Can someone stand up for Lake Michigan?
It's a rare day when I turn to a recently arrived email from a reader and listener to provide the impetus for a column.
Today is one of those days.
My friend David, a North Shore Lake Michigan salmon fisherman, has been complaining to me for years. Charlie the perch guy has been bombarding me with emails for a decade. Larry the car salesman from Lake Zurich leans into my right ear and starts his litany every time we meet for a cup of coffee.
And what do I do? Not much.
Here's a portion of the recent e-mail that drove me to create this column:
When I was a little boy many, years ago in the Mediterranean Sea, they use to throw dynamite into the ocean to catch the fish. There were nets, 1,000 feet by 1,000 feet of gillnet, and long-line hooks. And there were fishing trawlers -- not just one, but many for a little section of the Gulf. Then boats also ran around the nets trying to capture sardines.
In five years time, I was witness to the bleeding of the Gulf. I hope for the sake of the children and of the new generation to come with love, compassion toward nature, and our food resource, something can be done."
If you see a group of people at Diversey, Belmont and, Montrose Harbors, plus the Horseshoe and Navy Pie, you're witnessing all-day fishing marathons.
Two fishing posts in particular stand out where fishermen fill 5-gallon containers. After they're filled, the anglers take the buckets to their vehicles. They leave the area but return a short time later and repeat the process, again and again. They keep 2-inch perch, baby trout and baby salmon -- whatever comes along. The limit is 15 on the perch, and everyone should obey the law with 15.
If I don't say anything, then my conscience will bother me. I am not doing it for me but I am saying this for the children who will come after us, only I try to make a difference. Every Sunday, I hear you on the radio and I know you are compassionate and your heart is full of love. I know you make a difference.
Please can you make a difference again.
I've tossed similar emails into the trash can because what I have written here and broadcast on my outdoor show has done nothing to grab the attention of any state lawmaker or official who could do something about the problem.
The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources continues to be treated like a cousin who doesn't get a holiday invitation.
Our state legislature will be quick to jump on pet projects that could provide clouted benefits for special friends. Fishing and hunting enterprises in Illinois get the short shrift every year because the DNR does not have someone with enough wherewithal to spur lawmakers into waking up and creating a viable cash cow from all the fishing and hunting activities in this state.
Conservation police officers are scarce around the Chicago area. There are always mumblings inside the DNR that funds are skimpy, and enforcement issues seem to get back-burner treatment.
Skokie Lagoon, part of the Cook County Forest Preserve myriad of fishing holes, is a daily target for poachers who apparently believe they have the right to do anything they can to fill 5-gallon buckets with anything that swims. Busse Lake is another fruitful target for the poaching gangs. I have personally seen the county's FPD police force sleeping in their vehicles, in full view of passing public cars. But the responsibility of the county ponds and lakes falls in to the lap of the FPD, not the DNR, unless some county official begs for help.
I've witnessed nets stretched across the Fox River by people who are accustomed to doing that in their native country. And I have seen the Bluff Lake poachers in action as well.
Lakefront poachers know they can get away with just about anything connected to their hauls. The IDNR can only operate a police force if there's enough money in the budget for officers and a few gallons of gasoline.
So Matt (the email writer), I seriously doubt -- unless you can gather enough political clout to shake up some folks -- that you, me and thousands of others can make a difference in this fight. We will just have to throw a line in to the water and hope something is left to grab our hooks.
•Contact Mike Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.
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