Technology & suckers: Identifying a redhorse, Chicago lakefront

SHARE Technology & suckers: Identifying a redhorse, Chicago lakefront

I’m a Luddite by nature.

But even I should have had the Great Lakes Fish Finder from the Shedd Aquarium right away when the app came out this month.

I needed it Sunday.

Colin Kyle caught an odd fish for the Chicago lakefront–a redhorse sucker–from a South Side harbor on a night crawler.

My main Father’s Day gift is time to fish where I want, usually wading the Kankakee River. Since I would’ve ended up in the Gulf of Mexico if I tried that, I explored other options and met two Chicago carp gurus: Paul Pezalla of Wacker Baits and a character who goes by “TC Johnson from Wisconsin.” More on that another day.

Sharing our bank was Kyle, a University of Chicago student who successfully defended his doctoral thesis–statistical modeling related to gypsy moths and viruses–last month. He fit into our eclectic crew. Pezalla gave some fishing tips. Johnson gave him crawlers.

Well, Kyle catches a fish. When Johnson nets it, it’s a redhorse. But what kind? It was released to swim again. I posted photos and the consensus was golden redhorse.

But I was not comfortable with that. So when I got home, I did more checking.

I began with Olaf Nelson, an academic with a love of suckers. His is more than you need to know on suckers.

At first, he thought it was a golden.

Lake Michigan Program head Vic Santucci, who verified the last two redhorse records when he was a fisheries biologist in the western suburbs for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, thought at first it was a golden, too.

But he forwarded it to Steve Pescitelli, streams specialist for the IDNR, and Phil Willink at the Shedd. Santucci also told me I should post it in the Great Lakes Fish Finder app ( The app works in Apple or Android products and even I could figure it out.

Santucci said they occasionally find redhorse during electroshocking of harbors.

“We typically find silver redhorse and shorthead redhorse along the Lake Michigan lakefront,” Willink emailed. “White sucker and longnose sucker are also present. I cannot remember any golden redhorse, but I will not rule them out. Buffalo and quillbacks can also pop up.”

He identified Kyle’s as a shorthead. Pescitelli also agreed on shorthead, even though the tail was not very red.

Nelson came around and messaged, “I’m leaning more toward shorthead now. Scales have dark bases, which is only in red-tailed species. It’s got a lot wrong for a shorthead, but it’s shaped like one.”

There is no sportfishing record for golden shorthead in Illinois.

“We have never, for whatever reason, listed a state record golden redhorse,” emailed Dan Stephenson, assistant fisheries chief. “We have the shorthead and silver redhorses but have never listed the golden. I will discuss with others in Fisheries to see if we want to list the golden.”

You never run out of new wild stuff.

PLACES AND FACES: Flooding has limited parking and access at Starved Rock State Park. Many trails are closed at Matthiessen SP. Check updates (there’s many) on state sites at the closures page at

STRAY CAST: Gov. Bruce Rauner is like the guy who thinks pulling yourself up by the bootstraps means upgrading Silver Sonic Waders; and Charlie Potter is like his fawning Orvis salesperson.

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FIRST BIO BLITZ, DuPAGE COUNTY: Blackwell, Danada, St. James Farm and Herrick Lake forest preserves, 5 p.m. Friday-5 p.m. Saturday; public invited to find insects at Danada or St. James, 9-10:30 p.m. Friday or watch results at Nature Fest, 11 a.m.-5 pm. Saturday at St. James, (630) 933-7200 or

KANKAKEE RIVER FISHING DERBY: Postponed, probably to July 10-19, check

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