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smallmouth fishing in Chicago area


DAVID DAVIDSON
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My daughter has moved to the Chicago area (about 4 blocks from Navy Pier) and I am interested in fishing opportunities while I am visiting. I have a 17' boat with 90 hp outboard. Are there any places on the lake or rivers where I could launch my boat and be safe? Also, where she lives, there is no place for me to park my boat and truck. Would there be a launching facility where I could park over night? I know nothing about fishing in this area. What times of the year offer the best fishing? Any comments or advice would be welcome.

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David,

 

"The Lake" is said to have a phenominal and growing Smallmouth fishery. But fishing the Big Lake is a whole other ballgame quite distinct from the river and small lake fishing most of us do. For instance, your boat and engine are huge compared to the SOT kayaks a lot of guys use on rivers and ponds. Ironically it is small for the Lake especially with any kind of wind. Seasonally the Bass move around sometimes reachable by casting from shore and other times just somewhere else in a huge body of water. If I were serious about doing this, I would get a Lake guide who specializes in Smallmouths. After I day or two with him I would know what is needed to do the job.

 

Hope this helps. I am all ears to hear what others say.

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Guest rich mc

after working our booths at the fishing shows i have talked with a bunch of lake anglers.many suggest fishing from shore and using a bike to get around.good reports also coming from the chicago river . anglers use alot of tube jigs, and hair jigs starting in march. plastics that imitate the gobies are now being made just for lake michigan.cant help you on the boat parking . rich mc

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Guest Josh Glovinsky

I don't much about much but if I was you I would hook up with Austin Aduci from http://grabyourflycharters.com. When I went with him he gave ISA members a discount. A couple trips with him and you should know your way around. If you don't fly fish he does spin and baitcasters too. He guides on the lake and kankakee. He would be able to to tell you about where and how to launch your boat.

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I just read a report that most of the boat ramps in Chicago are unusable due to the low water levels.They are to add bridge decking to extend them but I am not sure when that will be completed.Rich is right that most lake front fishermen fish from shore and move around either on foot or by bicycle.Within the next few weeks the coho should be moving into the shore around the Chicago and a few weeks after that the smallmouth should begin moving in.

I have been sailing and power boating lake Michigan for many decades and there is no way I would take a 17 footer out at this time of the year.Lake Michigan can turn deadly very quickly this time of the year and help may not be readily available

I am sure this is not what you would like to hear but that is the way it is.

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First good luck with parking the truck and boat somewhere overnight. With a 17 best bet for any weather conditions would be Chicago River. There is a ramp at 34th and Western ave. from there you can head to the main branch in the heart of the city or the north branch. The river is very dirty (tampons, condoms and feces) and the cleanest section is probably the main branch. Smallies and Largemouth are possible. If the weather is nice you can go out the locks and into the lake depending on whether there is any restriction because of water levels. Around Navy Pier and all break walls have the potential for fish. Towards the end of March its possible for fish to be around and April I've seen lots of fish start coming into harbors for the spawn. If you go into the River try all corners and points. The North Branch probably has the better Largemouth fishing. By the way if you just want the lake there are also launches at Burnham Harbor and 31st st. Harbor the fee is $25 per day but call the city for all details especially time restrictions.

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For reasons cited in earlier posts, be quite cautious. I have an 18' Deep V boat with a 150 hp, 9.9 hp kicker motor, and a bow trolling motor . . . and I only launch when the lake is exceedingly calm. It's not the waves that are typically a problem . . . it's the swells. With a 17' boat and 90 hp motor, don't throw caution to the wind.

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I shore fish the lake exclusively in the downtown area between NavyPier and 31st Street, and when the smallies are near shore, you can consistently catch them. The Lake holds some spectacular specimens, having caught bunches and bunches between 15 and 20 inches. I imagine the breakwalls hold lots of beauties. I just never get out there. I wouldn't try going beyond the breakers with that 17 though. Kinda rough going, depending on the waves, swells, wind, etc. But they are definitely there!

Good Luck!

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