Back story: A Des Plaines kayak angler found the clue that helped find Tommy Howe; plus HOF Stray Cast

A kayak angler who knows the Des Plaines River intimately discovered the clue that helped lead to finding Tommy Howe.

SHARE Back story: A Des Plaines kayak angler found the clue that helped find Tommy Howe; plus HOF Stray Cast
Libertyville Fire Swift Team Divers searching. Provided photo

Libertyville Fire Swift Team Divers searching.


The agony of the family not knowing pulled on Kayak Angler 1.

He knew what the family of Tommy Howe felt wondering what happened to their 24-year-old son. The Antioch man went missing after being seen leaving an accident on I-94 on Jan. 22.

“I have a son the same age and know how I would feel: The agony of the family of the unknown,” Kayak Angler 1 said.

His nephew had disappeared while climbing years ago. That story made national news when he was miraculously found days later, hurt but alive.

Kayak Angler 1’s alertness in finding Howe’s jacket led to the Libertyville Fire Department to retrieving the body of Howe on Feb. 15 from the Des Plaines River.

Thomas “Tommy” Howe. Antioch Police Department

Thomas “Tommy” Howe

Antioch Police Department

Kayak Angler 1 wanted to remain anonymous because he did not want to detract from the efforts of the authorities searching for and retrieving Howe. And he did not want the family reaching out to him about the reward.

Kayak anglers are a small, tight group, who intimately know their favorite waters.

Kayak Angler 2 is a semi-truck driver who drove past the place of the accident on I-94 at least four times daily. The uncertainty gnawed at him. What happened to Howe?

When extensive aerial and ground searches failed to find Howe, the two kayak anglers, who met on a fishing forum in 2011, began daily conversations. They guessed, from knowing the Des Plaines intimately, that most likely unchecked spot was a hole downstream of a rail bridge.

On February 11, Kayak Angler 1 decided to go fishing out of the Route 60 launch around 9 a.m. Kayak Angler 2 had talked to Kayak Angler 1 and “twisted his arm” enough to have him check their hole.

“I caught one northern pike [on a Shallow Raider] on the way there,” Kayak Angler 1 said. “Once on the water, I look for a lot of stuff. I like looking for nature, looking for wildlife.”

Looking for otter sign is one of his favorites.

Early afternoon, when he reached the hole, he saw something hanging on a branch.

“I thought it was a gray tarp,” he said. “Should I grab it? Sometimes I grab trash and take it with me. I went back, I saw it was a coat. I moved it a little and saw it was a North Face.”

He immediately called 911. A Libertyville detective and two Lake County Forest Preserves rangers were first on the spot. Kayak Angler 1 stuck around until almost dark observing.

On Feb. 15, the Liberty Fire Swift Team Divers were able to get out, then quickly found and retrieved the body.

“The heroes are the guys who pulled the kid out of the water,” Kayak Angler 1 said. “I am a knucklehead. I like fishing all the time.”


A month later and still waiting on the numbers for Illinois’ overall deer harvest.


A red-bellied woodpecker was my most interesting find for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Seems like a good year for northern cardinals. Maybe I’m just paying better attention.


My guy Rick Clunn made the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2001; my guy, the late Warren Zevon, isn’t even listed among 2022 nominees for the Rock & Roll HOF.

GO & SHOW Saturday: Salmon Unlimited Swap Meet, River Grove Moose Lodge Saturday: Hoosier Coho Club’s Fish Tales & Tackle Sales Outdoor Show/Swap Meet, Orak Shrine. Michigan City, Ind. Saturday-Sunday: Fish-On: Portage’s Fishing and Outdoor Show, Woodland Park, Portage, Ind.

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