fyke nets contained well over 200 pounds of fish per net and it took all three of us hoist them into the boat. Bottom line- there's fish all over and the bigger fish seem to be down south."

Lorin Thompson, of the Illini Muskie Alliance, remembered conservationist Carl Becker: "In case you haven't heard, Carl Becker passed away unexpectedly (in April) at age 55. Carl was a long-time staffer at DNR as Endangered Species Coordinator and later as head of the Natural Heritage Division. After he left DNR he became Director of Conservation Programs at the Illinois chapter of The Nature Conservancy. He was one of the extraordinarily effective in the state and will be very badly missed."

On Target Archery (22520 State, Steger) will host a Hunter Safety Education Class May 20-21. Call (708) 758-4868 for information or to register.

The field trailing season at the Des Plaines Conservation Area ended last weekend with the Golden Retriever Club of Illinois' hunt tests.

Tim Pruitt's 124 pound All Tackle and 36 pound line class Blue Catfish has been certified by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (Hayward, Wis.). Pruitt took the incredible fish from the Mississippi River last year, at Alton.

Will there ever be smelt runs like we enjoyed just a few decades ago?

Samplings have been encouraging and there seems to have been a slight rebound in smelt populations. Alewives, too, are on the upswing.

As DNR stocking programs from those states bordering Lake Michigan are reduced, the hope is that the predator-prey balance will adjust and that we will again see larger salmom.

Rob Kasjanski (Plainfield) and John Kennedy (Tinley Park, Maple Bass Club) fished the Ed Bohn's new Hit Man Series on Sunday April 23.

"We launched in Alsip," Kennedy said, "and figured it would be worth our while to make the run around to the Chicago River. We knew there were fish there. Just a matter whether they'd bite."

The team took third place with 9.90, which included Rob's Big Bass at 3.88 (on Ghost Bait). The local team is sponsored by Fishing Connection (Tinley Park), BSF & L Insurance (Oak Lawn), Prowler Pro-Pitch Lures, Be Creative Screen Printing (Frankfort) and Quantum.

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