Hours of the kings: Hopes for big Chinook on, with varied success in Chicago fishing, plus Stray Cast

By Dale Bowman
Anglers, trying for early Chinook, on the east jetty at the mouth of Montrose Harbor silhouetted in the pre-dawn half light. | Dale Bowman

I nearly stepped on a young raccoon as I crossed the crease between two big rocks to reach the west jetty at Montrose Harbor. The coon ambled off a bit too casually for my tastes.

Behind me, a guy mowed a green at Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course (Waveland, for those with long memories) in the headlights of his tractor. On the other side of the mouth, light danced from the headlamps of anglers and flashers occasionally flared lighting glow spoons.

The fall return of Chinook is underway in Chicago, enough to draw scores of anglers out before dawn at Montrose. I had two-hour window early before the start of family Labor Day stuff.

I heard plenty of lines whipping the air as light seeped in, but I heard no yelps or chatter that comes with somebody hooking one.

‘‘I think it was you, lol,’’ Stacey Greene at Park Bait posted. ‘‘A guy caught one not long after you left, about 14 pounds.’’

My soulmate is Jonah.

On Aug. 28, Jason ‘‘Special One’’ Le documented what I think was the first shore Chinook in Chicago. It was caught by his friend Dong Ho at Montrose. In the next few days, Greene noted a few more caught at Montrose and some at Belmont.

It struck me that my odds of hooking a Chinook are much lower than my chances of catching a muskie. I expect to catch a muskie about every six to eight hours of effort. I can’t even guess what my rate would be for hooking a Chinook. Maybe one in 50-plus hours.

So I asked a few people.

‘‘So far, I put 40 hours in already, but nothing for it yet!’’ Le texted. ‘‘Lost one last week, that’s all! Catching one in Chicago is very hard, but trying to catch one in Wisconsin is a piece of cake! Lol.’’

At Henry’s Sports and Bait, where they weighed in their first Chinook of the season from shore Friday — a 13-pounder caught by Jesus Maya at Montrose on a 1-ounce Moonshine lure at 6:30 am. — Steve Palmisano laid out the truth.

‘‘That’s not a fair question, LOL,’’ he texted. ‘‘Ten hours for the first, but it could be 10 minutes for the second. Do the math: five hours, five minutes. Don’t even try to calculate a third. Chinook throw the law of averages right out the window.’’

There’s a lot of truth in that.

Jesus Maya caught a 13-pound Chinook Friday at Montrose Harbor, the first weighed in at Henry’s Sports and Bait.

Carl Vizzone, who runs the fishing programs for the Chicago Park District, texted: ‘‘Started to see a few jumpers early last week at Northerly Island. Montrose is better bet by the mouth of harbor. Fish were being caught there early last week until lake got churned up. Jason ‘Special’ posted a couple on YouTube. And Stacey mentioned a few more.

‘‘It’s definitely happening. Just got to be there at right time. Outside the pipe by Shedd was really rough all last week. Should get better with west winds this week. As water clears, in front of McCormick may start to produce, too.’’

Hope lives.


Joshua Osborn began aerial teal flights Thursday for the Illinois Natural History Survey. He noted that we ‘‘don’t have the booming teal numbers we did at this time last year, [but] we’re still on par [Illinois River] or well above [Mississippi River] for the 10-year averages for blue-winged teal along the survey route.’’ Click here for a fuller breakdown.

Wild things

Last week at a Pirates-White Sox game, Christian Howe spotted at least two common nighthawks. On Sunday evening, Rob Abouchar messaged, ‘‘Nighthawks circling in Island Lake.’’ . . . Many readers noted the monarch migration is spiking.

Stray cast

Joe Rogan is to truth what bighead carp are to native species.

What is inkl?

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