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Fishermen: Great day for fishing in unprepared lagoon

Even before fishing season officially opens in Chicago’s waterways, residents spent one afternoon, in early spring, trying to snag a non-seasonal catch in the debris-laden water.

Frequent fisher Melody Harden, Chicago nurse, spent the afternoon fishing with her sister Roxanne, visiting from California and her brother James, of Bellwood, Ill. She said Columbus Park was a great childhood memory for her and her siblings. She criticized the park district for the debris just along the grass line, meeting the water and said, “They don’t clean it. We catch a lot of garbage.” “ I guess they say, ‘we stock it, we not gone clean it,’” she said.

Fisherman, Ural Pitchford, holds a minnow fish while explaining the reason why the fish is used for bait

The Chicago Park District who, according to their website, is responsible for 11 stocked park lagoons, the Chicago River, Lake Michigan, and access in eight harbors and along the north side of Navy Pier as well as a host of other recreational activities.

Marta Juaniza, assistant press secretary for the Chicago Park District, said people are allowed to fish in the lagoon as long as the water is not frozen. She said the unexpected warm weather brought some fishers out earlier than usual. “We have a contractor that maintains the lagoon during the traditional fishing season of April-November,” Juaniza said in an email.

The unkempt lagoon may have disturbed Harden, but others weren’t hindered.

Colleen Jones, retired Austin community resident, said she and her friends are at the lagoon fishing almost every day. “We barbeque out here, we fish out here, we are like one big family,” said Jones. She said the park district stocks the pond with fish three times per year: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

The lagoon has not been stocked for the 2012 season because the season generally starts in late April. However, Linzi Sizer, retired Oak Park resident, said the fish suffocate in the wintertime due to a lack of running water in the lagoon, which provides oxygen in the water. He said he has not seen a lot of fish around the pond this year. “They need to put more fish in when fish are needed,” Sizer said.

The Chicago Park District is the largest municipal park manager in the nation. Fishing at lagoons, ponds, and the lakes in Illinois are free to the public, but fishers must be licensed. Fishing licenses may be purchased online at or at select retail locations in the greater Chicago land area.

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