Phil Pash’s Great Outdoors

Tom Hollatz Dies: Outdoor writer Tom Hollatz of Boulder Junction, Wis., who also authored books on such diverse topics as gangsters, fishing guides, cooking and kids’ subjects, died July 9 of a heart attack. He was only 62.

Hollatz grew up in the Chicago area, but spent many summers in northern Wisconsin fishing with top guides. His reflections on fishing and his many conversations with old-time guides led to his first book, The Guides of the Northwoods, which was a best-seller in the northwoods.

He also wrote a children’s book, Ziggy—The World’s Greatest Elephant; Shore Lunch Cookbook; Campfire Collection: Haunts, Taunts and Strange Tales; Gangster Holidays—Lore and Legend of the Bad Guys; The Haunted Northwoods; an Ojibwa cookbook, To Have a Feast; and The Li’l Red Book of Fishin’ Tips.

Hollatz worked for the old Daily Calumet and the Chicago Tribune before moving to Boulder Junction to pursue his passion for the history of legendary gangsters in the northwoods. He wrote several books and articles on the exploits of John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson and others who frequented northern Wisconsin in their heyday.

Hollatz lived on Trout Lake near Boulder Junction, and from there penned a monthly column, “Northwoods Report,” for MidWest Outdoors magazine which uses a newspaper-style format. He frequently mentioned working on his “Electrolux” computer and stopping to visit with friends over a “non-dehydrating elixir.”

I never missed reading his “Northwoods Report” column because I know many of the people and places about which he wrote. When I had an early Saturday morning radio show on WROK of Rockford, I had Tom on as a guest, talking about his favorite subjects, fishing guides and the old gangsters.

His untimely death is the latest in a spate of recent deaths among outdoor writers I knew and respected. Jay Reed of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel died earlier this year, and before Reed, John Husar of the Chicago Tribune passed.

Believe me, the new breed of outdoor writers (if there is such a thing as society becomes more urbanized) don’t hold a candle to the legends of the past like Reed, Husar and Hollatz.

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Another ‘Bug’ Identified: As if West Nile virus wasn’t enough to worry about, there now is a disease called Eastern equine encephalitis in Illinois. Like West Nile, it is transmitted by mosquitoes and can affect humans, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

State public health director Dr. Eric Whitaker said a 45-year-old Evanston woman became ill June 12, and recently completed laboratory tests by IDPH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found she had Eastern equine encephalitis, an uncommon disease transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Because this is a rare infection in humans, additional laboratory tests are being conducted by the CDC to confirm the diagnosis, said Whitaker.

The woman, who complained of a severe headache and stiff neck, did not require being hospitalized and has recovered without any complications, Whitaker said. The only other human case of EEE in the United States this year was in Georgia.

Since 1964, there have been only 153 confirmed cases of EEE in the United States, according to the CDC, mostly in northeastern states. But cases have been reported in previous years in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.

“No humans in Illinois have ever been infected with Eastern equine encephalitis, but in past years wild birds have been found with the virus,” Whitaker said. “While this is an unusual disease for our state, it is not totally unexpected and the prevention advice to the public is the same as that for West Nile virus.”

While it is not known where the woman was bitten by an infected mosquito, she reported travel to the Evanston area and southeastern Wisconsin. Local and state public health officials have increased surveillance for Eastern equine encephalitis in Evanston and surrounding areas, as well as other locations in the state.

So far this year, nine birds and five mosquito pools in nine counties have been identified with West Nile virus, but no human cases have been reported. Last year, Illinois led the nation with 877 cases of West Nile virus, including 64 deaths.

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Early Hunting Seasons: A 15-day early Canada goose season (Sept. 1-15) for the non-migraters and a 16-day teal season (Sept. 6-21) have been proposed by the Illinois DNR and approved by the state Natural Resources Advisory Board.

The seasons still must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is expected in late August.

The statewide early goose season proposal includes a bag limit of five birds in the Northeast Zone and two for the remainder of the state, which includes the North, Central and South Zones. Possession limits would be double the daily bag. Hunting hours would be one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

The DNR said the special season continues to increase in popularity. Harvest estimates for the 2002 season indicate nearly 12,500 hunters spent nearly 39,500 days afield and harvested just more than 21,500 geese. The giant Canada goose population is estimated at 81,000 birds.

Canada geese taken during September seasons do not count toward the regular season quota.

The statewide teal season is mostly for blue-wings, which have rebounded. The spring breeding population estimate is 5.5 million birds, allowing for a 16-day rather than a nine-day season, the length of last year’s season.

During the shorter 2002 season, nearly 10,200 hunters spent nearly 29,400 days afield and harvested 12,542 teal.

Hunting hours for the Sept. 6-21 season would be sunrise to sunset, with the daily bag limit four and the possession limit eight.

The rest of the waterfowl hunting seasons are expected to be announced later this summer. But there appears to be good news—at least based on the 2003 breeding duck population and May pond numbers from the surveys of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Numbers of birds and habitat conditions have improved greatly over what was observed in 2002. Overall duck numbers are at 36.2 million birds, up from the 31.2 million birds estimated in 2002.

The index for breeding habitat conditions stood at 5.2 million ponds, 91 percent above the 2.7 million counted last year.

“This is great news following the extremely dry winter that we had across these same areas,” said Don Young, Ducks Unlimited executive vice president. “The extraordinary snow and rains that started in April have provided much-needed moisture that will benefit waterfowl and the farm community.

“That precipitation, along with habitat put in place by DU and other groups and vital federal habitat programs like CRP are combining to produce an effective recipe for duck production,” Young added.

The 10 most common species tracked by the wildlife agencies all showed increases greater than 2002 breeding duck numbers, ranging from 56 percent for shovelers to just 6 percent for mallards and scaup. Pintail numbers were up a remarkable 43 percent from 1.8 million to 2.6 million.

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Rock Carp Tourney: The Angler’s Edge Carp Classic, a two-person team fishing tourney only from boats, will be Saturday on the Rock River out of Sportscore. Launch will be at 8 a.m., weigh-in at 3 p.m.

Guaranteed payouts are $1,000 for first, $500 for second and $300 for third, with trophies. The optional big fish pot is $10 per team, with 100 percent payback to first- and second-place teams.

The entry fee is $75 per team, and July 18 was the entry deadline. But Angler’s Edge still might take entries; call Dan Degner at (815) 877-6062.

An awards dinner is set Saturday night at 8 o’clock at Gaspo’s Auto Inn in Rockford. The steak dinner will be free for participants. Spouses and guests can attend for a $10 fee.

Event sponsors include Gaspo’s, Budweiser through LaMonica Distributors, City Firefighters Local 413, Special-T Engraving and Finley’s GMC.

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Berry Wins Tourney: With one largemouth bass weighing 2.44 pounds, Luke Berry of Machesney Park won the Angler’s Edge Rockfo

rd Bass League tournament July 7 on the Rock River and big fish honors.

Dan Degner of Loves Park was second with one fish weighing 1.92 pounds, and Harold Cox and Steve Cox, both of Rockford, were third with one fishing weighing 1.88 pounds.

Another RBL tourney was scheduled July 21 from 5-7 p.m. out of Sportscore. Call (815) 877-6062 for more information on the series.

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Dams Coming Down: Work should be completed on the old Turtle Creek Dam site in Sweet Allyn Park in Shopiere, Wis., according to the Wisconsin DNR. Stream restoration on the Turtle was a joint DNR/Rock County project, costing $11,900 with funding provided from the sale of Wisconsin hunting and fishing licenses.

The century old, ownerless Shopiere Dam was breached in December 1999 and removed during the summer of 2000. Channel work and eliminating the old millpond caused by the dam were the final stages.

The Turtle, which empties into the Rock River at the state line, is a top smallmouth bass stream, according to Wisconsin DNR fisheries biologist Don Bush. Turtle also is home to the endangered gravel chub and slender madtom, which now can move above the old dam site.

The Shopiere Dam is at least the second to be removed in southern Wisconsin in recent years to return a stream to free flowing. Last year, work was completed on the removal of the dilapidated 90-year-old Afton Dam on Bass Creek in Rock County. That project cost about $30,000.

Bass Creek also merges with the Rock River, and removal of the Afton Dam was expected to improve fish migration, diversity and habitat as well as water quality and navigation along a 16-mile segment of the creek. Bass Creek also is supposed to be a smallmouth stream.

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Why Big Lizard? When I heard about the Asian water monitor lizard loose in southern Illinois, my first reaction was the same as it always is in such cases—why is a person allowed to have something like that in the first place?

I know—it’s their right, but what about the rights of the rest of us who don’t care to see a 6-foot-long, 40-pound reptile slithering through our backyards because it got out of its cage, or someone forgot to close a gate? Those rights apparently don’t count.

The Southern Illinoisan reported the creature finally was captured, in a farmer’s field near Benton. Its owner threw a sheet over it after several men ran it to ground. They spotted it after it came out of a pond on one of the men’s property.

I can see a muskrat or beaver coming out of a southern Illinois pond, but not a 6-foot Asian lizard that had been free since June 18. The newspaper did not report if any tickets had been written, or if the owner would have to pay any of the search costs. He just gets to walk away with his “pet”?

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