Chicago Fishing: A Complete Guide

Studying Time: 9 minutes

The Windy Metropolis is filled with surprises. Firstly, regardless of its nickname, it’s not really the windiest metropolis within the US. Secondly, whereas its glorious jazz scene, controversial delicacies (is the deep dish pizza actually a pizza, or a casserole?), and distinctive structure are worthy of the eye they obtain, they usually overshadow town’s unimaginable angling alternatives. Come uncover ’em on a Chicago fishing journey!

By no means thought of casting a line right here? You’re lacking out. Chicago is completely positioned alongside Lake Michigan’s southwestern shoreline, offering direct entry to this world-famous fishery. That’s not all, both! The Chicago River runs proper by means of town, and there are many smaller lakes, tributaries, and reservoirs to discover.

However the place, precisely, do you have to start your journey? And most significantly, what are you able to catch right here? Don’t fear – we’ve bought you coated. Let’s delve in and see what the Windy Metropolis has to supply…

What can I catch in Chicago?

Ah, the query on each angler’s lips! As you might need guessed from our earlier mentions of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, this metropolis is an actual freshwater fishing paradise. Listed below are just a few of our favourite species.


Lake Michigan stands proud as one in all Chicago’s high fisheries, thanks in no small half to its mighty Salmon inhabitants. It’s residence to Coho and Chinook varieties, which suggests one factor – loads of thrilling angling awaits you! These two species are sport fishing royalty (Chinook are also referred to as King Salmon, in spite of everything) as a result of battle they put up on the finish of your line.

Chicago’s Salmon season typically kicks off in April, with the Coho Salmon run. That is the most effective time to go to the Windy Metropolis should you’re on the lookout for an all-Salmon catch. Chinook joins ’em in Could and June, with varieties weighing in at 15+ kilos making an look from late June to August. The climate is gorgeous, too, making this a good time to hop aboard a constitution and troll in your goal catch.

Salmon fishing in Chicago isn’t all about rushing to the lake’s deep waters, although. It’s additionally attainable to focus on them from shore. Head to one of many harbors that line the lakefront in fall for the prospect to battle these acrobatic freshwater fighters on foot. Native anglers favor to make use of mild deal with with a view to actually really feel the pull of the Salmon after they chew.


Subsequent on our record are one other Lake Michigan staple. This fishery boasts Lake, Brown, and Rainbow Trout, and you may goal ’em all from Chicago. Even higher – Lake Michigan isn’t your solely Trout-fishing vacation spot. Lots of the metropolis’s smaller inland lakes are stocked with Rainbow Trout (also referred to as Steelhead), with the Forest Protect Lakes being particularly well-liked. Why is that this vital? Nicely, it simply means there’s much more Trout to catch!

If it’s Brown or Lake Trout you’re after, head to Chicago in April, when Lake Michigan’s fishing season kicks off. You’ll discover them lurking within the deep waters of the lake, so trolling from a ship is a should. It’s effectively well worth the journey, although. One thing about these freezing, early-spring waters makes these fish battle onerous, so that you’ll be in for some unimaginable motion.

Steelhead stocking begins in April, too, with Axehead Lake being a well-liked fishing spot. You’ll additionally discover them in Lake Michigan they usually’re notably acrobatic and feisty from late June into August. Trolling, after all, is a well-liked methodology when fishing the lakes. You can too use mild deal with if you need some severe hands-on motion.


Time to maneuver our focus away from Lake Michigan and onto the Chicago River. Chicago has gained just a little little bit of a popularity as a world-class Bass fishery. A go to to the river will quickly present you why. Each Smallmouth and Largemouth varieties may be discovered right here, and you may hook them each proper from the middle of town. What may very well be higher than reeling on this fish with the Sears Tower behind you?

You possibly can wander the Chicago Harbor System to your coronary heart’s content material, by no means leaving downtown, on a Bass journey. If you wish to enterprise additional, there are stocked lakes situated round a 30-minute drive from town itself. Regardless of the place you’re fishing, focus your consideration on pure buildings akin to grass beds and lily pads. Bass flock to all these vegetation.

In terms of hooking your fish, the method stays the identical regardless of the place you select to solid a line. These voracious feeders are drawn to a complete host of bait, akin to leeches, shad, and crayfish, in addition to synthetic lures. Topwater plugs are a superb funding, too, as these fish are likely to feed and be most energetic in shallow waters.


The standard Panfish household is commonly ignored by hardcore anglers. However should you’re seeking to inventory the cooler with tasty desk fare, there’s hardly a greater species to focus on! Chicago’s waters are bustling with a few of the most scrumptious varieties, too. Perch species, Crappie, and Bluegill can all be caught right here, with Bluegill being the most well-liked.

In order for you a fun-filled household fishing journey, there’s nothing simpler (or extra pleasing!) than turning up at one of many space’s many downtown harbors or piers and casting a line within the Chicago River. If you wish to escape the hustle and bustle of metropolis life with out touring far, the tranquil Forest Preserves provide year-round Panfish motion.

There are a selection of how to focus on these scrumptious fish and be sure to don’t go residence hungry. If it’s Bluegill you’re after, suppose worms. They love munching on night time crawlers, meal worms, and even grasshoppers. For Crappie, casting with minnows beneath a bobber is a well-liked (and profitable) method. Solid in direction of rock piles and grassy beds in shallow waters, and also you’ll be in for a Panfish bonanza!

And Extra…

Chicago is residence to a surprisingly numerous variety of fish, and although we predict those we’ve talked about above are the most effective of the most effective, they’re not the one species on provide. Head to the lagoons and also you may effectively discover stocked Carp and Catfish on the finish of your line. Across the lakefront harbors, Pike and Musky usually make an look.

How can I fish in Chicago?

The magic of fishing in Chicago is that after we say it’s accessible to everybody, we actually imply it. Its connecting harbor system means that almost all of waterways within the metropolis are fishable on foot. And with a 22-mile-long lakefront, you’ll have loads of spots to discover Lake Michigan from, too. Listed below are a few of the greatest methods to fish these waters.

From a Boat

If you wish to fish Lake Michigan from Chicago, hopping aboard a neighborhood constitution is the easiest way to go about it. You’ll be capable to attain the deep waters of the lake, that are full of enormous Salmon and Trout varieties. Along with this, you’ll be guided by a neighborhood who is aware of these waters intimately, and can be capable to get you onto the catch of a lifetime!

Prior to now, anglers seeking to discover the lake on a ship needed to journey at the least an hour or so out of town. Not anymore! You’ll discover a wide range of top-notch sport fishing vessels docked across the numerous marinas that make up town’s spectacular harbor system. Waukegan and Burnham Harbors are particularly well-liked departure factors for constitution vessels.

On Foot

We really feel fairly assured saying that Chicago is among the most on-foot-friendly fishing locales within the Midwest. It’s a giant declare, however we’re standing by it! That is primarily because of the Chicago Harbor System, which spans town and provides a mind-boggling variety of piers, harbors, parks, and walkways to fish from.

Whether or not you need to discover the Chicago River, the lagoons, or Lake Michigan’s shorelines, you’ll be capable to do all of it with out stepping onto a ship. You don’t have to go away town limits, both, as you’ll have a formidable number of fish species at your disposal. Sure, they won’t be as huge as those lurking on the backside of Lake Michigan, however you’ll nonetheless be capable to solid your line for Bass, spawning Salmon, and plenty of extra.

From a Kayak

If you happen to’ve bought the talents and the power to maneuver a kayak and wield a fishing rod on the identical time, this methodology of fishing will go well with you completely. It’s additionally an effective way to discover a few of Chicago’s often-overlooked fisheries – the numerous lagoons that populate this metropolis. Hop into your ‘yak with all of your fishing gear, and prepare for a really tranquil angling journey.

A metropolitan metropolis may not initially conjure up photos of peace and quiet, however fishing the lagoons is an actual escape from the hustle and bustle of on a regular basis life. Normally situated in their very own parks, these fisheries maintain a stunning variety of freshwater fish. Panfish, Catfish, Carp, and Bass species may all be biting on the finish of your line.

The place can I fish in Chicago?

With its very personal harbor system and loads of inland lakes, a greater query can be, “The place can’t I fish in Chicago?” We’ve highlighted a few of our favourite spots under.

  • Navy Pier: This spot is ideal for novices and households with little ones, because of its thriving Perch inhabitants. If you wish to introduce your youngsters to the magic of fishing and fill your cooler on the identical time, that is the place to do it – and all on foot, too!
  • Montrose Harbor: Situated proper on Lake Michigan within the coronary heart of Chicago, this harbor packs a severe punch in the case of angling choices. Relying on if you go to, you’ll be able to hook Perch and Pike from the pier, and also you’ll additionally discover loads of constitution boats docked right here. Hop aboard and also you’ll have the prospect to focus on Salmon and Steelhead.
  • Busse Lake: Journey round half-hour west of Chicago and also you’ll hit this pocket of tranquility. Situated inside the Ned Brown Forest Protect, it covers 590 acres and is packed filled with Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie, and even Catfish.
  • Northerly Island: This “island” is definitely a man-made peninsula situated alongside Chicago’s lakefront. If you happen to’re fishing on foot, focus your consideration on Burnham Harbor. Numerous Salmon and Trout usually lurk within the small currents which might be fashioned right here. There are additionally loads of charters that’ll take you trolling across the island for these fish.
  • Lincoln Park Lagoon: It’s all about variety on this location. Lincoln Park runs alongside Chicago’s Lake Michigan lakefront, but additionally provides up a variety of lagoons and inland ponds to fish in. This implies the quantity of fish you’ll be able to catch grows significantly – Trout, to Salmon, to Bass, to Catfish, to Carp, and extra!

Anything I must know?

Yep – legally fish right here, after all. Any angler over the age of 16 might want to buy a sound Illinois license, whether or not fishing alone or on board a Chicago fishing constitution. This can be a easy course of that may be executed both on-line or at a neighborhood bait and deal with store.

If you happen to’re exploring Lake Michigan or any of the inland lakes or rivers, you’ll additionally must buy species-specific stamps. There are some exceptions, nevertheless, which you’ll learn extra about in our helpful information to getting an Illinois fishing license.

Chicago Fishing: A Really Metropolitan Angling Expertise!

So there you’ve got it. Chicago will not be the windiest metropolis within the US in spite of everything, however it is among the most fish-filled! Whether or not you need to escape to one of many many pure preserves or solid a line from downtown (and luxuriate in a deep dish pizza after), there’s actually one thing for everybody on this unimaginable metropolis. What are you ready for? Seize your rods and reels and prepare for the journey of a lifetime!

Have you ever ever been fishing in Chicago? What did you catch? Any suggestions and methods to share? Tell us within the feedback. We love to listen to for you!

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