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Pike and muskie: More tales from around the Chicago lakefront

Ricardo Placenti caught his first northern pike while bass fishing (and muskie chasing) Sunday on the Calumet.
Credit: Jeff Baffa/For the Sun-Times

Every year in Chicago fishing comes with its own tagline.

This year one would be the big northern pike (and reports of muskie sightings) on the lakefront. Well, and maybe the crush of big blue catfish at LaSalle Lake (see Fish of the Week, again).

On June 8, I wrote about particularly good numbers of bigger pike in Chicago harbors and reports of muskie sightings at Burnham Harbor.

Then earlier this month, Jeff Baffa of Frankfort, a noted south suburban bass fisherman, reported three possible muskies, not landed, in the Calumet on the lake side of the O’Brien Lock and Dam, in a slip closer to Calumet Harbor than the lock.

He got back out Sunday, beginning at 5:30 a.m., with his Argentinean friend Ricardo Placenti.

Using spinner baits, Placenti boated his first pike, a quality one, within the first 15 minutes.

“[Fifteen] minutes later, I got a musky to the boat and it made one more power surge and broke my line,’’ emailed Baffa, who said they caught six smallmouth and three largemouths the rest of the day.

I called Baffa, who explained he was using 17-pound line with no leader. He was trying to land the muskie, which was about the same size as Placenti’s pike, by the gills when it busted the line.

He said it had come out after the spinner bait as he was retrieving it above the grass.

I asked if he was certain it was a muskie and not just a darkly marked pike. He said it was a muskie and, as he was trying to gill land it, he would have been close enough to see it well.

“It is a big deal,’’ he said.

Yes, it is. We could be seeing the beginnings of something different in Chicago fishing. Or just an anomaly.

IN MEMORY: John “Johnny Sunshine’’ Pajak, 46, of Bartlett, died Aug. 16. Mr. Pajak, who regularly contributed fishing reports for DuPage area lakes and the Fox River, knew how to make fishing a time to unwind. Memorials may be made to American Cancer Society (cancer.org).

HUNTING: Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) has 56 hunting sites for archery deer hunting in Clark, Franklin, Greene, Lee, Macoupin, Monroe, Sangamon and Schuyler counties. Deadline to apply is Tuesday. Click here.

WILD THINGS: Reports cone on IBET, the Illinois birders’ list, of common nighthawks on the move in the last week. Nighthawks in the lights at Sox Park or Wrigley Field are one of my favorite sights as summer winds down, next to the baseball itself, of course.

STRAY CAST: Sometimes listening to Joe Maddon feels like watching an octopus squirt ink into water (or maybe like being mesmerized by the bubbles in sparkling wine paired with calamari).