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It’s slow, but spring action is starting

The historic winter caused compressiearly spring outdoors activities — such as traditional April 1 openers for fishing Heidecke Lake smelt

The historic winter caused compression of early spring outdoors activities — such as the traditional April 1 openers for fishing at Heidecke Lake and smelt netting on the Chicago lakefront (as demonstrated by Perry Castrovillari last year) — with traditio

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Updated: May 1, 2014 6:44AM

I   found myself on Wednesday looking at and to check for reports nearby of morel mushrooms.

There weren’t any.

It’s one mixed-up spring coming out of an all-time Chicago winter.

On Tuesday, smelt netting opens on the Chicago lakefront. A week ago, a reader wondered if the ice will be off the shoreline enough to throw nets. It should be, though a significant ice cap flows back and forth with the wind on Lake Michigan.

I am not sure that would matter. Smelting is now a rite of tradition and memory more than netting.

‘‘Smelt fishing this year in Illinois is likely to be about the same as it has been the past several years — very slow,’’ emailed Vic Santucci, Lake Michigan program manager. ‘‘Catches of smelt in our assessment surveys have been low for over a decade now, and we saw no signs of improvement in last year’s survey. Smelt abundance has been low in lake-wide assessments, too.’’

Also Tuesday, as is traditional, Heidecke Lake reopens to fishing. Early last week, it looked like not only would boaters not be able to launch but there might still be ice on the former cooling lake near Morris for shore fishermen.

But late last week, wind, rain and warmth did their things, and Tuesday is a go. Obviously, the water is going to be very cold. Be prepared to go slow with live bait for the opener.

The few days earlier this month when boaters could get out on southern Lake Michigan, they found coho. But the ice cap prevented that most days, until the last week. The coho were in. Some boaters limited in less than an hour. The buzz came back to fishing.

But ice holds its sway. Some local ponds are wide open; others have fishable ice. Greg Dickson, proprietor of Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch, expects ice fishing on the Chain O’Lakes until the second week of April.

On Monday, Kurt Justice at Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua, Wis., wondered, ‘‘With dawn temps running six to 10 degrees below zero and nothing above freezing for a few days here in late March, [it] doesn’t look good for ice out by the May opener at this rate. Ice thickness averages 32 to 36 [inches-plus]. That’s a lot of ice to lose in 30 some days.’’

Wild turkeys have remained in winter flocks far longer than usual across the Midwest.

I love the Wisconsin DNR Outdoor Report. On Thursday, it had this: ‘‘Turkeys are still grouped up in winter flocks, but there were more reports this week of toms displaying and gobbling, so the groups will soon disperse.’’

Yes, spring does its thing.

This also came from the report: ‘‘Bears are emerging from hibernation, and there was a report of a bear walking over the ice from Madeline Island and taking up a temporary residence in a shed by the Onion River.’’

That made my week.

On Friday a week ago, one of those days where spring visited for a few hours, I took the younger kids on several hikes. They were ready for it, too. It’s been a long damn winter.

But at one point, my daughter looked at me and asked, ‘‘You’re really looking for antlers, aren’t you?’ ’’

Yes. With the snow cover lasting seemingly forever, it was the first I was able to look for shed antlers, usually something done weeks earlier.

It’s all here now, a frenzy of things to do outside. Get to it.


Twitter: @BowmanOutside

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