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Thanksgiving a good time to head outdoors

Updated: January 7, 2014 6:49AM



Thanksgiving should be for gatherings of friends and family.

For some of us, it’s time to expand our outdoors experience.

For Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert, it was proudly leading his son Aaron to the catch of his first steelhead from Trail Creek over Thanksgiving weekend.

He landed two steelies of 6 and 9 pounds on spinners.

When that note and photo arrived from Breidert Wednesday morning, it warmed my heart, on several levels.

That afternoon, Breidert sent a follow-up on a fresh run of steelies entering Trail Creek.

“Good temperatures and fish jumping at the barrier today,’’ he emailed.

For me, it was following my own advice here last Friday and going to see the thousands of sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area near Medaryville.

Sunday afternoon, I finally gave up on that stupid Bears game and took my wife on a leisurely drive across Route 14, a Sunday country drive if ever there was one.

The croaking (or crooing as a former English professor has suggested) of sandhills could be heard as we parked and climbed out of the car.

For my wife, it was something new. For me, it was something familiar to embrace. We joined the dozens of others crammed into the viewing platform on Goose Pasture, then watched thousands of sandhills pour in from all directions, but primarily from the west and south.

The arrival of strings of sandhills silhouetted against the setting sun made for dramatic photos by better photographers. As darkness thickened, my wife and I drove some nearby country roads and watched stragglers rise from cornfields.

Plenty of sandhills remain at Jasper-Pulaski. Best times to watch them are at sunrise when they fly out of the roosting marshes or beginning an hour before sunset when they return to Goose Pasture. For more information, go to in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3109.htm.

Fishing: The top bite in the area is for yellow perch on the Chicago lakefront. The hottest spot has been the new area by the slip just north of the end of 87th Street on Chicago’s Southeast Side. But others are doing well in the river at 92nd and 95th. ... Fresh steelies moved into Trail on Wednesday, but overall steelies have been hit and miss in the streams. ... Breidert said whitefish have been slow at Michigan City, even though water temperatures seem right for them to be in and reports are better in Michigan. ... Ice fishing might return in the Chain O’Lakes in northern Illinois by Sunday or Monday, but better ice fishing options are in northern Wisconsin.

Deer notes: Muzzleloader deer season opens Saturday. ... At LaSalle FWA, property manager Ken Bisacchi said firearm season was down (14 deer, compared to normally in the 20s), but archery season (28 through Wednesday) is on pace with last year. ... At Kingsbury FWA, during the special antlerless season Dec. 26-Jan. 5, the site is limiting the number of hunters (archery or firearm) to 100. Firearm harvest there was 37, up from 27 last year.

Waterfowl: The first duck season in the north zone ends Sunday. Kingsbury is already ahead of last year with 263 ducks through Tuesday. Duck hunters there are on first-come basis until season ends. There will be some open water. ... At LaSalle, Bisacchi said all blinds are open until 1 p.m. through Sunday. Considering the weather, he expects open water at least through Saturday. He said goose hunting will be self service until the opening of second duck season. ... Water opened again at Willow Slough, weekend will be iffier.

Wild things: An invasion of snowy owls arrived in the past week. Perch fishermen and birders reported multiple snowy owls, particularly in Indiana waters of Calumet Harbor as seen from shore in Illinois and at Michigan City.

Ducks Unlimited: The Crown Point DU chapter holds its Big Duck Gun Raffle Banquet tonight at Avalon Manor in Merrillville.

Quote: “Time to just tune up gear for the spring ice out,’’ Breidert said, considering the weekend weather forecast.



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