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July 12, 2000

Illinois Welcomes Bass Masters Classic

CHICAGO - Governor George H. Ryan today welcomed the 30th annual BASS Masters Classic to the shores of Lake Michigan, an opportunity for Chicago and Illinois to showcase the world-class fishing available across the state.

The BASS Masters Classic will be held July 20-22 in Chicago.

"Fishing has never been better in Illinois, and we're telling the world that our state is worth a visit," Ryan said. "We want everyone to know about the tremendous fishing opportunities on the Chicago lakefront and in our harbors, on Lake Calumet, and in the Chicago and Calumet rivers, as well as the rivers, streams and lakes of northern, central and southern Illinois."

The BASS Masters Classic competition, featuring 46 of the worlds best professional bass anglers, will be held on Lake Michigan and other Chicago-area public waters, with daily weigh-ins at Soldier Field. The accompanying Classic Outdoor Show will be held at McCormick Place. All events are free.

"Improvements in water quality and habitat have meant an amazing rebound for fish populations and fishing in the Chicago area," said Department of Natural Resources Director Brent Manning. "While the professionals will experience first hand the outstanding fishing Illinois has to offer, all anglers will benefit from the efforts of the state, the city and the Chicago Park District in improving fishing for millions of Illinoisans and visitors to Chicagoland."

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs is supporting the BASS Masters Classic competition through a $375,000 tourism grant. The Department of Natural Resources is providing $250,000, while the city of Chicago contributed $125,000.

"Having Chicago host this years BASS Masters Classic highlights the diversity of outdoor activities visitors to our state can experience," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough.

The Chicago Park District hosts fishing at 13 park district lagoons, while harbor fishing is allowed in designated areas on the lakefront.

"Fishing opportunities are extremely diverse in Chicago and have just exploded over the last couple of years," said Chicago Park District General Superintendent David J. Doig. "The lakefront and harbors for perch, rock bass and smallmouth bass have shown remarkable growth. Carp, largemouth and panfish have rebounded strongly on the Chicago and Calumet river systems, and our stocked and tagged fish programs in park lagoons are better than ever.

"With the traditional smelt fishing in the spring and brown trout, steelhead, coho and king salmon running throughout the year, there is a fish, a season and a fishing technique available to satisfy just about everyone, from shore anglers to boaters, from beginners to pros," Doig added.

Manning pointed to the state's Access to Fishing program, urban fishing clinics, stocking programs and construction of a fish-attracting artificial reef off the Chicago lakefront as part of the states commitment to continued improvements in fishing opportunities in the region and throughout Illinois.

"We stocked nearly 70 million fish of a wide variety of species in the waters of Illinois last year," Manning said. "More than 70,000 youngsters statewide participated in our fishing clinics last year, while fishing tackle was made available for loan at more than 120 locations throughout the state."

Lake Michigan sport anglers have recorded a number of state record salmon catches in recent years, including a 31 lb. 6.72 oz. rainbow trout caught in 1993, a 36 lb. 11.5 oz. brown trout in 1997, a 7 lb. 5 oz. brook trout in 1998 and a 38 lb. 4 oz. lake trout in 1999.

Historically, the most popular sport fish in Lake Michigan has been the yellow perch, prized because shoreline anglers are able to catch the tasty fish. A decline in population led to a more restrictive perch harvest, but recent improvements in reproduction are encouraging.

Interest in the smallmouth and largemouth bass fisheries and other fish species in Chicago harbors and near-shore areas have been enhanced by improved water access for shoreline and boat anglers. Fishing piers that offer better access to prime fishing spots are available in Burnham, Belmont, and Montrose harbors, while an accessible fishing pier is located at North Point Marina in Lake County.

Manning added that fishing opportunities throughout Illinois are attractive to resident and visiting anglers.

"From the Fox River and Chain O'Lakes, to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, to the big downstate reservoirs at Shelbyville, Carlyle and Rend lakes, to Crab Orchard and Kinkaid lakes and the Ohio River at the southern tip, there are great places to fish in all parts of the state," Manning said. "Whether anglers are looking for trophy bass or muskie, or a frying pan full of blue gill or crappie, they'll find them and have a lot of fun catching them here in Illinois."

For information on Chicago area and Illinois fishing opportunities, call 1-800/ASK-FISH (1-800/275-3474), the Chicago Park District at 312/742-PLAY, www.chicagoparkdistrict.com, or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at 312/814-2070 or 217/782-6424, Ameritech Relay 800/526-0844, http://dnr.state.il.us/fish/.


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