Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Meeting, April: Notes, museum, catching up

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File photo, view from Northerly Island of downtown.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Catching up and cleaning up a recap of notes and thoughts off the Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting on April 19 at the community room of 31st Street Harbor.

As usual, Tom Gray of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events chaired the meeting.

As usual, I will recap not necessarily in order of the meeting.

The quote that most stuck out of this meeting was Ed Mazur saying of all the new and inexperienced kayakers on the Chicago River downtown, “My perspective, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.’’

The discussion was started with a comment/question by radio personality Chauncey Niziol.

I know that pisses off the paddling crowd, but Mazur is not alone in his thoughts. He brought it up at the end of the meeting.

Kayakers manuever to avoid Chicago River tour boats. An explosion of river traffic in recent summers is causing safety concerns. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Kayakers manuever to avoid Chicago River tour boats. An explosion of river traffic in recent summers is causing safety concerns. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

The Chicago Park District’s Carl Vizzone said he will have a full staff of 10 instructors and a coordinator was posted for the fishing programs. He said that they already had 11,000 kids booked so far for 175 different events.

Family fishing classes started today (May 5) and will run through June 16. You must preregister and it is for 8 and older. All the spring seesions were already booked. Each session is capped at 20.

Matt Renfree, senior program specialist for the Park District, said they already had 1,200 kids booked so far for ecology and ecosystem studies. Fishing on the Riverwalk will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday with free drop-in fishing. Last year it was tried Saturday mornings.

“Complication this year is a license requirement,” Renfree said. “Losing that waiver is a big step back for us. However, we will give it our best shot. Also have an option to do [licenses] online.”

I hope I was plain enough when I originally wrote about this in February–click here for that column–and pointed out how bone-headed a move it was by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

To his credit, IDNR Lake Michigan biologist Steve Robillard gave a defense in terms of monies coming in to fund programming through fishing license sales.

Don Dubin brought up a response he received that there was “every intention of allowing” public access to continue at Navy Pier, even after the new hotel and marina come.

Chester Kropidlowskiagain said Brian Murphy should be asked to come and talk about the Navy Pier work. Gray or Vizzone can ask him to come to the May meeting.

On a side note, Robillard said work is underway to make dead gobies not declared injurious any more. There are some other regulations that will be cleared in and, for my two cents, not all were on a fisherman friendly side.

Westrec Marinas’ Scott Stevenson said the wild weather in mid-April, including the biggest seiche in 30 ro 40 years damaged several harbors, did some serious damage, including pulling loose the fishing dock at Northerly Island/Burnham Harbor. He said before the storms, the harbors were projected to open earlier than the usual May 1.

He also noted the Chicago Harbor offices are moving to Northerly Island and it will be easier to get in and see the harbor offices. He said they hope to be in by July.

Stevenson said they are not looking to make any changes related to fishing parking.

He said the south fishing dock may not come back at 31st Street Harbor. It just hasn’t been that productive.

Brenda McKinney of the Urban Fishing Program said the stocking schedule for the Chicago lagoons has already been made with the usual amount and same fish. She said, “Instructors are set to go.”

Forest Preserves of Cook County fisheries biologist Steve Silic said five lakes stocked for inland trout. At that point, they were wrapping up the walleye propagation program.

He said Clarke Aquatics is working on vegetation control, should be able to keep up with invasive vegetation under control on lakes.

Friends of the Park’s Nicole Machusa said there was a possibility of a launch at 87th. Vizzone said it was a going forward for a canoe launch there. Renfree said a climbing wall is also set to go in at Steelworkers Park.

Robillard said salmon stocking is going this spring. They were a little short on coho and it will be made up with Chinook; and about 100,000 short on brown trout, which will be made up steelhead.

He said Rich Hess’ position for a biologist is finally being replaced. God, that has to be 15 years or so that it has been open. Robillard said it was officially posted.

As to smelt, Robillard said “Just aren’t a lot of smelt out there. We do find them and they are reproducing.”

Kropidlowski gave an update on the Lake Shore Drive reconfiguration on the North Side. One of the things that seems certain is that Recreation Drive will go away as now situated.

Dubin asked, “Is the mayor ever going to come to a meeting?

“I don’t know,” Gray said.

That spiraled into an exchange between Gray and Dubin.

That led to Dubin saying, “This committee should be fighting to make this accessible. We are losing the battle. We are not doing anything.”

I will say this as somebody who has covered this meetings for something like 15-plus years, it does go slow.

Gray asked me to word a motion to put in a Chicago fishing musuem. I stepped out of my news role for a moment and made a motion to get a Chicago Fishing Museum going. Not sure if the capital letters are justified yet or not.

Machusa started a discussion on year-round restrooms on the lakefront. The good news is that the ones at Montrose opened early this year in April.

The next meeting, before the summer break, should be the third Thursday in May.

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