Stocking pike in Chicago River: Hopeful signs of a beginning

SHARE Stocking pike in Chicago River: Hopeful signs of a beginning
chicagoriver05_17_16pikemargaret.jpg

Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, joyfully holds one of the northern pike about to be released into the Chicago River.
Credit: Dale Bowman

A pair of Canada geese with a lone gosling waddled the shoreline. A mallard pair swam and dove by the dock.

Streams specialist Steve Pescitelli stocks northern pike fingerlings into the North Shore Channel.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Streams specialist Steve Pescitelli stocks northern pike fingerlings into the North Shore Channel.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Life builds along the Chicago River system as it cleans up.

A boost came Tuesday afternoon with the stocking of 2,000 5-inch northern pike fingerlings on the North Shore Channel by Dammrich Rowing Center in Skokie.

“I thought it was a good match, a little more sexy than channel catfish [stocked last year],’’ stream specialist Steve Pescitelli said.

Fisheries technician Mark Moldenhauer made the four-hour drive from the Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery in Topeka in a pickup with well-oxygenated tanks.

“Swim and be free,’’ intoned Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, as she released one that fell from a net.

“Swim and be free,’’ intoned Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, as she released one of the pike fingerlings into the North Shore Channel.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

“Swim and be free,’’ intoned Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, as she released one of the pike fingerlings into the North Shore Channel.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Similar to the channel catfish stocking, the project built on a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Chi-Cal Rivers Fund.

As to why pike, Pescitelli said some are already in the system and, with the planned reintroduction of emergent vegetation, stocking pike makes sense.

They will be “nailing down spots’’ for reintroduction of vegetation this year and the work will likely begin next year.

Lizard’s tail, which grows well in shade, should do well along the shaded waters of the North Shore Channel and North Branch. But Pescitelli said in areas where bank restoration was done, there are sunny spots with rock substrata natural for water-willow.

Similar aquatic plant reintroductions have done well on the Fox and DuPage rivers.

He acknowledged that some of the pike will likely end up in the Chicago harbors because pike move around so much.

“But, with the vegetation there, we are hoping they stick around and provide some angling in the North shore Channel,’’ Pescitelli said. “But we are fine with that being a source for moving out in the system. They will spread out.’’

Northern pike fingerling about to be stocked in the North Shore Channel.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Northern pike fingerling about to be stocked in the North Shore Channel.
Credit: Dale Bowman

He expects the pike to be 8-10 inches by next spring.

“It is pretty exciting project,’’ he said. “Put some plants in there and some pike and see how it works.’’

When I asked, Frisbie said, “My hope and dream is to be swimming with the fish. I’m an optimistic. I like to think by 2020.’’

To tweak a line from The Persuaders, it is a thin line between optimism and insanity.

But I like that possibility.

VADAS’ VOICE: From his hospital bed Monday, Jack Vadas sounded feisty as ever. But he and his wife Shirley need some help moving and selling stuff from their former Southeast Side institution, Vet’s Bait Shop. Call (219) 629-3493 to get information.

ZONA ZONE: Homewood native/fishing superstar Mark Zona headlines Stray Casts Outdoor Cartoon Television tonight. I am one of the hosts of the show, which airs live 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays on YouTube, then becomes a podcast.

VOGT SCHOLARSHIP: Before his death, Illini Bass Fishing Club president Bret Vogt was working on a scholarship fund. The club continues that effort. Click here for info and details.

STRAY CAST: If the Sox are pike ambushing from the outside weed line, what are the Cubs on the inside weed line?


The Latest
Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard each had 22 points while Betnijah Laney added 17 points, five rebounds and five assists
The Chicago Park District should focus instead on upgrading Jackson Park and South Shore courses.
The program mentors young adults dealing with gun violence and helps them get their GEDs. They want to show them “you’re worthy, you’re valid, and this is only one of the many things that you will go on to accomplish,” a CRED employee said.
The four boys were on the front porch of a residence in the 7300 block of South Union Avenue when someone fired shots, police said.
The district and teachers’ union have negotiated all summer in hopes of avoiding the contentious battles of the past two years over pandemic safety.