Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sauger Fishing the Illinois River - Beer Drinking with Patriots

Waters of the Illinois River are colder than a mother in law's kiss and with this year's snap from God's Freon Lines (aka -Global Warming) YEOW! I read a scrotum shrivelling saga in this morning's Tribune. God be praised a gent knocked from his barge after a collision with a bridge was pulled from waters near Coal City* - a town I love so well. The Illinois River is formed by the mighty north flowing Kankakee and Des Plaines Rivers and pushes west through Morris and Ottawa where it picks up the Mazon and Fox Rivers and later the Vermillion and eventually spikes southwest to the Mississippi River. That's a hell of a lot of water to all you hydrology fans.

The waters are damn cold. Colder than the reception too many south side gents will receive, following the their decisions to cap off the office Christmas Party with a nightcap and a nightgown at Franklin Tap before boarding the Metra (Rock Islands). Frigid, Bridget!

The Illinois River is the Sauger Capital of the World. The Sauger is a Pericidae ( Perch family and great eating) and the smaller more athletic cousin of the Noble Walleye. There have been some instances where Sauger and Walleye mate and a spawn hybrid freak -Dysfunctional Walleye - the Saugeye appears. I believe that to be more agrarian legend, like the Yellowhammers of Custer Park - folks said to be so in-bred that they live along the banks of the Kankakee River along Route 113. Oh, they be there, Meryl.

Sauger fishing, in late November and early December, requires a genuine Illinois River Scout - a man steeped in River Traditions, Folkways and a River Piety toward the piscene quarry and also a man thoroughly marinated in Peach Schapps and Pabst Blue Ribbon - or, if unavailable, Blatz. I like Drewrys.

I had the honor of teaching with such an Illinois Voyageurcoureurs des bois - Jacques Martain**! Clam! Jack was known by that apellation following his capture of an Illinois Clam the size of a hubcap - Baby Moon Buick Sized.

Jack lived in Streator and drove to Kankakee Bishop McNamara High School ( distance of about sixty-five miles each way) and never was late nor missed a day of teaching History.

Voyageur Martain introduced me, Charlie Olson and Dead-eye Brett Fraser to the delights and dangers of Sauger fishing. The Key- don't get so brain-boiled on beer that you end up the main course for Mr. Gar under the river bed.

The absolute best time to take Sauger is in February prior to the spawning run near Starved Rock, IL. The next best is November and December when the shad take to depths of eight to twelve feet. To quote River Reporter Dan Vinovich:

" As late November and December arrive, water temperatures drop into the 50 degree range. This drop in water temperature seems to merge the smaller schools of fish into large wolf packs interested in one thing, eating! Fall, in my judgment, is one of the best times to catch full stringers of big fish. Locating these packs of hungry walleye and sauger is fairly simple. When you find the food, you find the fish. Shad is the main forage base in many of our midwest lakes and rivers. In the fall, millions of shad move onto shallow mud flats to feed on the remaining invertebrates in the water column. As the invertebrates in the water column start to deplete, the shad start sifting through the silt on these flats for the remaining food, much like the American Indians followed the buffalo across the plains. The walleye and sauger follow the shad, stopping to gorge themselves on the plentiful food supply before moving into deeper holes to hold up during winter. So for fantastic fall river fishing, look for shallow flats in the 10 to 12 foot depth range. "

This is all too true and Dan's simile is dead-on! Saugers form wolfpacks like the Nazi Subs off the Atlantic Coast in hunt of shad rather than Allied shipping.

In 1984, at about this time of year, Jacques "Clam" Martain lured Charlie, Brett and me out to Streator and off to the Illinois River in pursuit of of these Sauger wolfpacks. We took off from Triple K in Brett's tan Chevy van armed with Zebco's, Illinois Fish & Game Licenses, Peach Schapps and a case of Blatz cans ( 'Outta Pabst Boys! No More 'til Monday. Hickey - You gotta be Some Kind of Mutant - Drewrys!') from Box & Norm's Liquors on Station Street.

The Kankakee Trio ( Olson,Fraser & Hickey) picked up Clam in Streator at 5:30 A.M. and drove to Starved Rock - the site of the Illinwek Masada - the Illinwek tribe murdered a great number of Potowatommi and their Chief Pontiac in 1760': a bit of Advocacy History painted over by Ward Churchills. Genocide has nothing to do with honkies - this was Injun on Injun****. Starved Rock is an Illinois Treasure - get thee there!

We did and there was a beautiful blanket of snow - the temperatures were 25 Degrees. The swift waters of the Illinois River confluence and wet-confederation fired coal black swirls and ripples that caressed rock and bridge pilings, as we wadded, very carefully, in spots that Clam Martain had scouted and was sure that no shifts in the river bedding of limestone would snag his three colleagues.

Jacques (Jack) "Clam" Martain was a riverman - any and every River. Clam waded and so did we. With good rubber waders and thick thermals grabbing our butts, nuts and uppers. Clam was our coureur des bois! There are many of my generation and younger who learn to steep themselves in the better nature of man by respecting and tussleing with Nature. No WIs or Nintendos for such Patriots! Clam was no armchair historian either - he waded into history!

In the classroom he never once raised his voice which had a four generation Illini French tang of Gascony yet. Mr. Martain taught Illinois History and made it come to life -especially the French Heritage. Parts of Northern Illinois are remarkable for the Gallic magic that inflects the speech of people in Papinueau, rural Kankakee, Martinon, St. Anne, L'Rable, Hennepin, Minooka, Peru, and Ottawa. Clam liked nothing better than teaching history and then popping open beers while he fished and his three pals were devout communicants of this church as well.

Clam is convinced that somewhere in his French lineage is some Pontiac blood. He ordered each of us to sacrifice a lure of some value by tossing it into the Illinois river. "Before we take from the waters we must give to the waters!" Brett Fraser was passing some steaming used Blatz and Peach Schapps into the Illinois from the bank, but Clam said that was not a fitting gift.

Into the River we tossed, twister tails, hulu poppers and silly shads.

Charlie, Brett and I were told what crank baits to use and where to toss and how to play them -" Take 2 & 1/2" dull color shads -pop them out about fifteen past your target beyond the flow and play it fast -Sauger get pissed when shad dart by. Shad are bony cousins of the Atlantic or the river herring. Saugers love them.

My take for the day was four two and two and half pound Saugers. All were under the "14" limit and I had to let them go. As I mentioned, I like Drewrys and therefore was skunked. Blatz lovers Charlie, Brett, and Clam had stringers full of wiggling and pissed off Saugers. We cleaned, cooked and ate the fish and wrapped some for our wives when we made room in the coolers as good husbands by draining them of cans of Blatz.

I took a pass on the Peach Schnapps as did Charlie and we took turns driving back to Clam's house in Streator.

When we hit Route 113, we noticed a rainbow behind us in the side door rear view mirrors. Charlie Olson, 6'4" Black Haired Viking who taught Business and coached Tennis, took this as an omen. I concurred and we pulled into Custers Last Stand for Drafts, Darts and demitasse du jour
. We took much from the Illinois River. It was cold and warm at the same time.

The barge men pulled a fellow crewman from the icy Illinois River waters. I hope the rescued bargeman returns to that bridge and tosses in something of value. Jacques "Clam" Martain would demand no less .

December 12, 2009 6:07 AM | No Comments | BREAKING STORY
An unidentified man was rescued from the icy waters of the Illinois River near Coal City Friday night.

At about 9:30 p.m., a barge traveling on the Illinois River struck a Canadian National Railway bridge pier about a half mile from the Dresdon Lock and Dam. The collision caused a man working on the barge to fall overboard into the river, according to Coal City Fire Chief Harold Holsinger.

The barge crew lost contact with him in the darkness for approximately 45 minutes until he was found about a half mile downstream, Holsinger said. After about a 15 minute rescue operation he was pulled from the water by personnel from the Dresdon Lock and Dam.

The man was transported to Morris Hospital, his condition is unknown. Chief Holsinger indicated that the man was alert, conscious but very, very cold. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.

John Loboda, WGN-TV

Voyageur strength hauled more than goods; it also allowed explorer Louis Joliet and missionary Father Jacques Marquette to search for a route to the Gulf of Mexico. These men became the first Europeans to see and map the Mississippi River along with many other natural landmarks. As they returned northward through the Illinois Territory, news reached them of a faster route back to the Great Lakes: the Illinois River. Joliet and Marquette would continue to the current site of Chicago, and Father Marquette would return to start the first Christian Mission in Illinois near Starved Rock. Today you can follow the strokes of Father Marquette when you paddle into the Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park.

The Illinois River retains the trade value and adventurous spirit from the Voyageur days. If you get the opportunity to travel this river or the byway that follows its shores, consider how the work and sweat of the Voyageurs helped shape Illinois history.

he Illinois Natural History Survey Mollusk Collection contains over 105,400 catalogued specimens, most of which were collected in Illinois and the southeastern United States. The collection is 90% freshwater species (mussels, fingernail clams, and snails) and 10% terrestrial species (snails). Most of the specimens were collected as a result of various faunal surveys conducted by INHS biologists from the late 1800's until the present. The early collections were made by such naturalists as John W. Powell, Robert Kennicott, Richard E. Call, William A. Nason, Frank C. Baker, Robert E. Richardson, and Charles A. Hart.

The snails are divided between terrestrial (13%) and freshwater (5%) species, most of which were collected more than 50 years ago. The largest and best documented collection of snails at the Survey was compiled by Thural D. Foster and organized by Frank C. Baker as part of his study on the "Landsnails of Illinois" published in 1939. The Baker snail collection numbers 1632 lots containing 11,970 specimens.

**** From a paper written by a high school teacher -

"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" . . . and made the first contact with the "Indians." For Native Americans, the world after 1492 would never be the same. This date marked the beginning of the long road of persecution and genocide of Native Americans, our indigenous people. Genocide was an important cause of the decline for many tribes.


BillyFish said...

Wading the Il. river in winter? I'd rather have Kevin Jennings treat my hemorrhoids!

pathickey said...

"T'was chilly; Liam me boy. Nevertheless, much safer than boating.

As delicate as the Safer Schools Czar would toy and fondle the anal outcroppings, I'd much rather prefer the roiling waters of the Illinois.