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Dam removal spawning changes

Ken Gortowski has been an obsessed chronicler changes Blackberry Creek since dam removal. | Dale bowman~For Sun-Times Media

Ken Gortowski has been an obsessed chronicler of the changes in Blackberry Creek since the dam removal. | Dale bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Bends. Riffles. Pools. In-water logs. Shoreline brush. And, once again, native fish

Since the removal of the dam near its mouth, Blackberry Creek has returned to natural order in short order.

Ken Gortowski best chronicled the Fox River tributary revival at His photos and stories — he caught and released some 300 smallmouth bass, among other species, upstream of the dam removal this spring — illustrate the quick changes.

I had to witness this.

On Sunday, Kankakee River wanderer Norm Minas and I met Gortowski by the former dam in Yorkville. He gave us some basics of the dam removal, then suggested approaches to upstream fishing.

Gortowski also pointed out
that with all the Midwest dam removals, a better model for
stream restorations than just the one used for trout streams is needed. Gortowski might be irascible, but he is also right.
Nearly all nearby stream restorations look like something done by a Trout Unlimited chapter on a mountain brook.

The fish return. In two hours, Minas and I landed two dozen smallmouth and missed/lost another 20. This was the first time for either of us on Blackberry, which takes serious work to wade.

The smallmouth are back to spawn. Gortowski already has photos of fry. But it is far more than smallmouth.

Streams biologist Steve Pescitelli said a preliminary survey with an electric seine was conducted in early May, shortly after the high water in late April. It already found shorthead redhorse and quillback carpsuckers.

‘‘That was the first time in
170-some years,’’ he said. ‘‘We even saw some longnose gar. It was great to see the shorthead up there spawning. Even saw their nests.’’

Pieces of the natural world come together again.

Pescitelli is even more enthralled by Brewster Creek, a Fox tributary upstream in South Elgin. The main dam was removed in 2004 and a smaller one in 2006. After that, he said, smallmouth and quillback made it back quickly, too. In a 2011 survey, they even found spawning flathead catfish in a deep pool on Brewster.

‘‘These dam [removals] are working,’’ he said. ‘‘The more we can get these things back to being connected and resilient, the healthier it will be.’’

Farm bill

By a bipartisan vote of 66-27,
the U.S. Senate passed the five-year 2013 Farm Bill on Monday. It includes incentives for conservation, such as a national Sodsaver program and a recoupling of conservation compliance to crop insurance, Ducks Unlimited staff said.

Places and faces

Oak Brook Trout Unlimited’s spey-casting clinic and youth fly-fishing day, with professional instruction and equipment provided by G. Loomis staff, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Glenwood Park No. 1 in Batavia. Contact Stan Zarnowiecki at or (708) 606-4148. . . . Sgt. Tommy’s Kids’ seventh annual fishing day, open to children 3 to 15, is Saturday at Herrick Lake in Wheaton. It’s free, but sign up in advance at . . . Guide Chris Taurisano talks to the Riverside Fishing Club about ‘‘Walleyes on the Fox Chain’’ at
6:30 p.m. Thursday at the La Grange American Legion.

Stray cast

Bowfishing is to the outdoors what fighting is to ice hockey.

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