Imagine holding a king salmon so heavy you can barely lift it for a picture, only to hear the captain yell a new fish just took another trolling rod down. The guides of Captain Hook's Charter Fishing venture into Lake Michigan for such trophies, taking anglers out for perch fishing, sport fishing, and salmon mooching. Operating one of the state's largest charter fleets, the captains can take up to 40 perch fishers on a climate-controlled party boat, or accommodate smaller groups of 4–5 anglers on a 31-foot Chris-Craft boat, starting at $400. A FAQ page preps guests before going out, covering topics such as how to get a fishing license and what pattern suit is customary fishing attire.
Located just inland of Lake Michigan, St. Joseph River Canoe & Kayak Livery provides a portal for navigating the gentle lapping waters of the St. Joseph River. Staffers oversee a brand new fleet of kayaks and canoes for half- or full-day charter trips, guided tours, and to purchase. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, the livery shares space with Fisherman's Wharf and Fisherman's Way Marina. The marina also offers 31 slips (nine of which are covered) for boaters to dock their vessel, as well as stainless-steel fish-cleaning stations and private showers for especially shy fish.
“That doesn't sound like a good idea. I'm against it." Anthony Bourdain wasn’t quite buying the concept of smoked shrimp. All that changed, however, when he visited Calumet Fisheries for his show No Reservations and took his first bite. That’s because the shrimp has the perfect amount of smokiness, enhancing, rather than shrouding, its natural sweetness.
It should come as no surprise that Calumet Fisheries knows what it’s doing. After all, the shop was started in 1928, when it was run by current owner Mark Kotlick’s father and uncle. Shrimp emerged as the house specialty over the years, and the team still smokes these tasty crustaceans in a shack right outside. Cherry wood and white oak creates smoke that engulfs the shrimp and wafts out toward customers, who usually enjoy their meals in their cars or—when it’s nice out—on the nearby bridge.
It's easy to miss Dan's Tackle Service & Fly Fishing Gear, a shop marked only by a sign that reads Open. Come in; however, for fishermen and fisherwomen, this spot is worth a bit of extra searching. That's because, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, “anything a fisherman needs — hip waders and boots to fishing cloves and BluBlocker shades — Pieczonka’s got it in stock.”
Dan Pieczonka is the owner of Dan's Tackle Service & Fly Fishing Gear and a passionate fisherman who cast his first line at the age of 4 into Montrose Harbor. He began crafting custom fly-fishing rods in 1970 and, in 1981, opened his shop in the upstairs apartment of his childhood home. A Vietnam veteran who also served in the navy, Dan has cast lines into bodies of water across the world. He can recommend the best fishing spots not only in and around Chicago but also in places like Saskatchewan and the Bahamas.
Part of the fun of fishing is the element of surprise: what's going to be on the end of the line? Will you accidentally stumble upon a fish flash mob? That's also part of the fun of Mystery Tackle Box, although the end goal is always to make your fishing trips more reliably successful. In the middle of every month, subscribers open up the mailbox to find a surprise assortment of four or five cool new baits, lures, and tackle. It's all tailored to their favorite type of fishing, such as bass, inshore saltwater, ice, or public pool. If they discover a product that really reels them in, there's also an online shop to order more.