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Maciulis: Tinley Park lad pulls a pike from Wampum Lake

JoshuMcArthur 11 shows off 30-inch Northern pike he pulled from ice recent expeditiWampum Lake Thornton. | Supplied Photo

Joshua McArthur, 11, shows off the 30-inch Northern pike he pulled from the ice on a recent expedition to Wampum Lake in Thornton. | Supplied Photo

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Updated: March 4, 2013 6:26AM



The first time I stepped onto the ice carrying a bucket loaded with rods and scoopers and small boxes of wax worms and ice jigs, I laughed out loud. I was so excited!

It was surreal, walking on “water” where only a month earlier we floated in a canoe, catching crappie and bluegill.

As ice fishing continues to grow in popularity — especially in the outlying areas throughout the collar counties, where many of the new housing developments have retention ponds that are stocked with fish — the outdoors industry has introduced myriad products that make it more comfortable, safer and certainly more enjoyable.

Best of all, it’s a sport for all ages, and cuts across the gender line.

For 11-year-old Joshua McArthur, it’s become a passion that mirrors his family’s traditions.

“I began fishing with my dad on local ponds and at Shadow Lakes,” the Tinley Park resident said. “My uncle always ice fished with his friends, and one day he asked if we wanted to try it and we did. I loved it.”

Johsua’s father, Brian, followed the same route into the outdoors when he accompanied his dad and friends to deer camp in the Upper Peninsula.

“We always enjoyed fishing and hunting,” Brian said. “With both my dad and my wife Christine’s dad having places on Shadow Lakes outside of Wilmington, Joshua and I join them on weekends as often as we can and it’s just something Joshua can’t get enough of.”

Shadow Lakes is a residential development built around reclaimed strip mines. The lakes are stocked and managed for fishing, and are only an hour from the McArthurs’ home.

“In fact, for Christmas, I told Joshua I would take him ice fishing for a weekend,” Brian said. “Some place up north, maybe with a guide, like my dad used to take me to deer camp. He is so excited about it.”

Joshua plays catcher on the Bobcats travel baseball team, so on many weekends during the winter they are training indoors.

“We were coming home from practice recently,” Brian said, “and were passing Wampum Lake and saw someone fishing on the ice, so we thought we would try it the next day.”

Wampum Lake is located within the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Wampum Lake Woods, just south of I-80 and west of Stony Island Avenue on Thornton-Lansing Road.

The clear water lake encompasses 35 acres, has 4,800 feet of shoreline and a maximum depth of 13 feet. While it is a man-made lake, it has good weed growth and sustains a healthy population of largemouth bass, panfish, bullhead and channel catfish. It’s best known for the size and number of perch it produces, especially through the ice. Now, the secret is out that it also harbors quite a few huge northern pike.

“It was cloudy and overcast when we first got to the lake, but later the sun popped,” Joshua said. “My dad pulls the shack ... and he carries the auger, and I pull the heater and fishing stuff. The ice was four to five inches. My dad drills the holes.”

How did Brian and Joshua decide where to fish?

“Guys told us there are some big northerns there,” Joshua said. “We hoped to catch one. I never caught a northern.”

After scouting, the pair settled on an area.

“We saw the weeds touching the ice and we figured there would be fish there,” Joshua said. “It was seven feet deep. I think we were toward the middle, not too far from the weeds.”

The McArthurs fished with tip-ups — a system in which fishing line is connected to a flag mechanism on a board spanning the hole in the ice. When a fish hits the line, the flag pops up.

“We have two tip-ups which have steel leaders, so we use them for walleyes, usually at Shadow lakes,” Joshua said. “When you feel the tension, you set the hook. I always kneel on two knees. Then I pull it in like a rope, putting one hand in front of the other.

“First two hours we had a couple of nibbles but nothing happened. Then the flag went up. We had tipped it with a golden roach (minnow). I could feel that it was a pretty good fish and kept pulling the line.”

When he finally slid the fish onto the ice, Joshua’s heart was racing.

“That was my first northern ever,” he said. “Around 30 inches and it weighed 2½ pounds!”

They snapped a quick photo, then continued fishing.

“We moved around but didn’t catch any fish, so we went back to the original spot. By then it was sunny and we didn’t get any more hits.”

But ice fishing is a hit unto itself.

“I just enjoy it — better than open water,” Joshua said. “I enjoy being with my dad and we have all the equipment. And, I enjoy eating fish. My dad cooks them, usually battered and fried.”

Outfishing dad doesn’t hurt.

“He doesn’t have the right touch,” Joshua said, laughing.

Which brings us to the threshold of another outdoors tradition: bragging rights. Another young angler can now sit beside his dad in the front seat, proclaiming, “My fish is bigger than yours!”

And they may be father and son, but in that moment they’re just two guys, coming home after a day of fishing.



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