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Lollygagging, kayaking, fishing: Documenting a week of historic November warmth around Chicago

A week of record November warmth brought people outside to do outdoors things in notable numbers.

A kayaker paddles upstream at River Park at the start of the historic stretch of November warmth around Chicago. Credit: Dale Bowman
A kayaker paddles upstream at River Park at the start of the historic stretch of November warmth around Chicago.
Dale Bowman

What looked like a Vienna Beef umbrella or an awning hung on a rock. Red and yellow, it flapped in the rapids of the North Branch of the Chicago River at the confluence with the North Shore Channel.

The sound is what made me happy. The North Branch at River Park sounds like a real river again, gurgling, since renovations were done with the dam removal a couple of years ago.

I stop every few months to savor it, restore my faith.

On Thursday, my daughter and I hiked around. Hundreds of others were out strolling, running, walking, lollygagging and throwing around footballs. A skateboarder sprinkled variety on a side path. A red kayak dashed color on the water. Dozens of mallards swam close, expecting to be fed.

I counted seven people fishing. My daughter disputed one angler, saying the young woman wasn’t fishing but reconsidering her life while staring at the water. By the water’s edge is the place for that.

The remarkable week of record November warmth could do that to people and did.

In 25 years of doing this column, I know early November is the slowest stretch of fishing around Chicago.

Not in 2020. Stories rolled in.

Andy Mui with a catch at Burnham Harbor worthy of the Man Cave. Provided photo
Andy Mui with a catch at Burnham Harbor worthy of the Man Cave.
Provided

On Halloween, Andy Mui and son Ethan caught a 28.5-inch, 13.7-pound steelhead/rainbow trout on a Berkley Gulp! Minnow at Burnham Harbor.

‘‘I was originally gonna make a meal out of it, but the fish looked too cool,’’ Mui emailed. ‘‘Always wanted a fish on the wall in the man cave.’’

Realistic Taxidermy in Lowell, Indiana, is doing the work.

Luke Devereux with his personal best fish from Lake Michigan. Provided photo
Luke Devereux with his personal best fish from Lake Michigan.
Provided

Then last week Luke Devereux with his personal best fish from Lake Michigan. Provided photocaught a 38-inch pike outside the Shedd Aquarium on a 1-ounce spoon he slowly was retrieving.

‘‘My personal-best pike and my best fish ever out of Lake Michigan!’’ he emailed.

On Friday, Capt. Ralph Steiger called, wondering what the Illinois burbot record was. It’s 9 pounds, 5.6 ounces, caught by Freddie Ray Prebianca on Dec. 9, 2018, while he fished/hunted out of North Point Marina. Tony Martincic came up light Friday with a 7.9-pound burbot boated while fishing with Steiger.

Tony Martincic with a near-record burbot. Photo provided by Capt. Ralph Steiger
Tony Martincic with a near-record burbot.
Provided by Capt. Ralph Steiger

Normal November weather returned overnight.

Illinois hunting

Through Sunday, Illinois bowhunters had harvested 39,659 deer, well ahead of the 34,773 at the same time in 2019. The rut is on. . . . Protocols for those counties where check stations are required during firearm deer seasons are out. They’re the pandemic basics. . . . At Wolf Lake over the weekend, 10 hunters reported one goose, five mallards and one other duck, according to hunter heritage biologist Nicky Strahl.

Wild things

Beavers aren’t just swimming around Montrose Harbor. They’re building a lodge at the Montrose Beach Dunes, according to volunteers. . . . The sandhill-crane count at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, southeast of Valparaiso, Indiana, climbed to 14,060 on Tuesday.

Stray cast

Pat Robertson is to eschatological prognostication what Louie Spray was to piscatorial veracity.