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July green light for yellow perch

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Updated: June 17, 2014 11:41PM

The phone rang early Monday.

“Is it true?’’ Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan wanted to know.

It is true. Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Marc Miller found a way to get July reopened this summer for fishing for yellow perch in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan for the first time since 2001.

On Facebook, Ed Schmitt, a suburban angler who loves to fish the lakefront, posted, “woot woot!’’

I think that is gibberish of the happy sort.

At Henry’s Sports and Bait, the fabled urban bait shop in Bridgeport, staff were more carried away with extra exclamation points when they hung a sign on the front door: “Great news!!! Perch season is now open in July!!’’

It has been a long damn time banging heads against the immovable wall of the July closure.

It comes with a trade-off. Beginning in 2015, perch fishing will be closed from May 1 to June 15 around the spawn. The daily bag limit will remain 15.

One of the few complaints I heard was from lakefront activist Ken Schneider, who said in his 60 years of lakefront fishing the female jumbos are done spawning by June 1. Maybe that’s a tweak for down the road.

North Side perch slayer Arden Katz said, “I think it is political.’’

On that, he is dead-on. It is political, but then so was the insistence on sticking with the regulation of closing July for more than a decade with no notable impact either way on the fishery.

Perch crashed on Lake Michigan in the 1990s. That led to many and varied restrictions on sportfishing and the closure of nearly all commercial netting in the four Lake Michigan states.

More than most species on Lake Michigan, perch were affected by the arrival of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Because the mussels filter microscopic food from the food chain, few perch survived past hatching.

That is still an issue.

So the opening of July was a juggling act to balance conservation with the social imperative of one of the great traditions of Chicago fishing.

There is a reason that July is so important to that tradition.

“July is the best because June still has lots of east winds,’’ Katz noted.

On that, he is right. Perch have been trying to come in for a couple of weeks, but persistent east and northeast winds keep interrupting.

My fervent hope is that when July 1 comes in 13 days, it comes after three days of southwest winds, perch are all over the lakefront and so are thousands of Chicago fishermen, celebrating one of the great traditions of Chicago outdoors.


The Illinois Whitetail Alliance has been quiet but busy, meeting with legislators, IDNR officials and the Illinois Farm Bureau, according to an update by Kevin Chapman on The IWA is moving toward becoming a more formal group, but for now, the best method for following is on Facebook.

Stray cast

I have the sinking feeling the Sox’ season is like a just-cast Lindy Rig. Cubs? Bottom-bouncer on a long troll?

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