The Run Down

We're taking advantage of living next to a giant freshwater lake and have you taking the family on a fishing 101 expedition. You'll get outfitted with fishing gear from pros who've been helping anglers for over 50 years. Afterward, you'll make your way through a maze of trails that take you to the lake, where you'll fish for salmon, perch, and trout.

1. Prepare @ Park Bait

2. Walk @ Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

3. Fish @ Montrose Harbor

1. Park Bait

Going fishing with your kids is less about catching fish and more about creating these small happy moments they’ll be able to reflect on. If we can snag a fish, though, all the better, and doing some prep work ahead of time is key to a successful trip.

That’s why the first stop is Park Bait, a family-owned fishing gear shop passed down from father to daughter and operating in Montrose Harbor since 1958.

What’s great about this place is you can show up empty-handed, get outfitted with all the gear you need, and start fishing at the harbor immediately.

Here’s some helpful info we picked up from them. The fishing season is from March to early December, and what’s biting in Montrose Harbor will depend on which month you’re fishing. Here’s what’s out there based on the historical fishing report.

– Salmon (March – October)
– Perch (June – July)
– Steelhead/Brown/Lake Trout (All season long)

It gets slower during November and December, but they’re still out there.

As far as how to get your fishing gear correctly set up, that’s why the folks at Park Bait are there. They post regular fishing reports on their website that tell you what’s biting and what type of bait is working. Check the report before you head out, or just walk in, and they’ll get you all hooked up.

2. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

The Montrose Bird Sanctuary is just down the street, and it’s worth a visit before we go fishing. It’s a winding series of trails taking you through a mix of tall wild grass, trees, and shrubs, and it eventually opens up to an incredible view of the city.

This is also a special place for migrating birds, with over over 300 species of birds visiting at different times of the year.

You’ll notice different entry and exit points along the path as you make your way. At the Northern end of the Hedge, you’ll find an exit to this paved walking path leading you to a long pier that extends out pretty far into Lake Michigan.

This is Fish Hook Pier, a popular spot for anglers.

Here’s another exit point that takes you to the lake, but this time it comes with an iconic view of the skyline. In moments like these, you feel really lucky to be in Chicago.

As the summer heat bears down on you, keep an eye out for the paleteros rolling their ice cream carts up and down the boardwalk. They’re always reliably nearby when you need a fresh fruit paleta, also known as a Mexican popsicle, to cool off by the water.

3. Montrose Harbor (Fishing Spots)

After you exit the bird sanctuary, you can follow along the shoreline and start casting out from just about anywhere. The next few pictures are walking south along the water toward Montrose Harbor.

This view makes up for it, even if you don’t catch anything.

Montrose Harbor is in the shape of a giant horseshoe. At one end of the horseshoe is this pier, where we, along with a few other pairs of fathers and sons, decided to set up for the rest of the afternoon.

There’s a lot of open green space if you want to get wild and throw in a picnic on this trip too. We left right as the sun was setting, but this looked like the time a whole new set of anglers started to arrive for the nighttime shift.