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updated: 11/28/2012 2:26 PM

Deep thoughts on a panfish hotspot

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I would venture a guess that every angler who manages to "connect" with a decent fishing hole is hesitant in sharing the spot with someone he or she doesn't know well. Some fishermen guard their secret spots so strongly that it becomes an obsession.

That happened on the Fox Chain with two walleye anglers who guarded their walleye sweet spot with extreme vigilance. I begged one of them every year to point me in the right direction, promising in every breath I would not reveal the special location in print or on the air. My efforts went unrewarded.

Because Frank "PanMan" DeFrancisco doesn't read the Daily Herald, I'm hoping I can get away with this. Actually, there's nothing really to reveal, except a secretive exercise.

I've decided to pay homage to him while also pointing you to a couple spots that could result in some of the best panfishing ever.

Frank loved finding the treasure-troves of big panfish on Lake Michigan as well as the cooling lakes west of Chicago. Over the years I learned just how good an angler Frank happened to be. And my admiration covered soft-water as well as ice fishing.

I, too, go nuts when I discover a hot bluegill spot, like Deep Quarry Lake as well as some of our local ponds I've encountered. But Frank had a major, top-shelf obsession about his "secret spots." And now, after years of prospecting and discovery, I can understand his passion and how he guarded the spots like a Knight Templar.

The Monroe Street Harbor shoreline is loaded with a lot of species of panfish, as well as some largemouth and smallmouth bass. It was quite common to see the PanMan working the rocks and weed lines locating schools of fish.

Years ago, Outdoor Notebook publisher Bob Maciulis hooked up with Frank to get the word out that the PanMan was a natural when it came to bluegills, crappie, rock bass and the like.

I was told Frank didn't have a computer and keyboard to record his ideas and techniques, so he spent hours handwriting everything so Maciulis would have material to put in the next issue.

But that's not the story.

The real skinny is Frank and other sharp anglers discovered a wealth of good fishing along the lake front, as well as the quiet waters adjacent to the North Pier Terminal. But building management and security people didn't take well to fishermen standing next to the urbane crowd that came to spend money at the outdoor cafes. Once again, anglers were treated like third-class citizens.

But it was Monroe Street and Belmont Harbor spots that were magnets for the bass and panfish.

Now I'll jump in my truck and head for DuPage County.

Right on Army Trail Road sits Deep Quarry Lake, within West Branch Forest Preserve. The grounds also include a 2-mile stretch of the West Branch of the DuPage River, which is another watery gem.

But Deep Quarry can be the super hot spot of all times when peak conditions prevail. When, exactly, are those conditions? I'm not sure, since I try hitting the lake several times a month and have varying results each time I flip some live bait out to the water under a slip-float.

It's no deep, dark secret that Deep Quarry can be one of the hottest fishing holes in the area. The biggest problem is that not many anglers believe it, and wind up going elsewhere.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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