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Public transit, here I come

Fishing Chicago lakefront downtown is accessible from multiple bus L lines. | Dale bowman~For Sun-Times

Fishing on the Chicago lakefront downtown is accessible from multiple bus and L lines. | Dale bowman~For the Sun-Times

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Updated: June 16, 2011 12:27AM

Monroe Harbor and the blue expanse of Lake Michigan and the south bank of the Chicago River’s greenish main stem in downtown Chicago are within steps of dozens of bus or L options.

With gas pushing $5 a gallon, that’s something to keep in mind. Fishermen have the option of not fishing, but that’s not a smart or healthy choice, and there are options that involve bypassing the gas pump.

Let’s look at a few of the more innovative and far-flung public-transit options — beyond taking the No. 146 or No. 151 bus downtown and walking along Monroe Harbor to a jig and goby imitator for smallmouth bass.

We’ll start close and work our way out.

Origins Park on South Ashland, across from the Sun-Times’ printing plant, is one of the more historic points in Chicago and one of the coolest urban fishing spots with the turning basin at the mouth of Bubbly Creek.

Even a somewhat-remote spot such as that one is easy for fishermen to reach via the No. 62 Archer or No. 9 Ashland bus or the Ashland stop on the Orange Line.

Metra offers good options to top spots to the north and west.

The Geneva stop on the Union Pacific/West Line is within easy walking distance of several parks or forest preserves along the Fox River.

It was Metra that started me thinking of such options. Earlier this month, I considered a trip for yellow perch out of Waukegan Harbor. Because we are down to one car, I needed to figure out how to get there.

The Waukegan Metra stop on the Union Pacific/North Line is only a block or so from the harbor. A couple of stops north is Winthrop Harbor, which is right on the edge of the forest preserve by North Point Marina and within walking distance of Lake Michigan and the harbor.

Maybe I am a little too willing to do this stuff.

One of my great adventures came when I was 20 and bought a 15-day Greyhound pass. I went coast to coast and back. With a couple of nights spent sleeping on the ground and hiking in Oregon, and with floor sleepovers at a brother’s place in Corvallis, Ore., and a buddy’s place in the wilds of northern Indiana, I made the trip on $225, which included $165 for the pass.

If you’re that sort of adventurer, you could take the Union Pacific/North Line to its end in Kenosha, Wis., but it’s a good hike to the water’s edge.

The South Shore Line, which runs between Chicago and South Bend, Ind., has intrigued me since I used to ride it to Chicago and back while in college. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a perfect ride for a fisherman.

South Shore spokesman John Parsons pointed out the wide-open overhead racks make it easy to accommodate tubes for fishing rods or fishing equipment in general. He said they only ask that hooks not be swinging freely.

‘‘We don’t want to hook somebody’s ear,’’ he said.

That should apply with transporting fishing gear anywhere, anyway.

For fishermen, the stop on the South Shore in Indiana with the closest access to the Michigan City pier is the 11th Street Station. It’s not an easy hike — closer to a taxi ride — but it is doable.

What I think is the coolest public-transit option is the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor Amtrak station in Michigan. It’s steps from the broad beach of Silver Beach County Park and offers easy access to the south pier at the mouth of the St. Joseph River.

Not to mention that the area around it is the sort of artsy-fartsy or harbor-town touristy that is fun to roam. It is a commuter train, though, so the return trip would have to be in the morning.

It’s an option.

If gas prices keep going up, I might pull together a look for short-hop road trips for fishing near Chicago.

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