Chicago is easily one of the best big-time fishing cities in all of North America, especially for its world-class bass. That's to be expected when you're on the shore of Lake Michigan, but the Windy City's also home to many urban lakes and reservoirs, and of course, the Chicago River. Here are 10 great places to catch a fish in Chicago.
With so many fishing spots up and down the Lake Michigan Coast, it's perhaps fitting that one of the best lies right downtown. The most popular destination for recreational fishing in the city, the Chicago Harbor not only boasts plenty of offshore opportunities, but also some high quality shore spots for those who'd rather stick to dry land. Navy Pier on the north end of the harbor is perfect for kids and beginners due to its thriving perch fishery, while off of Monroe Harbor there's huge bass and salmon. Though it's a busy port and lies in the heart of the downtown core, the Chicago Harbor will please even the most avid angler looking for a great fishing experience.
Douglas Park Lagoon
You don't have to bring out the boat and big rigs to catch a fish in Chi-town. Douglas Park, nestled in between Ogden and California Avenue on the west end of the city, carries a pile of bluegill and catfish. While the panfish don't get very large, the channel cats found here average about a pound-and-a-half, going up as high as five pounds. You won't catch a monster at this lagoon - especially when its maximum depth is less than six feet - but its proximity to downtown more than makes up for it.
Chicago River - Downtown
The Chicago River may not sound like it would produce a good fishery (with its history and bad reputation for pollution), but in recent decades the fishing has skyrocketed as population levels have increased. One of the more appealing places is right downtown, where bridges and fishing walls allow for easy access to the water. Given its proximity to Lake Michigan, a huge variety of fish make their way into the river system. However, perhaps the best part of it all is the view. Can fishing get any more prestigious than pulling out a bass right in front of Sears Tower? That's precisely what happened ten years ago when Woo Daves won the 2000 Bassmaster Classic. He caught a majority of his fish right downtown, and the fishery has only improved since the event.
While the downtown core has its charm, the best fishing on the Chicago River is up the North Shore Channel. The most productive place of all may very well be River Park, located at Foster Avenue, behind North Park University. Here the Chicago River and canal converge, serving as an intersection of sorts for all kinds of traveling fish. To make it even better, a spillway dam attracts even more fish to the area. The bass and crappie fishing here is among the best in the city.
This is one of the best fishing lakes in Chicago, so it's no surprise it gets some heavy pressure. Regardless, it remains one of your best options in the city. Located just northwest of the O'Hare Airport, Busse Lake is within the Ned Brown Forest Preserve, one of many preserves in the area. Busse Lake is a good-sized lake with an area of 590 acres, containing a large variety of species of fish, the most poplar being largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, crappie, and catfish. There is an almost endless amount of shoreline to work with, including several fishing walls. Boats are allowed, but gas motors are prohibited.
Just off the I-94 and near the Glencoe village sits the Skokie Lagoons, a series of interconnected bodies of water that are a part of the Skokie River. If you want a real taste for some challenging bass, then head here. The lagoons feature a lot of weedbeds and submerged timber for fish to hide in, so be sure to bring the appropriate tackle to avoid snags. Pike and walleye are two other popular species anglers go after here. There is a boat launch on the south side of Tower Road, but like Busse Lake and all other forest preserves in Chicago, gas-powered boats are prohibited. However, fishing this water system is better suited from shore or for canoe and kayak anglers looking to get to the hard-to-reach areas.
Found in the northern part of Lincoln Park, Montrose Harbor packs a bigger wallop than the lagoons and ponds further south. Coho and king salmon, steelhead and various forms of trout are all viable options. Charters are a popular choice for fishing in the area, giving you easy access to some of the bigger-sized fish offshore. Montrose Harbor is a deep bay with a relatively narrow access to the great lake. As a result, ice forms on the harbor, thick enough to put up an ice shelter in between the docks for fishing during the winter months.
Situated at Northerly Island Park south of Chicago Harbor, Burnham Harbor is another popular place to fish on the shores of Lake Michigan. Various forms of salmon and trout swim by into the harbor, but bass have been known to be in the area as well. Trolling in a boat around the outside of the island will give you quality results, but dropshotting or jigging from shore can deliver results as well. Small currents tend to form here and if you can find them, cast your line because the fish will be there.
Located on the south side just east of Midway airport, Marquette Park Lagoon yields some of the biggest carp you can find in any urban pond: a 61-pound carp was once hauled out of the lagoon in the late 1990's. This is a busy park with a lot of other social activities going on, making it an ideal destination for the family. There's also bass and panfish in the lagoon, but it's the carp that will draw you in.
Lincoln Park Lagoon
The perfect Sunday getaway spot may very well be Lincoln Park, which stretches for miles along the Michigan coast north of Chicago Harbor. The Park not only rests beside the great lake but also has a lagoon and a couple of inland ponds filled with bass, catfish, carp, and panfish. Located on the Michigan shoreline just north of Chicago Harbor, Lagoon Park is a great place to take the family now that the city has put a lot of money into revitalizing it over the last couple decades. However, given the pollution that still exists in the ponds, it is not recommended you eat any of the fish you catch.
As you can see, Chicago is a hotbed for great urban fishing, and there are so many more spots to fish out there. Don't think that just because it's a busy area the fish won't be swimming in local waterways. Try and practice catch-and-release as much as you can and the fishing in Chi-town will only get better for future generations.