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Kayak fishing the Chicago lakefront: The joy of the new and a path from the past

Resized/Sun-Times

Jeremy Preucel (left) and Tony Hammond had a successful day of kayak fishing on the Chicago lakefront last week.
Provided

Tony Hammond sent photos last week of catching coho from kayaks with Jeremy Preucel on the Chicago lakefront.

Two strands come with the growth of kayak fishing. One is the rapid advancement in kayaks specifically designed and adapted for fishing. The other is new people like Hammond being drawn to a more intimate and different way of fishing.

“I met Jeremy this year, but this is my first season fishing coho from the kayak,” Hammond emailed. “I’ve been out three times.”

Hammond, a Cicero man who works for Southwest Airlines, caught the practical side well, “I know I can be very mobile and fish almost any location I want and change spots in a short amount of time if fish aren’t active in one area.”

He recently acquired a 10-foot Ascend sit-on-top and generally puts in by the Adler Planetarium or DuSable Harbor.

“I think the main difference in a kayak is just staying in the area you want to target while battling wind and current,” Hammond emailed. “Casting jigs has been producing really well out there and I also dead-stick and drift a presentation just off the bottom.”

In recent years, the inimitable Oscar Santos has been Chicago’s most noticeable kayak angler at spreading the appeal of kayaks on the lakefront.

As far as I know, Vic Hurtowy in 1986 was first to fish coho from a kayak.

“Anyhow, I’ve been canoeing since my mid teens and I read about `sea kayaks’ in a magazine and decided that I needed to try one as I was just a few blocks away from the lake in those days,” Hurtowy messaged. “Within five minutes I knew that I needed to get my hands on a kayak and rig it up. One trip to Ralph’s place secured the package. I fished with [the late captain] Gary Zilian on his Lamprey for quite a few years before that.”

“Ralph’s place” was the late Ralph Frese’s Chicagoland Canoe Base on the Northwest Side.

The appeal of being in a kayak on the lakefront is timeless and described well by Hammond, “I definitely get a rush being on our beautiful lakefront on a small vessel. The view of the skyline at water level is amazing and not knowing what fish are lurking below is a mystery I love figuring out.”

WILD THINGS: Christian Howe reported his first hummingbird of the year on Thursday. . . . Morels have been reported by Monday as far north as Tazewell County (southern Illinois is near prime) on the Illinois Morel Mushrooms group on Facebook.

STRAY CAST: Listening to comeback comparisons to Tiger Woods winning the Masters Sunday, I kept waiting for anyone to think of my guy Rick Clunn, at 72, winning the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River (Florida) on Feb. 10.