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White and yellow bass on the Chain O’Lakes, other species, too, with memories from Phil Piscitello

White and yellow bass were good on an outing with Phil Piscitello and Mike Jackson on the Chain O’Lakes; and biologist Frank Jakubicek provided a broader perspective on the Chain.

Guide Phil Piscitello with one of the dozens of fish caught last week on the Chain O’Lakes. Credit: Dale Bowman
Guide Phil Piscitello with one of the dozens of fish caught last week on the Chain O’Lakes.
Dale Bowman

‘‘Do you mind trolling?’’ Phil Piscitello asked last week on the Chain O’Lakes. ‘‘That way I can locate and fish schools of white bass, yellow bass and crappie.’’

We never trolled. He had located white and yellow bass stacked on a wind-blown point and caught a white bass on his first cast with a small rattlebait. In three casts, I put a yellow bass in the boat.

‘‘You don’t have to go up to the Wolf River for white bass,’’ Piscitello cracked.

As serendipity had it, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was doing a survey of the Chain this week. Biologist Frank Jakubicek said they found white bass up to 12 to 14 inches.

‘‘The biggest change is that we’re getting some nice perch to 10 inches,’’ he said. ‘‘Nobody has a reason why.’’

He said they found some yellow bass to 9 inches.

‘‘Harvest all the yellow bass you want,’’ he said. ‘‘They are not my favorite when it comes to the health of the fishery, but yellow bass have always been part of the system.’’

The former Daily Herald outdoors columnist, known as Mike Jackson, set up the outing with Piscitello.

Jackson caught a bluegill, our third species.

Mike Jackson and guide Phil Piscitello fishing on the Chain O’Lakes last week. Credit: Dale Bowman
Mike Jackson and guide Phil Piscitello fishing on the Chain O’Lakes last week.
Dale Bowman

Piscitello, who grew up in Edison Park, started on the Chain in 1973 on an ice-fishing outing. His late dad, ‘‘a bobber fisherman,’’ had a 1967 9.2 Chrysler motor, and they rented boats.

‘‘My dad started using a Green Box locator,’’ Piscitello said. ‘‘I still have it.’’

Lowrance’s FISH-LO-K-TOR changed fishing electronics in 1959. By 1984, more than a million Little Green Boxes had been sold.

When Piscitello got a car at 16, he explored places such as Shabbona Lake. He began fishing Geneva Lake in Wisconsin and eventually worked for legendary guide Tom Billings.

Piscitello joined the Chicagoland Muskie Hunters chapter of Muskies Inc., then Walleyes Unlimited. He fished bass tournaments and the Masters Walleye Circuit, and John Campbell got him into fishing the Professional Walleye Trail.

Piscitello took Spence Petros’ classes for five years.

‘‘At the time, I could have given his talk back to him word-for-word,’’ Piscitello said.

He took Jim Saric’s muskie schools and learned from the late float expert Mick Thill.

‘‘I fish the Chain all the time, so I went and got my captain’s license,’’ said Piscitello, who earned his master license.

I hooked into something bigger than a white bass at midmorning, and Piscitello netted a fat 17-inch walleye.

‘‘Usually the walleye lay under the white bass schools, picking off the shad the white bass stun,’’ Piscitello said.

Jakubicek said lots of walleye are in the usual spots. The survey showed lots of channel catfish and flatheads of 21 and 25 pounds.

Piscitello said the biggest change in the Chain was the arrival of gizzard shad. Jakubicek said shad showed up in their survey in 2007. The other big change was freshwater drum in 2003.

Jackson caught a black crappie for our fifth species.

‘‘From my perspective, seeing good numbers of largemouth bass,’’ Jakubicek said. ‘‘[On Monday], we ran across lots of smaller smallmouth. Smallies seem to have had a good spawn the last few years.’’

The wind began to die around noon, and fishing slowed.

‘‘When the wind dies, they spread out,’’ Piscitello said. ‘‘That is when I troll. Go through a spot like that, and you have three or four fish on at once.’’

It was time.

For more information, contact Borderline Fishing Guide Service at (847) 638-7547 or marbleyes66@yahoo.com.

Selfie of Dale Bowman with one of many yellow bass caught with guide Phil Piscitello last week on the Chain O’Lakes. Credit: Dale Bowman
Selfie of Dale Bowman with one of many yellow bass caught with guide Phil Piscitello last week on the Chain O’Lakes.
Dale Bowman