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Mayor Emanuel’s Fishing Advisory Committee: May & Chicago fishing

Open-barrel fires will likely not be allowed next April during smelting season on the Chicago lakefront.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Likely changes for smelt regulations on the Chicago lakefront headline the notes from Mayor Emanuel’s Fishing Advisory Committe meeting on May 19.

Here are some the highlights and general notes from the meeting, chaired by the astute Tom Gray, at 31st Street Harbor.

The biggest news came from Westrec’s Tom Snooks, who said that regulation changes on fires during smelting season are likely.

He said because of damage from burned grass to general ash messes, it is likely that outdoor fires in cans will be done away with next year.

“People are dropping off cords of construction debris during day and coming back at night to burn it and have fishing parties,” Snooks said. “I’ve seen a dump truck come with a house and unload it.”

Fires for cooking would not be done away, but this would apply to the wood scraps burned in old metal barrels or just burned in open fires.

There was no pushback from the committee, in fact many noted the mess leftover from the open fires of the smelt netters during April.

There was a discussion of the break-up of Smeltapalozza in late April. The organizers were told to pull a permit beforehand, but did not and were forced out. There was collateral damage to guys who were legitimately smelt netting at Montrose and were also tossed out with those who were partiers without a permit.

I brought up a reader who said he was being told he could not fish the Chicago Riverwalk. But he had no details on who or what group was saying that. Both Bob Long and Ken Schneider reported others saying they were being told not to fish there, but also not having any details.

Very emphatically, Gray pointed out that fishing is allowed there and if anyone is told otherwise to get details.

Let me repeat that: You are allowed to fish the Riverwalk and if anyone hassles you find out who they are and who they are with.

Long said the Chicago Park District Family Fishing program, the very successful program running from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays, will continue through June 18 at Northerly Island.

The program is open to families or groups (up to 20). Kids get a fishing rod and reel, and a small tackle box.

“This is not a one-and-done program,’’  Long said. “You can come back. We have 20 to 30 years of experience. You are not going to get that in one session

It is free and includes bait, rods and instructors, but call (312) 656-3852 for details.

That family program will pick up again in late August.

There are already 258 scheduled events for the summer fishing programs, which run Mondays through Fridays. There are some openings. There will be in excess of 10,000 kids being in those fishing programs from the Chicago Park District again this summer.

Tom Palmisano said that the Palmisano Fishing Foundation has two interns for the summer and they are bringing in more kids from outside the neighborhood, not just Boys and Girls Club members, for the fishing instruction at Palmisano Park.

Lake Michigan program head Vic Santucci said that it took some extra effort, but the IDNR hit their marks for stockings on Lake Michigan: 231,000 Chinook,
60,00 Arlee-strain rainbow trout, and 299,000 coho.

There will be 110,000 Browns to be stocked later, probably during July; and the last stocking will be 25,000 steelhead in September.

A wise guy at the meeting asked how many walleye were stocked and Santucci held up a 0 made with his thumb and index finger. When pressed on whether walleye would be stocked, he said he would not back it and gave his reasons.

“If you don’t have forage, I am not going to back stocking another predator,” he said. “Why stock more predators when you don’t have much prey? You’re talking huge numbers to stock them in Lake Michigan.

The venerable Don Dubin correctly noted that he is seeing good numbers of different fish caught from shore–such as whitefish, “great big lake trout” and big northern pike–not caught regularly from shore.

Fisheries biologist Steve Silic said that the drought years brought on vegetation growth like they had not seen in the Forest Preserves of Cook County (Skokie Lagoons is a prime example).

“We are aware of it and dealing with it,” he said.

They are especially targeting the milfoil and curly-leaf.

There was a discussion of the stocking of pike in the North Shore Channel. Click here for that story.