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Bowfin: Memories and an appreciation of “other” fish

Bill Lanham sent a tale of a battling a big fish earlier this month.

I get a few of those, as you might imagine.

Only his was about one of those “other’’ fish, a bowfin. They are more commonly known as dogfish.

And it touches on a topic dear to me, learning to appreciate those “other’’ fish.
Lanham and fellow south suburban fisherman Alan Epich were on a trip to north-central Minnesota when Lanham latched into the bowfin.

“I have caught a few in the past, one of which actually leaped into the boat, right alongside me; but this one provided a battle that I will never forget,’’ he emailed. “This fish fought with such strength and determination that it gave to me a whole new appreciation for one of those “other’’ fish.

“Once the battle had concluded and Al managed to get a net under it, I took to a feeling of admiration and just felt the need to express my appreciation to it and I verbally said, `Thank you,’ to it and meant it from deep in my soul. The strength, the endurance and the will put on by this fish sometimes called a dogfish, well, tis one I can only call `greatfish.’ ’’

I like that turn of phrase, “greatfish.’’

It also reminded me of my first bowfin, caught night fishing for channel catfish with the late Dominic “Big Knobs’’ Culjan on the Illinois River near Starved Rock.

“Knobby’’ died almost nine years ago to the day, Oct. 9, 2007, from complications from falling while putting up his deer stand. His wake was one of the most memorable I ever attended. I sat and watched people toss decoys, sauger jigs and shells into the casket.

Funny the places in memory “other’’ fish, “greatfish,’’ can take you.

CHINOOK REVERSAL: The Lake Michigan Committee (four Lake Michigan states and the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority) backed off original cuts to Chinook stockings for 2017. Vic Santucci, Illinois’ Lake Michigan program manager, sent these adjusted stocking numbers for Illinois in 2017: 150,000 Chinook, down from 230,000 in 2016. Other species remain the same: coho, 300,000, rainbow trout, 110,000, brown trout 110,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will stock 120,000 yearling lake trout on Julian’s Reef.

HUNTING: Duck and Canada goose seasons open Saturday in Illinois’ north zone. Crop harvest goes well and a cold front is coming; but the weekend forecast almost looks too nice. Randy Smith, Illinois’ wetland wildlife program manager, said the Waterfowl Digests should be available around the north zone by today.

The central zone youth hunt is Saturday and Saturday. Smith clarified the age for youth waterfowl hunts: 17 and younger may hunt; 18-year-olds may not. Those 16 and 17 need federal and state duck stamps. A few Downstate sites have more restrictive ages.

OPEN HOUSE: There is an open house for the Urban Stream Research Center, the only center in Illinois for propagating freshwater mussels, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. It is at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. Call (630) 206-9626.

WILD THINGS: Sandhill cranes are moving. Keep eyes and ears to the sky. The first count at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, southeast of Valparaiso, Ind., on Oct. 4 was 2,011. Many more are coming.

STRAY CAST: If Robbie Gould equates to a sculpture-lined goldfish pond, to what does Connor Barth match? Puddle? Fluddle? Dried mud?

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