Monthly Archives: December 2012

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My 2013 Fishing Resolution

In 2012 I got out fishing roughly 75 times. That’s a very rough estimate and most likely on the low side, but for the sake of argument, I’ll say 75. I don’t keep records like I used to.

When you live a two minute walk to a river and a ten minute drive will get you another 20 miles of river and access to five creeks, getting out fishing is relatively easy. I recall going out seven days a week a few times in 2012, sometimes for no more than an hour, but it was enough to lower my blood pressure and help me forget the world around me, even briefly.

Of all those times out fishing, I recall fishing with another human being five times.

So for 2013 I resolve to try to get out fishing with another human being six times, fishing with my daughters doesn’t count.

Anything more than that would be intolerable.

The reasoning is simple, at the last minute I may change my mind and choose to watch the squirrels running around in front of my house. Or my back hurts and I can’t be bothered. Or it’s hot out, or cold out.

Or I simply just don’t feel like it.

If I had made plans with others, now I have to call them and make up some lame excuse why I can’t go. Or if I choose to go, now I have to wander around making small talk, giving up the best fishing spots because I do get out all the time and I’m sure whoever I’m with doesn’t get the opportunity to go fishing much and the gentleman in me says, of course, go ahead, you fish it first, I get to do this all the time…

I hate being a gentleman.

Fishing with others also interferes with my fishing plans for the day. Which is, I have none. Sure, I go to a spot, but as my wife likes to say, great, I’ll know where you’re car is, after that finding you would be impossible.

I make decisions as I walk. I have no real interest in having a discussion about that as I walk. I feel like going that way. I don’t want to hear, no, I don’t want to go that way, or, why are we going that way. I feel like going that way, that’s pretty much it.

While on the water, I want to go fish over there, not have a discussion on why I want to go fish over there. When I get over there I may not even want to fish. Something on an island may have caught my eye and I might want to go wander around the island for awhile. Maybe I just want to sit on that boulder over there along the shore and… watch the river flow. I don’t want to talk about watching the river flow, watching it is enough.

So that means for 2013 I should make an effort to get out fishing with another human being once a month.

I might be able to accomplish that.

But if at the last minute I call and make some excuse as to why I can’t go, I’m probably lying to you.

There’s a good chance I’ve decided that sitting out in front of my house hand feeding peanuts to the squirrels is time better spent.

Or, if you want to catch me in my lie, you can call my wife.

She always knows where my car is…

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Bald Eagles in Yorkville Again

In the 1960’s I had already assumed I would never see a bald eagle in the wild. I assumed that if I ever made it to my mid 50’s, they would either be extinct or you might be able to go visit a few in a bird sanctuary somewhere.

Growing up in Chicago made those assumptions more realistic than not. The chances of seeing a bald eagle, or making it to my mid 50’s, in the Chicago area… why would that happen?

And yet, 45 years later, living a two minute walk to the Fox River in Yorkville, 50 miles from downtown Chicago, bald eagle sightings have become almost commonplace, but still fascinating.

I see them year round while out fishing the river, but winter seems to concentrate them in the open water below the Yorkville dam. Last year my friend and avid bird watcher, Larry Granat, saw a dozen in one day. For the birders, he runs a Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page and it’s worth a visit.

A couple of winters ago I was out on my front porch when an eagle came drifting up from the river. The crows were following him and you can tell he was annoyed. To take a break and to get away from the crows, he landed in the tree in my front yard, directly over my head. Of course, no camera.

This morning I made my usual trip down to the dam area to see what birds were around. Besides the ducks and geese, herons were stalking the island shore and seagulls were drifting on the wind. Within 15 minutes I had seen four bald eagles, three adults and a juvenile. I was expecting to see none this day.

I know birders in Chicago and the surrounding areas that travel out to the Rock River, the Mississippi River or down to Starved Rock for the off chance of seeing bald eagles. Why travel if you don’t have to, they’re barely 50 miles away.

While out here, stop in at River City Roasters to warm up and grab some coffee and something to eat. They’re right on the river and overlooking the dam. From a window seat, you might not even have to stand around out in the cold to catch sight of an eagle.

Oh yeah, I forgot, the usual question… where the hell is Yorkville?

You know where Aurora is? Yorkville is about 12 miles southwest of there.

Here’s a map.

The eagles should be around all winter. If you’ve always wanted to see one, it beats driving 100 miles or more for the opportunity.

Swimming upstream faster than the current… (part 1)

Over the last couple of days, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller has sent out a couple of email that reads like a State of the Union address for the DNR and goes into some detail about the recently passed DNR Sustainability Bill.

This link is in the following letter from Marc Miller, but in case you don’t think the IDNR has any effect on your life, you may want to go read this first:

Did You Know? DNR Facts and Figures

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Dear DNR constituent:

The passage of the DNR Sustainability Bill (SB1566) is a significant victory for conservation and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). What the bill does is allow the agency to keep state parks and sites open and begin to address a backlog of needed facility repairs, which now totals $750 million. It also allows us to address other program problems for the agency.

The bill took nearly a year to negotiate and included over 40 DNR constituent groups in talks, who worked with sponsor Rep. Frank Mautino for a consensus bill. A key component and big “win” for conservation included in the bill was the rarely used anti-sweeps language that ensures funds would not be used for other purposes than keeping state parks open and programs working. Governor Pat Quinn’s management and budget director also signed a letter committing to not sweep these funds and hold DNR’s funding level.

This level of commitment to DNR should not be a surprise. During Governor Quinn’s first week on the job and my first day on the job as Director, he signed a different bill that replaced diverted sportsmen’s funds that were swept by our predecessors. We have been working diligently ever since to protect these funds and use them for conservation.

The Sustainability Bill will take effect as law on January 1st, and we project that eventually it will provide DNR with an estimated $30 to $33 million dollars annually to be deposited into dedicated funds connected with each revenue source. There are several steps that the agency needs to take start collecting funds, such as creating rules and regulations and implementing IT infrastructure, and it will be 9 to 12 months before the agency begins to receive the new funding.

I would like to thank those organizations who supported the Sustainability Bill, negotiated its details, and worked for its passage. It is our intent to work as quickly as possible to take the necessary steps to capture new revenues and apply these funds to DNR parks and programs, create new jobs and promote economic development, and to restructure DNR for future generations.

We will uphold our mission of managing the state’s natural resources and begin to repair some of the past neglect from budget cuts. DNR constituents need to understand, however, that victory could be temporary because the state’s budget problems will threaten our progress in the near future. Pension obligations and unpaid bills squeeze agencies like DNR and make General Revenue funds less available for everyday operations. If lawmakers do not act to address the pension squeeze, then everyone’s hard work towards DNR sustainability will be erased by these larger fiscal problems.

Our success at the legislature is one step towards sustainability and demonstrates that we are swimming upstream faster than the current. Stay tuned and I will explain in a second email how you can help DNR and secure the progress we have already made.

Yours in conservation,
Marc Miller, Director
Illinois DNR

Even Zombies Get the Fishing Blues

My daughter and I have a running joke about Zombies and the coming Zombie Apocalypse.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she gave me a Christmas gift.

A calendar.

The illustrations remind me of how I used to paint and draw when I abruptly stopped doing both about 25 years ago. Loose, sloppy, paint splattered, only I never got so gory.

I like it.

Each month has a journal entry, the field notes of one Dr. Robert Twombly, whoever that is.

The month of June caught my eye. There was a zombie fisherman, standing in the water, his fishing pole leaning on a branch. A crow intently watching him.

Half reconnaissance and half gathering wood I left the house today. At a good distance I saw a zombie down by the water in fishing gear, just standing there, swaying and staring. Out over the water. Do they think? Then it ripped off part of it’s own arm and gnawed on it like it was beef jerky.

I can relate to that.

I’ve spent numerous days fishing where observation is key. It’s not unusual to stand and stare and sway a bit. Then you fish. And fish some more. And no matter what you do and throw in the water, nothing bites. Not a tap.

No big deal. I’m out there for the beauty of my surroundings. To take in the scenery and become one with all that nature has to offer.

Or so I try to convince myself.

In reality, I want to chew off my own arm, worthless thing that it is. Can’t cast worth a damn with it on most days anyways. There ain’t no fish in this water even if I could cast with it.

Yes, the zombie makes a good point. I suddenly feel a slight twinge of sympathy for his circumstances, an understanding of his frustration.

For one brief moment, we are brothers in fishing.

North Zone Waterfowl – Ducks Done but There’s Still Geese

Wrote this on December 10th and never did anything with it…

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Some waterfowl observations.

For the first couple of weeks of the waterfowl season, it sounded like a war zone around Yorkville. Since then, things have died down considerably, hardly hear any shooting. There’s also not many geese hanging around down this way. They usually show up in bigger numbers when the ponds in the area start to freeze over. This stretch of the Fox River doesn’t freeze over because of the effects of the Yorkville dam and that’s a draw for the birds.

But, I have to drive east everyday for work now. I take Route 126 through to I-55. Between Yorkville and Plainfield it’s primarily farm fields. The closer you get to Plainfield, the more birds you see. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. In the fields, flying overhead in massive V’s and all over the DuPage River.

I’m assuming the draw for all these birds is Lake Renwick and all the strip mine pits in the area that are now fishing clubs. As those start to freeze over, a lot of the birds move to the DuPage River, which almost never freezes over.

A smart waterfowler would do a bit of research and check out the hunting opportunities around Plainfield. I know you can hunt on the DuPage River further south of Plainfield, only I can’t remember the details. No public blinds as far as I remember, so you’d need a boat blind. Better still, it might be worth someone’s while to find out if you can drift shoot out of a canoe through that section. I know you can do that on the Fox River down stream of Silver Springs State Park, why not on the DuPage?

As long as there’s open water around Plainfield, the birds will stick around. I’ve noticed for years that the geese hang around in that area all winter mainly because of the DuPage River. I would imagine there has to be a way to take advantage of this.

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Well, things have change a bit since then.

The season for ducks in the North Zone ended on December 18th, but the season for Canada Geese doesn’t end till January 17, 2013. There are still massive amounts of them around Plainfield, but the turn in the weather on Thursday has changed things a bit on the Fox River.

Friday night the geese were moving onto the Fox River down from my house. You don’t think of them flying at night, but I hear them all the time heading down to the river and then talking up a storm once they get there. That means this cold front has started to freeze the ponds in the area and they’re heading for open water. The river will get some skim ice now, but it won’t start to freeze over for awhile yet.

Cruising along the river on Saturday showed geese gathering all over the place. This is the first I’ve seen this all season. Remember my comment above about drift shooting down river from Silver Springs State Park?

I stopped on the bridge over the river that defines this down stream edge of the State Park. In the pool below the bridge and for down stream as far as you could see were geese, at least a couple of hundred of them. This is where you can supposedly start drift shooting on the river. If you want to try this I would get that info verified to make sure, but it’s been done in the recent past and I haven’t heard that things have changed.

That being said, I was out this morning around the beginning of shooting time watching a couple hundred geese leave the river and head for the surrounding fields.

No shooting to be heard anywhere.

The 10 day weather forecast shows low 30’s during the day and teens and twenties every night. This should bring considerably more geese to the river.

If you’re a dedicated Canada Goose hunter, you might not want to miss this.