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Drumming up another fishery on Lake Michigan

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IDNR TAKES ACTION, ADJUSTS DEER REGULATIONS

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources tweaked its deer-hunting regulations in response to the historic drop in harvest in the 2013-14 seasons.

The biggest is the closure of 20 additional counties to the late-winter antlerless-only season. Thirty-five counties remain open for the late-winter season and another 12 for the special chronic-wasting-disease season.

In addition, firearm permits were reduced in some counties. Statewide, either-sex permits were reduced by 4,925. Antlerless-only permits are being reduced by 6,375. Quota reductions take effect immediately and might affect the second firearm lottery.

Updated: July 22, 2014 9:22PM



David Allevato faced a good problem on the morning of July 11: He battled a fish so big that there was no way to lift it up at 31st Street Harbor.

‘‘Actually, I had to climb down the ladder on the side and reach down for it,’’ he said. ‘‘Everybody was cracking up: ‘Nice fish. How are you going to get it in?’ I was almost up to my waist in water to get it.’’

Allevato, a Wheaton man, owns a boat with his girlfriend at 31st Street. He had been fishing for yellow perch and smallmouth bass with crayfish. That’s what he does most mornings on the weekends they are there. What he caught was a big freshwater drum.

‘‘It gave me the fight of my life,’’ he said.

Allevato weighed it on a captain’s scale in a nearby boat at 21 pounds, 8 ounces. That was big enough that he called Henry’s Sports and Bait to check the state record.

Not even close. Joe Rinella caught the Illinois-record freshwater drum of 35 pounds in 1960 from the DuQuoin City Lake in Perry County. Garland Fellers caught the Indiana record of 30 pounds in 1963 from the White River.

Freshwater drum, commonly called sheephead, are a growing fishery on southern Lake Michigan. In recent years, more fishermen target them, especially off the Montrose horseshoe and around Monroe Harbor in Chicago.

‘‘We don’t pick them up a lot in the surveys,’’ said Vic Santucci, Illinois’ Lake Michigan program chief. ‘‘But harvest rates went up last year, nearly doubled last year.’’

Catch surveys indicated nearly 6,000 drum were harvested in 2013 on the Illinois lakefront. Santucci said there has been a steady increase in catches the last few years. My sense is size is improving, too, but Santucci knew of no data either way.

He wondered whether some focus on drum came because fishermen sought other species during the July closure on fishing for yellow perch. (Perch fishing was opened in July this year.)

Brian Breidert, Indiana’s veteran Lake Michigan fisheries biologist, noticed the same increase.

‘‘Water temperature has dictated the drum-spawning periods,’’ he emailed. ‘‘Back in 2010, we saw an increase when we had staging of skamania during the July period. We have always had June fishery, but now they are hanging around, presumably eating mussels down here.

‘‘We have seen a few guys targeting them, which prompted us to provide a handout of recipes for them. Size has been increasing, as well. They are great fun to catch from light line and have been hitting spinners and all types of bait. There are a good number that get caught from the pier at Michigan City and Portage.’’

The Ohio Sea Grant Program offers a wonderful source for handling, cleaning and cooking drum in A Guide to Utilizing the Freshwater Drum.

Add another piece to the ever-changing Lake Michigan.

Stray cast

The White Sox’ bullpen needs the equivalent of the homemade stinger hooks the late Dominic ‘‘Big Knobs’’ Culjan tied. Actually, the Sox need a closer worthy of being dubbed ‘‘Big Knobs.’’



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