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Feast your eyes on this FOTY trio

Scientists are like copy editors at major newspapers: crotchety nitpickers who are sticklers for truth precisely worded.

That’s neither complaint nor compliment, merely a setup for Fishes of the Year. Yes, there are three FOTY — a bighead carp, a flathead catfish and a yellow perch — for 2010.

◆ The bighead (34.6 inches long, 19.6 pounds) was found June 22 in Lake Calumet during routine sampling by crews for the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

That’s the only Asian carp found past the Chicago locks, despite millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent in fruitless pursuit of finding others. It might be the most expensive fish in history.

The greatest boondoggle in Chicago outdoors, the response to Asian carp just keeps giving — and taking away from taxpayers.

More’s the shame because President Obama sounded exactly the right note in his inaugural address with this: ‘‘We will restore science to its rightful place . . . .’’

Nearly two years later, though, true science is taking a beating in the response to Asian carp. This month, the Obama administration released the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework. The essence is a justification of eDNA for tracking and monitoring Asian carp. And, I should add, a justification for funding by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the same.

All the while, eDNA testing has not gone through peer review, the most basic of scientific oversight. That’s like printing newspaper copy without editor review.

◆ In a normal year, Roger P. Ebert, no relation to the Sun-Times’ film critic, would take FOTY honors easily on his own. On May 13, he caught and released a likely Illinois-record flathead catfish at Clinton Lake while bank-fishing with two sons.

The Urbana man estimated it at 80 pounds. Jody Harris caught the Illinois-record flathead (78 pounds) on Aug. 11, 1995, from Carlyle Lake.

‘‘Did I release a record?’’ Ebert wondered. ‘‘What do you think? Even if I did, though, a record would not bring me the same gratification as watching that fish swim away.’’

His style so impressed Todd Carlander, a great chaser of monster flatheads, that he loaned Ebert a 100-pound scale for the next time he catches and releases a big flathead.

◆ Big on a smaller scale came when Steve Fiorio caught a 165/8-inch yellow perch while boat-fishing Dec. 4 off Gary Light. It had a girth of 111/2 inches.

If in prespawn stage in March or April, it likely would have surpassed the Indiana-record yellow perch (2 pounds, 8.75 ounces) caught by Roy W. Burkel Jr. from a Vigo County gravel pit in 1981. Joseph Grega caught the Illinois-record yellow perch (2-8.75) on Jan. 5, 1974, at Arrowhead Club in Will County.

‘‘It is freakishly huge,’’ said Fiorio, a sheet-metal superintendent from Dyer, Ind. ‘‘This isn’t real.’’

Places and faces

Things I don’t want think about: Our waterfowl blind on the Kankakee River is downstream from the explosion Monday at the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency plant.

Stray cast

I understand a fish is a fish and an NFL win is an NFL win. All the same, a steelhead is better than a burbot.



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