Celebrating the perch of July

Written By BY DALE BOWMAN For Sun-Times Media Posted: 07/02/2014, 02:21am
Array Andrew Choi added to a nice stringer at 31st Street Harbor. | Dale Bowman/For Sun-Times Media

It figures a small seiche surged around dawn Tuesday as three of us launched at Burnham Harbor.

Even Mother Nature doesn’t give perch fishermen in Chicago a break.

They finally caught a break from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources when director Marc Miller announced in mid-June that July would be open to fishing yellow perch on the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan for the first time since 2001. In exchange, there will be a closure in 2015 of May 1-June 15, roughly around the spawn.

So Tuesday rolls around, and the first July 1 open in 13 years is preceded by a two-fisted storm that had fish scattered and fishermen wary.

But perch were caught, good ones, though not as many as hoped. More will be caught as typical summer weather settles in.

In a few minutes after launch, we watched shore fishermen land several nice perch on the north wall of Burnham. Then we motored south to 31st Street Harbor, where Andrew Choi pulled in a quality jumbo as we drifted up.

Choi, a food salesman who lives near the harbor, had a good stringer building.

“Early morning and sunset are good times,’’ he said.

Choi, who came out at dawn, used a timeless method for fishing perch in weeds: a minnow under a slip float.

While he was pleased, he said it was nothing compared to Sunday, when he caught six true jumbos, including three heavier than one pound. On his cell phone, he showed the stringer, which included a 15-incher of 1 pound, 10 ounces.

A later-arriving fisherman landed a keeper with a night crawler.

In a couple of hours, we picked up one perch along with a half-dozen undersized rainbow trout, round gobies and one freshwater drum big enough to take a net on soft shells, minnows, Mini-Mites and spinners.

Mid-morning, it was time. One of our crew needed to pick up family at O’Hare. And I wanted to drive up Lake Shore Drive to check Montrose Harbor.

As I stopped at Park Bait, a pile of jumbo perch in a tub was being filleted and cleaned on the counter.

“This is something we didn’t get to do in July for years,’’ Stacey Greene said.

Got that right.

Perch were spotty, even at Montrose, but both casters and powerliners caught some quality fish on a mix of soft shells and minnows. Perch from boats has been tough, but that too should improve with summer patterns in July.

By the time I circled Montrose Harbor late morning, picnickers outnumbered perch fishermen.

It was time.

I beat it past Soldier Field before the fans began stacking up for the World Cup broadcast.

Storm notes

Going into the holiday weekend, be aware that the two-fisted storm left damages and closures. As of Tuesday, the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River and the Kankakee River were closed to recreational boating, William Powers State Recreation Area was without power, Starved Rock State Park was temporarily closed because of storm damage, Kankakee River SP was without power or phones and the campground at Woodford State Fish & Wildlife Area and the lower campground at Marshall SFWA are closed until further notice. Check closures at dnr.illinois.gov/closures/Pages/default.aspx.

Stray cast

Derrick Rose begins to bring reminders of the big goldfish in the turning basin on the South Branch.

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