Right now, coho salmon are the big news on the lake.
Word on the street is that fish are loading up in schools along the breakwalls and in the harbors. From the ports of Northern Indiana through downtown Chicago, fish are everywhere and willing to sacrifice themselves for the dinner table. With a one man limit of five cohos per day, a nice enjoyable dinner can be had.
This past Saturday (3/10), I met my pal Michael Planthaber and his friend David at an undisclosed location on the lake for some early morning cohos. According to Mike, the fish really began coming in bunches the weekend prior as he and a friend landed 18 and kept a limit of ten. With an early morning wakeup at 4:45am, I was excited for good things pictured below to come.
But that early promise lasted briefly, and evaporated away as soon as I reached the harbor parking lot at 6am.
I set foot on the pier only to find myself extremely under dressed for 32 degree air temperatures and 35mph winds. Within an hour my hands were frozen to the point that I could no longer cast blade baits. Not even a pair of Under Armor gloves or a couple layers of Under Armor could save my functions on this day. As a result, I could only handle our power-lining operations in which we went a lousy 1 for 15 in the heavy wind from 6am until 11am.
During my time on the pier, the fishing was miserable, but I made the event worthwhile by returning home with two fish, which was not enough to feed my army of friends as I had promised.
According to Mike, this was a very slow morning of fishing in comparison to last week. After I peaced it out, the fishing turned on, and the fish were EN FUEGO. Mike insisted that I stay at least an hour longer, but I insisted that I return home to enjoy the comforts and warm melt-away of my own bed. My limbs were no longer functional. Neither was my brain.
Within an hour after I departed, “Fish got real active and were smashing traps. Everyone on the pier was putting fish on the deck,” said Mike.
“An easy limit was soon pulled out. We shook off some coho to stay under the limit and keep fishing. My buddy David also landed a brown trout. We left the pier at around 1pm after who knows how many fish. Triple limits?”
The image above with Mike is proof that fishing is hot right now. He says it best, in truest of expertly form: “Sometimes you have to fight the cold mornings. But then when the sun comes up and warms the water by a few degrees, good things can happen, especially this time of year!”
Mike is seriously an expert when it comes to the field of lakefront trout and salmon as he is one of the best anglers of these species whom I know.
Besides our group’s success, some of our friends enjoyed productive fishing themselves. My friend and “neighbor”, John Perez, of Westchester, IL had a hall of fame caliber weekend with his young five year old son, Jonny Jr.
Later on Saturday night, John reported, “I wasn’t giving coho’s a second thought this year. I wasn’t interested in putting in the time and effort usually required to set up powerlines for spring coho fishing. My main focus was on learning how to spring bass fish. Well, I admit I am a report chaser, and don’t have enough knowledge yet to be a trend setter. The old adage about report chasers being a day late… well, that’s truth.”
In the last few years, John has spent hours and hours freezing cold while chasing spring coho at the lakefront without ever landing one. “You don’t even need to powerline,” were the reports that made him try once again. After reaching his first ever 5 fish limit on Friday afternoon with the aid of a night crawler fished three feet below a float, he figured it would be a great occasion to treat his 5-year-old boy and nephew for a crack at them hoes.
“It’s not often that every decision I make is the correct one,” said John. But that was just the case on this special night. Sheltered from the wind (unlike my outing earlier in the day), the air temperature was downright balmy for him and the boys.
While enjoying the downtown skyline and luxury away from wind,“We just had to wait for a school to swim by,” John reassured himself.
“After hooking up with the first fish on a 1/2 oz. KO wobbler, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief - no skunk tonight! The boys were excited, we got him unhooked and posed for pictures. I joyously got out the stringer and as soon as the stringer was in the water, we had a double hook up on two of the float rods. 3 fish landed in 10 minutes! The school had arrived! “See, I told you we just needed a school to swim by!”, I now-confidently reiterated to my group.”
Their evening action was continuous and by the end of their session, everyone landed at least one of the five coho’s.
“This was my favorite night of 2012 so far, what a way to celebrate my fishing-obsessed son’s fifth birthday!” John concluded.
My friends, this is what fishing is all about. Enjoying the peak fishing periods, and being able to pass it all on to the future generations of angling.
Coho fishing is a water temperature-driven game. In this situation, the fish are in a peak period. Because this entire week will be incredibly warm, the massive schools of fish might be gone very soon and will be making their move northward towards Milwaukee and even further. If anyone has availability this week, I highly recommend making the trip to any of the downtown piers and harbors. Fish are aggressively hitting rattle baits, blade baits, and taking down minnows and crawlers fished beneath floats as well as on powerlines.
Later on Sunday night, following my excursion with friends to the Blackhawks game (one of which took the 7 mile stroll down the lakefront on Saturday morning), Mike sent me a message about his Sunday success, stating, “We caught 32 fish today.”
“Only 32 fish?” I responded.
“Yeah, we had 12 on the stringer between the three of us,” he said.
Then added, “But then Tom broke the stringer because it was overloaded, so then the fish sank to the bottom of the lake. So we caught 20 more, shook five off the hooks, and kept 15 for real.”
I cracked up laughing and coughed up a lung.
Can the fishing in downtown Chicago seriously get any better than this?
I wish I had this much fun every weekend.
PS - For good measure, our friend, Captain Ralph Steiger reports that the first significant smallmouth bass catches of the season were made yesterday morning. Pictured is our friend, Tom O’Malley, with one of the three 4+ pounders he caught while slowly fishing 4 inch jig and swimming grub on southern Lake Michigan.