June 10, 2012

Lake Front Fishing, Uptown Chicago

We would walk down to Montrose Harbor and buy our bait from "C. Berry for Bait," an old green shack on the northeast side of the harbor. All of our fishing equipment came from there. We could buy a one piece 16 / 18 foot cane pole, a two piece 12/14 foot, or  what us professional guys used, a three piece 14/18 footer.  One of our prized possessions was an official  C. Berrry Bait Can, which was in reality an unused paint can with  6 or 7 nail holes punched in the top.

It cost us a quarter and we had it forever.  Styrofoam hadn't been invented yet. A mandatory piece was our Coleman Gas Fired Lantern. For a nickel's worth of white gas at the gas station, we could fish all night.  We tied a length of clothesline to the handle of the lantern in order to lower down to the water, usually about two feet above.  This helped attract the perch in to our poles, and gave us light when baiting our trolley set ups.

For bait, the Lake Michigan shiner was the best, followed by fat heads, peelers, or softshell crabs, which  were really cray fish. We would rip the tail off, peel away the shell, and impale the white meat on the hook. Sometimes we would use small pieces of shrimp. Worms never worked that well on the horseshoe.
I would fish all night, come home in the morning with a stringer of 50- 60 perch. Our tackle box was for the most part an old cigar box.

We would scrounge all of our gear and rarely bought any. I invented a type of hook-dragging device which was an old clothes hanger cut and bent into a circle with 10"  lengths of hanger with bent hooks at the end, alternating with one hook up and one hook down until I had 10 lengths. I would throw this out into the lake and let it settle to the bottom, then slowly retrieve it back, snagging anything it came in contact with: hooks, line weights, sun glasses, and a few rods and reels.

A neat old guy named  Mr. Service used to come out at sunup with his cart, "HOOOOT COOFFEE," and rolls; then at lunchtime he sold sandwiches and pop. I went to school with his son Jim and always felt sorry for him that his dad had to sell hot coffee for a living. Today I would love to have that concession.   When Jim went to high school his dad bought him a car.

The water level on the lake always fluctuated, as far as I can remember, then when Harold Washington was mayor, there was high water and flooding going on  along Lake Shore Drive. Some of the lobbies  in buildings and LSD was flooded.

The mayor convened a committee to figure out how to keep Lake Michigan from flooding the City. So experts said we had to open the locks and drain the water into the Mississippi; the people down south said if you flood us we'll sue. Another said if we drained a billion gallons a day it would take 10 years to get the level down.

Now mind you, no one was asking the real experts, the Lake Front Fisherman. The following week the water level returned to  normal, all the "experts" went home, and no one had an answer as to why.
God and Nature handle things pretty well; all we have to do is stay out of the way. It's a  system  that has been working up to now.

Bill Matteson


bill Matteson said...

from a reader and kid from the "hood"
As usual, I am enjoying reading all the comments from people who lived in Uptown and have the same memories I have....what fun!! Theres always a couple I had forgotten..
My dad was a great fisherman and I remember going to the Horseshoe with him before the rocks had been fixed....I was always kinda scared that I would fall in....
Thanks for keeping these memories alive....I think as I get older I am reminiscing more and more.....

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill:

I enjoyed your comments about the lake and your fishing experience although I just went swimming at Montrose. I couldn't wait to be in the water in the summer but I can't recall the fishing shack but probably didn't pay much attention in my haste to get to the beach. I too am enjoying all the comments of people who also lived in the area and have similar memories. For the last two days, I have been sitting and reading and looking at the pictures. Love it all.


bill Matteson said...

Please contact me at wgmatteson1@att.net


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