Fishing for Spring in Chicago

Fishing for Spring in Chicago

Fishermen's luck on the Fox River in Elgin, IL. Photo courtesy of the Elgin Area Historical Society. Source:

Spring has sprung in Chicago. You can tell, because there's a fresh inch of snow on the ground and frozen in a crust over tree branches. Somewhere, my guess is Sauganash or perhaps Edison Park, Queen Elsa of Arendelle is bellowing out "Let it Go" in the tiny upstairs dormer window of a 1930's era bungalow.

Along the lake front and in the lagoons, as well as in the far north suburbs, stubborn afternoon anglers refuse to concede that last weekend was Nature's false-start. In a desperate fit to end winter through force of will, these stalwart-yet-cold-lonely-and-damp hopefuls stand vigil along shorelines large and small from McHenry Dam all the way to Wolf Lake, putting stock in the premise that the errant walleye, perch, or bass they bring in will bring with it warmth and sun.

Instead, they jig up a few languorous carp that smell exactly like the trap under the bathroom sink, while the banks are lined with the remnants of mass kills of sheepshead and buffalo suckers from the sustained sub-zero temperatures that lasted until a few weeks past. Instead of sunlight and spring, the only things following the catch of the day are a stream of Midwestern colloquial maledictions and a bloody good hand washing.

Last Saturday morning, two such fishermen -- one old and one young -- contributed to the futile effort. At the lovely Nippersink Forest Preserve in Lake County, with wind blowing and skies threatening, the pair arrived and plunked a few nightcrawlers into the pond, hope radiating like an aura from each of them.

Within three minutes, the young one pulled out a feisty channel catfish the size of his arm -- potentially a good omen! On the very next cast, the same aspiring angler tangled his line -- bobber, sinker, and hook -- in a willow tree, while simultaneously creating a bird's nest of epic proportions within his reel. Perhaps the omen wasn't good.

Following twenty minutes of colorful metaphors from the older fisherman, the line was repaired and re-rigged, and back in the water. Then, as a few droplets of rain landed on the brim of his hat, that same older fisherman cast his line out and brought in a second handsome catfish. The next cast, thought he, will bring a bass. Yes indeed, the bass that will portend the end of winter!

And that's when the skies opened up, frigid showers pelted the pair, and a golf-ball sized lump of hail hammered the back of his skull. Spring, thought he, you fickle strumpet.

The pair clambered into a dusty Volkswagen, drove to the Bass Pro Shop, and watched some pimply teenagers in light blue uniforms feed bass, pike, perch, walleye, and sturgeon in a massive tank instead, and spent money on lures and hooks and tackle for when Nature finally decided to quit being such a cocksucker.

Leave a comment