How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's show time for muskie fishermen

Chicago Sun-Times, by Dale Bowman

In some ways, David Cates is like any other muskie fisherman. He'll be at the Chicago Muskie Show at Harper College in Palatine from Friday through Sunday.

"And I'll have my checkbook with me and spend my money with some of the exhibitors," Cates said. "I never know until I get there. I look at my tackle box this time of year and there is nothing I need. But then I will walk away with a whole truckload. You can never tell. I caught the sickness some time ago."

As international president for the 7,00-plus members of Muskies Inc., Cates understands muskie fishing is a progressive illness. Cates, an attorney from Syracuse, Ind., and member of the Webster Lake Musky Club, illustrates the intertwining of professional and personal life that makes the Chicago Muskie Show special.

"This is the Rose Bowl quote, it is the granddaddy of them all," said Cates, whose lifetime trophy is a 48oe-inch muskie from Lake St. Clair.

It's a young grandpa. "As a lark" in 1995, Steve "Big Tuna" Statland and Lynn Shuster started thinking about staging the show, partly because of dissatisfaction with treatment of Muskies Inc. chapters at local shows.

From the first Chicago Muskie Show in January 1996, MI always has been central and has its own booth. And virtually all its officials come, including Cates this year. Based on show attendance, two local chapters, the Chicagoland Muskie Hunters and the South Side Muskie Hawks, receive part of the proceeds.

But the show has evolved into far more than a local draw. It has been copied around the country, yet retains its role as the premier gathering for muskie fishermen.

It was no accident that the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame made its ill-fated announcement on retaining Louis Spray's muskie as the world record the day after the show closed last year.

"Some members of Muskies Inc. are very concerned [about the world record], but that is not what we are about," Cates said. "We are about promoting the muskie fishery."

The cantankerous nature of that debate best illustrates why I long have said that muskie fishermen have the highest percentage of Type A and addictive personalities in the outdoor world. The only group close is waterfowlers.

Cates understands that.

"The most pressing [MI] issue is trying to get everybody on the same page," Cates said.

MI, which began in 1966, has as its mission to be "an active, service-oriented, non-profit organization for men, women and children with the single focus of improving the sport of muskie fishing everywhere the fish are found."

It takes an attorney such as Cates to parse that sentence into action in the real world. Even around Chicago, chapters have different interests and aims.

"One chapter may be interested in native stocking, others in stocking, others in youth and others in research," Cates said.

His job is to corral disparate interests to "promote and expand the muskie fishery." That's why Cates will be around the MI booth.

"As a collateral issue, it is difficult times for non-profit organizations," he said.

That's one thing even the great individualists of the muskie world should agree on. Do the right thing and make a check out to MI. After a year of backsliding, I promised Cates I will stop by and rejoin.

PERCH REGS: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will not change sportfishing regulations for yellow perch on Lake Michigan in 2007. The July closure of perch fishing for those 16 and older will remain in place.

PLACES AND FACES: A story from the Daily Union, forwarded by Ray Thompson, shows how far muskie fishing in Illinois has come. Brian Schanche and Matt Holleman stopped on Lake Shelbyville to fish for muskies last week while flying float planes, a Cessna 172 and a Piper Super Cruiser, from Minneapolis to Florida. If thinking of duplicating that, learn the regulations for landing on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. ... Dave Nyquist of Indianhead Mountain Resort ( wanted snow-starved Chicago skiers to know Indianhead received 89 inches through last week. Mainly because of lake-effect snow off Lake Superior.

WILD THINGS: The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that a yearlong search for cougars (mountain lions) in Wisconsin was inconclusive.

"If cougars are not here, they're going to be here, and we should be thinking about how we are going to deal with their presence," said Eric Anderson, professor of wildlife at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Illinois has had at least two wild cougars in the plast six years with rumors of more. ... Climate change is the theme for International Migratory Bird Day ( on May 12.

STRAY CAST: Thinking Boise State could play football with Florida/ LSU/USC is like saying a whitetail deer (undefeated here) could run with cheetahs/pronghorn antelopes/Mongolian gazelles; or (I can't help myself), thinking the Cubs will hang with the Cardinals/Tigers/ White Sox.


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