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First morning at reopened Tuma Lake: Catching fish, experiencing the wild of it

The long view of Tuma Lake on Monday, the day of its reopening.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

While discussing the reopening of Tuma Lake during the Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting last month, Steve Silic said, “I felt like I was Bambi or something walking back there.”

That hooked me. So Monday morning, I was first to park in the seven-vehicle lot at Tuma, a 10-acre lake in the Forest Preserves of Cook County near Willow Springs.

I smiled, remembering Silic, when five deer bounded off from the south side of the lake at dawn. Wood ducks whistled off from the east end. Mallards and Canada geese floated and flew. A Bush Hog or similar machine had cleared the underbrush.

A couple casts in, I caught a 6-inch bluegill on a tungsten jig and crawler piece at 6:34 a.m. for the first fish caught in the official reopening. With a picture fish released, I rambled around the lake for two hours, occasionally casting the tungsten jig or an in-line spinner.

Silic, the fisheries biologist for FPCC, is aware that Tuma will require aggressive stockings to keep up with the reality of heavy pressure in Cook County. Tuma has been stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish.

I think the hike of a couple hundred yards and limited parking will control angler impact. As will having only shore fishing and a 10-foot hole. Tuma is not for everyone. Purely in terms of fishing, such FPCC lakes as Busse, Skokie Lagoons and Tampier offer more.

But Tuma is my kind of place. It’s been around for nearly 90 years. An earthen dam on Hidden Creek blew out in the 1980s and Tuma was closed to fishing. The bottom was re-contoured. There is a new bentonite layer seal, water control structure and culvert, emergency spillway and in-water structure. Tuma was scheduled to reopen earlier, but the historic winter of 2013-14 led to a fish kill that delayed reopening until April 1.

As I ended my ramble, Miguel Romero, a Morton East PE teacher, and Ray Klimes, 85, walked down. At 8:30 a.m., Romero caught the first largemouth in the official reopening of Tuma on an in-line spinner. Romero said his trick was giving it a tug, then letting it flutter down and retrieving. I had used a steadier retrieve.

Miguel Romero (left) and Ray Klimes with the first largemouth bass caught at Tuma Lake on Monday, the official reopening day.<br>Provided
Miguel Romero (left) and Ray Klimes with the first largemouth bass caught at Tuma Lake on Monday, the official reopening day.
Provided

As I turned to leave, Klimes called, “Dale, got one,” as he reeled in a largemouth.

It was time.

The FPCC has much information and data on its fishing lakes at fpdcc.com/recreation/fishing/.

The first fish caught, a bluegill by Dale Bowman, at Tuma Lake on Monday, the official reopening day.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
The first fish caught, a bluegill by Dale Bowman, at Tuma Lake on Monday, the official reopening day.
Credit: Dale Bowman

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