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Fishing Chicago River at night a different type of experience

Ryan Whitacre holds one his typical largemouth bass which he caught while fishing last Sunday night Chicago River. | Dale

Ryan Whitacre holds one of his typical largemouth bass, which he caught while fishing last Sunday night on the Chicago River. | Dale Bowman/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 4, 2014 6:38AM



From people strolling on the riverwalk in downtown Chicago to the decks of party boats on the Chicago River, the questions came:

What are you fishing for? Do you eat them?

The answers were bass, largemouth and smallmouth.
And we do not eat them; we release them.

The questions should stop. Yes, the Chicago waterways have good fishing.

Then again, the questions should keep coming. Fishermen on Chicago waterways have become part of the ambiance, much like fishermen on the piers in Florida.

It’s a good thing.

There have been a couple of decades of serious fishing for multiple species on the Chicago waterways, but people seem surprised.

It’s a sign of interest.

Last Sunday, I took Metra for a night outing on the Chicago River, a flotilla put together by Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass and his faithful rescued Yorkie, Molly. We rode with Nolan’s neighbor Bob Glowacki, a stay-at-home dad from Bridgeport, in his camo Tracker (a wonderful urban sight).

Ryan Whitacre, a rising young star of Chicago fishing, had John Cunningham with him. I need to spend time with Cunningham, part of Goodwood Firewood, which supplies the top commercial and competitive barbecues in Chicago. They even stock sassafras.

Andy Thiesse of Dragin Baits rode alone. There was good reason for him to be along. Whitacre and Nolan, in particular, want Thiesse to pour his trickier smaller plastics for their drop-shot rigs.

We launched out of Richard J. Daley Fishing Ramp at Western Avenue and the Sanitary and Ship Canal, then spot-hopped downtown. Whitacre caught the first bass off a point by a slip on the South Branch.

‘‘One thing I noticed is that everyone is friendlier on the river, not like the rest of the city,’’ Glowacki said.

Finally, we got serious and headed to Ogden Slip. Nolan put the first fish in our boat, a largemouth of 13 inches, while trolling a crayfish-imitating crankbait.

After they popped a few more largemouth, Glowacki reeled in the first feisty smallmouth. It fought like a much bigger fish, and Nolan quipped: ‘‘It is like the short-guy complex in grammar school.’’

That’s a good description of smallmouth.

Our boat landed the only smallmouth of the night, four of them. Most came on drop-shot rigs. We ended up with four smallmouth, five largemouth, a green sunfish and some rock bass. Whitacre and Cunningham boated a dozen largemouth.

A heavy rain shower forced us to seek cover under the Lake Shore Drive bridge just after dark. Two more showers came and went over the night.

The only bump was the jackass security guard at Marina City, who has the illegal opinion that the river in front belongs to him. It doesn’t. His trouble needs to stop.

There’s a good reason for night fishing on the Chicago River. A someone said: ‘‘I just like fishing it because the boat traffic is all gone.’’

The last fish came when Glowacki pulled a largemouth off Wolf Point on a crayfish-imitating jig below the Sun-Times building.

It was time. But we gave it until midnight.

‘‘Come out again in October or November,’’ Whitacre said. ‘‘I have had 100-fish days.’’

Glowacki dropped me by Michigan Avenue. Looking no odder than other denizens on the famous street in the early hours of Monday morning, I walked the couple of blocks to Metra at Millennium Station with two fishing rods pointed skyward.



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