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Ed Mullady still focused on Kankakee River

Ed Mullady (left with IDNR director Marc Miller) was inducted inIllinois Outdoor Hall Fame 2011. He remains focused use protectiKankakee

Ed Mullady (left, with IDNR director Marc Miller) was inducted into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2011. He remains focused on the use and protection of the Kankakee River basin for future generations. | Dale Bowman~For SUn-Times Media

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:27AM

As a quest, catching a smallmouth bass from the Kankakee River on Christmas is more quirky than quixotic, but it pulls at me all the same.

I have meant to do it since I read an article Ed Mullady wrote in his Sportsman’s Letter, a publication equally quirky and quixotic.

Trying to remember the article gave me an excuse to call Mullady, so I did Monday.

‘‘As we have gone, we try to give people information on where and how to fish the Kankakee,’’ Mullady said. ‘‘And we try to get out in front of the public over the welfare of the river as well.’’

Maybe it was serendipity. A few hours later, I found out another lion of conservation in our area, Ralph Frese, had died. Both men were or are 86.

Both were inducted into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame years later than they should have been: Frese in 2006 and Mullady in 2011.

Both were or are craftsman and conservationists.

Mullady is a defender of the Kankakee and a great communicator; he is in his 53rd year of doing the Sportsman’s Letter and has done far more than 1,000 five-minute radio broadcasts on WKAN-AM (1320) about Kankakee outdoors. Frese was a canoe builder and defender of water rights.

But that is the stuff of serendipity. Back to the here and now: Christmas smallmouth.

‘‘Boy, that was an article,’’ Mullady said. ‘‘Somebody was fishing on that day and catching some. I would love to go through all my copies.’’

Here’s how you get to be a lion of the outdoors. In my mailbox Thursday — and I mean mailbox at the post office, not my email inbox — was a letter from Mullady with a photocopy of the article. He had gone looking and found it in the 224th edition of Sportsman’s Letter from Oct. 25, 1999.

The key paragraphs were these: ‘‘[T]here was a fisherman well known to many who frequented the mouth of Rock Creek years ago.

‘‘He would fish for hours in hip deep water (wearing waders, of course) when quieter nearby waters were frozen solid enough for ice skating!

‘‘He used large chub minnows almost exclusively, and took many a big smallmouth bass until he couldn’t wade into the river because ice was jamming up!’’

In plain, pure language, there it is. If you want to catch a Christmas smallmouth from the Kankakee, best to float a chub in deeper water.

Those are the sorts of things that root me to the outdoors, pure and simple, like floating a chub for big smallmouth.

That’s the fun side of what Mullady does. There’s an equally important side for conservation, whether it is sand load, a possible landfill in the watershed or the folly of the proposed Peotone airport.

‘‘We keep trying to keep it out in front people,’’ Mullady said. ‘‘Izaak Walton League in Indiana, Friends of Kankakee and the Momence Conservancy District have worked hard for the river. Those are main ones for working.’’

Work. There’s a word, pure and simple, that applies to Mullady.

He cut our call short to get back to work.

In a concession to years and changing times, Mullady is only doing two shows this winter: the Hammond Outdoor Sports Show and the Tinley Park Fishing and Outdoor Show.

The closing sequence for the documentary ‘‘Everglades of the North: The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh’’ is a shot of Mullady doing his radio show.

That works.

May we savor and remember, here and now.

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