Carp & drum: Something different, Chicago lakefront

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From a lawn chair by a South Side harbor, Paul Pezalla said, “We catch mostly good fish, a lot pushing 20 pounds and over. I catch a fish about every 30-60 minutes. That’s fine. I usually bring the New York Times Magazine and do the crossword puzzle.’’

There’s more to fishing the Chicago lakefront than yellow perch, smallmouth bass, salmon and trout.

Pursuit of common carp and freshwater drum are on the rise.


Pezalla has carp fished more relentlessly than anyone else in the Chicago area. He has caught a carp from Chicago-area waters for 186 months (more than 15 years) straight.

For my Father’s Day getaway, I joined Pezalla, founder of Wacker Bait and Tackle LLC in Broadview, and a lakefront character known as “TC Johnson from Wisconsin’’ for carp fishing.

OK, I mainly joined them because I enjoy their company. Both Pezalla and Johnson are, well, different.

“I pretty much have all the fish socializing I need during the week,’’ Pezalla said of usually fishing alone.

I’m not much of a carp fisherman and caught round gobies, smallmouth and drum. Pezalla caught a couple good carp before I arrived. Colin Kyle, who fit into our group, caught the fish of the day, a shorthead redhorse subject of my column last Wednesday.


Pezalla and Johnson are two of the best carp fishermen in the Chicago area. Pezalla was using his top-selling blend: Buckeye Blend.

When I asked if it works on fish or fishermen, Pezalla said, “It really does work. I have been using it 20 years or so.”

He had flavored corn on his hooks.

“I am catching all the fish on one rod, regardless,” he said.

The secret?

“Location, it’s closest to the wall,” he said.

Carp fishing has come a long way from dough balls. It’s a highly specialized sport, drawing on European experience.

Pezalla had two 12-foot Wacker rods and one Harrison, a high-end British rod. Carp rods range in value from a Daiwa of about $60 to the Harrison Trebuchet at around $500.

On its web page, Harrison gave reason for the name: “The Trebuchet was the dominant weapon for attacking castles under siege in Europe from around 850AD.’’

There’s your history loop for carp fishing.



Joseph Boyle had what is a typical encounter, accidental, with the big drum on Chicago’s lakefront.

He was perch fishing at Montrose harbor on June 18 when he caught a 10-pound, 3-ounce drum on a “rubber minnow lure’’ he was using on 6-pound line.

“He put up a nice fight with a lot of running,’’ Boyle emailed. “We played for 10-15 minutes, trying not to snap my line.’’

There are lot of drum, even some bigger ones, in Lake Michigan to test lines.

“I heard of one of 22 pounds, but I did not physically see it,’’ said Stacey Greene at Park Bait. “They are catching them on crazy stuff. One guy was catching them on spinners.’’

Oh, the perch bite appears to build in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

IN MEMORY: “Ash’’ Brownridge, creator of Ranger Rick, died Friday at 98, the National Wildlife Federation announced.He was a longtime executive with NWF and also founded the National Wildlife magazine.Ranger Rick inspired thousands in the natural world. Solomon David at the Shedd Aquarium is a prime example.

PLACES: Despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the budget bills, Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites plan to be open for the holiday weekend, emailed Chris Young, IDNR communications director. But flooding and its aftermath will impact site usage. Check site updates at the closures page at

STRAY CAST: The White Sox are like the last twitching shad after largemouth bass corralled a school. You know what’s coming.

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