Picking up where 2020 left off, 2021 was different outdoors.
COVID impacts lived on and led to some changes. Some normalcy returned, including summer draws for waterfowl blinds, the greatest social event in Illinois outdoors.
Illinois anglers caught three record fish: bighead carp (Jarrett Knize, 72 pounds, 9 ounces, Nov. 8, Humboldt Park lagoon); lake trout (Dr. Atul Mallik, 39-2.6, May 31, Lake Michigan out of Montrose Harbor); shorthead redhorse (Olaf Nelson, 4-12.8, April 9, Big Rock Creek).
Two shovelnose sturgeon records are pending (waiting on genetic testing): Marty Gustafson (10-8.2, Dec. 12, Rock River) and Troy Gustafson (9-14.1, Nov. 16, Rock River).
The pandemic surge in sales of fishing and hunting licenses in Illinois slowed from 2020. Based on figures from March 1-Nov. 26 of each year, fishing license sales dropped from 697,331 in 2020 to 625,711; hunting sales went from 281,535 to 272,171.
In 2020-21, Illinois bowhunters harvested a record (75,544 deer) and nearly matched the firearm harvest (77,160).
Bow harvest in the 2021-22 is unlikely to reach the record. Through Monday, bowhunters harvested 60,789 deer, compared to 67,547 for the same period in 2020. In 2021, Illinois’ firearm season had 71,675 deer harvested, down from 77,160.
Several near-record Chinook (something I never thought would happen again) were caught in Illinois.
Marge Landeen caught the record Illinois Chinook (37 pounds, out of Waukegan on Aug. 7, 1976). In a delightful turn over the winter, her daughter Marlene reached out with more details. Click here for that column.
Closest to Landeen’s record was Mark Strauss, who caught a 36-pound king on July 14 while fishing on his neighbor’s Mark Kolsen’s “Summer Joy” out of Montrose Harbor. Click here for the column.
The huge backlog in Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card renewals and applications eased some by late this year.
A reader, who works in IT and has charted data from the Illinois State Police on FOID/CCL cards for a couple years, broke down those numbers.
A key point, he noted, is that the backlog began in 2019, well before the pandemic and social unrest in 2020.
But the pandemic and social unrest caused an explosion, most notably in June of 2020 when only 10,097 new FOID requests were processed while 62,815 came in.
This year, things improved. FOID renewal times, which, at the worst by reader accounts were longer than a year, went from 305.02 days in February to 35.98 in November. In 2020, about 190,000 new FOID applications were processed; that was up to nearly 270,000 through November this year.
There’s reasons for that. For example, in July 2020, 2,111 renewal applications were processed while 14,639 came in. Compare that to August, 2021, when 76,658 renewal applications were processed while 10,540 came in.
Several readers noted much quicker turnarounds on applications in recent months.
Parking meters came to parts of Montrose Harbor in late Spring. The early impact appears to be a drop in angler effort. Click here for Mark Brown’s take on it.
It seemed a good fall to catch big returning Chinook on the Chicago lakefront. I don’t know if the data (being compiled by the Illinois Natural History Survey) backs that up or if it is a mirage from reports on social media.
Record warmth in October contributed to a late peak to fall colors and the late migration around Chicago of sandhill cranes. They arrived in a crush just before Thanksgiving at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, where the count jumped from 4,452 on Nov. 18 to 28,652 on Nov. 23.