Piling up the whitefish records: Changing southern Lake Michigan

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Vicent Chan with his 6.55-pound soon-to-be Illinois-record whitefish.
Credit: Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop

This whitefish record might last a bit longer.

Vincent Chan caught a 6.55-pound whitefish Saturday afternoon behind McCormick Place. It should become the second Illinois-record whitefish caught this year from shore in Chicago.

Last week, I wrote, “But I suspect somebody else will be proud of the next Illinois record whitefish before the end of March.” (The link for that prophetic column is here.)

Thank you, Chan, that came fast. He did it while fishing with cut perch for multiple species, mainly brown trout or lake trout.

“I never caught a whitefish before,” Chan said.

But the Bridgeport man knew what he had.

“Because when I went to Henry’s, I saw,” Chan said.

Vincent Chan with his soon-to-tbe Illinois-record whitefish on the certified scale at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop.<br>Credit: Courtesy Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop

Vincent Chan with his soon-to-tbe Illinois-record whitefish on the certified scale at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop.
Credit: Courtesy Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop

Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop weighed the last two Illinois-record whitefish. That includes the 4.45-pound one caught Feb. 17 by Christian Howe from the Calumet by 95th Street. Howe just hung his plaque last week. (The link to the story of Howe’s catch is here.)

Chan’s record may last longer.

Chan’s whitefish was 27 1/2 inches with a girth of 13 1/4 inches when weighed on the certified scale at Henry’s. Biologist Dan Makauskas verified the fish Tuesday. The record will be official when all paperwork is finalized.

Then again, Chan’s record is within reach. Ben Dickinson, Indiana’s assistant Lake Michigan fisheries biologist, said they have surveyed whitefish heavier than 7 pounds.

But at least for the moment, Illinois leads Indiana in the Great Whitefish Race on southern Lake Michigan. Indiana’s record, which has fallen twice already this year, is 5 pounds, 13 ounces, caught Jan. 21 by Alexander Ciesielski near Portage Lakefront Park.

While the whitefish race excites, it’s also something that may be a result of a changing Lake Michigan.

Illinois’ Lake Michigan program manager Vic Santucci noted last week, “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. . . . 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.”

That certainly has been happening.

Click here for the story of Ricardo Cruz’s Illinois record, which started the latest round of record catches. It was caught in July, 2016, at Montrose Harbor.

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