The unexpected run of Chinook to shore: Lakefront surprises

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Chris Loveless with a pair of 20-pound-plus kings from Waukegan.
Credit: For the Sun-Times

Chris Loveless understands the down time of fishing for returning Chinook.

“We didn’t get discouraged because we have become pretty familiar with how salmon fishing can be hours of monotony and then 20 minutes of chaos,’’ he emailed.

That aptly described last Thursday, a night of personal history for Loveless of Schaumburg and his Chicago buddy Tony Dicristofano at Government Pier in Waukegan.

There has been an unexpectedly good return of salmon, both Chinook and coho, from the end of August on, especially on the Illinois shorelines of southern Lake Michigan. Many people have caught their first shoreline kings.

“[Compared to] the last few years, it is a lot better than that,’’ said Stacey Greene from Park Bait at Montrose Harbor. “Can’t compare it to last year, there was nothing last year. Difference is there is a lot more coho than kings.’’

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait in Bridgeport texted that the smaller fish being caught from shore in September have been coho to go with the bigger kings.

“It has has been a good year for salmon and trout fishing in our waters this year,’’ emailed Vic Santucci, Lake Michigan program manager. “Glad to hear it may be continuing into fall.’’

Patricia “TrishaDaFisha” Cole. Credit: For the Sun-Times

Patricia “TrishaDaFisha” Cole. Credit: For the Sun-Times

Santucci said fall harbor samplings begin this week, which may give more indication of whether it is just an anomaly or a fall of note for salmon.

Patricia “TrishaDaFisha’’ Cole already has taken note.

She checked in with her own catches on the South Side, then proudly noted her 14-year-old grandson caught his first two already.

“What excitement!’’ Cole emailed. “I am so proud of him! He sat there all that time and finally his dream came along. He is so hooked it’s crazy.’’

But Loveless had the story of the fall so far.

“It was probably our best night fishing for kings in terms of quality we’ve ever had,’’ he emailed.

Tony Dicristofano. Credit: For the Sun-Times

Tony Dicristofano. Credit: For the Sun-Times

After a hour or so of nothing, Dicristofano hit his personal best, a 16-pound king, on a Moonshine spoon (one hot bait), about 11 p.m.

“He was so stoked, we knew the night was a success,’’ Loveless emailed. “Then a few minutes later, I hit a 12-pound king and it was game on from there.’’

Truly it was just the beginning.

Half an hour later, Loveless landed his personal best: 22 pounds, 13 ounces. Hang on, this is a fish story, there’s more.

“Maybe five casts later, I hooked into another fish and it took about 80 yards of drag right from the hookset,’’ Loveless recounted. “Luckily, I had a full spool and was able to get it under control and after a few other shorter runs, we got it close. It was another tuna! The second one went 21-8 after a 10-minute fight (also bigger than my previous best of just over 20 pounds). Both on Moonshines as well.’’

Loveless ended with this perspective.

“I’ll remember that night for quite a while,’’ he summarized. “It’s not often you can have numerous guys hit new best fish in a night, let alone two 2 20-pounders in Illinois! It was a blast.’’

IN MEMORY: Bob Rung, who worked 28 years on Illinois streams and retired on Dec. 31, 2014, died Monday. He and Tom Schrader had been fishing the Fox River regularly until a few weeks ago when Mr. Rung became seriously ill. Workmate Steve Pescitelli, Region II streams specialist, noted that the water willow in the Fox are largely thanks to Rung. Details to come.

HUNTING & FISHING DAYS: The Northern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area in Yorkville. Click here for more into.

SBOBT: Tim Schneider, parts manager at Muller’s Woodfield Acura, and Greg Dickson, owner of Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch, won the fall Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament for the second time in five years Saturday.

HUNTING: No daily draw for waterfowl hunting at Emiquon Preserve, instead it will be by advanced drawing. Registration deadline is Oct. 5. More information at

STRAY CAST: Watching the Vikings-Packers Sunday was like seeing a northern pike T-bone a muskie. Bears-Eagles Monday? Seeing threadfin shad corralled and crippled by hybrid striped bass.

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