Our Pledge To You

News

Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting: Very late recap of notes

Opening night of smelt netting at Burnham Harbor in 2016.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Between holiday and family responsibilities, a bunch of days of deer hunting and some perch fishing, I am way behind on in cleaning up the notes from the last Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee meeting on Nov. 16..

And the next meeting is set for Thursday, once again at 31st Street Harbor.

Here goes on the notes from the Nov. 16 meeting at the community room of the 31st Street Harbor. There were some important things discussed: Bob Long’s retirement; the impact of snagging and smelt netting on access issues and other matters.

BOB LONG RETIRING

Committee chair Tom Gray announced Bob Long Jr., “The Fishin’ Guy” for the Chicago Park District, had retired.

Carl Vizzone will fill many of Long’s roles in the meantime with regard to fishing.

“I will be representing the committee any way I can,” he promised.

The parking passes for fishermen and the pier pass programs will continue as was.

“We plan to serve what we serve every year, 10,000 kids,” he said.

Vizzone said over the summer the fishing program served 180 groups and 9,500 participants. They were short one instructor all season and the weather had some impact on the numbers.

Wetrec Marine’s Scott Stevenson gave a heart-felt account of Long.

“If I can take a minute, I just wanted to say, Bob Long put a permanent mark on the fishing programs,” he said. “I would like to find a way to honor him. Bob and I became good friends through this process. He gave me fly fishing lessons. Came to my house.

He suggested that the committee should find some way to honor Long.

“One of the reasons we have the acceess we have and have the 10,000 kids fishing every year is because of him, I would like to honor that,” Stevenson said.

A motion was made to honor Long. A discussion ensued about how the serious conflicts between fishermen and boaters, which used to be more pronounced, were much better resolved in recent years. That may be one of the best things the Fishing Committee has accomplished.

“That is a good thing, I don’t want to see that come back,” said Ken Schneider, the people’s representative on the Fishing Committee.

BIG ISSUES: DISCUSSING SNAGGING & SMELT NETTING

Then Stevenson waded into some deep waters, so to speak.

“Can I ask about two things; Snagging and smelt fishing?” he asked.

That set off one of the most core discussions I’ve heard at a Fishing Committee meeting.

Let me give my perspective from more than 20 years of covering Chicago fishing: Stevenson is absolutely right about snagging and smelt netting being the two most troublesome aspects of access around Chicago harbors.

That said, both are also storied Chicago traditions

Chester Kropidlowski summed that up brilliantly in reference to smelt netting.

“I liken smelt fishing to 16-inch softball, it is a Chicago tradition,” he said. “I would hate to see it go away.”

Don Dubin and Ed Bohn both sided on wanting to see it gone, as fishing and lakefront access have evolved.

There was even a suggestion that the Fishing Committee ask the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to ban snagging.

But Vic Santucci, the Lake Michigan program head, very strongly said that would not happen.

“We as the state serve all the communities,” he said. “They are utilizing the fish. There is excitement when the season starts. We have to take the whole big picture. I would not support it. And our fish chief would not support it.”

Stevenson noted the most problematic areas were the north wall at Burnham, where it is already illegal to snag, and at Jackson Park, where it is legal to snag in season.

“One group of people who came out and snagged, I don’t think they have a voice,” said Tom Trudeau, the retired former Lake Michigan program head. “You need to get their voice.”

Nothing changed, but it was a good core discussion.

HARBOR CHANGES

Stevenson said there were changes from the park district, which will allow them to send out invoices earlier and allow them to make payment plans.

“We want to go to the boat shows ad actually be able to be able to offer slips,” Stevenson said. “I think it is a good thing.”

The Park District will have a hearing in January on a new set of regulations, rules written back in the 1980s. Stevenson didn’t think it would impact fishing.

NORTH POINT MARINA

On a side note, Westrec has taken over management of North Point Marina. One of the results of that change is it has opened up shore fishing. In the spring, that is a prime spot for smallmouth bass.

PARKING GATES

Don Dubin said he would like to see the parking gates up in winter. I understand where he is coming from, but also understand that would open the parking lots to all kinds of uses.

NAVY PIER MARINA

The permitting process is ongoing for the proposed marina by Navy Pier. Santucci said they would like to see fishing access, currently on the north side of Navy Pier, to continue. Santucci thought they would be able to work with McPier to make that continue to happen.

“Bottom line is we don’t want to lose additional fishing access,” he said. “That is an important historic fishing location.”

Absolutely iconic.

URBAN FISHING PROGRAM

Brenda McKinney said she is booked with schools through mid-February and much of March. She will start fishing in May and May is totally booked other than two days. June is booked.

She and Vizzone said they need to share information to avoid overlaps in programming.

LAKE MICHIGAN NOTES

Santucci reported Chinook and coho eggs are in the hatchery. “We should be able to make our targets for those fish,” he said. “Probably for browns and steelhead, too. I don’t see any problems.”

He said it was  a good run of Chinook, lot of fish and some big fish over 20 pounds, this fall but not a big run of coho.

He said they had finished checking the reefs and natural recruitment of lake trout has been going strong the last five years.

The Illinois Natural History Survey is doing some mapping so they can sample some of the other reefs.

“We think this is something that has taken hold,” Santucci said.

I think even shoreline fishermen in Chicago would agree with that.

He said the spawning appears to be occurring in the depressed areas where the mussel shells collect.

Santucci said smallmouth bass are doing well, steady and consistent. He said a supplemental stocking of smallmouth is not going to happen.

ODDS AND ENDS

Capt. Don Enright brought up memories of the impacts of seiches on Lake Michigan.

Ed Bohn wondered if there are going to be improvements at 95th. He has a good point, Cal Park is both a mess for the launches and the parking area, though the advantage is the parking is free. I am pretty sure that issue was brought up before and not much changed.

There was a new face at the meeting in Nicole Machuca, who works as environmental educator and community liaison for Friends of the Parks.