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Sizing up historic perch fishing: A morning at a Southeast Side slip

Christian Howe with one of the many keepers caught on the Chicago lakefront around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

While I photographed a typical yellow perch of 6 1/2 inches, Christian Howe said, “It’s the future.”

The present is pretty good, too.

Arden Katz put historical perspective on perch fishing over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“I will be 57 in a couple weeks and I have never seen perch fishing like this,’’ he said. “There were over 150 cars at 87th on Friday. It has been unbelievable. It is a good sign.’’

It was still going Monday. A winter of perch fishing may be coming.

The most intense effort focuses on the Southeast Side slips, from North Slip south to around 95th; but perch were also being caught at Navy Pier and North Side harbors.

Howe and I set up to meet at the slip at 89th.

Howe caught the first of the three Illinois whitefish records in 2017 on Feb. 17 with a 4.45-pound whitefish he landed while perch fishing at 95th.

“I have been fishing my whole life, it is my obsession and therapy, mainly therapy,’’ said Howe, a Chicago fireman born and raised on the South Side.

When I walked up at 8 a.m., Howe was one keeper and a couple small ones into therapy.

His equipment befits somebody with a wife and young kids. He has Pflueger reels with 8-pound Trilene XL on 7-foot medium rods.

“I’m a basic no-frills guy,” Howe said. “Took an overtime check a couple years ago and bought a couple good reels.

He starts with plain hooks on a crappie rig. When the bite is tough, he goes with Swedish Pimples (silver works best.)

“If I get bored, I will try Mini-Mites or Swedish Pimples,” Howe said.

I started with double Mini-Mites, but did better with double plain hooks.

One trick Howe uses is larger hooks to dissuade smaller perch.  He did better on bigger perch with his big hooks and minnows than I did playing with multiple baits; all caught perch.

From 9 to 10 a.m., I caught fish on nearly every cast. At 9:30, the first of eight doubles came; but only two keepers came from the doubles.

A typical smaller perch that makes up the majority of the catch on the lakefront.’
Credit: Dale Bowman

A couple points. Most fishing at the Southeast Side slips is on private property. Act like you give a damm. Don’t get drunk and leave beer cans strewn about. Don’t litter. It pisses me off that I even need to type that.

On the good side, more than a few pick up after others.

There’s plenty of free legal street parking. Don’t jeopardize access for the rest of us with illegal parking on private property. Multiple readers sent complaints about that over the weekend.

I needed to leave for family duty at 10:30. Howe laughed when I stayed to 10:45 to catch a final keeper.

It was time.

In 2 1/2 hours, I kept 12 from about 60 perch caught.

WILD THINGS: Project SNOWstorm had an inkling an irruption of snowy owls might come in the winter of 2017-18. It’s starting that way. Multiple reports across northern Illinois, including Chicago.

ILLINOIS DEER: Weather forecast looks right for a good harvest during the second firearm deer season, Thursday through Sunday. Harvest during the first season was down from first season last year (51,365 deer vs 54,452). Archery harvest, through Sunday, remains well ahead of same time last year: 50,742 deer vs 46,499.

STRAY CAST: Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are like bowhunters and firearm deer hunters; not sure which is which.