Illinois' outdoor future isn't necessarily bright

Updated 11/10/2010 12:33 PM

The blood-letting has nearly come to a halt, and the summit meetings of beer and hotdogs may have taken a hiatus.

Some of us are scratching our heads and wondering where the winding roads of mediocrity will take those still trying to make it on unemployment checks.

Our recently elected and wide-eyed governor can get back to pretending again, and those of us who take fishing and hunting adventures seriously will trudge into 2011 wondering which of our hundred or so rugs will be pulled out from beneath our feet.

Mark Miller, the director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is a capable steward. Yet with his band of merry men (administrators), Miller could very well be awaiting a move by a dysfunctional state legislature to drop the guillotine on his agency's budget.

Reduce the number of Conservation Police Officers? You think? And my crystal ball tells me that we could also see tremendous increases in fishing and hunting license fees, as well as more state park closures and layoffs.

Surprised? Don't be.

We are still feeling the effects of former governor Rod Blagojevich's cost-saving moves and the subsequent loss of dedicated biologists and administrators who fled the IDNR in droves.

Outdoor Notebook's Bob Maciulis is happy to wear the mantle of the eternal optimist. Like me, he believes we continue to sit on a treasure-trove of outstanding fishing and hunting opportunities in Illinois. But we must be in the minority, because state lawmakers appear to have a solid chance of raising "undiscovered dollars" from the activities that we love so dearly.

I know I'm barking at the moon, as I have done for decades, but venting of one's spleen has been suggested countless times by my doctor.

So, as I take another deep breath, I will take the pulse of our local and regional diversions and then chant a well-worn, ancient mantra 15 times. Ummmmm, Abu-Garcia, Pflueger, Zebco, and Bend South or is it South Bend?

The Fox Chain in 2011 should scare the cobwebs from the brain matter of any decent angler. The chilling moments will come from the Chain's most northern lakes, Catherine and Channel. These waters hold some giant toothy critters able to chew through the strongest of the expensive muskie baits. Headlines will scream encounters of 55-inch fish tail-walking on the surface of these treasured waters. And if the poachers don't overindulge, Petite Lake may give up some 10-pound walleyes again, like it did 15 years ago.

I consulted my fortune teller again, and she told me the mumbo-jumbo crappies will bring tears to the eyes of some non-believers on Pistakee and Petite lakes.

There is a cult of mysterious people who live either on or close to the Chain. Some roam at night relying upon the secrets they discovered eons ago. Even when captured by aliens, they have yet to open their yaps as to where the monster walleyes live. But when they get together at some of the local watering holes, someone manages to slip up and divulge where schools of these voracious feeders can be had. And if you walked up and asked them to be specific, all four tires on your prized SUV would look like Swiss cheese. But believe me, the stories have been substantiated.

And then we have Long Lake, close to the Chain, but considered the cousin no one wants to have over for dinner. This body of water is likely to produce some 6- to 7-pound largemouth bass this spring.

Just imagine if a smart developer bought some land on the Chain, Long Lake, Bangs, and a smattering of other local fishing spots, and then put up some sharp hotels or lodges.

Could this scenario turn in to a big money maker? Would the people in Springfield realize that something remarkable is happening up this way, and maybe there is money to be made?

And then I woke up in a sweat because dreams rarely turn into reality and pigs do fly.