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updated: 9/12/2012 5:19 PM

Drinking on the Fox Chain ruining the experience

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Old-timers can remember when a gallon of gasoline was in the 18-20 cents a gallon range.

That meant a couple bucks would do the job until the vehicle reached somewhere in Wisconsin. And when my father was able to extend the weekend days, that meant a probable trip to the Hayward or Crivitz areas for some excellent angling.

But when his work schedule would allow for that kind of luxury, we spent carefree hours on the Fox Chain.

It could have been a morning in one of Tommy Harrison's rental boats on Pistakee. Or a rickety, wooden, leaky 14-footer from Joe Heisman on Lake Marie. And toss in one of Barney's orange fishing boats at the Channel Lake Boathouse and Restaurant. It was fishing with my father, and that was all that counted.

Each of was equipped with rain gear purchased at Stark's Warehouse. Sometimes I wore Irv's rain poncho circa 1942 from the South Pacific fox holes and Japanese onslaughts. Even as a inquisitive kid naive to much of the ways of the world, I can't say I remember drunken boaters and fishermen running around the Chain creating havoc.

As much as I enjoy feeling the strike of one of the local, tackle-busting muskies, I'm now willing to give it up. The rationale for that move is partially because of the ugly mentality of one guy for sure, and maybe others, who believe they own Lake Catherine.

But the main reason for this declaration is because as long as I've been fishing the Fox Chain, well over 60 years, conditions there are nothing more than a never-ending horde of rabid booze hounds ignoring the rules of the water.

Because local municipalities as well as the Illinois State Legislature have apparently ignored the safety factors on the Chain and the river, every weekend is something akin to attending an ancient battle of waterborne gladiators.

We constantly hear from various officials in northern Illinois that there is never enough cash to fund major increases in personnel to beef-up Chain enforcement.

I vividly recall a time when my late friend Buck Squancho and I were trolling for walleyes on Pistakee Lake.

A jet ski operator buzzed our boat and kept running over our fishing lines. During his last pass about 15 feet away from us, the operator tossed a beer bottle up in the air and sped off. And that was on a weekday.

On another outing, I had two of my adult daughters with me in the boat. We were slowly making our way through the shallow channel connecting Lake Marie and Grass Lake. A runabout pulled up close to us and the occupants started throwing beer cans our way. I tried to speed up to get away. They followed suit.

There was a period of time in Illinois when the IDNR had plenty of dedicated people who ran the hatcheries so that anglers who enjoyed good walleye and muskie fishing on the Chain could spend a worthwhile day tossing lures and live bait to the hungry beasts. That's changed.

I reported in this column that many of those career DNR people left the agency when Rod Blagojevich occupied the governor's office.

To digress for a moment, just so I keep my pledge to keep you informed about fishing conditions, look to the east end of Bangs Lake for better-than-average largemouth bass. And if you enjoy big panfish, try your hand for chunky bluegills on Deep Lake.

Now, back to the main issue. I am beginning to believe the boozing, reckless crowd on the Fox Chain is tied together by a possible conspiracy contributed to by the gin joints and package stores. It's not out of the question to accept the concept that the jet ski crowd, big-boat operators, and anyone else who load their coolers with beer, hard stuff, and wine coolers are mindless, co-conspirators.

It's my opinion that, like many issues in life, reckless behavior on the Fox Chain will never be a priority for the politicians, even though law enforcement does the best it can with limited funds and resources.

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