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Spring triple-crown chase & all that Yaz: Foraging to fishing

It counts as a Spring Triple Crown, but barely, with bluegill, wild asparagus and a morel.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Ryan Yoos inspired me.

The IBEW Local 697 electrician picked 121 morel mushrooms, a “bunch’’ of ramps (wild leeks), “then finished it off with 12 solid keeper crappie’’ on Friday, a “complete day in the woods and on the water.’’

That’s a triple crown.

The ultimate spring triple crown or grand slam is calling in and shooting a gobbler in the morning, foraging for morels (wild asparagus or ramps, too) midday, then catching a mess of crappie in the evening.

In our area, a crown or a slam can come many ways the last week of April or first week of May. It’s a consumptive pursuit, hunting and gathering in the modern world. You could add coho, brown trout, channel catfish, blue catfish or even walleye to the list. For difficulty, every true crown or slam should include morels.

On Monday, I disappeared on my own quest.

I hit my two surest morel spots, but both had been picked over. I pushed on, hoping to find morels at Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area, the reclaimed strip pits in southwest Will County.

Driving the back way there, I came up with a few straggly stalks of wild asparagus — but they counted — at a remembered spot.

This spring has been odd for foraging. Wild asparagus is about a month ahead. Jeff Norris, all-around outdoorsman and goose guide in Kane County, emailed that he thought morels were two weeks ahead of schedule. Our family started finding morels in mid-April, normally it’s the first week of May.

For the second leg of my crown, I disappeared at Mazonia North. I wandered lake to lake, fishing when the water spoke to me.

I had my first keeper bluegill within three casts (after sliding down a slaggy hill and beating through brush). I alternated between jigs, Beetle Spins or pieces of night crawlers or red worms under a float. I ended up at a small bay I knew held crappie. But no crappie. On the plus side, I caught a 2-pound largemouth bass on an imitation frog midday, making my day.

I moved on to Mazonia South, hoping for crappie at Monster Lake, but only caught more bass.

The bonus came as I walked out. Two adults — Eric Savoie and Terra Lemke — and two kids — Kasi Watters-Lopez and Gabriel Watters-Lopez — were walking around without fishing gear. Yes, they were looking for morels.

They inspired me. On the way home, I revisited a morel spot and found one dried out. It counted, giving me a spring triple crown — albeit about as weak as Carl Yastrzemski’s in 1967 — of wild asparagus, bluegill and morel.

Yet, a crowning moment on a grand day.

Stray cast

Watching “The Fate of the Furious’’ is like having a buddy say he’s taking you topwater-fishing for smallmouth bass and instead it’s gigging for suckers.

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While this bass did not count as part of the Spring Triple Crown, it was special in its own way coming on a midday frog.
Credit: Dale Bowman