So close to Chinook record: Mark Strauss just misses Illinois mark; plus Stray Cast

Mark Strauss came within a pound of Illinois’ seemingly unassailable record for Chinook; plus the Stray Cast.

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Mark Strauss’ really big Chinook came close to the Illinois record. Provided photo

Mark Strauss’ really big Chinook came close to the Illinois record.

Provided

“Can I call you back in five minutes?” Mark Strauss asked last week. “I have my smoker about ready to go and I have to put some water on.”

The man who nearly caught the Illinois-record Chinook (36 pounds) on July 14 had priorities.

The late Marge Landeen caught the Illinois-record Chinook (37 pounds) on Aug. 7, 1976 in Lake County waters. (Click here for the March 20 Sun-Times column with details from her daughter.) I figured the record would never be approached, until last year when many catches over 30 pounds came.

“It’s the first king I ever caught, even though I fish regularly and live right on Lake Michigan,” he said.

He lives in Rogers Park near the Evanston border.

Strauss was in Mark Kolsen’s “Summer Joy.” They left early from Montrose Harbor.

“He’s a neighbor of mine down the street and he was looking for a fishing partner,” Strauss said.

Their partnership has been successful, topped off by July 14.

“It was a great battle, took half an hour to get it in,” Strauss said.

The fish hit a Moonshine spoon in Wonder Bread color in 120-150 feet outside the R4 buoy off Chicago’s North Shore.

They had done well on the day, catching a few coho and limiting on trout before then.

“I can’t say enough about Mark, we started with flies and when that didn’t work, we switched over to Moonshines,” Strauss said. “We had to go out a little ways. The water, down 85 feet, was still 65 degrees. Ten to 12 miles out, it finally cooled off.”

After a slow start, they got on fish at 6:55 a.m.; true excitement came nearly five hours later.

“I can’t give enough credit to Mark,” Strauss said. “If nothing is working, he figures it out. . . . He has been fishing 30 or 40 years and he has never caught one like that.”

Strauss keeps a log of their fish, the hits and the losses. So he had the catch marked as 11:15 a.m., brought it in at 11:45.

“Just unbelievable,” Strauss said. “I couldn’t believe the fish when I brought it up. Looked like something from the saltwater. He wanted me to get it stuffed.”

Instead it went into the smoker.

“Two steaks from the fish filled up my smoker,” Strauss said.

He uses mostly apple with a little combination of hickory and mesquite.

“I am still amazed by that fish,” Strauss said a day later. “All I dreamed of last night was fishing.”

A full-length view of Mark Strauss’ really big Chinook, which came close to the Illinois record. Provided photo

A full-length view of Mark Strauss’ really big Chinook, which came close to the Illinois record.

Provided

WILD THINGS

Earlier this month, as dozens of American white pelicans lifted off at LaSalle Lake, I reflected on changes in our wild world the last 20 years. The first time I saw them in Illinois, nearly 20 years ago, was a flock circling at a Masters Walleye Circuit event at Spring Valley. A couple years earlier, a third-shift Chicago policeman reported a coyote on the south lakefront; now coyotes are urbanized. More than a decade ago, the first eagles tried nesting in Chicago; now that is relatively common around the suburbs.

STRAY CAST

Riding the Metra Friday for the first time in over 16 months felt like wet-wading into my favorite spot on the Kankakee River.

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