Outdoors - Steve Sarley

Sarley: Spots open on Louisiana trip

Everyone knows what a “bucket list” is and quite probably, most of us have one. It is even more likely to pen a bucket list the older you become.

When I was 21, I had a list of things to do before I enter the pearly gates, and it was a long one. It’s much shorter now. It’s not that I’ve accomplished so many of my wishes on the list. I’ve done some, but many have become less important to me, and now that I am older, I only list the things that I most want to accomplish.

I have a bucket list of outdoor achievements that I’d like to do before the credits roll on the movie of my life. My dream fishing trip was always to go to Brazil to fish for peacock bass. I’ve scratched that off the list because that trip is too physically demanding, and, as I get older, it is less likely that I’d ever withstand such a physically excruciating trip.

Because of my good friend, McHenry’s own Hall of Fame angler, Spence Petros, fishing in Venice, La., has replaced Rio as my number one dream fishing vacation.

Petros has been fishing in Venice twice this year already. Upon his return from the first trip, he phoned to tell me, “I will probably never fly in to fish in Canada again. Sure, I will always love to fish for muskies, but this Louisiana fishing is the best that I’ve ever done in my life.”

Please realize that Petros has fished almost everywhere that a man can bait a hook. What he says about Louisiana carries an incredible amount of weight with me.

Petros hooked up with Captain Bernie Frueh and his fishing partner, Ray Gallant, of Bite Me Sportfishing, at the Rosemont Show in January. He bonded with the guys and accepted an invitation to check out Louisiana’s fishing scene. Since Hurricane Katrina, many potential tourists have avoided the area because they think the landscape was totally devastated and the fish have been killed off from the oil spills that occurred in the recent past. That is not the case. Sure, Katrina caused a lot of severe damage, but the fishery was pretty much left unscathed. Even the oil spills caused minimal damage, and most damage has been reversed by now.

Frueh and Gallant are from La Grange and run the “Bite Me” out of Waukegan Harbor during much of the summer. They journey down to Venice whenever they book a Louisiana charter. They’ve fished all over the country. They took a trip down to Venice and were hooked. They found it to be a sportsman’s paradise.

“For big fish and lots of them, this is the place to be,” Frueh said.

I met the fishermen recently and found them to be knowledgeable and friendly. They are definitely the kind of guys you’d like to spend a week fishing with.

Petros told me that depending on weather and the bite that is on, you can fish inshore areas or you can fish the oil rigs, which are loaded with big fish. Deep blue ocean water holds fish that are certifiable monsters.

It’s a 15-hour journey to get there by car, about the same as northwest Ontario. The price is about the same as a nice Canadian adventure, too. The differences are that your money stays in this country, you can do it 12 months a year in beautiful weather, you can catch a dozen different species of fish and, best of all, you can bring back coolers full of extremely delicious fish filets. I am talking tuna, redfish, sea trout and mahi-mahi, among others. You may even get a sting ray or shark for the sport of it.

The tackle the guys provide is first-rate, your meals are included as well as gas and bait. You’ll fish in a comfortable and safe 22-foot center console boat. Petros said he and his boat mates caught between 38 and 96 large, hard-fighting fish a day the last time out. You can’t do that in Canada, can you?

Petros is going back again in October, and there is space available on his excursion. To find out more or to book a trip, you can check out www.bitemesportfishingvenice.com or call Captain Bernie at 763-218-5044.

I hope to be able to scratch the Venice experience off my bucket list in 2015. Is there anyone who would care to join me and scratch it off of their list, too?


Northern Illinois fishing report: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports, “Largemouth bass are moving into the shallows during mid-day because that is when the water is warmest. The bait fish, small bluegills and minnows are also there. Try using shallow crankbaits. I like Mann’s Baby Minus-ones or even a plastic frog topwater bait. You usually use these to fish in slop, but they will work well without the slop. The first break in 4 to 6 feet of water will be where some bass will be staging to head toward the shallows when the spawn begins. Use a Rat-L-Trap for them. I like a bluegill color. I have good reports of catfish on the Fox River using cut bait and night crawlers.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.

Casting for Cures: There will be plenty to do for families with kids of all ages May 3 at Spring Grove Hatchery Park from noon to 4. Cheri Amore Memorial and Nicole Mendlik are hosting Casting for Cures, and it is an event not to be missed. Attendees will help fight childhood cancer and blood disorders by raising money while enjoying a fun family event. Money raised at Casting for Cures will be donated to the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Fund, a charitable, nonprofit organization formed in 1976 to support research into the effective treatment and cure of childhood cancer and other related blood disorders. Fishing is a priority at the event. But there will be plenty for everyone to do. I’ll go into detail next week. I just wanted to give you all an early heads up so you don’t miss this wonderful happening.

In addition to people attending the event, Casting for Cures could use a little assistance. They are asking for your assistance and generosity. They would greatly appreciate contributions to their live or silent auction. They would greatly appreciate any monetary donations, as well. All donations must be received by May 1 to have recognition in the program and on the website.

If you have any questions or need further information, please contact David Mendlik at castingforcures@gmail.comPut this event on your calendar and circle it with a red marker now.

• Steve Sarley covers the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at ssarley@shawmedia.com.

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