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An infuriating problem

AustGreen enjoyed his opening day LaSalle Lake 2009. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times.

Austin Green enjoyed his opening day on LaSalle Lake in 2009. | Dale Bowman~For the Sun-Times.

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Updated: May 24, 2011 5:05AM

The problem with whether LaSalle Lake will or won’t reopen to fishing on time isn’t the answer; it’s that I have to ask the question in the first place.

It’s asinine that one of the most important open-water fishing spots in northern Illinois even has the possibility of not opening on time.

I expect it will open March 16, but not because of foresight from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Here’s the problem: Site superintendent Ted Love had his staffer at LaSalle retired. And things being in the strapped state they are with the IDNR, nobody replaced him.

‘‘Presently, there is no staff to open the lake,’’ Love said.

But I expect something to be patched together in time for the traditional mid-March opener for the LaSalle County cooling lake.

‘‘I am doing everything I can to have the lake open,’’ said Jim Modglin, the regional land manager for Region 1. ‘‘I submitted the needs request.’’

LaSalle, located just south of Seneca, usually opens March 15 or the closest day thereafter from Wednesday through Sunday. That’s March 16 this year. In March, the lake is only open Wednesday through Sunday. The hours were further reduced last year, with a 4 p.m. close early in the year.

All this infuriates me.

LaSalle is vital to outdoor recreation in northern Illinois in the winter or early spring. It’s not of vital importance in the heat of summer. Summer, not winter, is when corners should be cut at LaSalle.

It’s a cooling lake for a nuclear power plant, which means it has warm water even in the dead of winter. It draws so many people on opening day that many sleep in line (me included) and there usually is a wait to enter.

LaSalle should have an expanded winter presence for shore fishermen. An east-side parking lot for shore fishermen has been talked about for years, but nothing has happened. The concessionaire hasn’t been replaced for years.

But I believe Modglin when he said, ‘‘Our intent is to have the lake open.’’

I want more than intent. I want a re-evaluation of how LaSalle fits into the broader picture of outdoor use in northern Illinois.

The role of LaSalle Lake, even in these tight times, should be expanding, not teetering on some brink.

Fun fund-raisers

There will be more than $21,000 in prizes for the fund-raising banquet of the Fox River Valley chapter of Muskies Inc. It will be Saturday evening at Schaumburg Golf Club. For more information, go to .  .  . The Lake County chapter of Pheasants Forever holds its second annual banquet Saturday evening at the Antioch Moose Lodge. For more information, call David Mattea at (847) 606-9842. .  .  . The annual ice-fishing derby put on by the Island Lake Lions Club is a go for 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Headquarters are at Eastway Park.

Wild things

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Friday through Monday. As always, I highly recommend it for teachers and students. I generally do it by staring out my office window for an hour or so. Go to .  .  . Shed hunters are finding shed antlers around the area, and people have been sending some wonderful photos of bucks with one side dropped. .  .  . The signs mount as the snow melts.

Stray cast

Clay Matthews should let his freak’s flag fly. Putting it up in a ponytail for the Grammys was like ‘‘The Lakefront Lip’’ shutting up or the Cubs .  .  . I can’t. It’s too early, too inevitable.

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