A man and a river: Mullady Launch celebrates Ed Mullady and his life for the Kankakee River

The Kankakee Valley Park District dedicated the Mullady Launch in honor of Ed Mullady at Bird Park.

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Sign for the Mullady Launch, celebrating Ed Mullady, at Bird Park in Kankakee. Credit: Dale Bowman

Sign for the Mullady Launch, celebrating Ed Mullady, at Bird Park in Kankakee.

Dale Bowman

KANKAKEE, Ill.—Matt Mullady swept his arm toward the Kankakee River and said, “Last time he was in my boat was 16 years ago. Right here.”

On June 8, the Kankakee Valley Park District dedicated the Mullady Launch at Bird Park in honor of Ed Mullady, Matt’s father, who died at 94 in December.

The river ran high, fast and stained from heavy rains upstream the day before. Seemed apt in a weird way. If Mullady taught us anything, it was that life along the Kankakee is interconnected. That was the backbone of his Hall of Fame career.

Mullady was inducted in the 2011 class to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.

His “Big Outdoors Sportsman’s Letter” reports ran on three radio stations at least 5,725 times, a record unrivaled in outdoors media. He and son Matt held seminars for years that helped thousands fish better.

For 52 years, Mullady did the “Sportsman’s Letter,” a magazine/newsletter focused on hunting, fishing and conservation along the Kankakee. He made multiple editions of the Kankakee River Fisherman’s Atlas.

For decades, he battled the proposed Peotone Airport and fought for the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge, which began before he died. He fought proposed dams, a reservoir and a dump.

Which explains Matt Mullady saying, after accepting the plaque in his father’s memory, “I could live to be 100 and won’t be half the man my father was.”

He then launched into a tale, circa 1968 or ‘69, when his father went duck hunting and bagged a couple mallards. As he was loading decoys, he heard a commotion out in the river with something busting bait.

“He had a two-piece Shakespeare rod with him,” Matt said. “He tied on an L&S Jointed Minnow.”

The L&S Shiner Minnow was originally made in Bradley, Ill.

“He made a couple casts and caught a 6-pound walleye,” Mullady said. “He came home with two mallards and a 6-pound walleye. You can’t make this [stuff] up.”

Matt Mullady (left), son of Ed Mullady, and J.J. Hollis reach out to embrace at the dedication of the Mullady Launch at Bird Park in Kankakee. Courtesy of Kankakee Valley Park District

Matt Mullady (left), son of Ed Mullady, and J.J. Hollis reach out to embrace at the dedication of the Mullady Launch at Bird Park in Kankakee.

Courtesy of Kankakee Valley Park District

J.J. Hollis, previous president of the Kankakee Valley Park District board, led the charge to have Ed Mullady honored.

“I felt it very fitting we name something in the park district for him,” Hollis said.

The launch is good. I think a stretch of the river should be named for him, too.

At the end of the dedication, I caught up with Matt’s youngest son, Mick. The last time I had been with him, he was 15 or so and we had launched out of Bird Park. He just graduated college and we talked turkey hunting, fishing and life (he’s considering his options in conservation and law enforcement).

For great sports figures, it’s generational wealth; for the greats of the outdoors, it’s generational conservation.

In Mullady’s honor, donations may be made to Friends of the Kankakee River, P.O. Box 13 Watseka, Il 60970 or go to friendsofthekankakee.org.

File photo of Ed Mullady. Credit: Dale Bowman

File photo of Ed Mullady.

Dale Bowman

RUMMAGE SALE

Blackhawk Field Archers’ outdoors sportsmen rummage sale is Saturday and Sunday in Rockton. Vendors contact Dave Lee at (708) 476-0305.

WILD THINGS

Mulberries are ripening.

STRAY CAST

Aug. 6-8 could be to Chicago baseball what June 16 is to Chicago fishing.

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