A breakthrough on awareness of lake whitefish in Illinois came with Ricardo Cruz catching Illinois’ second record two years ago while perch fishing at Montrose Harbor.
We’ve come so far so fast.
Illinois’ sixth whitefish record will be official when fisheries chief Dan Stephenson receives and signs off on the paperwork.
Kevin Deram caught his whitefish on Friday with Capt. Rick Bentley of WindyCitySalmon.com on the Independence.
Bentley was trolling in 110 feet of water near Lake Bluff Reef, looking for big Chinook. He had just fixed a swivel and let out a Michigan Stinger Magnum caramel dolphin spoon on the 300-foot copper line rod.
“As soon as the line was all out and I re-engaged the free spool, the whitefish was on,’’ Bentley emailed. “So, like a lot of things fish, timing was absolutely everything here.’’
“It was actually different,’’ Deram said. “Any laker or salmon will try to get off. This was heavy, like reeling in a wet newspaper and there was quite a lot of line out.’’
Deram knew what the fish was from Door County fish boils and put dibs on taking it home.
The whitefish was put on ice, then Deram said, “Capt. Rick got on his phone and started calling to check the record.’’
On boat scales, the whitefish topped eight pounds. It was not legitimate until weighed on the certified scale at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan at 8 ¼ pounds. Biologist Steve Robillard was there to certify it.
That easily beat the 7-pound, 8-ounce whitefish caught March 22, 2017 by Ken Maggiore at Montrose Harbor. That was the historic day when Maggiore also caught the Illinois-record burbot, a record (9-4.8) that still stands.
“And I suspect it will not be the last time,’’ posted Christian Howe, who caught Illinois’s third record whitefish in on Feb. 17, 2017.
Illinois’ whitefish records have been so helter-skelter here’s a primer.
Capt. Tim Wojnicz on his FinQuest charter caught the inaugural Illinois-record whitefish (2-7.8) on May 8, 2012 while perch fishing off Waukegan.
Illinois fish records are officially kept in pounds and ounces, so digital readings of pounds are converted to pounds and ounces.
Wojnicz’s record stood until July 27, 2016 when Cruz eclipsed it with a 3-1.6 whitefish.
Here’s why I think Cruz’s fish is historically significant. In early 2016, many bigger whitefish were caught on the Chicago lakefront, but no one certified any. Cruz’s catch raised consciousness.
That showed in 2017 with three records.
Howe started with a 4-7.2 whitefish he caught while perch fishing on the Calumet. He had just received his certificate from the IDNR when Vincent Chan beat him. I thought Chan’s mark (6-8.8), caught while perch fishing on March 19, 2017 behind McCormick Place, might stand for awhile.
It only made a few days before Maggiore pulled off his feat March 22 at Montrose Harbor. Well, Maggiore’s record did last more than a year before Deram’s whitefish topped him.
I suspect Howe is right, this is not Illinois’ last whitefish record.
When the paperwork is final, Deram’s whitefish will be the fourth Illinois-record fish in 2018.
Ken Krumreich caught the first on May 19 at a Goose Lake Association lake. Genetic testing still has not determined whether his 3-1.1 fish will be the redear record or establish a new category of redear hybrid.
On May 24, Johnathan Inman broke one of the longest standing records when he caught a 38-4 freshwater drum from Clinton Lake. Three days later at Horseshoe Lake, Don Lawrence moved the shortnose gar record to 6-15.2.
The hits keep coming.
WILD THINGS: John Vukmirovich messaged from his ramblings, “The chicory has finally started to flower around here. It was in profusion last summer, but it seems to have come up a tad late.’’
STRAY CAST: For once I agree with Cubs fans, driving home Sunday I caught Jeff Garlin on the Cubs broadcast sounding like a kid busting through brush to skip rocks where you’re fishing.