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Charter fishing: The impacts of Illinois’ and Chicago’s restrictions

Capt. Bob Poteshman gives his assessment of current restrictions in Illinois and Chicago on charter fishing.

Capt. Bob Poteshman piloting the Massive Confusion last summer on Lake Michigan. Credit: Dale Bowman
Capt. Bob Poteshman piloting the Massive Confusion last summer on Lake Michigan.
Dale Bowman

“Tough state we are living in, pal,” Capt. Bob Poteshman opened.

Illinois charter boat fishing begins, legally, on Friday. Well, outside of Chicago, where harbors remain closed.

“We have to plan our business in advance,” Poteshman said. “[Mayor Lori Lightfoot] is just expecting us to go. But how do you plan charters in advance [if you don’t know the opening date?] That is not how the business works.”

In the winter months, serious captains attend shows, do email blasts, call old customers and make social media splashes.

Poteshman, one of the last full-time charter captains in Chicago, had thoughts Saturday.

“It is unbelievable, the charter business is just devastated in Illinois,” Poteshman said. “Other states have more opportunities.”

The belated return of charter fishing is part of the reopening of Illinois. Also on Friday, all Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites (with the exception of a few historical site buildings) reopen and capacity restriction on boats climb: less than 26 feet (four adults, six total); 26-36 feet (six, eight); and longer than 36 feet (eight, 10).

To say Poteshman was pissed would be sugarcoating. But with context.

“I would definitely like to be fishing out of Chicago,” he said. “Chicago is the main thrust of my business.”

On the practical side, there’s good coho fishing off Chicago now.

Poteshman suggested that boat fees could be used for a security guard to allow only permitted people access to the Chicago harbors.

“They could let us use the harbors,” Poteshman said. “There’s nothing coronavirus about the harbors, unless there are big parties.”

Boat partying (a point driven home last Memorial Day) is a sticking point.

“I am a realist, I know there is some sanity [in the restrictions] too, but enough is enough,” Poteshman said. “You can’t just stay inside forever.”

Last week he began charters out of East Chicago, Indiana.

Poteshman doesn’t know what to expect from corporate groups. Will they do trips?

“Then you have people who are scared to death to walk out of their houses,” he said. “And there are past [customers] who just don’t have the money.”

He will start his usual chartering out of North Point Marina and hope for a return soon to Montrose Harbor.

“I don’t want to beg,” Poteshman said. “I just want to work. I want to work like normal people.”

Wild things

I’m not sure if more Baltimore orioles are around Chicago or people are home and seeing more.

Stray Cast

Apparently attitudes toward death are like those to common carp; depends on your point of view.