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Friday is opening day for squirrels and perch

Weather will be the whether or not Friday when perch fishing on Illinois’ Lake Michigan reopens and hunting season for squirrels in Illinois opens.

We can only hope the reopening of perch season on Aug. 1, what has become the outdoor event of the year in Illinois, is as good as it was two years ago at dawn when Angel Gomez was slinging in perch one after another on the south rocks at Montrose.

And the heat, not to mention green canopies like this one at Iroquois County FWA two years ago, will likely lead to only a handful of squirrel hunters venturing out for the opener on Friday.

My hope for Friday is to perch fish in the morning at Montrose or Navy Pier, then catch the setting sun while listening for squirrels.

Here’s details of both openers.

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Fishing for yellow perch on Illinois’ Lake Michigan waters reopens for those 16 and older on Friday, and the daily bag limit returns to 15. Perch fishing does not close for those 15 and younger in July, though the daily bag dropped to 10.

Shore fishing has been slow for more than a week. I keep looking at the weather forecast hoping for two or three days with strong southwest winds to drive out the warm water, but I’m not real hopeful that will happen.

What make the first week in August in 2006 so good was the upwelling of cold water on the Chicago shoreline as cold as the 50s.

I don’t think we will get that lucky this year, at least not the first day or two.

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Squirrel hunting in Illinois begins Friday, signifying the unofficial start to the hunting year in Illinois.

The daily bag remains five squirrels, fox and/or gray. Remember, red squirrels are protected.

Squirrel season runs through Feb. 15, except where it is closed during the two firearm deer hunting seasons. Hunting hours are half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.

Nearby sites opening Friday for squirrel hunting include Iroquois County State Wildlife Area and Matthiessen State Park.

After Labor Day, Momence Wetlands, Kankakee River SP and Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area open.

Boy, squirrel hunting is not what it once was.

As recently as 1994, more than 100,000 hunters pursued fox squirrels (108,760). By the 2007-08 season, that dropped to 50,276. As recently as 1988, more than 120,000 hunters pursued fox squirrels.

Only 43,992 hunted gray squirrels last year, that compared to 75,407 in 1988.

Last year, 348,791 fox squirrels were harvested (compared to 1,236,060 in 1988) and 395,401 grays (compared to 713,350).

Mast production looks OK, at least from what forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton has observed.

“So far, hickory mast looks real good,” he said. “Red oak is generally poor, particularly as you move south, as a result of the late freeze last year. I expect that white oaks will be pretty good.”