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Call of the north makes for easy sleeping every time
By Mike Jackson | Daily Herald Outdoors Writer
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Published: 6/24/2010 12:00 AM

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I am always glad to hear from my ex-patriot friends living in the far north county. It was a treat to hear from Jerry Kendall, even though his latest written communication smacked of cynicism and a smattering of scolding.

"Hey Mike, I hear you've been beating up Wisconsin again on your radio show," he wrote.

So I picked up the telephone and called him. In less than a half hour I was able to set him straight. I stopped doing what he accused me of a long time back.

For the record, my only heartburn is with the Illinois Tourism Agency, which continues to drop the ball when it comes to promoting our state's fishing and hunting opportunities.

Let's face it. Wisconsin lakes and streams have us beat, hands down. They have more fishable muskie lakes than we do, but we have plenty of giant pikes to keep us bragging for a while.

I admit to truly enjoying my trips to the Badger State. Even on hot days during the short Wisconsin summers, one can fall into bed and sleep soundly as the loons call out with their lullabies.

Jerry lives north of Rhinelander, an area where I learned a lot about Wisconsin fishing traditions and tricks of the trade.

I've written about the Wisconsin gems several times in the past, and one must always include the endless possibilities available to locals and visitors alike. And yes, the fishing is tremendous up north, with smallmouth rivers and trout streams just begging for us to sample their wares.

Another tradition of the woodsy areas in Wisconsin is a proprietor's commitment to offer customers the best steaks at local taverns. Some places are known more for prime rib feasts than the brandy they offer in sifter glasses.

No Jerry, I am not slamming Wisconsin by a long shot. I am envious that you've found a more palate-pleasing lifestyle where a curious black bear on your front step is more routine than some ward committeeman sticking his hand out for a few bucks.

Jerry once wrote me that he walks to a nearby trout stream several times a week and casts flies of his own making. He rarely goes home without catching and releasing at least a dozen trout. He once told me that even though his kids have made the Chicago area home for their career paths, he'll never come back.

"Why should I?" he declared. "What I have here is what most of my friends wanted, only I took the plunge and made it happen. And if it gets too cold and rough in the winter, I can always jump on a plane and head south to warm my tootsies."

I too had a taste of what Jerry now has. I had a cabin on Minnesota's Gunflint Trail and loved it every time I drove the unpaved road into paradise.

I also had a brief connection to a family cabin in Hayward, where I never stopped muskie fishing and would ignore my father's calls to come in for dinner.

I know that life is short and that I am constantly jamming lots of activities into my personal space, just so I can keep hearing the loons and eating great north country steaks. No sir, no ragging on Wisconsin from this envious kid.

Outdoor notes

I usually get several e-mails from readers asking for my opinion about the best angling location, and I always have a stock answer. From the Fox Chain down to the cooling lakes is where the good action is happening. For example:

Fox Chain: If you choose to work hard and move around quite a bit chances are you may stumble onto a muskie on Channel Lake or Lake Catherine. Pistakee Lake bluegill action is excellent in 8 feet. The walleye activity has picked up right near the Route 12 bridge and the Grass Lake Road bridge.

Fox River: Look for walleye action near the Route 176 bridge as well as just downstream from the McHenry Dam. The smallmouth bite is iffy, with some fish being taken at Batavia.

Cooling lakes: Heidecke Lake is giving up some nice stripers and walleyes not far from the narrows.

Geneva Lake: The largemouth bite is still strong despite the cold fronts that zoomed through that area.

Mike Jackson can be reached via e-mail at: Mike's radio program airs 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC AM-1240.