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Steve Sarley: No class warfare on fishing trip

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The call came from Marengo attorney Herb Franks. He asked me to be his guest on the annual fishing trip he puts together for friends and associates to northwest Ontario. I couldn’t resist his generosity and accepted.

The Franks trip is the stuff of legends, and I was a little intimidated. In attendance would be some extremely powerful people. In addition to Herb’s son, Democratic State Rep. Jack Franks, former Illinois Senate Republican leader Frank Watson, Secretary of State Jesse White, union officials, elected officials, lobbyists, and lawyers of various stripes.

If you haven’t surmised it, this group was comprised of people who were financially set, to be sure. A retired cop and I were the only people who I’d consider to be “just regular guys.”

I never in my life dreamed that I’d be able to visit a place like Tetu Island Lodge, the home base for the Franks expedition. It was magnificent. It was incredibly upscale. Rather than the 14-hour drive I am used to in order to get to northwest Ontario, it only took a few minutes over two hours to arrive, courtesy of Franks’ personal plane.

Guests aren’t allowed to carry their bags, bait their hooks or change their own lures. The guides handled it all. Shore lunch was provided every day by a team of waitresses. You woke every morning to hot coffee delivered to your cabin. The meals were all worthy of the Food Network, including a splendid surf-and-turf dinner. The accommodations were top-shelf.

What about the fishing? I caught more fish in four days than I’ll catch in the balance of this year. Walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass swim in this Tetu Lake, English/Winnipeg River system in abundance. If setting the hook and reeling in fish over and over and over again is not for you, I’d go elsewhere.

Besides enough memories to last me a lifetime, I came away from this trip having learned a few important lessons.

Fishing is a great equalizer. No matter how rich a person is, it makes no difference in a boat or at a lodge. These powerhouses would get giddy when they won a dollar from their fishing partner for biggest fish of the day. It wasn’t the money, it was the bragging rights that were important.

I learned not to be intimidated by a person’s reputation or scope of influence. It seemed the lawyers were more interested in asking me about being an outdoors writer than bragging about their own impressive legal victories.

These big wheels, out of their fancy suits and in fishing garb, looked and acted like fishermen staying at the kinds of lodges I am more accustomed to. These guys were just simple fishermen, getting away from their daily grinds and having a blast fishing with the boys.

I learned not to be so judgmental. Although I will most likely never again take a trip like this one, I will look at people differently in the future. It doesn’t matter what you earn, what you drive, or where you live – people are people. Fishing is, indeed, the great equalizer.

Fishing report

Northern Illinois – Dave Kranz of Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “Catfishing on the Fox River continues to be good. Use stink bait for channel cats and cut bait or large golden roach minnows or suckers for flatheads. Slop fishing for bass is good. Be sure to use 50-pound line on a heavy rod to get them out of the slop. White bass are showing up at the Algonquin and McHenry dams. Use extra-large fathead minnows on a one-eighth-ounce jig head.”

Lake Michigan – Captain Bob Rossa of Migrator Charters (ALakeMichiganCharter.com) says, “Some huge king salmon have been caught on Lake Michigan this past week in Illinois waters. Moonshine’s RV Wonderbread spoon has been one of the better baits. Most of the fish are being caught from 150 to 300-feet of water. You should fish from 45 to 120-feet in the water column. Lake trout, steelhead and some Coho salmon are adding to the catch.”

Honest John from C.J. Smith’s Resort on Grass Lake sends word, “Schools of stripers are moving on Bluff Lake and the Spring Lake Channel. Shore anglers are doing well. Small fathead minnows or spikes work best. Crappies have been very active. Work under piers along lake shorelines to find nice ones using small fatheads or spikes tipped on a chartreuse or white Mini -mite jig. Everyone is finding bluegills, especially in the channels and along lake shorelines. Trout worms are working well. Lots of catfish are being caught and the channels are the place to be. Nightcrawlers, stinkbait, chicken livers or bait shrimp are all good choices. Largemouth bass are good and Bluff Lake at the mouth, in the bay and along the piers on the back bay of Lake Marie are hot spots. Muskie action has been good. Some nice action has been reported on Channel Lake and also on Lake Catherine by Bob’s Marina. Try large crank baits, golden roaches or small suckers. Walleye are fair. Try the sand bars in Lake Marie. Drift over them using XL fatheads or leeches for some action. Smallmouth Bass are being caught near the Spring Lake Bridge on nightcrawlers, golden roaches and spinner baits.

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Whether you prefer quackers or honkers, you’ll be happy to know that the IDNR has released the proposed waterfowl season dates and bag limits for the 2013-14 seasons. These include 60-day duck seasons in each of the state’s four waterfowl hunting zones, along with a 90-day Canada goose hunting season in the North zone.

All dates cited here are for the Northern zone only. Duck, Canada goose, and snow goose seasons begin on Oct. 19. Goose season and snow goose season conclude on Jan. 16, duck season ends Dec. 17. The youth waterfowl dates are Oct. 12 and 13.

The proposed daily duck bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, one mottled duck, two redheads, three scaup, two pintails, two canvasbacks, and one black duck. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is five only two of which may be hooded. The possession limit for ducks and mergansers is three times the daily bag limit by species and sex.

For Canada geese and white-fronted geese, the daily bag limit will be two with a possession limit of six. For snow geese, the proposed daily bag limit is 20 birds, with no possession limit.

The September 2013 early Canada goose season, commonly referred to as “nuisance season,” is Sept. 1 to 15 with a daily limit of five and a possession limit of 15.

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