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updated: 3/6/2014 9:05 AM

The cold truth: Still plenty of opportunity in Illinois

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I called my friend who'd moved to northern Wisconsin and told him I had started working on my spinning and casting reels, so I'm ready when the ice finally goes out down here. I gave him my schedule as to when I'd clean the rods and arrange tackle and fly boxes.

He told me Wisconsin anglers may see the official opening of the 2014 walleye fishing season come and go without anyone getting a line in the water.

My friend believes the harsh winter and Arctic-like temperatures will keep people bottled up through April and even to mid-May.

That may be a dire prediction, but the ice generally has been a factor for the northern Canadian lodge owners with their first season bookings.

And it's no wonder I usually run into Wisconsin fishermen working sections of the Fox Chain long before Wisconsin's legislated seasonal go-ahead becomes a reality. They too are hungry for walleye and muskie action.

Just when the final vestiges of ice melted away last year on the Chain, I met Jerry Ramsberg at a Chain eatery. He was perusing he Illinois rules and regs. I approached him and asked where he called home.

"Madison, Wisconsin, is my home base now," Jerry answered, "but I'm down here with my boat because I heard about your great muskie fishery on these lakes."

He went on to inquire as to why state officials haven't done much to promote the excellent fishing in this state.

I have to bite my tongue every time someone asks me this question. I replied that I was clueless and didn't have any idea.

I told my now warmly ensconced, former Wheeling fishing pal (in northern Wisconsin) about that conversation with Jerry as well as about a half-dozen other similar exchanges with some other neighbors from across the border.

He then went on and made a revelation that I found curious.

"I rarely find someone to join me for an outing," he explained. "And since I don't have a boat any longer, I've lost my independence. It was a lot different when you and I would hit the Chain, Bangs, or one of the cooling lakes and catch a lot of fish."

I suggested he come back to this area and stay for a couple of weeks just so he could regain his angling mojo once again.

And then I thought about Ramsberg's questions and statement about Illinois fishing and general lack of promotion.

This is really old hat, so to speak. And I'll use an analogy to explain my understanding of this issue. Netflix produces and distributes a gut-grabbing series staring Kevin Spacey entitled "House of Cards."

The show depicts dirty Washington politics and how Congress fails to act on important issues. Sadly, that dramatization is a real reflection of how life has evolved for the taxpayer and common folk.

Closer to home, Springfield politicos keep their blinders in place, looking straight ahead for personal financial opportunities while leaving a sure-fire money maker like fishing and hunting to lie fallow.

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

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