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Sarley: Fish for pike when waters thaw

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 4:52 p.m. CST

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It will be open water fishing season before you know it. There are probably more of you that are thankful that ice season will soon be over than those who will miss the hard water.

When the thaw happens, we seem to hit a lull in fishing activity. Nobody knows what to do or where to go, because the different bodies of water unfreeze at different times. The fish behave unpredictably, too. Those fish that deem it to be time to eat are lethargic, wanting small meals that move slowly.

One species of fish to target as soon as you can get a bait into open water is the northern pike. Pike will begin to spawn when the ice is still on the water in many cases. If you see open water where pike are present, throw a lure into the opening, even if it is only just a slit between the ice and the shoreline.

Toothy pike will be coming in shallow to eat. They’ll take minnow-shaped lures, usually about four inches in length, if you work them slowly. McHenry County Conservation District waterways are not inhabited by pike, except for waterways connected to rivers.

Of course, all area rivers – the Kishwaukee, Fox, and DuPage – hold pike. Lake Michigan, off of the Government Pier at Waukega,n gets hot as the weeds start to green up. I’m not sure exactly where they are this early, but they’ve got to be there.

If you’re looking for early fishing action from swimming critters bigger than bluegill, get out and do some pike hunting.

Whitetail hunting feedback: The whitetail deer correspondence keeps rolling in. I am getting great feedback, not just comments, but some interesting ideas as well.

Huntley’s Ted Rotzoll offered this remedy, “I propose this question - How many deer hunters, in Illinois, harvest animals that are way too young? I'm talking about very young animals that still "have milk on their lips" and white spots on their rumps. Hunters are unable, just too impatient, or are not that experienced to shoot a deer that is mature, i.e. 4 or 5 years old. ... It's a viable question as to how many hunters might fall into this category and, therefore, reduce the number of mature, adult deer for the remainder of the folks who do it right."

Ted’s basic plan is that hunters should be restricted from harvesting one- or two-year old deer. The problem is that I don’t think anyone can make that determination in the field and also that the harvest of the young animals is all part of the overall program.

Bob Hayes thinks that coyotes are a cause of declining deer numbers and wrote with a suggestion. “How about paying $100 for every coyote brought into designated check-In stations. This could be subsidized by increasing the hunting license by $5. The state could then sell the pelts at the going price. This would put the necessary pressure on the coyotes and make it worthwhile to all concerned.”

Thanks, Bob, but the IDNR will not put the blame on the coyote population and therefore would never get involved in anything like this. Our best bet for coyote control would be my proposal to the IDNR for opening up state lands to coyote hunting right after the deer season closed.

Doug Bartlett requested that I poll my readers. “Have your readers send you a “yes” or “no” to answer the question, "should the late season be stopped?" Tell the readers to send you a “yes” or “no” and nothing else.”

OK Doug, I put it out there.

I also received an invitation to try my hand at hunting coyotes in McHenry County with an experienced hunter.

Unfortunately, I deleted his e-mail. Please send the invite again.

• 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 e-mail at

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