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We’re seeing spike in pike

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Kevin Schlomas and son Pat finally went on their ‘‘first ice-fishing adventure’’ in early January. The Tinley Park pair headed southeast to Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, which is located an hour south of Chicago near the state line in Indiana.

Tip-ups with large suckers outside produced nothing. Neither did jigging for bluegills inside the shack.

‘‘At 5:15 p.m., we started talking about the long walk of shame back to the truck with the skunk flag flying high,’’ Kevin e-mailed. ‘‘Our thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a tip-up alarm siren. Probably a false flag in the gusting wind? No, the spool was spinning! Pat went ahead and set the hook after the fish stopped running. A beautiful 30-inch pike saved the day, and the skunk flag was stowed in the shack.’’

After pictures with Pat, a senior at Lincoln-Way North, the pike was released.

If submissions for Fish of the Week are any indication, quality northern pike have saved the day many times this winter around Chicago fishing.

I suspect that’s partly because it has been a good year for ice. Even south of the city, there has been close to two consecutive months of good ice.

Good ice and good pike fishing are not new on the Chain O’Lakes. But in my weekly chat a few weeks ago with Art Frisell, the longtime counter and reel-repair guy at Triangle Sports in Antioch, he said it is one of the best years he has seen for pike in Lake County. That included a 38-incher from a secret lake.

He’s right. And for a good reason.

‘‘We’ve seen a spike in catches here on the Chain due to the flurry of spring flooding the past three or four years — good natural reproduction,’’ e-mailed district fisheries biologist Frank Jakubicek, who oversees Lake and Cook counties.

‘‘It might also reflect the present economy: With more guys out of work, more guys are hitting the ice,’’ speculated district biologist Rob Miller, who oversees Grundy, Kendall, Kankakee and Will counties. ‘‘More pressure equals more catches and increased chances for landing bigger pike and more of them.’’

This has been going on since early winter and just keeps going.

While on a family ice-fishing trip at Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation near Dundee, 11-year-old Chicagoan Max Donovan caught a 32-inch pike.

James Jansky takes it to another level. He fishes in the DuPage County forest preserves with both tip-ups and a rod and reel.

On Jan. 15, he caught and released a pike of 38 inches. He was fishing in 10 feet of water near a weed bed with a 5-inch golden roach minnow on a No. 2 octopus hook on a 12-pound fluorocarbon leader and 25-pound tip-up line.

‘‘There are some big pike in this lake because of the stocked trout and panfish they feed on,’’ said Jansky, the facilities manager at Waubonsie Valley High School said.

In the far north suburbs, tip-ups on Crystal Lake produced a pair of monster pike — 41 and 43 inches — for Bill Brown.

And it just keeps going, even in Chicago.

On Sunday, Mark Tetlak of Oak Forest was ice fishing on the Illinois side of Wolf Lake with a small green crappie jig on 4-pound line when he caught a 40-inch pike.

‘‘Took a few pictures and released the fish. Hope to see it in the paper,’’ he e-mailed.

Catching and releasing might be another big reason for the spike in quality pike around Chicago fishing.

‘‘Good fishing takes a long time!’’ Jakubicek said. ‘‘The biggest fish we see are clean of wounds, hooking scars, eroded fins, etc. They live a secluded life and aren’t aggressive toward lures until that fateful day when a lucky angler wins the lottery.’’

Places and faces

The visitation Sunday for Gerry Rodeen — one of Illinois’ great advocates for the outdoors, especially on the habitat side — overflowed First Lutheran Church in Paxton, with lines lasting nearly six hours. .  .  . The Midwest Musky Club ( hosts a free meeting with Crash Mullins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Village Sportsman’s Club in Alsip.

Wild things

Alan Anderson of Des Plaines forwarded a reminder for those who feed birds to take extra care because the near-record snows will hide natural food sources.

Stray cast

Fly-fishing for carp is like having Jay Cutler quarterback the Bears.

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