Chicago Fishes reigns for second year: The fishes and the context
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Michele Metych waved toward the north side of the Chicago River and said: ‘‘I never thought of fishing right across from my work. It’s a cool event.’’
Metych walked into the second Chicago Fishes event Friday on the Riverwalk with a two-piece fishing rod sticking out of a cloth tote.
The greatest gift of Chicago Fishes is bringing new people to fish and appreciate the much-maligned Chicago River.
Metych, an editor at Encyclopedia Britannica, fishes in Michigan and had a twistertail tied on.
‘‘I’m a catch-and-release kind of girl,’’ she said.
There was a lot of catching and releasing going on between spritzes of rain. The Chicago Park District’s Matt Renfree thought they would end up with about 200 fish caught by more than 100 participants.
He and I came up with at least nine species caught: bluegill, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bullhead, round goby, sunfish, carp, pumpkinseed and crappie.
Catching fish on the Chicago River system has been going on for decades. That includes in major events such as the BASS Master Classic in 2000 and the Chicago Carp Classic. In the mid-1990s, the CCC morphed from a lark into an international event that drew the top carp fishermen from Europe and North America.
Friday was about drawing people from the here and now in downtown Chicago.
My favorite reaction came from Jim McNamara, who walked from street level to the Riverwalk and said: ‘‘What in the world? I walk this every day and never see more than one or two fishermen. I thought, ‘What the hell is running now? Not smelt.’ ’’
Several groups, including the Park District, Metropolitan Planning Council, Friends of the Chicago River, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Shedd Aquarium and the Illinois Environmental Council, put on Chicago Fishes.
As I walked up, Maggie Cooper, the Great Lakes Action Days facilitator at the Shedd, landed a bluegill. It was her first fish from the Chicago River, though she has plenty of experience fishing on Lake Superior.
Farther down the Riverwalk, technology consultant Ray Young hauled in a big huffing bullhead and said: ‘‘It’s been 30 years, maybe longer, since I caught a fish. I heard about it on the news, then Googled it and told my buddy, the guy with the long hair.’’
His buddy Corey Carter is what we call good copy in my world. He had made a dough-ball concoction he had in a plastic quart bag. Young said the stuff is called Carter’s Gold.
‘‘[Bleeping] secret is vanilla extract,’’ Carter said. ‘‘You can have 5-year-old kids catch big carp with it. I want to catch a big carp.’’
He later landed that carp. Carter’s Gold also worked for bullheads and bluegills.
‘‘I was born and raised here, fished every pier from St. Joe to Port Washington,’’ Carter said.
He pulled a pint of Early Times out, cracked the seal, then offered me a snort. I took it. It seemed right on a dank Friday evening by the Chicago River.
It was time.
I headed toward the Metra and home in the gloaming.
Sunday was the biggest day of deer harvest (1,717 deer) so far by Illinois bowhunters. Deer are moving. Bowhunters had harvested 13,068 deer through Sunday, compared with 10,912 at the same time in 2017.
† Winds reaching 50 mph Saturday didn’t deter waterfowlers on opening weekend in the north zone. At Heidecke Lake, 77 hunters in 30 boats bagged 67 ducks. At Wolf Lake, 21 waterfowl — including seven geese — were bagged.
There’s a striking similarity this October between finding the station the Cubs’ postseason games are on and landing a Chinook on the lakefront.