Charter boat report: what anglers caught in 2013

Chicago — When it comes to grading a Lake Michigan fishing season, numbers put up by charter boats that operate out of Chicagoland tend to dictate the final score.

According to most, last year was probably a “B.”

A total of 18,772 anglers fished on charter boats in 2013, pulling 43,429 salmon and trout, along with 687 yellow perch, from the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan.

In all, 110 permits were issued to charter boat operators in the state. And another very interesting stat: 15,345 (82 percent) of the 18,772 anglers were Illinois residents.

These figures come from “Charter Boat Fishing in Lake Michigan: 2013 Illinois Reported Harvest,” which was prepared by Steve Robillard of DNR’s Lake Michigan Program and published in February.

According to Robillard’s report, coho salmon comprised the greatest portion (63 percent) of the charter boat angler harvest. Chinook salmon (15 percent), lake trout (13 percent), rainbow trout (7 percent), and brown trout (3 percent) constituted smaller percentages of the harvest.

The percentage of coho in the harvest was typical – the 30-year average has been 43 to 83 percent.

However, the total harvest and effort involving coho decreased from 2012.

As noted in the report, the harvest rate of 44 fish per 100 angler-hours last year was lower than the 51 fish per 100 angler-hours in 2012. The long-term average  has been 43.8 fish per angler- hour.

Other points from the charter boat report on 2013:

  • Charter boat angler effort (98,328 angler hours) was similar to 2012 (98,891 angler hours).
  • Charter boat sportfishing accounted for approximately 21 percent of the total fishing effort directed at salmonids in the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan prior to 1999. In recent years, charter boats have comprised 29 percent of the total angler effort for salmonids.
  • Similar to previous years, the harvest rate of anglers fishing on charter boats was approximately twice that of anglers fishing on non-chartered boats.
  • Most chartered fishing trips typically occur during May and June. The spring coho season, as typical, was extended into June. Most coho salmon (59 percent) were harvested in May.
  • The majority of Chinook salmon harvest (72 percent) was nearly evenly divided between July and August. Data from previous years indicated that coho salmon harvests are usually highest in spring, while other salmonids are more equally represented in the late-summer harvests.
  • Approximately 55 percent of the salmonids were harvested from Grid 2302, which is off the shores of Zion and Waukegan.
  • About 51 percent of the fishing effort focused in the same area (Grid 2302).
  • The highest harvest rate (68 fish per 100 angler-hours) occurred in Grids 2406, located about 35-40 miles offshore from Lake Forest and Highland Park, and 2502, located near shore off of Glencoe. 

However, relatively few fish were harvested from those grids and effort was limited. 

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