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SARLEY: Fish smarter, not longer

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I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, talking to you about fishing the local ponds and streams. Every time I pull into a gas station to fill up with four-bucks-plus-a-gallon petrol, it reinforces in my mind how appropriate it is to try to fish as close to home as possible.

I believe in spending as much time as possible on the water, but I’ve learned to look at it in a different way. Rather than heading out for marathon fishing sessions, I’ve cut down on the length of my outings while increasing the number of outings.

That’s hard for me to do, believe me. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” Put me near water with a rod and tackle box and it’s a real battle to call it quits.

I’ve learned that it’s better to pick what should be the most productive times to fish and leave when that time is up. Think about it this way. You go out to a nearby pond which doesn’t incur much travel time. You get in a couple of hours of quality fishing and return home. Your spouse will probably greet you saying, “Why are you home so early?” You can look at your spouse, smile warmly and reply, “I’d rather be here with you, Hun.” Congratulations! You have just won the brownie point championship.

During the summer, with our horrendously hot and humid weather, a good fishing outing can be made up of a couple of hours just after daybreak or just before dusk. Will fish bite during the middle of the day? Sure, sometimes they will, but your odds are better spent casting your baits during prime time.

I remember one time when I wanted to go out to the Illinois River on a Saturday. On Friday, I called noted walleye pro, Ted Takasaki, and asked him for his tips.

He said, “I wouldn’t waste the gas, Steve. If you do go, get out there pre-dawn and don’t stay later than 9. It’s going to be a very tough bite.”

Wow. How fortunate am I? Not many people can pick up the phone and ask someone of the caliber of a Ted Takasaki for advice.

Did I listen? Of course not. I got there before dawn and launched my boat. I caught a handful of sauger as the sun started rising. They stopped feeding, so I tried for, and succeeded in nailing a half-dozen stripers. By 8, the fish had turned off completely.

What time did I put my boat back on the trailer and head for home? It was a little after 6 p.m. I hadn’t caught but one fish since 8 a.m. and burned through a half-tank of gas.

This was the beginning of my finally figuring out that it is better to fish smarter than it is to fish longer.

Of course, if you are on a trip to Canada or out for a day with a guide, you fish the entire day. When in Canada, I only stop to sleep. I even skip meals for fishing and if you’ve ever taken a look at me you’d realize what a sacrifice that is.

Fishing report

Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “As this week cools down, you will find fish moving into the shallows to feed. I would continue to fish slop and shade patterns during sunny times throughout the day. Catfish are spawning and can be caught on cutbait and stinkbait. Early morning and dusk will be a good time for top water baits. I like buzz baits or Bang-O-lures. Bluegills can be caught on wax worms or red worms. Fish in sandy areas around weeds. Summer time scouting for deer can be fun (if you can take the bugs). I like soybean fields at dusk to get a look at bucks in velvet.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.

Lake Michigan: Captain Bob Rossa of Migrator Charters ( says, “Fishing has been very good on Lake Michigan this past week. Numbers of large kings, Cohoes, and steelhead are being caught from 80 to 180-feet of water. Fish the top 60-feet of the water column. Moonshine’s Night Crawler spoon and Sig’s Hypnotist fly, tied 24-inches behind a green flasher have been two very good baits. Perch season is closed for the month of July. It re-opens on Thursday, Aug. 1.”


Cabela’s Archery Classic: Cabela’s in Hoffman Estates is hosting its annual Archery Classic on Saturday and Sunday. Hunting with bow and arrow is exploding in popularity and shows no signs of cooling down. Experts from the world of professional bowhunting will be at Cabela’s. Two of the most popular outdoor TV shows are “Dominant Bucks” and “North America Whitetail.” They showcase the best back country hunting to be found anywhere. The star of the shows, Stan Potts, will be at Cabela’s on Saturday and Sunday to meet fans and share his stories of legendary hunts seen on the show. On both days, Cabela’s will present free seminars on the basics of archery hunting to help you get started in this most challenging method of whitetail deer hunting. For the free archery shooting clinic on both days, please pre-register by calling the store at 847-645-0400.

Believe it or not, guests at Six Flag’s St. Louis location can enjoy roller coasters, raft rides, paintball, and even bowhunting. Officially located in Eureka, Mo., the amusement park owns several hundred acres of prime hunting ground abutting the park. The park had closed its grounds to hunters for the past half-decade. That is about to change. The hunts will be taking place far away from the amusement park proper and any residential areas. People looking to apply will need to contact the Six Flags St. Louis management. I wouldn’t waste my time calling the Gurnee location and asking for permission to hunt there, though.

• Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. Sarley also runs a website for outdoors enthusiasts, He can be reached by email at

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