- Montrose Harbor, 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive
- Belmont Harbor, 3200 N. Lake Shore Drive
- Diversey Harbor, 2800 N. Lake Shore Drive
- Navy Pier, (north side of the building only) Grand Ave & Lake Shore Drive
- DuSable Harbor, 400 E. Randolph St.
- Monroe Harbor, 100 N. Lake Shore Drive (across from Buckingham Fountain)
- Burnham Harbor, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive (on the Museum Campus)
- 31st Street Harbor, 3100 S. Lake Shore Drive (new for 2013)
- 59th Street Harbor, 5900 S. Lake Shore Drive
- Jackson Park Inner and Outer Harbors, 6400 S. Lake Shore Drive
- 95th St. Calumet Park, 9600 S. Walton Drive
An Illinois fishing license is required for fishing all waters in Illinois. They are available for purchase at some local bait shops (see list below). Fishing licenses may also be purchased online at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/LPR/Pages/default.aspx.
- Resident sport fishing, ages 16-64: $15.00
- Resident sport fishing, 65 years and over: $ 7.75
- Resident and non-resident, under 16 years of age: FREE
- Resident sport fishing, disabled or blind: FREE
- Must show a Class 2 or 2A disability or Disabled Veterans, holding a Veteran's I.D. showing at least a 10% service related disability) or blind.
- Salmon Stamp: $6.50
Parking and Dock Access Passes
Fishermen’s Parking Pass Program
Special parking is available for fishermen by purchasing a parking pass good at special parking lots at Burnham and DuSable Harbors. Each pass costs $10 and is valid for 60 days from the date of purchase. Available at www.henryssports.com, (312) 225-8538 or call Bob Long, Jr. at (312) 656-3852 for more information.
Fishermen’s Pier Pass Program
Passes are available for fishermen to access a variety of docks in Montrose, Diversey, Belmont, DuSable and Burnham Harbors when the boating season is over and the harbors are closed. The passes cost $6.50 and are good from November 15 of the current year through March 31 of the following year. Passes are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop, 3130 S. Canal St., (312) 225-8538, www.henryssports.com.
Fishermen: Please use only the piers listed on the passes. Help protect this program.
Aquatic Invasive Species Watch!
Chicago anglers can help stop the introduction and spread of non-native aquatic invasive species.
- Learn to identify invasive species.
- Dispose of unwanted live bait in the trash.
- Drain lake or river water from livewell and bilge before leaving access.
- Inspect and remove aquatic plants and animals from boat, motor and trailer.
- Report new sightings – note exact location; freeze specimen in a sealed plastic bag.
For more information or to report an invasive species, call the Illinois Sea-Grant Program in Zion, Illinois (847) 872-8677, the Illinois DNR in Topeka, Illinois (309) 968-7531, or the Indiana DNR, Division of Fish & Wildlife in Indianapolis, Indiana (317) 232-4093.
Chicago Area Bait & Tackle Shops
Listed below are the bait and tackle shops located in Chicago. Most of these shops support the Chicago Park District fishing programs and carry information about the programs, events and contests. Please call first as shop hours may vary by season.
- Henry’s Sports and Bait, 3130 S. Canal St., (312) 225-8538, www.henryssports.com
- Park Bait Company, 600 W. Montrose Ave., (773) 271-2838
- Vet’s Live Bait, 10150 S. Indianapolis Blvd., (773) 734-6720
Hours: 6am – 11pm*
*April (smelt season) hours are 6am – 1am
Months: March – October
Hours: 6am – 11pm
Fish Species Available in Chicago
January - February:
- Lakefront and Harbors: Perch, Panfish and Trout
March - April:
- Lakefront and Harbors: Coho Salmon and Smelt
- Lagoons: Early season Bluegill and Crappie
- Chicago River: Largemouth Bass, Panfish and Carp
May - August:
- Lakefront and Harbors: Perch (except for closed season May 1 – June 15), Panfish, Carp and Smallmouth Bass, Freshwater Drum (aka Sheephead, Silver bass)
- Lagoons: Bluegill, Channel Catfish and Largemouth Bass (The Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks the lagoons with Bluegill and Catfish in June, July and August)
- Chicago River (55 degree water): Largemouth, Smallmouth and Rock Bass, Panfish, Crappie, Carp, Perch and Drum
September - December:
- Lakefront and Harbors: King and Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, Steelhead and Perch, Freshwater Drum
- Lagoons: Bluegill and Channel Catfish (mainly in September and October)
- Chicago River: Bluegill, Rock Bass and Crappie
Perch Fishing: Open all year except from May 1 - June 15
The daily limit is 15. The best places to fish are found along breakwalls and piers that drop off into deep (8 -15 feet) water. Softshell crayfish, spikes, minnows, spinners and jigs are all great baits to use for perch.
Smelt Fishing: April 1 - 30
Smelt fishing is a longtime favorite family pastime that has attracted thousands to Chicago’s lakefront over the years. You can set up your equipment at any time, but your net may not enter the water before 7 p.m. and you must leave from Chicago’s harbors by 1 a.m. We suggest you wrap it up by 12:30 a.m. to be out of the harbor parking lots by 1 a.m.
Shore Fishing: Open all year
In addition to harbors and lagoons, many enjoy fishing along the Chicago River and from the many seawalls, piers and revetments along the lakefront. Perch, Rock Bass, Smallmouth & Largemouth Bass, Carp and Panfish can be caught from spring until fall, when Salmon return.
Snagging Season: October 1 - December 31
Snagging for Chinook and Coho Salmon is permitted in the Lincoln Park Lagoon (from the Fullerton Avenue Bridge to the southern end of the lagoon) and in the Jackson Park Inner and Outer Harbors. Snagging is not allowed at any time within 100 feet of a moored watercraft. Snagging for species other than Salmon is illegal. A fishing license with a Salmon stamp is required to snag.
Chicago's Fish'N Kids Events & Programs
Family Fishing Program @ Northerly Island Visitor’s Center, 1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Select Saturdays, May – June, from 9am – 12pm. Call for dates.
These classes are for parents with children (ages 6 and up please), and small groups (up to 30) that are unable to fish with us in the Fish'N Kids summer program (see below). We supply the rods, reels, bait and fishing instructors and “Fish`N Kids How-To-Fish” Instruction Booklets. We will be both indoors and outdoors for up to 45-minutes, so dress for the weather. A short Tenkara-style fly fishing and fly tying lesson will be included as well. Reservations are required for groups numbering eight or more. Call Bob or Carl to register your group, contact information listed below.
Summer Fishing Program
June 20 - August 19, Monday through Friday, 9am - 4pm
Over the course of eight weeks we supply the rods, reels, bait and instruction. You? Well, you supply the kids. There are daily fishing sessions conducted by the “Fishin’ Guys & Gals” for up to 30 kids per session. We can accommodate up to 300 participants per day. We are able to fish with children, age 8 – 12, teens, adults, seniors, and those with any kind of disabilities or challenges.
Fishing takes place at 11 lagoons located throughout the City, and at seven lakefront locations. Fishing sessions last an average of 35 minutes. Classes are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is REQUIRED! Call Bob or Carl to register, contact information listed below.
We hope these programs and events help make your fishing more enjoyable and rewarding.
For more information about fishing programs sponsored by Chicago’s Fish`N Kids of the Chicago Park District, contact:
Bob Long, Jr., “The Fishin’ Guy!”
General Fishing Tips
- Jigs, plastic lures and Maggots work for just about all species all year in Lake Michigan, park lagoons and the Chicago River. They work either cast or drifted under a float/bobber. White, chartreuse, and pink are best all around plastic lure colors for this.
- Crappie rigs with fatheads or Baby Roaches work well for perch, winter through spring.
- Try Soft-shell pieces under a slip-float rig, about 18 inches off the bottom, for summer perch. Or cast soft-shell pieces on a single-blade perch spinner.
- Use Polaroid glasses to spot weed beds and rock piles in clear water. Remember where they are. Fish them periodically to note what fish uses them and when.
- The parks close at 11:00pm, but fish bite after dark, especially if there are streetlights on. So don’t run away at dusk.
- ¼ to ½ oz spoons are still mainstays for spring Coho (silver or gold, silver/blue, silver/green).
- ½ - 1 oz glow-in-the-dark spoons for fall kings. Try silver/blue, silver/green spoons during the day.
- Also productive for autumn salmon are larger crank baits that dive 6 – 10 feet down. Colors: firetiger, silver black, shad imitations.
- Chicago River all-around setup: ¼ - ½ ounce weight on bottom, size 6 – 8 hook placed 6” – 18” off the bottom, and worms (night crawlers, red worms) for bait.
- For quantity of fish in general, use the smallest hook you feel comfortable with. Try sizes 8 and 10. They hook and hold well.
- Pencil bobber with small Aberdeen hook and maggots can catch lots of fish in the lagoons. Weight the float so that only 1/3rd of the top shows above water.
- Cat fishing techniques get specialized at almost each lagoon. Ask the local fishermen for advice and tips.
- Please release smallmouth bass – they are a valued asset to our Lake.
- Plastic lure colors for smallmouth: motor oil, pumpkin, green pumpkin, root beer for late spring through September (crayfish and goby imitations).
- White, chartreuse and black are excellent early spring colors for smallmouth.
- Fish rock piles and close to the seawalls for smallmouth.
- If you take kids fishing; start them catching gobies, pinfish and rock bass; all are easily caught and fun for kids.
- In general, lighter line catches more fish than heavier lines. Try going with 6-pound-test (not for salmon).
- Improperly set drags and poor fish-fighting techniques lose more fish (fisherman’s error) than small hooks or lighter line.
- Learn three knots: clinch, surgeon, and loop.
Tips for Fishing With Kids (ages 6-12)
Lessons gleaned from fishing with over 70,000 kids over twelve years
- Patience is needed - yours, not theirs.
- Focus on the child - the fishing outing is about them, not you.
- Focus on helping them catch a fish, right then, right there vs. teaching them to fish.
- This isn’t about teaching life-long lessons, but providing a magical moment.
- Keep fishing outings short: 45 to 60 minutes. You can always come back, but you can never recover from boredom.
- Fish for easily caught fish first - small abundant fish like bluegill, perch, gobies, rock bass, crappie. For kids it is about numbers (action) not size.
- Encourage their sense of joy and accomplishment by showing excitement for any fish caught - no matter how small.
- Simple 5 ½ foot, medium light spin casting equipment is simple to use, inexpensive and effective.
- Use cigar shaped floats only. Throw out all of the round ones. Weight them so only the top third of the float shows.
- Use Size 10, Aberdeen, snelled hooks in gold or bronze. Smaller hooks will hook more fish.
- Use small bait – maggots, beemoth, pieces of worms, small minnows – to catch more fish, (not bigger fish, but more fish).
- Fish are close to shore, not far out. Teach the underhand flip/pitch cast. Avoid sidearm and overhead casts and you’ll reduce hang-ups and injuries.
- If the child wishes to touch the bait and fish, let them. If they don’t, that is OK, don’t make them or make fun of them. They’ll learn in time.
- As soon as they show signs of boredom or being tired – stop for the day. They don’t love this yet like you do. You can always come back another time.
- Stay positive and encourage them throughout your time spent fishing. Tell them they did a good job and you are proud of them. The number and size of fish they catch is NOT a reflection on you. Relax. Take pictures.
With access to ponds, lagoons, the lakefront, and the river, fishing is a favorite activity in Chicago. But fishing line left behind, in and around our waterways can be hazardous to local wildlife. If not properly disposed of, animals such as birds and fish can ingest or become entangled in fishing lines. To help prevent this, the Park District has installed more than 40 monofilament containers for fishing line disposal. Look for these containers at popular fishing spots in parks throughout the city.