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.
Since 1979, the namesake of Gary's Indiana Muskie Experience has navigated local lakes and waterways while helping anglers reel in trophy fish. By reading weather patterns and reflecting on wisdom gained through years as a water wizard, the fishing specialist sets out in search of the muskellunge, a deep-dwelling predator known to weigh up to 70 pounds. Gary carefully selects lures that represent the fishes' seasonal diet, finicky appetite, and general distaste for swashbuckling pirate hooks. He also equips each of his guests with rods and reels capable of withstanding the fish's well-known strength. Most expeditions take place on Webster Lake, Backwater Lake, The Barbee Chain, Lake Tippecanoe, James Lake, Oswego Lake, Loon Lake, and Upper Long Lake.
Sid Kotlick and his brother-in-law, Len Toll, never would have guessed that one day their ramshackle eatery, Calumet Fisheries, would make it to Hollywood. Yet lo and behold, the South Side staple was featured in the background of the iconic bridge-jumping scene in The Blues Brothers. Years later, Check, Please! and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations both dropped in to commend the menu's selection of catfish, herring, shrimp, and scallops, all cooked to perfection in an onsite smokehouse. Bourdain dubbed the food “destination smoked fish” for the restaurant’s closeness to the outskirts of Chicago and the banks of the Calumet River, where fisherman used to dock their boats to stop in for a bite. To bring out the natural flavors of each aquatic morsel, cooks marinate the seafood overnight, then smoke it over cherrywood and natural white oak logs. Diners can also dig into fried smelts and frog legs as well as eleven side dishes, from sweet potato tots to breaded pickle spears. And the fishery only has one catch: all orders are carry out.
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.