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Maciulis: Landing gar not always easy

Illinois DNR Stream Biologist Steve Pescitelli holds up longnose gar pulled out Fox River Thursday morning will be added number

Illinois DNR Stream Biologist Steve Pescitelli holds up a longnose gar pulled out of the Fox River Thursday morning, and will be added to a number fish on display in a large aquarium this weekend during Elgin’s 5th annual Green Expo. May 9, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: August 28, 2014 6:42AM



The first time I saw anyone catch a gar with rod and reel was during an early filming trip for our first television show on that historic TV38 Outdoors Block.

We had driven during the early morning to the backwaters of Pool 13 of the Mississippi River with Mickey Kaveney. Mickey was working at Bedford Sales in Morris at the time and was one of the pre-eminent tournament bass fishermen in the area.

He said it was prime time to demonstrate fishing for largemouth bass with spinner baits on the shallow backwaters of the big river.

Mickey slipped his blue Ranger into a cut off the main slough and threw a tri-color skirted spinner bait up against a soft mud bank beneath some overhanging trees. There was a violent strike, a slashing strike, that seemed to be from a fish that was up against the shallow bank.

He quickly pulled the bait and threw it back against the bank and again there was a violent strike. Again, though, the fish missed the bait.

“Gar ... ” Mickey said without emotion. “Down here, they tie a short strip of white terry cloth towel to the line and flip it up against the bank like this.” He flipped the spinner bait beneath the trees.

“The gar strikes the terry cloth strip, its teeth get caught in the material and bingo. Another gar.”

He did hook one, eventually, and it writhed and thrashed and Mickey barely could hold it down to unhook it. The 3-pound fish wriggled free of his grip and bounced back into the water off the gunnel.

I knew there were gar in the Kankakee River, the Illinois River, even in the Des Plaines backwaters, in the Mazon and in most feeder creeks flowing into these rivers.

Of the best places to catch gar, however, is the Illinois River from the Dresden Locks down to Starved Rock. Sluggish recesses, slackwaters, sloughs and connected swamps are the home of thousands of gar. Likewise, the Des Planes River from Des Planes Conservation Area upstream is a phenomenal fishery.

In case you missed the announcement in February, this is the latest info from the IDNR regarding changes for the coming Illinois deer hunting seasons:

Illinois DNR director Marc Miller announced changes to the 2014-2015 deer hunting seasons, including the removal of 20 additional counties from the late-winter season and a reduction in the number of firearm permits available in some counties.

IDNR biologists made recommendations for the coming season following a review of deer hunting harvest numbers, deer-vehicle accident data, a survey of Illinois deer hunters, hemorrhagic disease reports and other factors.

In 2008, the IDNR began using trends in the rate of deer-vehicle accidents as an index of deer population status in each county and adopted a specific objective for each county based on accident rates.

Those initial objectives for each county were set at the point halfway between the lowest and highest rates occurring in that county between 1994 and 2007. IDNR’s statewide target called for a 14 percent reduction in accident rate from the peak observed in 2003, but individual goals and the changes needed to reach them varied widely by counties. The most recent goal changes, which adjusted the deer goals higher in 41 counties, can be found at www.dnr.illinois.gov/news/Pages/IDNRPlanningIllinoisDeerHuntingChangesfor2014-15.aspx



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