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Really early Chinook arrives on shore: Looking for meaning on Chicago lakefront

Joe Wilk with early Chinook at Montrose Harbor.
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My kind of text came Friday.

“This morning on the Jetty, 5th cast,’’ Stacey Greene from Park Bait texted.

Chicagoan Joe Wilk, a lakefront regular, had caught a 16 1/2-pound Chinook salmon from the Montrose Harbor jetty.

“A few guys were fishing [Friday] night,’’ Greene texted. “I heard that there was another one about 20 pounds caught here at the mouth of the harbor and I was just down there chit-chatting and saw a couple porpoise.’’

Funny thing I was virtually alone Thursday evening when I had gone.

One reason I was casting for kings so early is that last week boater Andy Mikos emailed, “I did catch one 9-pound male king that was already turning colors last Saturday so it won’t be long until they start heading in for the shore, guys.’’

I had a couple hours Thursday. Our daughter and friends wanted to attend the Chicago premier of “Be More Chill’’ at Stage 773 in Lakeview.

When I moved to Chicago after grad school, I lived around the corner. I forced them to endure my reminiscing on the corner tavern/multi-flat where I first lived. The tavern, where neighborhood people once pitched pennies against the wall and drank Old Style, is now a sports bar for Wisconsinites.

I digress.

While they were at the theater, I spent a couple hours at Montrose, near where Wilk caught his king the next morning. I flailed the water with a Frenzy crankbait by the west side of the jetty and along the rocks by Marovitz Golf Course.

Considering some buoys on southern Lake Michigan hit 80 degrees this week, I find it hard to think there will be an early run.

Even so, I asked Vic Santucci, the Lake Michigan program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, for his take.

“Sorry Dale, too little information at this point for me to make any predictions,’’ he emailed. “This is the first I have heard about the Montrose fish. I did hear reports of some 20+ pound kings being caught by trollers out of North Point over the weekend. A number of shakers reported, too. I’m always glad when our anglers are able to catch kings this time of year.’’

Such is the pull of the shore return of kings.

GOVERNOR’S GUTS? Let’s hope Gov. Bruce Rauner either vetoes or holds off signing SB2493, which would allow statewide feeding of deer out of hunting season under the auspice of scientific study, until public outrage builds. This bill, bad even by Illinois standards, undermines professional wildlife management.

WILD THINGS: With flashes of yellow and black, goldfinches dash among the sunflowers. . . . Incessant trilling of dog-day cicadas packs the evening air.

STRAY CAST: Watching Tiger Woods Sunday afternoon was like seeing an 8-foot sturgeon swim by the mouth of Burnham Harbor.