Bill Daley in (the link free!) Chicago Tribune blog asks about local fish, namely local smelts. Sadly, as far as I know, there is no commercial fishing in Illinois, or much commercial fishing of any kind in Illinois. Perhaps there are people who know, but when I look at the regs, there seems nothing against fishing per se. Forces do conspire.
It's fishy. It's bony. It's toxic. (OK, there may be a point there.) Muddy, mushy, not so meaty, no tartare, no sashimi, hell no ceviche, who wants freshwater fish. And remember that cookbook culture that tells us we should be gorging away at artichokes and peas about now, well these books are filled with tuna and salmon and recipes just for the halibut (hahahaha). I can see why no one wants to dip their nets in our waters.
Maybe teeming is not the word, but the Great Lakes contain many delicious fish: whitefish, perch, the un-sellable coho, trout, Bill Daley's smelts, even (I'm sure) some remaining herrings. This is how I suggest demand gets re-built. Go to Washington Island, Wisconsin. Granted, it's like a $45 ferry ride but still less than half a tasting menu at Alinea. Commercial fishing thrives on Washington Island, meaning a boat can go out, catch 25 whitefish, 25 lawyer (burbot) and a mess of perch and have them all eaten by the next day. The fish can be done up fancy at the Washington Island Hotel , boiled at KK Fiskes or say a Friday fish fry at Findlay's Holiday Inn. No flash frozen, packed on ice, color added, farm raised fish tastes like it. Try!
After that, you'll not just pine for some smelts, you'll god damn demand we get fishin' in Illinois.