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Saric one of all-around greatest

Jim Saric goes innational Fresh Water Fishing Hall Fame as legendary angler raises questiwhether he’s Chicago’s most complete fisherman. |

Jim Saric goes into the national Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a legendary angler and raises the question of whether he’s Chicago’s most complete fisherman. | Dale Bowman~For the Sun-Times

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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:45AM

We have to let Al Lindner go. After all, the greatest fisherman to come from Chicago left in the early 1960s when he was done at St. Patrick High School.

I was thinking of that when word came that Jim Saric was going into the national Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a legendary angler.

If we include Lindner in the Chicago fishing pantheon, nobody is within hollering distance. But if we concede Lindner to the world, and he truly belongs to the world of sportfishing, then the Chicago pantheon becomes less clear.

Saric belongs in the discussion as a fisherman, communicator, teacher and advocate. Spence Petros, a teacher of and collaborator with Saric, fits that broad sweep of impact, too.

Saric started fishing and selling early. Growing up in Homewood, he learned to sell at a defunct Chicago Heights bait shop. He won his first muskie tournament at 20, won an early MWC tournament on the Illinois River in 1989 and took second at the Sturgeon Bay Bass Open in 1998. Muskies are where he obtained greatness. Of the more than 1,800 he has caught, 115 measured 50 inches or larger, the biggest a released 53-pounder.

He runs the University of Esox, a musky fishing school, and has given more than 500 seminars on the top predator. Since 1997, he has made Musky Hunter Magazine one of the great fishing magazines. His ‘‘The Musky Hunter’’ television show, entering its sixth season, annually collects Tellys, the top cable award.

I’ve fished with Saric several times. Once it was tagging along for his show. In the fall of 2002, I asked him to join a quixotic quest. And he agreed to try to catch Illinois’ first 40-pound muskie, documented during a fish survey.

So both of us showed up to fish a 58-acre impoundment at Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park neither of us had ever seen, let alone fished, in a friendly rivalry with Jeff Lampe, then with the Peoria Journal Star, and “Chef Todd’’ Kent. Now, a lot of hotshot fishermen would never have taken that shot in the dark. But Saric had the right stuff to take on the challenge in the right spirit.

“It is just kinda cool to be trying to catch a fish known to be a state record on a small lake,’’ he said. “It’s kind of a Lotto thing.’’

That kind of describes muskie fishing in general. And sums up Saric’s essence.

Hunting notes

lllinois bowhunters had a great opening weekend for deer. With near-perfect weather, hunters reported a harvest of 5,345. That compared to 3,136 the first two days in 2010, forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton said. . . . Youth firearm deer hunt is this weekend. . . . Weather might be too nice for the youth waterfowl hunt, north zone, this weekend. Public sites include Chain O’Lakes SP, Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area, Lake DePue SFWA, Sinnissippi Lake Wildlife Area, Mississippi River Pools (in the north zone), William W. Powers State Recreation Area and Donnelley SWA.

Wild things

In the State Journal-Register, Chris Young reported a young hunter claimed a mountain lion attacked him in Pike County. There have been three confirmed cougar reports in modern Illinois.

Stray cast

Haters of Jeff Pearlman’s Walter Payton biography and believers in Louie Spray’s muskie swim the same depths.

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