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Chicago’s Gold Coast has nothing to do with carp. It’s actually the high-rent district along the lakeshore.
Depending on whom you ask, there are different explanations of the name. A lot of the city’s up-and-coming business executives attribute the name with the expense of the area and their lustful desire for a lake-view condo.
I believe the name derives from the beautiful glow projected off the strung-together-line skyscrapers as the sun rises over the lake and beats down on the buildings.
Either way, carp are an afterthought to almost everyone.
It only takes a single trip to Navy Pier to realize there are a lot of carp in the water. Like at many amusement parks around the country, the scavengers school in large groups to wait for offerings flung into the water by passing tourists.
Most look at these fish from crinkled faces, uttering insults like “eww” or “gross.” A fly fisherman who knows a thing or two about carp, though, stares in awe with a dropped jaw.
Austin Adduci is a native Chicagoan. It’s hard for some to imagine a “southsider” trying to make a living as a fly fishing guide. He is doing it. And because of his creativity and ability to successfully fish for multiple species throughout a diverse area, he’s doing it well. Carp happen to be one of his specialties.
Adduci starts his diverse season of fly fishing the Chicagoland Coast with carp. Before the ice is even off the south end of Lake Michigan, he is guiding clients to multiple fish days by targeting warm-water discharges.
You won’t find any of these in the downtown area, but in northwest Indiana there are a few associated with steel mills.
Sorry, but their exact locations won’t be revealed in this article, but a little research should reward your work.
Warm-water discharges are the ultimate melting pot. You never know what you’re going to find at one of these locations on any given day.
You’ll know the carp are there because you’ll see them up and rolling on the surface. Imagine your attraction to an outdoor hot tub in the middle of winter. I assume it’s a similar sensation for the fish.
From April through June, once the cohos have moved offshore, it’s to the beach where carp are now stacked up staging to spawn. This happens from Chicago to Michigan City. You have to scout and look for fish, but once you find them, you should find a lot.
These fish are big and aggressive. The average carp this time of the year is going 20 pounds, and once in a while a 30-pound fish is going to put a hurting on your forearm. What’s most fun about the beach fishing is that it’s a sight fishing game. You target specific fish.
If you have never fished carp in the shallows of Lake Michigan before, it’s an absolute thrill. You want to target fish that are cruising. So you pick out a moving fish, then lay a cast out in front them, while trying to visualize the path you imagine they’ll take.
You have to lay your fly a good ways out in front of them, because if you place it too close they’ll spook. If it all comes together and the carp cruise toward your fly, wait until it’s within a couple of feet and then short strip a few times, quick. Then let it settle. If you see a big bugle mouth open up, count to three and strip set.
Fishing the beach at a time of the year when it should seem like your own private place for fish that will take you into your backing is an incredible opportunity, yet very few people do it. I seriously suggest you consider giving spring carpin’ a try.
The window doesn’t stay open long. After the carp are done spawning they spread out up and down the beach for the remainder of the summer, making them tougher to find.
See you down the trail …
Brandon Butler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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