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Open-water openers just around the corner



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The Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo traditionally is a bastion of big bucks, stories of big ones that got away and all things deer. The expo ( runs Friday through Sunday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.

This year, there also should be big talk about the historic decline in hunter harvest in the 2013-14 season and big reactions to the small response by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday.

† The Lake Home & Cabin Show (lakehome
) runs Friday through Sunday at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

† The Chicago Maritime Festival (chicagomaritime
) is Saturday at the Chicago History Museum.

Updated: March 20, 2014 6:42AM

With ice topping 2 feet in spots and snow depths of more than a foot, this winter has presented some first-time experiences for ice fishing and open-water openers.

Let me repeat that: open-water openers. Yes, they are coming.

Until then, it is ice fishing. And I heard a new one. The ice is so thick at Navy Pier that fishermen no longer can bust holes. So some are making 15-foot extensions for their ice augers and are being rewarded with catches of jumbo yellow perch.

‘‘It looked like something you buy at the store,’’ Arden Katz said.

I would love to talk with anyone who has such an extension. I can be reached at

But the ice also has more than a few readers dropping notes about the opener at Braidwood Lake. The traditional opener for fishing on March 1 at the cooling lake in southwest Will County is the great signal that winter has ended. Weekend openers sometimes draw thousands. But this might be a unique opener in the wake of the harshest winter since the lake opened to the public in the early 1980s.

Shorelines and launches still might be ice- or snow-covered. But neither site superintendent Mark Meents nor Jonathan Meder at Jon’s Bait &
Tackle Shop in South Wilmington remembered
an opener where ice and snow prevented launching. Wind has limited or shut openers for boaters.

I don’t care if there is ice, snow or a big blow on shore, I am ready to hit the warm water of Braidwood. Meents said the hours will be the usual: 6 a.m. to sunset seven days a week.

LaSalle Lake, the cooling lake south of Seneca, is set to open on schedule March 15
with regular March hours
(6 a.m. to sunset Wednesday-Sunday).

‘‘We will plow it out and park as many as we can,’’ site superintendent Ted Love said. ‘‘We will open and deal with what we are dealt.’’

He is considering having his guys plow it out before the warmup and rain come Thursday, just to knock back the snow and ice before the next round arrives from the arctic next week.

On the Chain O’Lakes, it has been one of the greatest ice-fishing seasons in recent years. Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said there are 19 to 24 inches of ice.

‘‘They will want to slide this back if you are looking at what will be the status quo [for open-water fishing],’’ Dickson said. ‘‘When it hits March 31 and they want to
go open-water crappie
fishing April 1, you might have to wait.

‘‘What you want is a smooth transition into warm weather. We need some massaging into the warm weather is the best way I can say it.’’

Can we just go straight to the massaging?

Stray cast

I can’t decide if
WGWG-FM (87.7) is the mottled sculpin, round goby or walleye fingerling of sports talk.

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