Thursday, April 29, 2010

No Perch, Big Problem....

My good friend Rich was the first to arrive early Wednesday morning at Waukegan Harbor. He called me on the cell to let me know that the parking lot was filling up fast with trucks and boat trailers. I was still a few miles south of my exit off of Interstate 294 and I was thinking to myself, how crowded can it be on a Wednesday? I pulled in at 5:30am and the boats were lined up out of the parking lot and down the street. There is three public boat ramps at Waukegan Harbor, so you can get an idea of how many people had the same thoughts that we did. After we launched the boat and took our time heading out of the harbor channel, we noticed that all the boats were forming a giant flotilla about a mile out from shore. We made our way into the group and began to fish for Lake Michigan Perch in about 55 to 60 feet of water.

I looked at all the boats that were resting comfortably upon the calm clear water and took a quick count. I was well over 100 before I stopped counting. Most of the boats were smaller vessels under 20ft and I think I saw only 3 charters within the group. This gave me a little cause for concern. The Perch must not be biting or there would be more charter boats. We marked a few fish on the locator, but after an hour or so we only were witness to one Perch. No excitement, no Perch. After talking to a number of other boats we had gotten the story straight. You had to have been out before sunrise to catch any fish on this day. If you had managed to get out there at 4:00am you would have caught a few, but they stopped biting at about 6:00am. Lucky me! That's the time we got out there.

Our boat captain who still had to go to work that morning said we better call it a day. I'll keep his name off the record as to not help the company build a case against him. That reminds me of the guy who skipped out of work to catch a Cubs game and catches a foul ball. His face is plastered on the TV and he is fired for calling in sick. Classic! So we headed back in around 9:00am. I could have talked him in to staying out there if we were catching any fish.

Rich and I spent the rest of the morning fishing the Skokie Lagoons, having a few laughs and seeing a guy keep a 20 inch Largemouth. I was so mad at the sight of that fish on a stringer that I wanted to get as far away from Chicago as I possibly could. All the care that is taken by most of us to release fish that will help create trophy fisheries, and some idiot comes along and makes you shake your head in disgust! I will continue to try my best to educate the public on the benefits of CPR. Catch, Photo, Release! It is the only way that we will be able to provide quality fishing for future generations. Take the time to teach as many fisherman as you can. I eat fish all the time, but know the waters you are fishing, and what species is in abundance and the average size. I'm preaching to the choir here, but you get my point.

When I was a youngster, Dad would keep all the fish we caught as long as it was legal. I remember when I started to release some fish as a teenager and he would look at me and say, "What the hell did you go and do that for?" It was one of the few things we didn't agree on, but I think he came around to understanding why I did it. To me there is no better feeling than to catch a trophy fish, snap a few good photos and place that fish back into the water to fight another day. It is the true definition of sport and all that goes with it. My son Bryan said it best while as a four year old. He would sing a little jingle. "Put the fishy back where he came from". It shows you that a little education to the younger generation can make a big difference. I started watching the pros releasing fish on TV and it caught on. Now my son is releasing fish, and so on.

As soon as I'm done with this post I'm heading to the river to catch a few catfish for dinner. Most of them are about a pound and a half to two pounds. Perfect eaters, and if I happen to catch something else, you can bet I'll be posting a few good pictures!

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