I recently had a long meeting with a half-dozen concerned local fishermen.
"Are you going to take a stand, or just sit back and write fluffy columns," one guy asked in a loud voice?
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I accepted his challenge and subsequently and sat down at the keyboard to let you know how I really feel about the state of affairs in Illinois, as well as my opinion about the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
I believe DNR director Mark Miller is a good man, but it's my opinion he lacks the political backbone needed to ward off evil spirits generated by the state legislature.
There was a time in the DNR when the fisheries division was staffed by some sharp people. Of course, when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich came to power those in fisheries and other departments chose to take early retirement after seeing the handwriting on the walls.
And so we sit in our homes in July and wonder why we allowed things to get to this point in our state.
Perch fishing in Illinois' waters of Lake Michigan is off limits to everyone except children during the month of July.
The closure came about following long negotiations between former DNR director Brent Manning and key state lawmakers. Manning had outlawed commercial perching because of over harvesting and poaching.
Some state lawmakers bristled at his executive action, but Manning, knowing his way around the political table, was able to help certain pols calm their inner beast while also wiping the drool from their hungry, pouting lips.
Because Manning outlawed commercial perching, some political insiders demanded quid-pro-quo. And so it came to pass that July was the month that was shoved down our throats as a no-perch-for-you (and me) time.
And then some DNR biologists jumped into the foray by telling us more tales, claiming there wasn't enough forage for the young-of-the-year perch, so our bag limit was greatly reduced. And yes, we were left holding the legislature's bag of mistakes. The biologists held some dog and pony shows loaded with slides, data, and history about Lake Michigan perch. They told us their tale of woe, and the fishing public took it like a good soldier.
It's time Mark Miller used his power to reverse the July closure. It's time the legislature stopped punishing the IDNR, and it's time all of us stand up and the power brokers in Springfield know their days at the public trough are coming to an end.
If it wasn't for the monster energy put forth by the Illinois Musky Alliance, working hand-in-hand with some sharp DNR biologists, we wouldn't have the excellent muskie situation many enjoy.
The scenario is so good that I have seen southern and central Wisconsin muskie hunters ply our waters long before the Wisconsin season opens.
Lake Michigan perch fishing is as traditional as a political payoff in this state, only there aren't any dollars being slipped under a table.
Lake Michigan perching was the main driving force for neighbors to come together to sup during a traditional Friday fish fry while tossing a few back to help celebrate life in the city.
Even though Chicago's neighborhoods have grown more violent, generations of perch anglers still crave the excitement of their catches while sitting on a bucket at their lakefront hot spot.
For years I have howled about the way state lawmakers had forsaken Illinois fishing and hunting, unlike Wisconsin where they've created a moneymaking industry and their leaders get smiles and attaboys.
I've offered my opinion in the past regarding how our lawmakers failed to open their eyes and ears to the huge cash potential that could be garnered just by telling the world how good things are out in the wild that exists beyond the Mag Mile. Instead, we've ended up like other states with broken piggy banks and stacks of unpaid bills.
So now I'm pleading with DNR director Mark Miller to return us to those wonderful days of yesteryear and give us back the joys of what many loved and cherished.
Please allow us to take our loved ones back to the Horseshoe so we could re-create those memorable times, fishing for perch in July and eating lakefront hot dogs slathered with that wonderful, spicy, brown mustard.
If you have a view on this issue, you can contact state legislators at www.ilga.gov, and get contact information for the IDNR at www.dnr.illinois.gov, or go online at dailyherald.com to share your comments on this column.