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July perch closure really rankles

Rich Young holds one his winning fish eighth annual Henry’s perch derby Saturday Northerly Island. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

Rich Young holds one of his winning fish in the eighth annual Henry’s perch derby Saturday at Northerly Island. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 5, 2012 6:28AM

Three screws tying a wooden tear-drop trout net to a segmented wooden flagpole made a homemade perch net. It was crafted from the heart, adapted for the walls of Chicago’s lakefront perching tradition, by Rich Young.

As I watched Saturday morning, Matt Young swung it down at Northerly Island and scooped up a jumbo yellow perch his grandfather had just caught.

Saturday was the last day of perch fishing before the hated July closure for those 16 and older on the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan. It was a tough-bite day for perch, as evidenced by the fact that three familiar names topped the eighth annual Henry’s perch derby.

Young won with 3 pounds, 12.5 ounces for four perch, including the big one of 1-4. Michael Chinchillia was second (3-11.5) and ‘‘Jumbo Jimmy’’ Baczek third (3-9.5).

Young was fishing a drop-shot rig with soft shells and reeling it slowly over the weeds. But his thoughts were on the July closure.

‘‘All the other states don’t close,’’ Young said. ‘‘I don’t understand.’’

The other three Lake Michigan states don’t have the July closure. The reason from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is that July is the great harvest month by sportfishermen, but that’s based on decades-old data.

Illinois looks like the goofball marching off to the side in the parade, out of step with the methods others use to regulate the Lake Michigan perch fishery, which collapsed in the 1990s.

‘‘I don’t see why they can’t cut it down to [a daily limit] of 10,’’ Bob Lubeck offered as a compromise to open up perch fishing in July.

Carl Pickett said it straight: ‘‘I don’t like it. It seems it is the only time they bite.’’

In July, Pickett will target lakefront carp and drum. Those species were the big ones Saturday. Ricky Jiana caught a big drum that his friend Paul Eng hoisted for a photo against the Loop skyline. Rogelio Morales caught the biggest fish of the day, a 16-13 carp.

‘‘They will shut it just when the bite is here,’’ said Eng, who fished a drop-shot and soft shells.

‘‘Last July, it was real good here,’’ said Ed Fornek, who has caught only one limit this year.

Baczek is an interesting case. For a few years during the July closure, he led a one-man protest — complete with signs and music — outside the Shedd Aquarium.

It came from the heart. But not this year.

‘‘I am trying to stay calm with the world,’’ Baczek said. ‘‘It seems everybody is busy with nonsense.’’

As the derby closed and people left Northerly Island, Chris Piekos asked: ‘‘Are they going to open in July? The water temperature is perfect. It is just a shame.’’

Straight from the heart.

Perch fishing is the common thread looping together the multitude of nationalities and races in Chicago fishing. The July closure disrespects that, disallows it. Lakefront fishermen aren’t even given the sop anymore of having an annual meeting with the IDNR to explain it.

There’s a reason there’s little outrage about the dire straits of
the IDNR among Chicago fishermen.

They know the difference between a hard sell and a soft shell.

Places and faces

A veteran fisherman reported a freakishly wide monster fish Sunday night at 95th Street near the mouth of the Cal. He wondered if it was a sturgeon. I guessed a hybrid striped bass or a muskie.

Wild things

I am finding blackberries, which seem healthier than the few scrawny raspberries and mulberries I found earlier. . . . My wife’s sunflowers started blooming weeks early.

Stray cast

A.J. Pierzynski is like a dogfish: often mistaken for a snakehead.

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