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Salmon Unlimited gets kids hooked on fishing

Waukegan-9/15/12 Sat./Waukegan Harbor
Matthew Palug12 Libertyville with bass caught during derby.
|  Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

Waukegan-9/15/12, Sat./Waukegan Harbor Matthew Paluga, 12, of Libertyville with a bass caught during derby. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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You can help out the Waukegan High School student council , which will be conducting a cleanup along the Robert McClory Bike Path from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday in Waukegan. Meet at Benny Middle School, 1401 Montesano Avenue, which is just north of Sunset.

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Updated: October 23, 2012 6:05AM

Salmon Unlimited is intent on giving back to the communities surrounding Lake Michigan, and it held another successful Kid’s Fishing Derby last weekend.

“It just continues to grow,” said captain Joel Reiser, who said they had 140-plus kids register for the derby, held at Waukegan Harbor. The event drew participants from as far away as Rolling Meadows and Park Ridge.

He said it was a sight to see with all the kids wearing safety orange T-shirts so organizers could spot them easily. Then, the United States Coast Guard showed up.

“The guy asked me if he could hand out whistles. I said ‘sure, go ahead,’ ” said Reiser, and you can guess how for at least a short time, there were more whistles blowing than fishing.
“Between the orange shirts and the whistles, it made for interesting times,” he said.

They always feed the kids and they went through 250 hot dogs, 10 pizzas, 25 gallons of Kool-Aid, 175 juice boxes, 10 dozen doughnuts and 20 pounds of candy.

“We filled them with sugar and then sent them on their way,” joked Reiser.

On the serious side, they emphasized catch-and-release, selective harvest and ethical sportsmanship to the participants. He explained to the kids that they don’t put the gobies back because this was an invasive fish that came into the Great Lakes through ballast water on giant ships.

He said the biggest fish caught was a nine-pound chinook salmon. “A couple of kids lost some big ones,” he said, but they still hooked into largemouth bass, perch and rock bass. Of course, the impatient little kids had their way with gobies,using a worm and a bobber.

The club was founded in 1971 and its main objective is to maintain the world-class salmon and trout fishery and promote the general welfare of the big lake and those who enjoy sport fishing.

Recently, the Lake Michigan Committee came up with a new management strategy for Lake Michigan where they plan on cutting the stocking of chinook salmon by half to 1.6 million in 2013.

Illinois will reduce its stocking by 20,000 and reductions will also be shared by Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.

The reason is that their survey of prey fish in Lake Michigan shows they are at historic low levels.

“They believe that 50 percent of the salmon are naturally reproducing on their own,” said Reiser. He said Michigan has a lot of streams connected to Lake Michigan that are the right amount of sand and pebbles for salmon to reproduce.

Illinois really doesn’t have much, but Wisconsin has a good number, including the Root River in Racine. The salmon go upstream in the fall.

Reiser, who runs Brush and Roll Charters, said this year was one of the best out on the big lake. “Not bigger fish, just the number of fish. So there might be something to what they are saying,” he said.

The derby also is a vehicle for getting families to enjoy the outdoors. “The kids need to put down their Nintendos and iPads and get out and enjoy the outdoors while it’s still here,” he said.

For more information on the club or to make donations, go to

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