Mentoring and friendship crosses borders while fishing the Chicago lakefront

Quinn Wunar and Jingchen Zhu built a fishing relationship and friendship while fishing the Chicago lakefront; plus the Stray Cast.

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Jingchen Zhu holds his first skamania steelhead, caught May 30 on the Chicago lakefront.

Jingchen Zhu holds his first skamania steelhead, caught May 30 on the Chicago lakefront.

Provided by Quinn Wunar

Quinn Wunar tried to catch a skamania steelhead for three consecutive days on the lakefront over the Memorial Day weekend.

‘‘I couldn’t make it 3-for-3, unfortunately, but getting a friend hooked up on his first skam was better,’’ he tweeted.

‘‘I was super-excited at that moment, and my hands were shaking while fighting with this beautiful fish,’’ Jingchen Zhu messaged on Instagram. ‘‘I was really scared because I was using such a small hook and a medium-light rod.

‘‘I didn’t want to lose it because I can’t afford that. My buddy Quinn told me that skams are so hard to catch and Chicago was not a classic spot for them. After I landed it, I was really excited. This fish means so much for me!’’

Zhu caught it on a classic setup: a whole cooked shrimp on a No. 6 Gamakatsu drop-shot hook.

‘‘I was thinking about cutting it into small pieces because the hook was too small compared to the shrimp, but Quinn just told me to keep the whole shrimp on the hook,’’ Zhu messaged. ‘‘Then, boom, bobber down!’’

Theirs is a classic lakefront friendship.

Zhu, who goes by Tony in English, is a junior from Beijing studying arts management at Columbia College.

‘‘I met him last year when he was trying for kings [Chinook] by the Shedd,’’ Wunar tweeted. ‘‘I hooked up with one, and he . . . asked me for tips. He’s been trying for a year, and his first shoreline salmonoid being a skam is pretty sweet.’’

Both live in the South Loop, and they became friends.

‘‘Typical of a lakefront chance meeting,’’ Wunar tweeted. ‘‘My fiancèe and I had him over for Thanksgiving, too. He had some epic rookie drops this spring, but, man, today was worth it.’’

Zhu carp-fished a bit in China.

‘‘But we used traditional Chinese rod and setup, which means long rods (1.6 to 7.2 meters) without reels, using a super-sensitive bobber and special dough or worms as baits,’’ he messaged. ‘‘I started lure-fishing after I arrived in Chicago last September. Before that, I didn’t even know what lure-fishing is.

‘‘It’s such a coincidence that I fell in love with fishing here. The reason I started fishing is [that] after walking the lakefront one day, I found out Lake Michigan was so huge, [so] why not fishing? So I watched a lot of videos on YouTube and went to Henry’s [Sports and Bait] for my first gear setup.

‘‘After two weeks, I got my first largemouth bass on a night crawler, using a drop-shot. It was a 3-pounder. You know, if you caught a decent one as your first fish, you will be addicted to fishing. And I’m definitely addicted to it! My next goal will be a muskie or king salmon.’’

His ultimate goal is to ‘‘catch all species in Illinois before I leave and travel as much as I can with my fishing rod.’’

Believe it. When I messaged him last week, he was in Florida and had caught peacock bass, gar and saltwater fish.

‘‘I met nearly all my buddies and friends through fishing at the lakefront,’’ he messaged. ‘‘Without fishing the lakefront, I might still be the lonely international student, couch potato and nerd Tony.’’

Wild things

I saw a personal-best 11 rabbits one morning while rambling 1œ miles with Lady, the family mutt. That was followed by 10 in a mile that evening with my wife and Lady. Late at night, I listen for yips of coyotes and deep hoots of great horned owls. They will thin populations, if vehicles don’t first.

Stray cast

The 2020 Sox held the joyful promise of the hour before shooting time on opening day of deer season. Now it’s the routine necessity of picking up a mess of chops from the butcher.

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