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Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee: History and wondering about the new mayor


Mayor Richard M. Daley speaks with Bruce Zolna and other members of the Fishing Advisory Committee at the dedication of the Richard J. Daley Park launch in 2009.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Sgt. Jed Whitchurch arrested an illegal snagger Thursday on his way to the Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting.

You never know what will come from those meetings. I wonder about the future of the committee with the next mayor.

Mayor Richard M. Daley started the committee in response to access issues enraging fishermen, particularly the removal of parking at the Montrose Horseshoe. The committee first met July 15, 1996.

Daley was an astute politician who met with the committee on special occasions and invited members to events. Under Daley, the top accomplishments were building coexistence between fishermen and boaters at Chicago harbors and giving fishermen an ear (and a voice). Those remain the most important roles of the committee.

Four concrete accomplishments during Daley’s reign were the two small fishermen’s parking lots at Burnham and DuSable harbors, the parking-fee reduction early mornings at Navy Pier, pier passes for winter access in the harbors and the building of the Richard J. Daley Park launch at Western Avenue.

I wondered whether the committee would survive when Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor, but it did. That mattered when the Riverwalk became a priority. The committee was instrumental in seeing that fishing was allowed and became part of the Riverwalk’s ambience.

The committee is a bureaucratic gathering. Things grind along at a mind-numbingly slow pace. As Don Dubin, a member of multiple halls of fame, put it: ‘‘To me, that is very frustrating. This committee should have the power to change things.’’

It does, but it takes forever.

The committee primarily is made up of men, other than Urban Fishing Program coordinator Brenda McKinney and, since last year, Friends of the Parks’ Nicole Machuca.

Tom Gray of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events usually chairs the meetings. Carl Vizzone, who heads the fishing programs for the Chicago Park District, filled in last week.

‘‘I come because the information I get is firsthand,’’ Dubin said.

It’s a chance to speak with people in the field (Vizzone, Whitchurch, McKinney, the Park District’s Matt Renfree, Machuca, CAPS representatives, Illinois’ Lake Michigan Program staff of Vic Santucci, Steve Robillard and/or the retired Tom Trudeau, Chicago bait-shop representatives, Westrec Marina’s Scott Stevenson or Ben Alden and Forest Preserves of Cook County fisheries biologist Steve Silic) and to hear from fishing and public representatives (Chester Kropidlowski, Capt. Don Enright, Capt. Sonny Lisowski, Capt. Larry Conn, Dubin, Bruce Zolna and Ken ‘‘The Lakefront Lip’’ Schneider).


Most of the regulars were on hand for the Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting on Jan. 18, 2018 at 31st Street Harbor.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Park District planners and Illinois Natural History Survey researchers have done presentations.

Last week, Whitchurch (illegal snagging) and Santucci (stocking and staffing) held much of the stage. Machuca and others touched on a hot-button issue: the Park District’s arcane shutting down of restrooms on the lakefront in cold months. The committee needs to keep grinding on that.

The committee meets most third Thursdays (not during the summer months) at 31st Street Harbor. I usually post recaps from meetings online.

Deer science

In a victory for professional wildlife management and science, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 2493. The bill would have, among other things, allowed selective supplemental feeding of deer in the wild.

Stray cast

Listening to Ken ‘‘Hawk’’ Harrelson for three decades is like battling a 7-pound freshwater drum: There’s ambiguity involved.