Anglers chasing the Holy Grail of double-digit weight northern pike may not have to travel to the farthest reaches of Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin or prowl the Canadian wilderness lakes region.
In recent years some heavyweight northern pike have been landed by intrepid city-bound fishermen probing the shoreline of Lake Michigan right in Chicago’s harbors.
A recent report in the Chicago Sun Times highlights a giant pike caught Oct. 16 from Chicago’s Belmont Harbor by angler Roman Owerko. The massive, tooth-studded fish was taken to Chicago’s famed Henry’s Sports and Bait, where the fish was officially weighed and measured.
The oversize northern weighed 20.2-pounds on certified scales and measured 41-inches long.
“My wife bought me some nice articulating lures,” Owerko told the Sun Times. “He (the pike) actually chewed the lure. He swallowed it big-time.”
After work on Oct. 16, Owerko and friend Marco Chorne headed to Lake Michigan’s Belmont Harbor (on Chicago’s north side, near Lincoln Park) casting lures for pike.
Owerko hooked the fish, drew it close, and Chorne did the fish netting honors.
“Marco is a good net man,” says Owerko.
Big pike are not common catches along Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline, but they’re not unprecedented either.
“There has been an increase in pike catches in the recent decade compared to earlier years, and catches were highest back around 2012-2014,” reported Vic Santucci, Illinois’ Lake Michigan manager for DNR in an email to the Sun Times. Catches are a bit lower now, but still higher than in previous decades.
“Higher water clarity allowing submersed aquatic vegetation to grow in the harbors in recent times is likely a contributing factor to higher numbers and larger sizes of these wily ambush predators,” Santucci emailed. “We have also caught young-of-year pike during our (fish) sampling, which likely indicates some natural reproduction is happening in the harbors, although catches of young pike remain low.”
Santucci says his DNR creel survey teams have measured some large pike along the Chicago Lake Michigan shore, which validates the fishing reports for anglers hooking, fighting and catching large and prized northerns.
“Numbers (of pike) have increased compared to earlier decades,” Santucci says. “Pike are a native predator that add diversity to the near-shore Lake Michigan sport fish community and fishery.”
The Sun Times reports that Owerko previously caught a 19-pound, 11.5-ounce pike from Chicago’s Diversey Harbor in Oct. 2006, where it also was weighed at Henry’s, a Chicago city fishing landmark for nearly 70 years.
The Illinois record pike was caught by Walter Klenzak from Kankakee County’s Monster lake in Nov. 1989.
Owerko is having the head of his recent 20-pound pike mounted by a taxidermist, and the fish flesh has been staked and ready for smoking.
“I went home and gave my wife a kiss and a hug: ‘Thanks for giving me the lures’,” Owerko said.