SPOILER ALERT: I caught a bass! It was a hog!
Sprung awake at 4am, quickly made some coffee, got dressed (in that order- priorities!), and checked on my crockpot tamales. They weren’t ready yet, so I grabbed something else to eat, put together my gear, put on my headlamp, and hopped on the bike in the darkness. Made it to the station just before the train arrived. Soon I was in the city- which was still dark- and I headed to a bus stop that would take me to Burnham.
on my way to the bus stop at 5:30am
Not wanting to waste any precious fishing time, while I waited for the bus I assembled my rod and tied on a chartreuse spinnerbait. Why not start with something that isn’t a tube jig? Hopped on the bus, and a few short minutes later I was at 11th and Columbus, a short walk from the water.
It was hot! I checked the weather, and my phone told me it was 92% humidity. Holy crap.
I began casting, and noticed some fish close to the wall. They were bigger than bluegill or rockbass- they looked like largemouths to me. Awesome! I’d never caught one there. They were clearly not interested in my spinner- whether I jigged it, burned it, or slowly start-and-stop retrieved it, they just watched it go by. I switched to a texas rigged worm, which got me a nice bass last night. Nothing. Switched to a tube. Nothing.
A guy walked past, and asked if I caught anything. I said no, and then he said “Hey look at that, there’s a coho right there!” I ran over to where he was – directly over the pipe – and saw a magnificent-looking fish. It looked big, silver and blue colored, and majestic. It was definitely not a carp, or a bass, or anything else I’d ever seen. It was awesome! I’d been doing lots of research on salmon, and it was amazing to finally see one.
He gave me some tips on catching cohos- he suggested big heavy spoons, cranks, and rattle traps, and said I’d have better luck on the other side (north of solidarity drive). The coho was gone, so I packed up my stuff, and headed over, rattle trap tied on. My heart was racing. I figured hooking into a fish like that would probably destroy my little collapsible rod, but I wanted to do it anyway!
Well, no such luck. I set up right at the pipe on the other side, and nobody wanted anything to do with my lure. I did see some more of those same fish, apparently cohos. So awesome looking. I actually had a dream last night I caught one; that’s how excited I’ve been looking at pictures and reading old reports. Big, big, powerful fish.
I tried throwing a few different mepps inline spinners, some cranks… I realized the few spoons I had were in a different box at home. That’s what I get for not bring my entire collection of gear with me at all times! I saw some big fish hanging out by the pipe… Some were carp, and I think I saw at least one bass, but there were definitely some fish there I hadn’t seen before. Maybe they were salmon….
I tied on a gulp minnow on a red jig, and threw it out. Hey now, I got a fish! Could it be a big 40 pound coho salmon about to give me the fight of my life?
Nope, it was a goby.
only the most talented anglers catch gobies….
Not a tiny one though, and at least I caught a fish. In my book catching a goby is still catching a fish! I wondered what gobies taste like… They’re so easy to catch, and nobody wants them in the lake, it seems like the perfect solution would be to catch them all and eat’em! I imagined grilling gobies on skewers, maybe with some peanut sauce on the side. They seem nasty. I bet they taste horrible.
I decided to go back to the pipe, where I knew I could at least catch some rock bass if nothing else was biting. As I walked down the steps, I see two guys fishing. They asked me about the pipe, so I showed them where it was. Actually I wasn’t completely sure that’s where it was, but after a while we saw water flowing which confirmed my location.
Turns out these were two of CPD’s finest, out for some fishin’. Joe and Steve gave me tons of great tips; they fish the area often, apparently usually by McCormick place. They heard about the pipe so they came down to check it out.
Steve had softshell crabs under a bobber, Joe was going through his arsenal of lures, and I threw wacky rigged worms, texas rigged worms, and eventually resorted to my 2″ green tube jig. Steve’s crabs kept getting eaten by tiny rock bass- he caught one that couldn’t have been more than 4″ long.
At one point, Joe switched to a 4-5″ green tube jig, and saw a bunch of bass right in front of the pipe. They were there, but not interested! I was about 20′ to the left of him, doing some tube jigging near some weeds. It’s validating to know other serious fishermen use tubes. And then…
BAM! Fish on!
I saw a flash, and I knew it was a bass, and I knew it was a big’un! This was awesome- I hadn’t even seen bass here before, let alone hooked into any. Even if he threw the hook- like the one at Busse last sunday- it was still a first for me.
After a very quick fight (I was terrified of losing the fish!) out of the water came the fish, thankfully still attached to my line. A VERY nice largemouth! My first Burnham bass, which I am counting as part of Lake Michigan… so let’s just say it’s my first Lake Michigan bass.
17″ of Burnham Harbor / Lake Michigan largemouth bass
caught on a 2″ tube!!
Joe and Steve came over to look- Joe estimated the fish to be about 17″ and 2 pounds. I’ll take his word for it, that sounded right to me. Amazing! No fish, and then this HOG of a
largemouth. Beautiful coloring, a big fat belly, and giant dark eyes.
We noticed some stuff on its belly, Joe guessed it was some kind of parasites. You can kind of see it in the picture.
After Joe was nice enough to snap some pictures for me, I (as carefully as I could from the wall) dropped the fish back into the deep, extremely thankful for its interest in my lure. That’s when I realized Joe was using basically the same lure, with no luck. I’ll just chalk that up to fickle fish changing their mind about what they want… But either way I was beside myself, so happy to catch such a sweet fish here- 10 minutes from my work.
We continued fishing. Steve’s bait kept getting stolen, and Joe cycled through a variety of different lures. At one point he put on some crab as well. The guys gave me tons of tips and suggestions about salmon, baitcasting setups, the best lures, all kinds of stuff. Although I have gotten a wealth of information from the internet and message boards, I especially like talking to other fishermen in person- when they’re nice enough to share their secrets. These guys didn’t seem to mind I was such a newbie, and were happy to offer their suggestions.
The more they told me, the more I lusted after salmon. I need to use a bigger, stronger rod and reel, and get some more spoons… But I can’t even imagine catching a fish like that in downtown chicago. I’ve heard stories of long fights ending in broken rods or snapped leaders… It’s all so epic! These BIG missiles of fish, these predating eating machines, who come in looking for tributaries but settle for battling fishermen.
I stopped daydreaming and came back to reality… I wasn’t going to catch a coho or a king today- it was hot, I’m sure the water was hot, and I had to head out anyway. I bid my new fishing buddies farewell, they said I’d see them there again once salmon season started in earnest.
A great morning out on the water, some great new friends, and a big ass fish to use as my facebook profile picture. Fishing is awesome.

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