Aaron le with one of two ear-record whitefish caught Sunday at Montrose Harbor.
Credit: Jason le

Putting meaning to the whitefish records: Southern Lake Michigan

SHARE Putting meaning to the whitefish records: Southern Lake Michigan
SHARE Putting meaning to the whitefish records: Southern Lake Michigan

Good thing Illinois fisheries chief Dan Stephenson shipped Christian Howe’s certification and plaque for his state-record whitefish on Friday.

“It is proudly displayed on my front room despite my wife’s objections. Lol,” texted Howe, who caught his 4.45-pound record while perch fishing Feb. 17 at 95th Street on the Calumet. I think Betsy Howe understands.

But I suspect somebody else will be proud of the next Illinois record whitefish before the end of March.

Of the changes on southern Lake Michigan, the resurgence of whitefish for shore fishermen has reached astonishing levels.

On Sunday alone, at least three 4-pound whitefish were caught by shore fishermen on the Chicago lakefront.

Ken Maggiore, the former bass fishing standout at Taft High School now working at FishTech in Morton Grove, messaged about catching a 4-pounder (along with some nice lake trout and brown trout).

The coolest was 9-year-old Aaron le catching two at Montrose on a bottom rig designed by his father Jason le.

Asked if he knew what it was, Aaron, a fourth-grader said, “Whitefish. Yeah. My dad told me.”

His dad knew it was close to the record, so they took the biggest to Henry’s Sports and Bait, where it weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces, 4.2 ounces short of Howe’s record (formally listed at 4-7.2).

Whitefish records are even wilder in Indiana. That record has changed five times since beginning in 2012, including twice this year.

Alexander Ciesielski’s Indiana record whitefish on a bumpboard.<br>Credit: Courtesy Indiana DNR

Alexander Ciesielski’s Indiana record whitefish on a bumpboard.
Credit: Courtesy Indiana DNR

The current Indiana record is 5-13. Alexander Ciesielski caught it near Portage Lakefront Park on Jan. 21.

“We consistently see whitefish over 6 pounds in our netting assessments, and last year we had several weighing over 7 pounds,” said Ben Dickinson, Indiana’s assistant Lake Michigan fisheries biologist. “There are probably hundreds of fish swimming around Indiana waters right now that would break the record.”

I suspect much the same in Illinois.

Dickinson noted the best shore fishing is November to April when water temperatures are below 50 degrees.

That’s what makes Illinois’ previous whitefish record so odd. Ricardo Cruz caught it July 27, 2016, while perch fishing at Montrose Harbor.

Illinois’ Lake Michigan program manager Vic Santucci may have an explanation for that mid-summer catch: the foraging habits of whitefish on southern Lake Michigan are changing.

“One possibility for a change in whitefish foraging behavior is the near disappearance of the scud, Diporeia, from all but the deepest portions of the lake, and the increase in abundance of round goby,” he emailed. “As you know, gobies are found in abundance among the rocks and boulders of our harbors and nearshore areas throughout much of the year. Foraging whitefish may be drawn to these nearshore areas when the temperature is right to feed on gobies or other prey, which increases their chances of encountering baited hooks of anglers fishing nearshore for perch, drum or other species.

“If whitefish continue this pattern of foraging in nearshore waters, my guess is that whitefish records will continue to be broken in Illinois waters.”

Stay alert lakefront fishermen.

IN MEMORY: Mike Repa, formerly the long-time counterman at Park Bait, died. Arrangements are pending.

Daffodils in the snow Monday.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Daffodils in the snow Monday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

WILD THINGS: “Chorus frogs heard in Orland Park yesterday, suppose it might be a little while till we hear them again!,’’ John Kudia emailed Monday. . . . Tulips and daffodils poked through the snow or were buried, depending where you live.

STRAY CAST: Having weeks of spring training in 2017 is like perch fishing with 12-pound monofilament.

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