Steve Sarley: Some fishing programs on TV are worth a look

How many of you are fans of the fishing programs that seem to air 24/7 on TV these days? I have to be honest. I don’t watch as many of them as you might think.

I know it’s my job to keep up on the fishing scene, but if I watched all of the available fishing programs, I’d have no time to do anything else.

Basically, there are two types of fishing programs. The first is the kind that shows a professional fisherman who is on a great body of water and is catching big fish after big fish. I’ve always been a fan of these shows.

I’ll always stop flipping channels if I see the visage of Babe Winkelman or Al Lindner on the screen. I like those guys a lot. The classic fishermen such as Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin always make me smile. Those guys just seem to keep on going. My friend, Jim Saric, of “The Musky Hunter” is close to “can’t-miss TV” for me. I can’t get enough of Saric catching big muskies every week.

The other type of fishing TV programming revolves around big-money tournament fishing. The big dog in this type of programming is B.A.S.S. The organization stages the Bassmaster Classic, the biggest event in pro fishing, and the Elite Series of pro tournaments. They also stage many smaller tournaments.

In second place is Fishing League Worldwide. It has a big-time circuit supported by a number of smaller circuits. FLW actually stages more tournaments than B.A.S.S. does. It has been growing over the years, and its big event, the Forrest Wood Cup, is gaining recognition as a top event. FLW’s pros do not have the star power of the Bassmaster crew, but it has some great fishermen in its ranks and is achieving more fame as time goes by.

A new group started a few years ago is called Major League Fishing. MLF was the brainchild of pro anglers Boyd Duckett and Gary Klein. A small group of anglers became the owners of MLF, which stages a tournament series for TV. It started airing on the Outdoor Channel but has grown to be aired on CBS. Yes, fishing has made it to network TV.

MLF has a few rules that are unique. The tournament locations aren’t given to the anglers until just before the fishing starts, meaning no practice. The fish are handled with care, and if a fish hits the floor of a boat, the fisherman is hit with a “timeout” and has to stop fishing for a designated time. Also, all legal fish that are caught are measured and released. Six one-pound bass count for as much as one six-pound bass. There is no five-fish limit. The fishermen are allowed to catch as many fish as they can during the tournament. There is no weigh-in at day’s end. All of the fish caught are measured and immediately released by a marshal in each boat.

MLF has caught on with the fans. It is extremely popular. There is a camera in every boat, and the anglers find out immediately every time one of the competitors lands a fish. They constantly are updated as to the total weights and the standings. Their reactions are caught live in real time, and you truly get to see how they react to what’s going on. The fishermen have their personalities on display like in no other format.

I was out fishing on a recent Saturday when I received a call from my wife. She said, “You won’t believe this. I’m watching a fishing show on Channel 2 right now. Channel 2! It’s like they are treating fishing like a real sport! These guys are really cool. I’ve got to go. The commercials are over.”

Of course, I knew she was watching MLF. The shock to me was immense. I thought the only fishing show my wife would watch was one in which Bobby Flay was instructing how to poach halibut. The woman constantly is surprising me.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville always see improved fishing during the fall season. White bass, catfish and smallmouth bass are active as the water temperatures cool. Small spinners or a larger-sized minnow will work for bass. Catfish will take cut bait or crawlers.

“McHenry County Conservation District has Lake Atwood and is great for bluegill and bass. It offers nonstop action for kids.

“Crystal Lake has Vulcan Lake at the Three Oaks Recreation Area, which is open for bank fishing. Boat rental is now only available on weekends. This is a catch-and-release-only area, and no minnows are allowed for bait. There is great bass fishing here. Use topwater baits on overcast days. Try a dropshot or Defender jig on sunny days.

‘For more info on northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”

Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service ( – 630-330-9090) sends word, “Fishing is picking up for a number of different species. Both live bait and jigging spoons have produced nice catches of walleyes. The flats and breaks are a good place to start fishing. It’s always hard to beat a nice wind-blow point. A good number of pike and a few muskies have been caught lately. Weed beds and sand bottoms are good areas.”

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan Fishing Report is provided by Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters: “Fall seems to be rolling in and the wind and waves are coming with it. In between the rough weather, however, we have been getting into some good catches.

“Mixed catches of lake trout, steelhead, 1- to 3-year-old kings and next year’s coho have been hitting the deck of the Migrator. The best action has been between 180 and 270 feet of water. The water is warm on the surface, and the fish seem to be in 60 feet or deeper. The lake trout have been biting either big 11-inch flashers or metal dodgers on the bottom with Spin-N-Glos. The steelhead seem to like the RV Moonshine Wonder Bread on a 300-copper or a wire diver with a white Spin Doctor and Howie green crinkle out 210 feet. The kings have liked the wire diver as well. With the water starting to cool down the fish should start moving back up the water column.

“For information about charters, give us a call at 224-234-3704 or check out our website at”


Waterfowl season: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has announced the 2018-19 waterfowl hunting season dates and bag limits. The seasons include 60-day duck seasons in each of the state’s four waterfowl hunting zones, along with 107 days of Canada goose hunting opportunity in the North and Central zones.

All of the season dates and additional details on the duck, goose and other migratory bird hunting seasons will be available on the IDNR website at and in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2018-2019, available on the IDNR website at

Whitetail deer: For all of you that are under the misconception that our state is trying to eliminate the whitetail deer population, hunters now are prohibited from harvesting antlerless deer during the first 15 days of the Illinois Archery Deer Season in five east-central Illinois counties as part of an effort to grow the deer herd in the region, the IDNR recently announced. That says something, doesn’t it?

The 2018-19 Illinois Archery Deer Season dates are Oct. 1 to Jan. 20. For more information on deer hunting in Illinois, check the IDNR website 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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