Soon winter will be upon us and the inland lakes will start to skim over with ice. Rather that hanging up the fishing rods for the winter there are other options. Now is a great time to take advantage of some great shore angling in the Lake Michigan harbors.

From Milwaukee, WI. to Michigan City, Indiana, there are several great opportunities to chase a multitude of species. Thanks to special programs in the Chicago area the Downtown area can offer up some great fishing opportunities that most overlook.

Downtown Chicago has several harbors that are all under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Park District. All of which offer excellent fishing. Most fisherman are unaware of the opportunities that exist or don’t know where to go our how to access them.

The downtown area can offer the angler opportunities for both the fall and winter bite. Whether it is on the open water or through the ice, the fish are there and once you are familiar with the areas it is easy to take advantage of this great fishing.

Some of the areas that are fishable are:

Belmont Harbor
3200 N. Lake Shore Drive
Montrose Harbor
4400 N. Lake Shore Drive
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Avenue
Diversey Harbor
2800 N. Lake Shore Drive
DuSable Harbor
300 N. Lake Shore Drive
Monroe Harbor
100 N. Lake Shore Drive
Burnham Harbor
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
59th Street Harbor
5900 S. Lake Shore Drive
Jackson Inner Harbor
6400 S. Lake Shore Drive

Jackson Outer Harbor
6400 S. Lake Shore Drive.

Each area has its individual obstacles. Some have limited space that the fisherman can use, while others offer special fishing docks as well as small parking areas and reduced fees for the fisherman.

With the opportunity to fish there are also rules that need to be followed in these harbors. The rules are often posted in the area, such as; that there is no casting within 100 feet of a moored or moving vessel. Also in most areas the docks are off limits; however there are some docks that are designated for fishing. Following these rules is important as failure to do so can negatively affect the access that we, as fisherman, are allowed.

As most know parking in the downtown area is often difficult and it certainly can cause issues. There is separate special parking permits can be purchased from local bait shops for a few of the harbors. The following gives some detail on the parking and Dock access program:

Fishermen’s Parking Pass Program
– downtown harbors
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. Passes and specific information is available at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop.
Fishermen’s Parking Pass – Navy Pier
Navy Pier has Fisherman’s parking available: $5 for parking from 5am – 10am with a valid fishing license.
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 $6.00 and are good from December 3 to March 31. Passes and specific information is available at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop.

The harbors do have specific fishing hours that are often enforced by the authorities. The hours that you are allowed to fish are from 6am to 11pm. This can limit your fishing opportunities, but you need to adapt and there are still plenty of fish that can be caught during these hours.

Getting to know these harbor locations and parking areas can seem like a challenge, but all it takes is a map of the area and a mode of transportation. Take a ride and investigate the areas and get to know where you are going before planning a fishing outing. You can also go online as there is several good sources of information that can help you learn the ins and outs of the area. One such website that is very valuable is the Chicago park district Website This site will take you to maps, regulations and even tips on what to use in these harbors to catch certain species.

Fishing in downtown Chicago can seem like a daunting task at times. All the rules, parking obstacles, and hours can discourage people from taking advantage of some great fishing opportunities. Talk to other fisherman and soon you will have built up a good knowledge of the how, what, and when of fishing these public areas.

By being courteous of others and following the rules that are posted I promise you will have a good time fishing the lakefront. Urban fishing is something that is often overlooked, and with the multitude of opportunities available there really is no excuse not to get out and fish.

Cory Yarmuth
Legend Outdoors