Sarley: Fishing expos, stocking stuffers and a refresher course on ice safety

Every year I seem to be taken to task for being tardy in announcing the upcoming fishing shows, suggesting Christmas presents and kicking off the ice season. I’m going to quickly hit all three subjects at once.

The first outdoor show of the season is the Chicago Muskie Expo. The show found a new home last year and it fits the show perfectly. The Chicago Muskie Expo will be at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles again in 2018 and runs Jan. 5-7. Pheasant Run is located on North Avenue (Route 64), west of Route 59.

The exhibit hall is just the right size for this show, and the parking is free. The Chicago Muskie Show attracts just about every fisherman in the area that has an interest in chasing the biggest and most dangerous fish that swims in North America.

Muskie fishermen are locked in to using the newest equipment on the market, and you’ll find all of that at the Chicago Muskie Expo. The variety of new baits is stunning, and it never surprises me to hear that vendors run out of merchandise.

In addition to showing all the new rods, reels, baits and other equipment, the show will have plenty of camps, resorts, guides and outfitters on hand. The show always does a very good job of scheduling some to quality muskie pros to give seminars and workshops to the attendees.

The hours are: Friday from 2 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.. Admission is $12, and a VIP ticket costs $20. The VIP pass gets you in for all three days of the show and also gains you admission Friday one hour earlier than the general public. Children age 12 and younger will be admitted for free.

For more information, check out Wouldn’t a VIP pass to the show make a great stocking stuffer?

That leads me into Christmas presents. I’ll get into hardware in the next two weeks, but for now, I want to recommend clothing as the best gift you can get for the hunters and fishermen on your shopping list.

There is a lot of excellent apparel available for sportsmen this year. It really sells well, and if you wait too long, you are going to find that it’s all picked over, so get out there early.

Top brands for anglers are Huk and Fishouflage. These companies make clothing that not only looks good but performs well. Clam and Frabill make some gear for ice fishermen that will keep them warm and dry in the harshest days of winter. Real Tree, the hunting apparel company has gotten into fishing this year, as well.

Hunting clothing choices are extensive. You can even buy insect- and snake-repelling hunting clothing. Hunters are very particular about the camo patterns that they put on. I’d say that the stuff that goes on underneath outerwear is a good choice for hunters. Thermal undies, gloves and socks are things to buy that should please anyone. I used to really like the clothing made by Under Armour, but they ruffled the feathers of the hunting community, and I am not sure whether they ever backed down. It’s too bad. I really liked the clothing that they made.

OK, I started talking about Christmas shopping, but that does no good if the gift recipient isn’t around to open the presents. Please, please, please be safe if you are going to go ice fishing. I don’t want any readers to fall through the ice and drown or get hypothermia.

Ice season looks like it will be here within days. The forecast calls for below freezing daytime temps and night readings in the single digits during the upcoming days. Ice will be covering our local lakes and ponds in a matter of hours, not weeks.

I can only speak for myself, and I will tell you that I would never dream of going out on ice that was not at least 4 inches thick. I know that some of you might risk going out on 2 or 3 inches, but I can wait an extra day or two. I think it’s going to be a long winter with plenty of opportunities to go ice fishing.

That said, I can’t preach about ice safety enough. Dress warmly so you don’t get frostbite or hypothermia. Never go ice fishing alone. Ice fishing safety starts with the buddy system. If you go out alone and fall through the ice, it was nice knowing you. You need a friend to help pull you back to safety.

You have to have boots with spiked soles for walking on ice or at least a pair of creepers to attach to your boots. Creepers are inexpensive and can save you from broken bones. Make sure you have them.

A spud bar is a long stick with a weighted end that you use to test the hardness of the ice in front of you as you walk. You bang the spud on the ice to see if it is solid. It’s important to have a spud bar as well as a length of rope to be used to throw to your partner if he happened to fall in.

That’s it for me. Now get out there and get your Chicago Muskie Expo tickets, do a little Christmas shopping and assemble your ice gear for the start of a great season!


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “You won’t have to wait long to be ice fishing in northern Illinois. The forecast for the next 10 days look great for making ice. Early ice can be great fishing, but safety should come before everything. Look for backwaters of the rivers, channels and small ponds to become the first fishing opportunities. For info on northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”


Archery turkey hunting: Through Monday, Illinois archery turkey hunters harvested a total of 604 turkeys, compared to 435 during the same period in 2016. The top county harvest totals were Jefferson (22), Fulton (20), Cass (19), Rock Island (17), and Jo Daviess/Knox (14). The season opened Oct. 1 and concludes Jan. 14.

Whitetail deer hunting: Illinois hunters harvested a total of 80,021 deer during the seven-day Illinois Firearm Deer Season that concluded Sunday. The 2017 harvest total compares to the final total of 79,559 deer harvested during the firearm season in 2016.

The preliminary harvest for the second segment of the firearm season Nov. 30-Dec. 3 was 28,656, compared with 24,977 during the second season in 2016. The preliminary harvest for the first segment of firearm season Nov. 17-19 was 51,365 deer.

Here are some totals for a few selected northern Illinois counties. The first total is for the 2016 season and the number in parentheses is for the 2017 season: McHenry 266 (300), Lake 4 (3), Winnebago 346 (304), Kane 29 (29), DeKalb 139 (107) and Boone 109 (121).

Time to apply: Illinois hunters may now apply for the second lottery for 2018 Illinois Spring Wild Turkey Season permits. The application deadline for the second lottery for 2018 spring turkey permits is Jan.11. Go to the IDNR website for more information at

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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