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Trains, perch & coho: Really training an idea

South Shore train trips from South Bend to Chicago enlivened my college life years ago.

To this day, riding the South Shore pulls up memories.

Those early rides in and late rides back came to mind when Indiana Dunes State Park staff announced an innovative idea for Chicago-area people to take the South Shore out and spend “A Day in the Dunes’’ on Oct. 18.

The South Shore train and the Indiana Dunes meld two of my romantic notions of the good life in the outdoors.

I think Chicago should consider the idea of a similar South Shore/Metra/Amtrak promotion for fishing the Chicago lakefront, or for even just using of the Chicago lakefront.

metra10-08-15approachMetra already allows bikes on most trains; Amtrak slowly begins allowing that; eventually South Shore will be joining the modern world and allow it, too.

I know some already take Metra, especially with the weekend ticket special, to bike the lakefront.

Some of us do it for fishing, too. Fishing gear is a lot easier than bikes to stash on trains.

In the summer of 2014, I did a Metra ride for some night fishing on the Chicago River with Jeff Nolan, Ryan Whitacre and others.metrafishing07-27-14

On the ride in on the Electric Line (I live south), I was picked up at the McCormick Place stop before we launched at the Daley Launch on the South Branch. I just thought it was cool to have two rods broken down and a tackle bag on the seat by me on the Metra. Other riders thought it was cool, too. I could have stashed the fishing gear in the wire luggage rack if I had wanted.

After fishing, Nolan dropped me off around midnight near Michigan Avenue and I walked the couple blocks through the late Sunday night human milieu that makes Chicago distinctive to Millennium Station, then home.

The Metra ride to and from fishing built the ambiance of the night as much as the companionship and fishing itself on the Chicago River.

I think it would be neat to build a more formal use of trains for a deliberate day-long outing on the Chicago lakefront.

With my brain on fire, I came up with “Come for Coho,’’ a late March/early April outing for spring coho; “Tracks for Trout,’’ which could be in the fall for shoreline lake trout or other times for rainbow trout/steelhead and brown trout; “Metra to Montrose,’’ a June or July outing with a bus ride from Millennium and Union Stations to the fabled horseshoe at Montrose Harbor to fish for yellow perch.

It would begin with a stop at either the old-school bait shop, Park Bait, at Montrose; or the modern urban bait/tackle shop at Henry’s Sports and Bait in Bridgeport. Catered lunch could come from Al’s Italian Beef or Ricobene’s. There would be a side trip to the fishing spots at Origins Park around the mouth of Bubbly Creek or the ones along the north side of Navy Pier.

Then home on Metra as the sun sets over the city.

At least in my romantic view, it makes economic sense.