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Muskie that got away, kayak fishing and video: A different Fish of the Year

Resized/Sun-Times

Muskie being fought in the Jump River in Sheldon, Wis.
Provided

Gary Heinrich earns Fish of the Year for the one  that got away.

It was a good year for Chicago fishing.

Northern pike, a beautiful native fish, became more of a focus, both in our rivers and on the lakefront. A young man, Lucas Smeds of Northbrook, even caught the fish of a lifetime with a 50-inch northern on the annual family Canadian trip.

It was a good year for Illinois-record fish: redear (Ken Krumreich, 3 pounds, 1.1 ounces, May 19, Goose Lake Association, Grundy County); freshwater drum (Johnathan Inman, 38-4, May 24, Clinton Lake, DeWitt County); shortnose gar (Don Lawrence, 6-15.2, May 27, Horseshoe Lake, Madison County); lake whitefish (Kevin Deram, 8-4, June 29, Lake Michigan, Lake County); and burbot (Freddie Ray Prebianca, 9-5.6, Dec. 9, Lake Michigan, Lake County).

The records were notable for other reasons, too. Krumreich’s redear took genetic testing to determine what it was. Inman’s drum showed the difficulty of weighing a monster on a certified scale. Lawrence illustrated the artistic side of fishing with the objects he crafted from gar. Deram caught his whitefish while trolling for Chinook with Capt. Rick Bentley. Prebianca’s burbot came while duck hunting out of North Point Marina and showed how responsive the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was in getting certified scales for each region.

But Heinrich and his muskie earn FOTY for three reasons. First, every fisherman remembers the one that got away. Second, the Mokena man was kayak fishing with his son, Dan. Kayak fishing is one of the most exciting growth areas in fishing. Third, Dan documented the battle brilliantly on video. Video continues to rise in use and importance in fishing. The video is embedded below.

Now to Heinrich’s emailed tale of the one that got away:

“While kayaking a 15-mile stretch of the Jump River in Sheldon, Wisconsin my son, Dan, and I caught numerous smallmouth bass and northern pike. . . . I’ll send you a video of a fish that I hooked and fought for a while but never landed it because it wouldn’t give up and we didn’t have a net.

“Many times I tried to get my hand in its gills to land it but it would just take off again and again. I’ll never forget how fortunate I was to fight it as long as I did as I didn’t have a steel leader on my pole because we were fishing for smallmouth.

“I had a big buzz bait on and the hook was in the corner of its mouth! The last time I tried to land it I actually got my fingers in its gill flap and then it shook his head for the last time and my line broke, needless to say the battle was over and he won!”

That’s a fishing story and FOTY.

The long wonderful video below:

WILD THINGS: The rare piping plover was back at Montrose Beach in time to be counted Tuesday in the Chicago lakefront Christmas Bird Count.

ILLINOIS HUNTING: Weather looks passable for the first late-winter and CWD deer seasons Thursday through Sunday. . . . The second dove season opens today. I am curious how many utilize the late opportunity to pursue doves, whose migration patterns seem to have changed in recent years.

STRAY CAST: Cody Parkey is to Bears football what sun-aged monofilament is to my fishing: A chance to blow the big one.