The quest to catch a steelhead every month on the Chicago lakefront

Danny “Taks” Borgert completed the improbable quest.

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Danny “Taks” Borgert with his personal best steelhead from the Chicago lakefront, caught in October.

Danny “Taks” Borgert with his personal best steelhead from the Chicago lakefront, caught in October.

Provided

“Without a doubt I am infatuated with the beauty of a steelhead,” Danny “Taks” Borgert messaged on Instagram. “The colors of a colored-up buck or a fresh chromer with a turquoise back is amazing to me. The way they fight is heart pumping exciting. To see them jump 6 feet out of the air and take drag peeling runs. ... There is nothing like it.

“They constantly motivate me to come up with new jig patterns and be creative in that process. I make pretty jig for pretty fish. Well, even my ugly jigs work sometimes. ... LOL.”

Borgert is an artist and a top angler on the Chicago lakefront. Those two sides joined to catch a steelhead every month of the year on the lakefront.

On Friday, he caught his December steelhead—on an olive jig, he had tied, and waxworms — to complete his quixotic quest.

Borgert, who grew up in North Center and now lives in Jefferson Park, had the idea to try because he saw “them randomly swimming or randomly caught in the summer months. Years past I have caught them fall through spring but could never caught them in the summer.

“I knew May through July was going to be my biggest challenge. Once I caught my first one in May I knew it was very possible to complete a calendar year catching a Chicago steelhead.”

His first came Jan. 2 on a jig he tied with two waxies. His favorite photo came in August, capturing “what it looks like fishing Chicago. The cloudy night sky being on a pier with the timing of having both red and green harbor navigation lights on is really cool to me.”

Danny “Taks” Borgert with his favorite photo, from August, during his monthly run of steelhead catches on the Chicago lakefront. Provided photo

Danny “Taks” Borgert with his favorite photo, from August, during his monthly run of steelhead catches on the Chicago lakefront.

Provided

His Chicago best — 38 inches, 17 pounds — came in October.

He considers himself “a resident at Diversey Harbor” but caught some at Jackson and Belmont harbors, too.

On his methods, he messaged: “One of the keys to my success is to not sit in one spot very long unless you know the fish are in front of you. Most of the time steelhead will bite on the first couple casts if around.

“The best presentation hands down is one of my jigs under a float set about 6 feet down tipped with a couple waxworms. I run a small slip float with a long fluorocarbon leader. I have literally caught 100s in Chicago with that presentation.

“Into late spring and early summer they wouldn’t touch a jig. The fish wanted little pieces of cooked shrimp. Fished the shrimp the same as I would a jig. Under a float about 6 feet down. Late summer and early fall they wouldn’t touch anything floated. I got them on spinners and twitching jigs.”

For advice and jigs, DM him at ts_jigs on Facebook or Instagram.

Illinois hunting

Duck hunting in the north zone ends Tuesday, Dec. 20.

When harvest numbers come for the firearm and muzzleloader deer seasons, I will post at chicago.suntimes.com/outdoors.

Wild things

The count of sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area on Thursday was 31,970, near the record 34,629 set Nov. 26, 2002. Tuesday, it dropped to 21,827.

Stray cast

My annual watch of “Bad Santa” feels like pan-frying perch eggs.

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