Salmon: A taste of the Pacific in Lake Michigan

Salmon catch from Lake Michigan

Did you know that Lake Michigan is home to wild salmon from the Pacific Ocean? It’s true! There are two magnificent species you’ll find in Lake County—Chinook (King Salmon) and Coho (Silver Salmon)—and both are well worth seeking out, both for the enhanced strategic sport fishing level and for their delicious taste.

Pacific salmon were originally introduced to control burgeoning populations of invasive alewives in the last century, and they’ve been a staple of Lake Michigan sports fishing ever since. Coho and Chinook salmon are both stocked and reproduce naturally in streams and tributary rivers.

The Chinook, the largest salmon species, generally spawn during the months of September through October in Lake Michigan. Fishing for Chinook from shore takes place in the fall from late August through October. Fishing for Chinook by trolling from a boat generally takes place from May through October. Chinooks average 15 pounds, but can reach 20-25 pounds.

During the winter months large schools of Coho migrate to the southern tip of Lake Michigan following schools of baitfish. In spring, the Coho migrate north along the shoreline until warm water forces them to cooler, deeper water beginning in June. During spring migration, Coho can be caught by casting lures from shore. Fishing for Coho by trolling from a boat generally takes place from early spring through October. Coho salmon average three to five pounds but can reach up to 10 pounds

You’ll need a salmon fishing stamp, in addition to a fishing license, to fish for salmon in Illinois. If you’re chartering, this most likely is taken care of.

For information on fishing in Lake County or chartering a fishing boat, visit

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