I always jump at the chance to try new fishing holes. So when I had an open day during a recent weekend in Chicago, I immediately started Googling.
Chi-Town might not spring to mind as a fishing destination, but I found more than a dozen charters available on Lake Michigan. What better way to fill an afternoon than a boat ride within view of the city skyline?
We hired Captain John Wagner, whose fair prices and awesome Chicago accent sealed the deal. Our party of three — my wife, Anna, her sister, Lisa, and I — buzzed 30 miles north to the quaint harbor town of Waukegan, where Captain John was waiting for us at the docks.
We climbed aboard the Playin’ Hooky and charted a course east. It was a perfect day — 75 degrees and sunny, with Lake Michigan’s notorious winds keeping it to a dull roar.
Ten miles out of port, Captain John began putting lines in the water, setting up four rods on downriggers near the bottom and three to troll at shallower depths. As we plowed through the waves, the downrigger rods were bouncing the bottom — impressive, considering we were in 130 feet of water.
After a couple false alarms, one of the shallow rods started buzzing. Probably a salmon! I grabbed the rod and felt the distinct thrash of a big fish, followed almost immediately by the disheartening slack of a thrown hook.
Score one for the fishes.
Twenty minutes later, one of the bottom bouncers snapped to attention. This time, the fish stayed on.
After several minutes of arm-burning work, a big Mackinaw trout surfaced. Its huge mouth gaped open as I cranked it in, creating maximum resistance in the water. But I kept the pressure on, and a 10-pound trout soon found its way to the net.
We were on the board.
We boated a second Mackinaw shortly thereafter, but then the rods went eerily silent. More than an hour passed without a bite, prompting Captain John to wonder aloud if the fish had gone to bed early.
They hadn’t. One of the downrigger rods suddenly slammed upward, and I once again felt the weight of a mighty Mack on the other end. I handed it off to Anna and Lisa, who fought the fish together — one holding the rod and the other cranking the reel. A physical battle ensued, but after five grueling minutes, the girls called for reinforcements.
I gladly obliged, and it was easy to see why they were having trouble — this was a serious fish! The sisters’ break didn’t last long, either — another rod doubled over, and their tag-team effort was back on.
Meanwhile, I tried to wrangle the big one. I’ve caught some heavy fish, but nothing could match this trout for sheer muscle-straining weight. The boat, the waves and the fish all worked against me as I fought to gain every crank of the reel. But crank I did, with Captain John calling out instructions amidst the double-hookup chaos.
The tug-of-war ended with one final heave-ho as we finally netted our quarry — a massive, 20-pound Lake Michigan Mackinaw. The ladies landed their fish, too, another nice lake trout. After high-fives and pictures, we called it a day and chased the sunset back to port.
Our urban fishing excursion left us exhausted and slightly seasick. But catching the biggest trout of our lives made for a great day on the Great Lakes.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.