The pull of powerlining: The start of spring fishing on Chicago lakefront

SHARE The pull of powerlining: The start of spring fishing on Chicago lakefront
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Powerlining began earlier last winter on the Chicago lakefront; here is Juan Luis Gutierrez’s powerlining rig on the south side of Montrose Harbor in February in 2018.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Juan Luis Gutierrez was fishing at Montrose Harbor some years ago when he heard popping sounds.

‘`I looked around and realized that I was the only one on the ground,” he said.

A bit later, a couple guys set up next to him and fired out their powerline with the pop of CO2 and Gutierrez discovered the Chicago tradition of powerlining.

From there, Gutierrez learned from friends and watching how to do powerlinering. He is handy enough to build his own powerlining system.

Powerlining is fishing with multiple hooks on light-line droppers from a long heavier line and rubber band attached to a weight, fired out from the CO2 in a fire extinguisher.

Set-ups are sold at local bait shops, such as Henry’s Sports and Bait in Bridgeport, Park Bait at Montrose, Lee’s Global Tackle in Elk Grove Village and Fishtech in Morton Grove.

Many are like Gutierrez and either make set-ups themselves or get one from an acquaintance.

I thought over the years powerlining would dribble away, yet powerlining not only hangs on but has a renaissance.

For example, a Facebook group, ‘`Chicago powerline and lakefront fishing (powerlining),” Luis Gonzalez started a couple years ago already has over 800 members.

It’s more than going retro, there’s a practical side. Powerliners use multiple hooks and at many depths (think of the diagonal line from the setup on shore to the weight on the bottom).

Powerlines can also be fired far, even several hundred feet (well past casting with a rod), to reach deeper water and sometimes outshoot the dirtier water (mud line), which comes often in spring with northeast blows.

Powerlining is primarily used for traditional early spring coho (with bonus brown trout, lake trout or steelhead) or later in the year for yellow perch.

Coho fishing tends to be best from shore when the weather turns crappy. Waves sloshed over the side of the south side of Montrose, as Gutierrez and I talked Thursday.

Juan Luis Gutierrez with his powerlining rig Thursday at Montrose Harbor.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Juan Luis Gutierrez with his powerlining rig Thursday at Montrose Harbor.
Credit: Dale Bowman

“I like fishing,’’ Gutierrez explained when asked why he drove in from Des Plaines.

Well, that and his wife likes spring coho. I agree with her. Early coho (generally two to three pounds of wild salmon) rank among my favorite eating freshwater fish.

Most of the early season on the Chicago lakefront has produced spotty browns and lakers (the building near-shore fishery), but in the last couple days coho reports picked up.

Gutierrez was using a mix of minnows and night crawlers, the common baits.

As we talked, two more guys came up to start powerlining.

It is time.

WILD THINGS: Early or not, spring signs erupt. Tuesday, I had Eurasian collared-doves croaking, mourning doves cooing, male cardinals singing high in bare trees and Canada geese staking pond territory. Several evenings, I’ve seen and heard cacklers high in the sky headed north. For the past week, sandhill cranes have headed north in numbers through Chicago and the suburbs. Migrating sandhills have morphed into the great signifier of seasonal change in the last 10-15 years around Chicago.

STRAY CAST: Michael Kopech reminds me of prospects for yellow perch in 2018. (Am I the only reminded of a cloying chocolate drink when it comes to Cubs pitching hopes?)


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