Perch charters given another nibble
Written by Chicago Sun-Times   
Wednesday, 26 October 2005 09:35

Perch fishing inches forward by the rule. Administrative Rule 810, filed for first notice last week, would open yellow perch in Illinois' Lake Michigan to charter fishing and continue the experiment with youth perch fishing in July.


Last summer was the first in which those 15 and younger were allowed to keep 10 perch daily during the July closure. It went smoothly, in part because the lake warmed rapidly and the perch disappeared from shore after the first week.


As to the prohibition of perch charters in 1997, it shouldn't have happened at all.

"The fact is, [charters] have no biological impact at all,'' said Mike Conlin, then the fisheries chief.

The prohibition was inserted to placate members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules who otherwise wouldn't have backed the elimination of commercial netting of perch.

"The alternative was to lose our effort to get commercial fishing down to zero,'' said Conlin, now director of resource conservation.

Daily bag on charters would be the same as elsewhere, 15 per angler.

We flat-out need perch charters. They open Chicago's favorite fishery to people who aren't hardcore anglers, such as families and business people.

"Good. I will be back into it,'' said Capt. Al "The Fisherman's Pal'' Skalecke, who charters out of Burnham harbor. "I was the one who started promoting it. When they forced [perch chartering] out, I was devastated. I got no compensation. I had to sell a boat. At least I have all the gear yet.''

The most consistent boat fishery for perch is from outside Wilmette harbor to the R4 marker. From Chicago harbors, it's a run of more than 10 miles.

Probably the easiest harbor to charter from most of the year would be Waukegan, with a consistent bite just south and east of Highland Park.

In the spring, the weed beds off Navy Pier and in Calumet harbor will draw the most interest from Chicago charters.

"If Illinois opened up, I would be downtown and concentrate from downtown to Gary,'' said Capt. Chuck Weis, who has the area's top perch charter in northwest Indiana. "It would be executive charters, not just barebones.''

That's the reality of chartering for perch. It's more about feeling than fillets.

"A lot of groups came back just to fish perch,'' said Skalecke, who used to take charters perching for salmon on slow days.

Paying $50 to $100 a head for 15 perch isn't worth it for the fillets alone. The real hook is catching with a backdrop of the country's most stunning urban fishing skyline.

It's about time.

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