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Chasing the dream of a really big king: A tip of the Flemish Cap

Dan ``Chizel'' Kwiecinski battles the first, and only, Chinook Sunday by the R4 while Andy Mikos looks on.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Sometimes you have to chisel a fishing trip into an unexpected shape.

Take Sunday. As we motored out in the dark from the Church Street boat ramp in Evanston, Andy Mikos said: ‘‘We’re going for that one bite, a king over 25 pounds.’’

Chinook are fewer and smaller than they were in the glory days decades ago, but they are still the kings of Lake Michigan for their size and fighting ability. Some size is back this summer, with multiple reports of kings between 25 and 30 pounds in Illinois waters.

‘‘When you don’t see a big king for a while, it looks a lot bigger in person,’’ Mikos said.

It’s why Mikos headed his ‘‘Bismarck,’’ a 1984 22-foot Thompson, toward the blinking red light of the R4 buoy. With us were Capt. Larry Emerson, a retired engineer who just earned his captain’s license, and Dan Kwiecinski. Years ago, Kwiecinski serviced some Sun-Times delivery trucks and now keeps ‘‘Bismarck’’ shipshape.

Mikos has had ‘‘Bismarck’’ all over Lake Michigan: Manistee, Algoma, Michigan City, Washington Island.

Emerson drove, and Kwiecinski and Mikos set up shallow so lures would be in as we passed the R4. In 84 feet of water at 6:15 a.m., Kwiecinski landed a small king, which hit a green alewife spoon. It was a king, but it wasn’t the one we wanted.

At 8 a.m., Mikos and Kwiecinski discussed whether to pull lines to go to 200 feet and try for steelhead and coho. Mikos did. A suspended lake trout hit almost immediately.

‘‘Flemish Cap,’’ Mikos said. ‘‘That’s what we call it when we go out this far.’’

Flemish Cap was the fateful spot in ‘‘Perfect Storm.’’

‘‘It’s pretty neat to be this far out when you’re this close to Chicago and you are in a wilderness,’’ Mikos said. ‘‘Nobody comes this far out.’’

We caught a second laker at 9:30, then a fat-bellied female coho at 9:40.

‘‘First coho in a week or two,’’ said Mikos, who journals his fishing trips. ‘‘That is what we came out here for.’’

Between fish, stories flowed. Emerson regaled us with tales (regretfully, I cannot print them) from his engineering trips around the world.

Ultimately, it was about the fishing. We went 4-for-6 in four hours.

‘‘We were waiting for that one bite,’’ Mikos said. ‘‘Turned out it was a coho, not a 25-pound king.’’

It was time.

We made it in just after 10:30. Personal watercraft and pleasure boaters were already lined up for the Chicago Air and Water Show.

When cleaning the coho, Mikos found four alewives of various sizes. Divine what you will.

Various sizes of alewives found in the stomach of a coho caught in deep water Sunday.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times
Various sizes of alewives found in the stomach of a coho caught in deep water Sunday.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Ducks

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations found an estimated 41.2 million breeding ducks, 17 percent above the long-term average but 13 percent below the estimated 47.3 million last year. Mallard estimates were 9.3 million, 12 percent below 2017 but 17 percent above the long-term average.

Pink

On Saturday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 4231, which permits hunters to wear blaze-pink clothing in addition to blaze-orange.

Poachers

Rauner also signed House Bill 5317, which requires people who illegally capture or kill white-tailed antlered deer to pay restitution to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Stray cast

Any sentence beginning with ‘‘The media said’’ invariably ends with something ignorant. It’s like casting for perch at Navy Pier with 20-pound monofilament.