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updated: 5/7/2014 10:24 PM

To effect change on the Chain, you've got to make waves

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I guess it takes an extra harsh winter to rile some folks to the point of total frustration.

The Fox Chain of Lakes has traditionally been home to thousands of boaters, anglers, relaxing families on pontoon boats -- along with some screwballs who have made themselves the scourge of the waterways.

I know that's harsh language, but someone has to stand up and say what has been on a lot of people's minds. It needed to be stated, even though I have been screaming into the winds for decades.

That ugly winter brought a frustrated Nick K. of St. Charles out of the woodwork. In a recent e-mail, and a subsequent face-to-face meeting over coffee, Nick got more intense with every sentence.

Like many others I've encountered over the last 25 years, Nick is among the people who have developed a strong dislike for jet ski operators. It's not so much the machines themselves, but rather the operator who controls the high-speed watercraft.

"I really enjoy fishing the Chain from the north end all way down to where Pistakee Lake empties into the Fox River," Nick explained. "I've learned a lot as to how to find walleyes and muskies as well as largemouth bass. And just last year I discovered where the smallmouth bass have been hiding.

"But as soon as the weather and water warm up, some of the jet ski operators start zooming into the no-wake areas. That's a prime catching region for the fishermen," he said with his voice getting higher and louder with every sentence.

So I sat and listened to him for well over an hour. And then he asked me why I was so quiet and didn't ask him any questions.

I replied that I wasn't going to go down this road again unless he was willing to take some positive action to drum up support for more funds for the Lake and McHenry Counties Sheriff's Marine Patrols so the deputies from both agencies could effectively drop the hammer. They try hard during the boating season, but there's never enough men and boats to cover the entire Chain.

It was then I suggested he contact State Senator Julie Morrison and lobby her for the additional funding. I reminded him that Morrison was a recent co-sponsor of a bill to gut the Fox Chain Waterway and turn its duties over to the IDNR. I then informed Nick that the measure died a rather quick death.

I told him it's politics and money behind the jet ski dilemma.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked.

I back the boat dealers 95 percent. In my book it's the right thing to do because they are committed to making a living selling and servicing the boating and fishing public. It's just that I don't care for the fact they sell the personal watercraft.

And so I thought I'd lighten the conversation a bit.

"Any walleyes from the river yet?" I asked.

He gave me a cold stare. I guess he was still upset that I didn't totally agree with him, so I changed gears again.

Look, I said, if you want to see positive things happening on the Chain and any other Illinois lake and river you have to stick a pin into the rear ends of state representatives and senators. If you want the marine cops defending the poor fisherman's rights and protecting them at the same time from the evil dorks on a jet ski, one has to yell louder to the editors of the three daily, major newspapers while having enough people behind you to back you up with a few bucks.

Common sense and decades of personal experience have shown me unless lawmakers -- local, state, and federal -- can see the dollar signs at the end of their political rainbow, they will act like snails in the hot sun.

So once again, how has been fishing been on the river?

For a second I thought he had tears in his eyes when Nick looked at me.

"Fishing stinks, and probably won't be much to talk about for at least a couple weeks," he answered.

And then I thought to myself that in a month the jet skis will be ready to go, terrorizing us slowpokes in the no-wake areas once again.

Here's hoping the McHenry and Lake County Sheriff's offices will read this column and tag a few of the violators with citations.

• 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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