Chicago Muskie Chronicle

Esox fishing around the Windy City is for real

Chicago Muskie fishing is finally coming of age. Most anglers observe fishing history through the words of those who’ve recorded and documented their especially relevant catches for storytelling purposes and fame. Muskies living near to, and being caught from, waters around the Chicago urban area are all worthy of coverage. They are quickly becoming a big deal to the regional fishing market. In the world of freshwater fishing, few fish are as highly sought after and revered.

Due to their explosive strikes, rugged fights and intimidating presence, they have lured anglers for generations. This results in an enormous and faithful following of muskie anglers. As a result, all muskie anglers share the common goal of catching big fish, and, hopefully, conserving them.

Big fish, big memories

Caught and released, big Chicago muskie pictures make for the best and most memorable fish pictures anywhere on the internet. A variety of waters throughout northern Illinois have established muskie populations. Clean rivers, impaired streams, ponds, man-made pits, public lakes, and private waters can all become good muskie fisheries. Some of these fisheries are intensely managed and have been maintained by stocking for several years. Others don’t receive any support. Some of these fisheries are also little known. Well off the radar, under-fished and—most certainly— underrated.

In Illinois, 42 publicly-listed, state-managed waterways are stocked with muskies. Each fishery has been artificially created and maintained with hatchery stock. No one knows how many waters not managed somehow still have muskies in them. With the rare Chicago muskie catches taking place along southern Lake Michigan, at random rivers and streams and in a number of little public pools, who really knows the exact number of fishable muskie waters.

Catch up on other record beaters here.

Expanding the Chicago muskie fishery

In recent years, increased enthusiasm for muskies and a rapidly growing angling segment has led to the introduction of several new fisheries and increased stocking programs, most notably at the Cook and DuPage County Forest Preserve districts.

I’ve compiled a record of noteworthy Chicago muskies by following local and regional media coverage of catches within 60 miles of the city. Most were released although some, unfortunately, were kept. I researched extensively to see for myself, and gathered an impressive collection of fish by most muskie fishing standards.

Showcased in this Chicago muskie compendium are anglers and their catches that have received media coverage. Every one has helped put local fisheries on the Illinois muskie fishing map. This collection of catches shows off impressive specimens. Hardcore muskie anglers spending time fishing northern Illinois lakes and rivers are beginning to specifically target local muskies more frequently. The expectation of catching Chicago muskie has greatly risen due to angler ethic.

Snap it and set it loose

Want to keep seeing muskies and have a chance at catching fish like these specimens? As I preach to all anglers, both experts and novices, handle your catch quickly and let it go. While searching the internet, I came across a few brutal, homemade YouTube fishing videos from local fisheries. Some of them illustrate terrible fish handling practices. Anglers essentially show their audience how not to handle a muskie.

With Illinois practically broke and the future of its stocking programs up in the air, always practice catch-and-release. Now, more than ever before, the future of the fishery is in our hands. Catching muskies is also far more common now than ever before. Notable catches, like these specimens I’ve shared, usually get some type of press. Several more muskies have been caught, I’m sure. People are just keeping quiet about it. People might not post in order to protect that fishery and resource. In a large metropolitan area, where fisheries can easily become abused, can you blame anglers for withholding information?

Besides purposeful angling, there’s always the random, accidental catches from non-muskie anglers. Northern Illinois fisheries have a lot more muskies swimming locally, today, than most will ever think. Muskies in and around Chicago’s urban landscape are a reality. Thanks to stocking efforts, they’re no longer a pipe dream. Anglers can keep that dream a reality by practicing catch and release!

Giant Esox on the Fox Chain of Lakes

Summertime fisherman Joel Michel on a boat in the Fox Chain of Lakes displaying a freshly caught 49.5 inch muskie.
Joel Michel, of Racine, Wis. caught and released this plump 49.5-incher from the Fox Chain in spring, 2006. This was one of the first truly large specimens I saw near the Chicago fishing scene.

Fox Chain of Lakes

Date Caught: Spring, 2006

Length: 49.5 inches

Location: Fox Chain, Ill.

Fisherman Ryan Stochl with a near-state-record 50.75-inch muskie caught on the Fox Chain of Lakes.
Ryan Stochl caught and released this 50 3/4-inch muskie on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes. The fish, with a girth of 23 inches, would have weighed 37.33 pounds by one formula, according to DNR fish biologist Frank Jakubicek. That would have put it in the company of the current state record, a 38.5-pound fish caught in central Illinois from the Kaskaskia River in 2002. “I knew it would be close, but I didn’t want to risk it dying, and then it not being a record,” Stochl said. “It just wasn’t worth it.”
Source / Chicago Sun Times

 Fox Chain of Lakes

Date Caught: October 30, 2012

Length: 50.75”

Location: Fox Lake, Ill.

Dappled DuPage delights

Winter fisherman on a lake near Chicago with a 46-inch muskie.
This is a whopper muskie for forest preserve district standards, and quality for anywhere within the muskies range. A client of Micah Langkamp boated this 30-pound muskie. Langkamp is a Hayward-based muskie guide who operates in northern Illinois from the late fall to the early spring.
Source / Langkamp’s Fishing Guide Service

 DuPage County, Illinois

Date Caught: December, 2016

Length: 46 to 48 inches

Location: DuPage County, Ill.

Humongous Heidecke

Rob Miller, from Illinois DNR, displays a 46-inch muskie caught from Heidecke lake in Illinois.
Rob Miller, IL DNR with 46-inch muskie from Heidecke Lake, 2016. The largest fish, a gravid female, weighed in just shy of 30 pounds.
Source / Illinois DNR

Heidecke Lake

Date Caught: April, 2015

Length: 46 inches

Location: Heidecke Lake, Ill.

Shabbona’s toothiest secret

Fall fisherman with a hefty muskie taken in the waters of Illinois in 2006.
Little is known about this catch from Shabbona Lake in DeKalb County, Illinois.
Source / MuskieFIRST

Shabbona Lake

Date Caught: October, 2006

Length: Unknown

Location: Shabbona Lake, Ill.