Weather Updates

Have time for some outdoors, Bears fans?

Updated: July 27, 2011 2:14AM

BOURBONNIAS, Ill. — A crow cawed from the bleached branches of a dead tree early Tuesday. I wanted to channel Ted Hughes and impose meaning on the bird’s proclamations, but a crow is just a crow sometimes.

I went spot-hopping Tuesday, mainly for photos of the Kankakee River at dawn, but I had a topwater (Pop-R) tied on and made a few casts at each stop in the Kankakee River State Park.

One disappointment in the decade the Bears have trained at Olivet Nazarene University is that it hasn’t proved to be the great opening to the Kankakee River, particularly the 10-mile stretch through the state park. That’s the best continuous stretch of fishing and beauty in northeastern Illinois.

I had hoped Bears fans would learn to love the river. I had hoped an outdoorsy sports-radio type — Dan McNeil, Dan Bernstein or John ‘‘Jurko’’ Jurkovic — would explore the river. I know Norm Minas attempted to get some of them out.

What gets me is that the Kankakee through the state park is extremely accessible for shore fishermen or waders.

I’ll preach once more about gaining access to the Kankakee with help from Ed Mullady, the editor of the Sportsman’s Letter for more than a half-century, and Minas, one of two known to have walked and fished all 20 miles of shoreline in the state park.

The state park is the starting point.

‘‘They could easily take Route 102 north and west from Olivet and go to Kankakee River State Park,’’ Mullady e-mailed. ‘‘On the way, they could stop at the Trading Post in the little village of Altorf for live bait, tackle, souvenirs and current fishing info on the area. Nick and Diana and others at the Trading Post will direct them to some good fishing.

‘‘There are numerous hiking trails to take through the wooded and shoreline areas. [If] youngsters want to play, there are some playgrounds. A unique area is at the footbridge over Rock Creek and a walk down to where the creek goes into the river.’’

Let me give an ‘‘amen’’ to the Trading Post, whose staff members know what they are talking about, and the Rock Creek and bridge, an area our family explores every season of the year.

‘‘The view from the suspension bridge over Rock Creek is one that is often photographed, and the kids can splash around in the shallows of Rock Creek and have a ball,’’ Minas e-mailed.

The Route 102 side of the state park is the most accessible and family-friendly. For fishermen, whether wading or shore fishing, the best area is Warner Bridge.

‘‘This time of year, fishing around bridges offers shade and multiple types of current patterns, so one can have options if something is not producing,’’ Minas e-mailed. ‘‘The old railroad trestles downstream a bit is also a good area. There is very easy access to the bike path here if one wants to ride, or [you can] walk and enjoy some wonderful vistas.’’

The bike path goes the length of the park and offers a good 10 miles of access for the adventuresome. Why I first recommend Warner Bridge is because of what Minas mentioned: the multiple options for fishing of riffles, deep pools, aquatic vegetation, eddies, bridge pilings and slack areas.

‘‘Hunting Areas 1, 2 and 7 [off Route 113 on the south side of the river] offer easy access to the horse trail on the south side of the river for those who like a less manicured path to walk,’’ Minas e-mailed.

That’s the point: There are options for fishermen (smallmouth bass, catfish, northern pike, rock bass, walleye or gar) and for those who simply want to wander around outdoors (hiking, biking, birding, photographing or sniffing the air).

For the Warner Bridge area, turn left from Route 102 at the four-way stop sign in the middle of nowhere. There’s parking on both sides of the bridge.

Illinois hunting

Online permit reservations for the first drawing period for the controlled pheasant-hunting program on IDNR-operated sites begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Go to and click ‘‘Upland Game,’’ then ‘‘Controlled Pheasant Areas.’’ .  .  . Squirrel season opens Monday.

Illinois waterfowling

Word should come today or Thursday about whether there will be a fourth zone for hunting waterfowl in Illinois. By Friday, Illinois officials will need to have proposals to the feds. On the sticky divide between the central and north zones through Grundy, Will and Cook counties, state wildlife officials are considering an innovative option. .  .  . Public draws for waterfowl blinds at area sites are Saturday.

Stray cast

The Sox remind me of a guy trying to win a perch derby with an 8-incher. The Cubs? Minnow races.

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