By Charlie Puckett
In 1970, Mayor Richard J. Daley told the Chicago Tribune that he wished to see the day when Loop workers fished in the Chicago River during their lunch breaks. During his twenty-one-year tenure as mayor, Daley adored rigging fishing tackle as much as his detractors relished in his gaffes as they tried for years to catch him for a different kind of rigging.
Today, a smaller city may have fewer potential anglers that could be tucking their ties into their shirts for a lunch-time cast, Daley’s dream is still a dream and the Chicago River water is probably the cleanest when it’s shocked green on St. Patrick’s Day, but the surrounding Lake Michigan waters have fared well due to years of politics that aim to give Chicago a healthy urban fishing culture and anyone interested in access to the classic arcadian hobby.
Many are surprised to hear that we have salmon, that they are big, and that they fight like mermen when on the line. You don’t need a boat—they run right off of the shore beginning each spring and you can catch them, eat them, or throw them back and then lie to an entire El car about how big it was because your phone was dead and you couldn’t take a photo. Every year, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks approximately 865,000 salmonids in Lake Michigan—species that most will associate with Alaska, British Columbia, expensive grocery receipts, waxy taxidermy decor or your grandfather’s only story: Chinook “King” salmon, Coho salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout and brown trout. Read the rest of this entry »
By Patrick Roberts
It is 7:40am on a Saturday, and I am smoking a cigarette on Darrow Bridge, waiting for birders to appear. A friend waits with me, and a debate between us is why we are here. Inexplicably, she believes fish to be more interesting than birds. I disagree. In flight and song, birds capture the imagination and lift the spirit. Think “Ode to a Nightingale.” Fish, by contrast, lack all personality. I don’t know of any odes to a fish. Nonetheless, my friend is unconvinced, and so we have come to Wooded Island in the heart of Jackson Park to gain perspective.
During the summer, Wooded Island draws birders and fishers alike. The birders stroll the trails, eyes upon the trees; the fishers troll the lagoons, eyes upon the water. This morning, we hope to join one of the semi-organized bird walks that have been a fixture on Wooded Island for years. Every Wednesday and Saturday morning throughout the year, birders gather on Darrow Bridge and set off together in ornithological fellowship. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ellen Fox
You don’t have to leave town anymore to spend a day waterside with the rod and reel. Yes, you can go fishing right here in Chicago—on the Lake as well as on the much-maligned Chicago River—and this summer the folks at the Chicago Park District are seeing to it that you’re encouraged to catch some.
“Clean-up efforts have revitalized the water and revitalized the fish, ” says Park District special project manager Bob Long (“the fishing guy”), and over the last few years, word of better fishing has really gotten around, says Henry Palmisano of Brideport’s stalwart Henry’s Sports & Bait Shop. Should you need any more proof of the renaissance, the prestigious Bassmaster Classic will be held along the Lakeshore—its first time in Chicago ever—this July. Read the rest of this entry »
“It’s all conked out,” says the old bowlegged fisherman with a heavy Polish accent. He’s toting a two-wheeled shopping cart around the horseshoe pier at Montrose Harbor. It’s always chilly here, even on the hottest, sunny summer days, when the waves from Lake Michigan explode against the concrete and sprinkle huge water droplets that shatter like crystal on the pavement.
“Tomorrow’s another day,” says another man, hopefully. “I caught three little perch.”
The two men eye another man’s nine-pound female steelhead with envy. The man brags, “I got it on a night crawler with six-pound line. I didn’t horse it. I worked it a long time, just let it tire itself out. I’m taking this to Hagen’s and get it smoked for a buck a pound. Takes two days, but it’s delicious.” Read the rest of this entry »