Fishing Information & Reports
Chicago River Facts
Size: 156 total miles
Max Depth: 26 feet (average about 10 feet)
Shoreline: 156 miles
Location: North suburbs through city to south suburbs
Fish: Just about everything. Most popular are largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, rock bass, carp.
Jay's General Comments
The Chicago River system is an often overlooked fishery by most. Starting all the way in the far northern suburbs, working its way to downtown and the south side, the Chicago River is within reach of most throughout the Chicago area.
While quality fish can be found in just about any corner of the river, the most productive locations for catching fish are the North Shore channel, the north branch from Foster to downtown, downtown itself, and portions of the south branch.
The North Shore Channel starts up north in Wilmette at Lake Michigan. It runs south along McCormick Blvd before meeting up with the north branch at Foster Ave. Over the past decade, the North Shore Channel has become one great fishery. Almost every bridge area along the entire NSC holds fish. There are also several outfall, storm drains, and discharges where fish congregate. While just about every species of fish that swims in Lake Michigan will make an appearance in the river system, the NSC is known for largemouth bass and crappie. I've caught hundreds of quality largemouth bass in the NSC, including many 18”+. And the crappie fishing can be unbelievable. It blows my mind sometimes that I can catch crappie of 11”, 12”, and as big as 14.5”! Of course, the carp fisherman can have a field day on the NSC.
The discharge from the treatment facility between Oakton and Howard is a place that stays open and fishable year round. The fish can really stack up in this location. The past couple of years however, the gizzard shad population has exploded, especially in this area. Bass seem less likely to chase a lure when they have such a huge forage base.
Another very popular spot is where the north branch spills down into the north shore channel at Foster Ave. Accessible from River Park, the spillway dam can be one of the most productive spots on the entire river system. It can often get crowded here and people can be seen fishing the newly built fishing wall and canoe portage in West River Park, behind the North Park College stadium, or the east bank from East River Park. The key to catching quality fish in this area is to be versatile. Fish will hold in classic spots just like any other river. And pick a time when it might not be too crowded as this will simply give you much more area to work. There are a lot of buckethead fisherman in this spot and it can frustrate those trying to do some actual sport fishing.
Continuing south through downtown are many miles of fishable waters – Wolf Point, river pilings, Ogden Slip, etc., are locations where people have success catching fish. Even Bubbly Creek on the south branch, which used to be a dumping ground for the stockyards, has become home to some good fishing.
Chicago River Accommodations
A river through an urban envirnoment. That's the best way to describe the Chicago River system. The surrounding environment has various accommodations throughout.
Jay's Bottom Line
If you live in just about anywhere in the Chicago city limits you're not too far from the Chicago River.
For current Chicago River conditions, fishing reports and news, visit the Chicago River Forum of our message boards.
Map and Directions
One of the best spots to fish is the spillway dam near Foster Ave. The fishing wall is accessed from River Park (west). Parking is sometimes available on Albany just south of Foster. Parking is also available on the surrounding streets. No parking lots.