Spring fishing in Chicago is almost here and we are itching to get the boat in the water in the next couple weeks. We’re currently getting the boat fixed up with a fresh coat of bottom paint, new LED underwater lights, and some new sonar tech! With no major upgrades or repairs pending, we’ll be in the harbor before April 1st. We’re anxious to get some test fishing in before our first few charters.
Due to the mild winter, we are getting reports that the Coho are showing up already, so we’re expecting a great start to the fishing season. It’s not uncommon for charters in April to quickly limit out! We’ll go through a school of Coho in shallow water and have 3-4 rods go off at once, which makes for an exciting trip where everyone is on their toes. If you’ve only fished Chicago during the summer, we highly recommend trying the spring salmon fishing experience!
July usually brings hot, sticky weather and a lull in salmon fishing. Lake trout are a more common target for mid-summer fishing in Chicago as the salmon have moved away after the spring run. This year has been rather different, however, with a shorter salmon run in the spring and an abundance of all types of salmon (Coho and King) in July.
For the last several weeks, the salmon have been schooling in 60 to 80 feet of water straight east of Belmont Harbor. It’s not uncommon for charters to return with 20-25 fish each trip. Just this last Sunday we caught 13 fish in just under 2 hours in a terrible sea state. Fishing for salmon can be pretty exciting at times with 2 or 3 rods going off at once as you pass a school of fish.
The Great Lakes region is home to some great fishing with over three thousand miles of shoreline. The title question is one we get a lot from our customers during the year. We thought it’d be good time to provide a quick primer on the fish you might expect to catch when you book a charter. We target several species throughout the year with the Chicago fishing season generally running from April to October.
Here are some of the species you can expect to catch:
King Salmon (or Chinook) are the ultimate Lake Michigan sportfish and are highly sought after. These fish are heavy and fight all the way to the boat. They congregate at stream mouths and shallow water during early spring and summer. They then sit near the bottom until the late summer spawning season. Their tail looks like a canoe paddle, and you can identify them by their teeth set in black gums.
These cousins of the salmon are the only Lake Michigan species that will jump out of the water during a strike. These energetic fish will definitely make you fight to keep them as they dart toward the boat and then back away. It’s not uncommon to lose a good percentage of steelhead as their aggressiveness ends up in a lost fish. You can find them mainly in spring, as early as March, but they will bite all season. Their entire tail area is spotted and flat.
This species is small yet abundant. When you pass a school of coho, it’s not uncommon for 2-3 rods to go off at the same time. While they look like a steelhead, they are differentiated by their forked tail.
These are near-shore fish and you can catch them by surf casting, pier fishing and shallow water trolling. Their mouth is entirely white (inner part) and have large large round spots on their back.
Lake trout are the main indigenous species of Lake Michigan. They grow slowly but live much longer than their salmon neighbors. The average lake trout tends to be 8-15lbs with the big hauls being in the 20lb range. Some of these take over 10 minutes to bring in.
We recently got a chance to do some early fishing near downtown Chicago with friends and family. April is a great time to invite some friends out for a casual afternoon of fishing where we scout out a few locations to see where the different species of fish are biting. With the warm winter this year, we weren’t fishing as close to shore as in years past, but we were still relatively shallow at a depth of about 30-40 feet.
We caught a good mix of salmon and lake trout, finishing with 7 lake trout and 6 coho salmon in just a few hours of fishing. We even caught two fish, a salmon and a lake trout, on the same rod at the same time! Successfully landing both fish in that situation is incredibly rare.
The lake is warming up quickly, and the fish are already starting to move to deeper water, but there’s still time to book your spring charter before the summer heat hits.
The end of March is here, and the start of the Chicago charter fishing season is just around the corner! The boat was unwrapped from its winter covering a few short weeks ago, and the weather has cooperated enough to allow us to complete the long checklist of items to get the boat charter-ready.
A lot has been added to the boat this year including a new aluminum hard top which holds a top-of-the-line 4G broadband radar. The delivered packaged hard top was stored with the boat this winter and just recently installed. It’s always a bit stressful drilling 4 big new holes into your boat! With a new hard top, comes new canvas. Our canvas guy measured and had the new stuff installed in less than a week!
With the time ticking down until our first charter this weekend, we were able to cross the lake today under beautiful spring conditions. Discounted rates are still available for April and May. Email or call for more information. The early spring is the best time to snag those coho and king salmon.
With the boat safely stored away a couple of months ago and our busy holiday season over, we can finally start the countdown to fishing season! We’ve invested in a new custom-made Atlantic Towers hard top for our charter boat. It’s sitting with the boat waiting to be mounted this March along with the new 4G broadband radar unit!
According to forecasts, the El Niño affect looks to bring a more mild winter compared to recent years. Hopefully this leads to no ice cover on the lake in March so that we can get the boat in early. Chicago has an amazing coho salmon fishery in the springtime that we want to take advantage of as early as possible. Until then, we will have to settle for the Chicago Boat show this weekend and the trade shows in February leading up to the start of the season.
We’re over halfway done with the Chicago fishing season, and one thing stands out. The lake trout fishing this year has been phenomenal! Charters are limiting out almost every trip and catching some monster late trout. 10-15 lb lake trout are common, and 20 pounders are mixed in on most charters. Skyline Fishing Charters has been coming back with 100-130 pounds of fish on every trip! We are also are finding coho salmon and rainbow trout on most trips, which are usually tough to find this time of year.
Many times the fishing slows down from May-June levels when the temperature heats up in the middle of summer, but that hasn’t been the case this year. On a recent trip, we caught our limit on lake trout in an hour!
The mid-summer fishing has been great and there’s still time to book your August vacation fishing trip!
Thousands flock to Grant Park each year on on the 4th of July to view the wonderful fireworks display put on by Navy Pier. Fireworks against the backdrop of the lake is a uniquely Chicago experience. Seeing the fireworks reflect off the water adds another level of enjoyment and makes for some awesome photos. Whether it’s from a camp chair in Grant Park or a seat on the Terrance bar at Trump Tower, the fireworks are shared by everyone. It’s a great way to unify the city under one experience.
What many don’t know is that Navy Pier puts on fireworks shows regularly throughout the summer. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can see fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday nights just off Navy Pier. While shorter than the typical 4th of July presentation, they are still quite the spectacle.
Many Chicago boaters take advantage of the regular fireworks displays and watch them from a unique vantage point, the lake looking in. From there, you can see the fireworks explode in front of the wonderfully-lit Chicago skyline. It’s an unforgettable sight that most never experience. There are still plenty of fireworks days left. You can book your tour here. Have a Happy 4th of July!
We’re already two months into the fishing season, and it is really shaping up to be a great year for Chicago sport fishing. The fishing stocks appear to have recovered from the brutal winter we had several years ago that devastated the salmon population in Lake Michigan. Chicago charter boats have been catching good numbers in all species including coho, king salmon, lake trout, and even huge brown trout!
It seems like every captain is limiting out lately. On a recent trip in May, we limited out in lake trout and salmon in about 3 hours. While excellent numbers like these won’t last as the waters warm up and fish move to deeper water, it does bode well for fishing going into June and July. All the more reason to book your charter now!