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Fishing with the Chicago Dads Group

About the last place you'd expect to catch my family on a Saturday morning I think the last time I had fishing gear in my hand was when I was about the same age my kids are now. My grandfather took me a few times. He had a small boat, bought me my first pole and tackle box, and I have recollections of the old Styrofoam cooler he used. You'd think that in all the years I was a Boy Scout, I'd have gotten some fishing experience. I remember camping, sledding, shooting, horseback riding, canoes, archery--no fishing. Ever.

One of the dads in the group was nice enough to sponsor the day...complete with pizza for lunch afterwards at a nearby restaurant. They had plenty of extra poles to use and provided bait in the form of live worms and bits of hotdog when we ran out of those. The event took place at the Busse Reservoir. For those unfamiliar, Busse Woods is a 3,558 acre forest preserve to the northwest of O'Hare airport. In addition to the picnic areas and 10 miles of bike trail, there is a 460 acre lake with 20 miles of shoreline.

A couple words of warning upfront: 1) Beware of ticks. My daughter had one crawling on her in the car afterwards and another family found one as well. Check yourself and your kids. There are 15 species of tick in IL and several transmit some nasty diseases. 2) Your kids can fish without a license if they are under 16. You must have a license. One-day, 24 hour licenses may be bought via the state for $5.50 and a license for the year will run about $15.

When we arrived--a bit late, but missing the short rain--we joined the rest of the families on the shore of the lake by the boathouse. The bait was in a central location and we all spread out to a few spots to cast. My son was a little squeamish about the worms and fish at first. My daughter instantly took to being my "bait runner" when I needed another worm she'd walk to the container and dig one out of the dirt for me. It was an excellent opportunity to talk to the kids about environmental stewardship--especially thanks to the trash left behind by others. We talked about hazards in nature, safety, saw geese and frogs, they got to touch a fish or two, and we spent several relaxing hours in the outdoors. Complete with learning the frustration of being in a spot and catching nothing then moving 20 feet down only to have an 8 year old take your spot and catch something immediately.

I'm not sure fishing is something I'd ever pick as my first choice to spend a day. But I definitely don't hate it either. It's one of those frustrating activities--like golf, in my opinion--that is a mix of skill and luck where your skill improvement doesn't directly correlate with how much fun you can have while doing the activity. It's fun until it isn't. Some people probably feel that way about running or biking. We all have our favorite pastimes.

If you go, Busse Woods is located to the southeast of the intersection of I-290 and I-90. The boat ramp is immediately east of I-290 off the Higgins Rd. exit. The entrance is on the south side of Higgins. Follow the park road to the end where you will find permanent restrooms and plenty of fishing spots.