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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Different creatures of the Kishwaukee

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................April 10, 2012

Our local Kishwaukee River ecosystem is a fascinating place to search for species that most of us overlook. We may have fished the Kish, canoed or even swam it in our younger days, but there are other aspects of the river beside recreation and sport.

Al Roloff, natural resources manager for the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District, recently shared some findings from a survey he and others from the Kishwaukee River Ecosystems Partnership and Open Lands researchers have documented.

I never knew what species reproduce without ever meeting its mate. They just lie in wait for the sperm of the male to float by, impregnating the female. Later, the female expels the fertilized eggs (larvae) into the water where they seek out passing fish to attach themselves to the gills. Another target for attachment may be a passing salamander.

Open Lands project scientist Roger Klocek gathers mussels from the Kishwaukee River as part of an ecosystem survey to identify different species in the river. (Provided photo)

Eventually, they grow and drop off somewhere downstream to begin a life that may span 30 years. That is unless a hungry raccoon grabs them up for a tasty meal.

If you already noticed the accompanying photo of the scientist collecting mussels in the river, you know I am talking about clams. Roloff gave me some of the colorful names they are known by – fatmuckets, creepers, elktoes, slippershell, threeridge, wabash pigtoe, plain pocketbook, giant floater, pimpleback and white heelsplitter, which describes the shape or pattern of their shell. If you ever stepped on a heelsplitter underwater, you know why its sharp edges were given that name.

I found out they are now all a protected species, so don’t go on a hunting expedition. Only raccoons and other small mammals are allowed to forage for them.

The clams spend their life in sandy or gravelly river bottoms, opening up to catch plankton and algae for sustenance, occasionally reaching out with a protruding wormlike appendage to attract a fish so they can eject their eggs toward the unsuspecting host.

Roloff explained some 14 species of mussels have been found alive in the river during the last two years, so it is testament to the fact our local river’s water quality is improving. Barring any major pollution spills, it can sustain many forms of wildlife. Their research also could mean more grant money for this ecosystem, with the knowledge the river is thriving and worth protecting.
Since I am on the subject of the Kish, I found two old newspaper articles that show some fish stories are really true. In a May 1951 article in the Sycamore True Republican, it was reported that Arthur (Hap) Carlson landed a 31-inch Northern Pike from the river near Ohio Grove that weighed 7¾ pounds, using a live minnow for bait.

Another article from May 1955 states Dean Gerard, also of Sycamore, caught a whopping 19-pound carp, also 31 inches long, just north of Sportsman’s Lake. Gerard found he needed a net to bag this whopper, so he secured his pole on the bank and ran to his car for the net. Luckily the big one had taken only 10 more feet of line. After 30 minutes, he exhausted the fish and was able to drag it ashore.

It just goes to show you don’t have to drive north to Wisconsin to enjoy some nice fishing.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115