Snagging, IDNR updates, catching up: Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee returns

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The spray on the Chicago River downtown.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Snagging was among the key items during the September meeting of the Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting, which restarted after the three-month summer break.

Yes, I am late getting this cleaned up and posted, but figured I better get it done before the October meeting on Thursday.

The meeting was chaired by Carl Vizzone, who runs the fishing programs for the Chicago Park District. He filled in for veteran committee chair Tom Gray of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.

Sorry about the delay on the notes. I had written a column on the history and context of the committee and forgot I had not cleaned up and posted the notes. Click here to read the column.

As usual, I tend to organize the notes by the meatier items at the top.

* With that to Sgt. Jed Whitchurch of the Illinois Conservation Police. He usually makes a fall meeting or two. Part of that reason is that snagging is one of the major policing issues for CPOs in Chicago.

This time was no different, in fact, Whitchurch arrested a suspect for illegal snagging on his way to the meeting.

Two things I find frustrating about my job. The No. 1, by far, is those who spend significant time outside and choose to be climate-change deniers. Second are people who think there is some secret contact number to get response from the Illinois CPOs.

There are two ways to properly report illegal activity related to the outdoors and those numbers are not sort of secret.

The primary one is to call IDNR TIPS at (877) 2DNRLAW–(877) 236-7529. That goes to the state system and is sent out to district supervisor. That system also tracks the reports, so violation hot-spots are noted, allowing somebody in Whitchurch’s position to allocate his staff around those areas.

The other way is to call the Illinois State Police dispatch at (847) 294-4400.

“Either one works pretty good,TIPS is a lot better with response,” Whitchurch said.

During the snagging season (and before) his crew has been spending extra time with a focus on early morning and late night hours. He said there had been moreunlawful snagging at Lincoln Park before the season legally started on Oct. 1 than he has seen.

“We’re trying to combat this, we moved some funds around to allow them to work some time,” Whitchurch said in response to Ken Schneider noting lots of illegal snagging complaints this year. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Whitchurch has seven officers for Cook and DuPage counties. But he is hoping for some staffing help with new hires.

* The big news from theIDNR’s Lake Michigan Program manager Vic Santucciwas a public update meeting will be held, probably in February at the IDNR’s office in Des Plaines. He said there are no significant changes in stockings or regulations, but it is back to the traditional update meeting in winter. It has been years since one was held.

He said Indiana-Illinois Sea Grant will hold meetings in November, probably at the Chicago Maritime Museum and Michigan City, Ind. with a focus on near-shore fish and bass.

Santucci said that new fisheries chief,Mike McClellandstarted in 2010 under him. The Lake Michigan program has hired a third biologist, Rebecca Redman, focused on the nearshore program and bass. Steve Robillard will focus on salmon and trout and be the contact for invasive species. Fall harborelectroshocking started last month. I hope to get an update this week.

* Ben Alden, operations manager from Westrec, was welcomed (or greeted) with a serious discussion on where portable tiolets are needed over the cold-weather months on the lakefront, including at Belmont.

As many of us pointed out, it really is a matter of the Chicago Park District coming into the 21st Century and having restrooms open in cold-weather months as befits a world-class lakefront.

That is not just a fishermen’s issue. That’s an issue for joggers, hand-holders, lake-watchers, strollers, birdwatchers and bikers.

* Vizzone gave an update on his fishing programs and said they had nearly 10,000 participants this year with some family events still to run through October.

“Everything is good. Lots of fish being caught,” he said.

Matt Renfree had another 2,000 people fishing on the jetty on the Riverwalk. He said there was more than 10,000 individual fish caught. I need to get the list of species from him. I think it would be interesting.

* The IDNR’s Urban Fishing Program coordinatorBrenda McKinneysaid she had all clinic instructors this summer and had334 clinics with 9,383 participants. She leans toward teachers and instructors for staffing. She said summer went OK, though with “a few stocking hiccups.”

* Nicole Machuca of Friends of the Parks said they had 800 students for fishing programs at Montrose Harbor.

She said there is a push to get a portable tiolet at Steelworkers Park. God, I hope that happens before the perch start coming in over the next month or so.

*Chester Kropidlowski brought updates on possibilities and proposals for the reconfiguring of the mess around Addison/Recreation Drive/Lake Shore Drive and the lakefront. That is a vital change, vitally needed.

* ODDS AND ENDS:Pier and parking passes are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait. Park Bait, another city vendor, is not open year round, which explains the passes being available only at Henry’s.

Somebody brought up the status of the proposed marina at Navy Pier. There was no update, hopefully more by the next meeting.

Bruce Zolna suggested more interaction with Shedd Aquarium.

I gave a brief report on the Heddon Museum as a possible model for a Chicago Fishing Museum.

Renfree noted the big Chicago Fishes event on Oct. 19 on the Chicago River downtown.

Machuca told about the Wolf Lake Fall Fest Oct. 20. Several of us pointed out that is a busy day around Wolf Lake with inland trout season opening and waterfowl hunting beginning.


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