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Illinois Legislators, Spearing Catfish (With Tridents)

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

The Illinois legislature is regional mélange, comprised of legislators from the nation's third largest city, as well as lawmakers who represent rural areas that are geographically closer to Mississippi than they are to Chicago. That diversity was on display Thursday when the House took up legislation to regulate fishing.

State Rep. Charlie Meier is Republican, and a proud farmer from Okawville, down in southwestern Illinois. He also, apparently, likes fishing. Which may be why the Dept. of Natural Resources asked him to sponsor legislation on its behalf.

The goal: to add catfish to the list of fish that can be "taken by means of a pitchfork, underwater spear gun" or "bow and arrow."

Naturally, this raised some questions. A legislator from Wheaton wanted to know about the weapons. And Democratic Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo asked, "can you tell me what other species may be taken by pitchfork?"

"Buffalo suckers, gar, bowfin, shad, drum, carp. Catfish."

As someone who's "gone gigging on the backwater," Meier shared some tips.

"You don't go this way. Okay? It's kind of a dangerous thing if you ... the fish start swimming between you, and you get excited, it's bad Jack."

"You got to be careful," Franks said, starting to understand. "Is it attached to you? Is there a rope? How do you get the pitchfork back?"

(Meier only responded about the pitchfork. "You have it in your hand, you follow it," he said.)

The bill easily passed, and Meier resolved to take Franks fishing, to show him how it's done.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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