Wolf Lake buffalo, lakefront sturgeon, Chicago’s white squirrels, lack of steel shot & Stray Cast
Some history to buffalo in Wolf Lake combined with some family history in today’s column; plus notes on a lakefront sturgeon, Chicago’s white squirrels and the lack of non-lead (steel) shot for dove hunting, and the Stray Cast.
Daniel Evans made my day last week when he sent a photo of a buffalo caught from the Indiana side of Wolf Lake.
I’m easy to please, send me something out of the ordinary, at least by fishing standards. Say fish such as gar, freshwater drum, buffalo, redhorse, chubs or bowfin, the kind of fish I sometimes have to look up or ask for help to properly identity.
“I caught this buffalo, which I estimate to be between 25-30 pounds, from Wolf Lake,” Evans emailed. “Haven’t seen one caught from here in decades.”
His memory is good.
The oddest fish I’ve covered from Wolf Lake was a big sturgeon about 20 years ago. According to its tag, it most likely arrived via Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
As to his buffalo, Evans emailed, “Caught him on the Indiana Side on a night crawler, believe it or not. Was night fishing with a buddy of mine.”
“Honestly, I can’t remember seeing any in Wolf Lake,” said Tom Bacula, the district fisheries biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “I am sure they are in the drainage.”
He went through records, then emailed, “A bigmouth buffalo was recorded as collected in a 1987 fish survey. Its likely that they periodically come in from the local rivers in high water events, not so much of an established population like we see in rivers.”
To identify the buffalo, Bacula forwarded the photo to Brant Fisher, nongame aquatic biologist for the Indiana DNR, who replied, “That actually looks like a black buffalo (Ictiobus niger) – the longer, more elongate, torpedo-shaped body; big head; mouth sub-terminal. Cool catch.”
“Definitely unusual,” Bacula said. “Generally they do indicate good water quality. They are more closely associated with our gamefish. Not like a common carp or bullheads that can tolerate poor water quality.”
Evans added another piece of history that made my day.
“My dad, David Evans Jr., started me fishing when I was like 2 or 3, so we group up fishing Wolf Lake where he used to catch many buffalo and carp that size,” Evans emailed. “Brings back good memories of him and my mom, Jeanette Evans, and my siblings fishing. My mom and siblings still fish today and it kept me out of trouble growing up. Sad he is not still with us today, but he laid the foundation for sure.”
While on different species, Quinn Wunar tweeted Monday morning about seeing a sturgeon while fishing for steelhead with a buddy at 63rd Street.
“I just saw a 4-4.5 foot long sturgeon swim slowly over the rocks, right up by the pier,” Wunar tweeted. “Looked like a shark. We both have 9-foot rods for reference. I know it’s not the biggest sturgeon in the lake but it’s the biggest fish I’ve ever seen in Chicago.”
Considering the number of notes and photos of white squirrels—the latest from Ken Vaclavik of a local in Beverly Park—from the Southwest Side, the south and southwest suburbs, maybe Downstate Olney better start worrying about its status as “White Squirrel Capital of the World.”
John Saban sent a heads up that steel (non-lead) shot for dove hunting is tough, especially for 20 gauge (nearly impossible). I checked my favorite shop Sunday and found none in 20 gauge. Fair warning with opening day in two weeks.
Wait a second, so after Saturday, we think watching the Bears will not be like wading through cockleburs?