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Fisheries chief will have more time to . . . fish

Steve Pallo is retiring as Illinois’ fisheries chief end month. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

Steve Pallo is retiring as Illinois’ fisheries chief at the end of the month. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Bass fishing

High school

(State championship is Friday and Saturday at Carlyle Lake)

1. Wheaton-Warrenville South

◆ Repeat Busse title, third state trip

2. Hinsdale Central

◆ Doubled up at Tampier

3. Sandburg

◆ Third state trip

4. Streamwood

◆ Third state trip

5. Marmion

◆ Shabbona title

6. Jacobs

◆ Chain 1 title

7. Joliet Central

◆ Heidecke title

8) Grant

◆ Chain 2 title

9) Niles North

◆ Skokie Lagoons title

10) Minooka

◆ Return trip to state

Updated: August 3, 2011 9:18PM

There’s a small lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota in need of many repairs.

‘‘So now it’s time to finish the cabin, to fish and enjoy the neighbors (deer, bear, wolf, nesting eagles and osprey, walleye, perch, smallies, crappies, etc.),’’ Steve Pallo e-mailed.

At the end of the month, Pallo, 60, will retire as Illinois’ fisheries chief.

His greatest attribute was steady grace in one of the most turbulent periods in Illinois fisheries, as the Asian carp crisis exploded into an international incident.

‘‘The invasion of Asian carp in the Upper Illinois Waterway has been a major challenge,’’ he admitted.

But he takes pride in the efforts the state has made to hire staff to monitor the situation and to work with national groups.

Pallo was named fisheries chief in 2008, but he had filled the position for nearly a year before. He was a fisheries biologist in Illinois for 35 years, the last 17 with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. I knew him primarily as head of the impoundments program.

I did an e-mail interview with him after the retirement announcement for a sort of state of Illinois’ fisheries.

Asked what he was most proud of, Pallo said: ‘‘The staff in the fisheries division are the hardest-working, most dedicated bunch I have ever worked with. For example, during Carp Camp 1, when we did the rotenone job near Lockport, many staff missed the entire second deer shotgun season. It was so cold, the Porta-Potties froze!’’

He knows the reality, too.

‘‘Many areas in fisheries continue to work at reduced staffing levels, but one would hardly know it, as our hatcheries continue to produce a quality product to stock statewide,’’ he wrote.

That is no small feat, one that makes me wonder how long it can last.

‘‘Our field-management crews continue to manage our lakes and rivers and streams to provide high-quality fishing statewide,’’ he said. ‘‘And most recently, when we were called to help for ‘flood duty’ along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, nearly all of our field staff with large boats spent 10 to 18 days on-site, helping in any way they could (sandbagging, rescue operations [for] people and pets, medical supply and food delivery). We even had a couple of the guys bunk in local jail cells, as there were no motel rooms available.’’

Pallo knows there are many needs.

‘‘We have identified several critical hires (Lake Michigan program manager), and I would expect them to be filled in the future,’’ he said. He is hopeful because the agency is headed by two professionals in director

Marc Miller and assistant director John Rogner . But pros at the top aren’t enough. I think we need staff in the field even more.

I asked about Pallo’s favorite work spaces. He knew I didn’t mean the IDNR offices on the state fairgrounds.

Here’s his list: ‘‘Spring Lake in early-spring netting surveys for very nice bass, crappies and some muskies for spawning. .  .  . Lake Evergreen in late-spring netting surveys for state-record saugeye. .  .  . Clinton Lake surveys for hybrid stripers (that population is about to explode) and black-chin crappie. .  .  . Fox Chain, spring and fall surveys, for walleyes. .  .  . Rend Lake surveys for bass and crappies. .  .  . Kinkaid Lake for walleye, smallies, crappies. Beautiful lake with excellent water quality and rock outcroppings.’’

That’s a cross-section of Illinois’ best inland fishing to be proud of.

Places and faces

Brad Rubin of Antioch, the coach of Zion-Benton’s bass-fishing team, showed he can do it. He teamed with Chris Jones of Wisconsin to win ($11,350) the inaugural North American Bass Circuit event on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. .  .  . Chicagoan Donald Oksanen won ($1,578) the co-angler side of the Wal-Mart BFL Illini Division tournament on Rend Lake. .  .  . Frog season opens today in Illinois.

Stray cast

Listening to Steve Stone discuss the Cubs is like watching a bear rake a rotten log for grubs.

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