CHINOOK (KING SALMON)
Chinook Salmon also known as King Salmon are the most sought after species in Lake Michigan. People of all ages travel across the globe to find these amazing fighters but nowhere else has the consistent action, quantity, and length of fishing season that we have here. King Salmon are around and plentiful near Waukegan Harbor.
This species can be caught year round however there are better times than others to target King Salmon, especially monstrous 4-year old trophy fish. The Chinook Salmon or “King” as we call it has a life span of approximately 4-years but that is not relative when it comes to its size. The “King” is the largest salmon and the fastest growing fish in Lake Michigan. The mature adult 4-year “Kings” can typically weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. They are truly the best fighting fish on the lake. King Salmon viciously attack their prey which will result in pounding rods, screaming drags, and unforgettable memories. The Illinois State Record is 37lbs.
COHO (SILVER SALMON)
Coho also know as “Silver Salmon” are the smaller relative to the “King”. Coho grow rapidly by consuming Alewives, Smelt, and other baitfish at an unbelievable rate. On many occasions the mouths and bellies are substantially filled with bait. The Coho’s life span is only 3 years and really enters the fishery in its final year. Springtime fishing is superb for bright energetic Coho in the 3 to 4 pound range while trolling the surface usually close to shore. By June these Coho often grow to an amazing 9 to 12 pounds. Coho’s are notorious for head shakes and death rolls to prevent being caught. Pound for pound, Coho would easily give a “King” a run for its money. Coho can be caught throughout the season however a bountiful catch of Coho can be had early spring thru June. The Illinois State Record is nearly 21lbs.
STEELHEAD (Rainbow Trout)
The Steelhead or Rainbow Trout is the most acrobatic and amazing Lake Michigan species. Often referred to “Jumpers”, “Metalheads”, or “Steelies” they are often recognized by their multiple acrobatic leaps out of the water. These underwater cruiser missiles often come out of the water to become airborne. Many anglers compare their acrobatic leaps to smaller Tarpon. During the summer when the water is calm, you might see them feeding on the surface. “Steelies” eat more than bait fish, they eat all sorts of bugs floating on the surface. “Steelies” have a hard hitting aggressive demeanor which leads to broken lines and snapped hooks. The ratio of Steelhead hooked versus Steelhead landed is probably the lowest in Lake Michigan. “Steelies” average size is from 5 to 10 pounds. Steelhead are around all year and sometimes in great masses. The Illinois State Record is more than 31lbs.
The only real native game fish in Lake Michigan is the Lake Trout. Lake Trout are often called “Lakers” or “Greasers”. “Lakers” have made a huge comeback after being nearly wiped out by the parasitic Lamprey Eel in the 1960′s. Lake Trout are again being caught in large numbers. “Lakers” are a very unique fish. Unlike Salmon, Lake Trout are native only to North America waters. Decent Lake Trout action can be had during the summer but it is best during their spawning season in October. During the Lake Trout spawn in the fall, we may specifically target Lake Trout on the deepwater reefs that aren’t far from Illinois shores. Growing only about a pound a year on average, they are generally the longest living fish in the Great Lakes. The Illinois State Record is 38lbs 4oz.
Brown Trout also known as “Bulldogs“or “Brownies” can be easily spooked which usually makes them harder to catch. Unlike Salmon they prefer a much warmer temperature which usually makes them a bonus fish. Lake Michigan Brown Trout grow far heavier than their close cousins that most fly fishermen fish for the simple reason of their forage base. “Brownies” have learned to adapt and are gorging on Gobies an invasive species. Within the last few years, two world record Brown Trout have come out of Lake Michigan. Browns Trout take on a stocky physique and can be consistently caught in the 7-14lb range. The best Brown Trout action is April & October when larger catches can be expected. The Illinois State record Brown Trout was caught in June of 1997 in these waters of Lake Michigan and weighed close to 37lbs.