LINCOLN PARK — You see them lined up around the Lincoln Park lagoon this time of year, aggressively trying to snag salmon. And it's legal, from now until the end of the year.
The form of fishing, which is banned altogether in many states, is allowed annually from Oct. 1 to the end of the year at the Lincoln Park lagoon south of Fullerton Parkway and in the inner and outer harbors of Jackson Park on the South Side.
Anglers equip themselves with stout, stiff rods on the order of a broomstick, thick lines and weighted, grappling-like treble hooks in an attempt to hook chinook and coho salmon in the belly, spine, tail — wherever.
There's no attempt to entice the fish to bite hooked bait or to strike at a lure. It's just an attempt to snag anything in the path of that treble hook — either by chance or by sight when anglers spot salmon in the shallows. Thus the signature jerking of the fishing rod in an attempt to set the hook.
"Yeah, I like it a lot," said Dionicao Gutierrez, a Six Corners resident who fishes year-round and snags during snagging season.
"I prefer normal fishing," Gutierrez said, "but you have to do something special" when the opportunity presents itself.
The thinking behind the practice is that salmon come into the shallows in the fall to spawn and then die. They're not feeding, and they're going to die anyway, so the sportsman's idea of fair play is that it's reasonable to take them by any means. It's been a common practice since salmon were introduced into Lake Michigan in the '60s and '70s.
It's legal in season, albeit just in the Lincoln Park lagoon and in Jackson Park in Chicago. It requires no extra license, just a fishing license with a salmon stamp as with fishing for coho or chinook any other time of the year in Lake Michigan.
The sunny, hot weather to open October, however, discouraged the fish from coming into the shallows. Gutierrez hadn't had any luck Monday, and said he hadn't seen anyone do any better.
Still, he's said he's taken a 32-pound salmon by snagging in the past, and the season should heat up as the weather cools.