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A look at what’s going on at Lake Calumet

Chicago outdoors are blend wild urban industrial but Lake Calumet aremight be best combinatiall despite its own set problems. |

Chicago outdoors are a blend of the wild, the urban and the industrial, but the Lake Calumet area might be the best combination of all, despite its own set of problems. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 6, 2012 6:19AM



Jim ‘‘Da Old Fart’’ Wiercioch came off the water steaming Wednesday. It was more than the heat and humidity.

‘‘I fish Lake Calumet a lot,’’ he emailed. ‘‘This carp [stuff] is pissing me off. I thought the netting stopped a couple of weeks ago. Was there today, [and] there are nets blocking the way to the golf course area and between the island with buoys. Can you please find out what’s going on? There is some good fishing to be had there. Not the prettiest places, but some nice fish to be caught.

‘‘If they are done, get the nets out. If they need help, I can pull them to shore.’’

Three threads are worth noting:

One, ‘‘not the prettiest places, but some nice fish to be caught.’’ That sums up Chicago fishing. It’s particularly apt for Lake Calumet, which symbolizes the best of Chicago outdoors: a blend of the wild, the urban and the industrial.

One of my favorite bass was a largemouth pulled from under a docked freighter in Lake Calumet when John Farmer and I took
out Corey McPherrin of Fox-32
for a BASS Master Classic preview in 2000.

The planned Millennium Reserve in the Calumet region has the potential to remake one of the most industrial parts of the Chicago area into one of its greatest wilds.

Second, there’s a practical answer to Wiercioch’s question about nets possibly being left over from the massive (but fruitless) search for Asian carp July 11-13 in Lake Calumet by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

That included half-mile nets and electroshocking as part of a
Level 1 response by the ACCRC to three consecutive rounds of positive eDNA results in one area.

‘‘The nets that are being used to seal off Lake Calumet will remain up for the rest of the season, but it does allow passage for boats,’’ emailed Chris McCloud, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. ‘‘Our partners at the Illinois Natural History Survey are working on getting signs up to alert boaters where they can pass through.’’

There’s that answer.

Third, there’s a broader philosophical question in Wiercioch’s venting: Is there a point to the Asian carp effort, or has it grown so large that it has morphed into a mass with its own dysfunctional logic?

I called the response to the approach of Asian carp toward Chicago a boondoggle in 2004. It remains the greatest boondoggle in the history of Chicago outdoors.

So much money is being poured into surveying and academic research on Asian carp and their advance that it has grown to unknowable proportions.

A running joke among fishermen on the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) is about a crew surveying in an area where another crew had done the same a few days earlier. And not knowing about it.

McCloud said there is logic.

‘‘In terms of our weekly sampling/monitoring schedule, we certainly want to minimize any impacts to commercial or recreational boaters,’’ he emailed. ‘‘We routinely sample the same five areas of the CAWS during
the season.’’

The Fixed and Random Site Sampling Upstream of the Dispersal Barrier are Site 1: Lake Calumet; Site 2: Little Calumet River; Site 3: Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Western Avenue and South Branch of Chicago River; Site 4: North Branch of Chicago River and North Shore Channel; Site 5: North Shore Channel.

Results and other information about ACCRC can be found at asiancarp.us.

And Lake Calumet will continue its wild evolution, as random as it is.



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