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The search for perch — and some more memories

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Updated: July 17, 2013 6:46AM

The stories came easily Wednesday at Montrose Harbor as Capt. Bob Poteshman checked oil and fluids on his twin Caterpillar diesel engines. It was 4 a.m., after all, and we were going perch fishing.

‘‘I came down here every day as a kid and walked from the bus stop to the end of the pier,’’ Capt. Howard Halsne said. ‘‘We had to carry minnows out, then carry all those fish back.’’

It was about 2 ½ miles of walking from the last bus stop to the hook of the Montrose horseshoe, the fabled Chicago fishing spot. Halsne would go on to create his own stories as the namesake of Howie Flies.

Poteshman, owner of the Confusion Charters fleet, pulled together a group to look for perch in the weeds around Navy Pier on his 38-foot ‘‘Massive Confusion.’’

There’s something righteous about going out to chase perch before the sun is up while some boats are coming back to dock after a night out.

As we pulled out of Montrose, several dozen fishermen lined the walls of the harbor. If the perch were really on shore, hundreds of fishermen would be clotted there.

Sunrise came through cloud slits as we motored to first try at Belmont Harbor. Nothing there, so on to the Chicago breakwall. I enjoy the search for fish.

Capt. Jeff Sobotaka runs the most perch charters for Poteshman. Sobotaka has a setup down. He uses a 4-foot fluorocarbon leader on braided line (to feel the bite better) above a weight that varies depending on conditions. He uses large hooks, No. 6 Aberdeen or circle, because he thinks the larger hooks help to keep the gobies off.

At the next stop, the gobies were on, but we boated one jumbo perch, the largest of the day at 12 inches, at the gap in the breakwall. But that was the only perch, so it was on to spots near the weeds off the filtration plant and Navy Pier.

There, action improved enough that Poteshman anchored.

‘‘Create a school,’’ he said.

At one point, with the John Hancock in the background, Sobotaka said, ‘‘This is fun.’’

It is. And we were not slamming them. We had 30 keepers by 9:15  a.m., when the bite slowed.

‘‘I would not say they are biting — they are nibbling,’’ Poteshman said. ‘‘The bite is just getting started.’’

The consensus was to double-dip and go for coho, the hot bite right now off Chicago. So Poteshman drove straight east of downtown.

‘‘We are looking for bait,’’ he said. ‘‘Mark big pods of bait, we stop. It doesn’t mean we will get them, but we stop.’’

He told first mate Dave Marcocci and Sobotaka to set lines, all with Dodgers and Howie Flies (one of them with a new style Halsne is working on) in 52 feet. The first fish came in 55 feet. The fishing was very good with even a couple ‘‘Confusion’’ building doubles as we boated 13 in a little over an hour.

Between fish, Halsne reminisced about fishing Lake Michigan.

‘‘Years ago, the alewives were so thick, you would go through them and your line would go like this,’’ he said while vibrating his forefinger.

Fishing memories build over the years.

Low fog obscured the low shoreline.

It was time.

As he cleaned the perch, Sobotaka looked up and said, ‘‘Here’s an alewife in this perch.’’

As Poteshman pulled into Belmont Harbor for gas, two guys fishing next to the gas dock pulled up a wire basket with three keeper perch in it. It’s just getting started.

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