Faces to perch fishing: A good use for Chicago’s Southeast Side

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Still life of perch fishing on Chicago’s Southeast Side.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Ray Gregor walked up, sat along the wall of the slip, baited, then cast.

Bam. A perch. Small. He threw it back. Cast again. Bam. (I can’t help channeling Emeril Lagasse, perch are our tastiest fish.) It was a better one, a keeper.

Welcome to perch fishing on Chicago’s Southeast Side, “the 87th Street Slip’’ area.

I had walked up half hour before him and had one. I moseyed over to see what he was doing different. I had one rod with Mini-Mites and wax worms; the other with jigs and minnows.

Ray Gregor holds his best perch before unhooking a smaller one Saturday.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Ray Gregor holds his best perch before unhooking a smaller one Saturday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

He was using a crappie rig and minnows. Later in the winter when he switches to ice fishing, primarily at DuSable Harbor, he finesse fishes with Smelt Sticks and Hali jigs.

“Every day is different,’’ said Gregor, a cabinet maker from Tinley Park. “If you get a good two days in a row, stay home the third day because it is going to suck.’’

Arden Katz, one of the better lakefront perch fishermen echoed that, saying, “It comes and goes. Put in your time, you will get fish.’’

Don Cetera, from Blue Island, who was on the other side of Gregor, had spent most of the day perch fishing the slip. He watched a guy early in the day catch perch after perch simply using gold hooks with minnows.

“You gotta fish with minnows,’’ Katz said. “Fish with spikes and you catch those 4-inch perch all day.’’

But you have to love those 4-inch perch. Baby, they are the future on the lakefront.

Gregor had made a circle of perch spots, catching two keepers at 87th and his best keeper at 95th. It used to be that the best winter perch fishing started around Thanksgiving at Navy Pier.

In recent years, the focus has been on “the 87th Street Slip area.’’ I put that in quotes because it includes some quasi-legal fishing spots on the Southeast Side.

What 87th Street specifically refers is now the Chicago Park District’s Steelworkers Park around the mouth of the slip and the shoreline areas by the western shore of Calumet Harbor near 87th. More broadly it includes other spots, too.

In down time between flurries of catching fish came talk of a hot bite early morning at 87th. That’s way fishing goes. Fishermen come and go (speaking not of Michelangelo but Mike and Angelo).

“I know people out here I have known for a long time and I don’t even know their names,” Gregor said.

I knew what he meant.

Around 4, as the sunset built over the South Side, we made our final casts, then walked out different ways.

It was time.

I had kept two for a lunch of one. Perch fishing will only improve as Lake Michigan finally cools down after the balmy fall.

HUNTING: Illinois’ second firearm deer season is Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 1-4. A reminder: if you firearm hunt in a county with chronic wasting disease, you must use a check station. . . . Archery harvest through Sunday, Nov. 27, was 46,920, again lagging behind the harvest last season (47,970). . . . Thursday, Dec. 1, is the deadline for first lottery for permits for spring turkey hunting in Illinois. Click here.

WILD THINGS: Reports of snowy owls begin in northern Illinois. As always, do not flush them, they are stressed more than enough just making it here.

STRAY CAST: Chris Sale going to the Cubs would be like a horsefly landing in a rouge compact.

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