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The Azimut makes waves at opening day of boat show

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Updated: January 10, 2013 11:39PM



CHICAGO — MarineMax Yachts had the priciest boat at the Progressive Insurance Chicago Boat, Sports & RV Show. The Azimut, a 45-foot flybridge, listed for $1.2 million — but it will sell for under a million — drew gawkers Wednesday on opening day at McCormick Place.

It has three state rooms, upper and lower helms, satellite TV, joystick technology and is powered by twin 480hp Cummins diesels.

The most venerable and decadent of the outdoors shows, the boat show (chicagoboatshow.com), runs through Sunday. It also is a chance for ordinary people to test and try. That shows with the rise in pontoons.

“It is not just grandma and grandpa buying them,’’ The Boat House sales manager Don Schnurr III said.

Some are even elevated to high-performance, even high-end, boats. I find the shift in pontoons in recent years fascinating.

As I do the revolution in kayaks. PaddleFest gives showgoers a chance to see kayaks and canoes, then try them in the PaddleFest Pond.

Walter Loos, chief adventurer for Paddle and Trail, said fishing kayaks are major draws for two reasons. One is they are affordable. Second is the great improvement in design of fishing kayaks: better seating, more places to stash stuff, better handling.

If going to try kayaks at the boat show, Loos said to look at online videos at first. Then ask basic questions: Where are you fishing? For what? What are your home waters? Sit-on-top or sit-in style?

Kayak fishermen will need a smaller, more maneuverable kayak for rivers; while those who fish on Lake Michigan will need more length and stability.

“Just like any other sport, a piece of equipment should be tailored the individual,’’ Loos said. “There is a lot to be said for boat fit.’’

For kids, I think the new Rockin’ Rollin’ Bubbles will be the hit.

Showtime notes: Through Sunday, the All-Canada Show (allcanadashow.com/html/chicago) is at Pheasant Run in St. Charles, Ill., and the Chicago Muskie Show (chicagomuskieshow.com) at Harper College in Palatine, Ill. ... The Northwest Indiana Steelheaders Spring Fever Outdoor Show was canceled.

Open-water fishing: Some steelhead are in the streams and around Michigan City harbor.

“Expect more with the rain coming (Thursday and Friday),’’ Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert emailed.

Capt. Rich Sleziak from Slez’s Bait Shop in Lake Station said if the rains raise the flow, best will probably be spawn again. Otherwise, when levels and flows are down, he said those having the most consistent success use micro-steelhead jigs tipped with a wax worm or a pinch of shrimp. He sells salad shrimp and suggests tearing them in half. Spinners will allow fishermen to cover water.

The forecast warm-up for Friday and Saturday has perch fishermen antsy and trying out of East Chicago and Burns Ditch. Sleziak said perch are being caught in the river at 95th and 92nd in Chicago, but it takes sorting for keepers. The ice is off the Chicago harbors again.

Breidert emailed that a few whitefish were being caught off the Michigan City pier on Thursday.

He said “two nice coho’’ were at the barrier on Trail Creek on Thursday.

Ice fishing: Ice fishing is done, probably until late next week. A last couple were trying to ice fish near shore Thursday morning at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, where site staff said there was 0-2 inches of ice. Sleziak said there was a phenomenal effort last weekend with enough people on Loomis Lake that it looked liked “a shantytown.’’



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