The coho salmon, also know as the silver salmon can be distinguished by the fine dark spots on the back and upper lobe of the tail fin, the long anal fin and gray gums. Coho feed primarily on alewives, smelt, and other small fish. Adult coho spawn during the fall in riffle areas of streams in redds (nests of gravel) which the females construct. After spawning is completed they die. Normally, coho have a three year life cycle; however, a few males will return to spawn at two years of age and are known as "jacks". Occasionally some coho may live to the age of four; these fish are the 20 pound coho that are caught infrequently in Lake Michigan. The average mature fall coho salmon will weight 5 to 6 pounds before spawning. Up to 75% of the salmonids caught annually in the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan are coho salmon. Because this species dies after spawning and the recruitment from stream spawning is very limited, an annual stocking program is necessary. In Illinois coho are reared in an accelerated fashion and in 6 months are stocked as 5-6 inch long fish in the spring. Due to the lack of clean, cool streams salmon do not reproduce in Illinois. Shoreline fishermen are generally successful fishing for this species in the spring, using power lines and pole and line baited with nitecrawlers, small alewives or strips of large alewives and small spoons. Snagging for mature coho is permitted in selected locations during the fall months (snagging is illegal in Wisconsin and many other areas, check your local regulations). Trolling offshore in April, May and June is most productive when using spoons, plugs, spinners and flies and squids preceded by dodgers. Even whole alewife and smelt can be successful when trolled. Coho prefer temperatures in the mid-50s F. and generally are found nearer the surface than chinook. After 60 degrees F. coho tend to go deeper or lakeware in finding their preferred temperature. Coho may be found in water temperatures from 45 to 60 degrees F., with a peak feeding temperature at 54 degrees F.
The rainbow trout is distinguished by its white mouth, black spots and entire tail and its 12 or fewer anal fin rays. The rainbow and the steelhead are the same species, differing only in spawning behavior. The rainbow spends its entire life in streams, whereas the steelhead is anadromous in that it migrates to a stream to spawn after living in the ocean or a large lake. Rainbow trout feed on insects and fish. Many spawn in early spring with eggs laid in gravel at the head of a riffle area, but some are fall spawners. Rainbow trout as well as other trout do not normally die after spawning, like Pacific salmon (coho, chinook and pink). Rainbow prefer water temperatures of 55-60 degrees F. They are known as great migrators or wanderers. Some rainbow reach a hefty 16 pounds at age six, although the average rainbow caught averages five pounds. The largest caught to date in Illinois weighed 24 pounds and 13 ounces. May, June, July and August are the best months for boat fishing for rainbow. Bank fishermen catch rainbows in the spring, casting small lures or using bait such as small alewives, nitecrawlers and spawn sacs. Winter fishing for rainbow is good in the power plant warm water discharges and they are occasionally taken while ice fishing in harbor.
The lake trout also known as laker, can be distinguished by its white mouth, irregular whitish spots on the back and sides, deeply forked tail and a white leading edge on the lower fins.
The good of adult lake trout consists of fish, insects and small invertebrates. Sexually mature adults weight 6 to 7 pounds at about 6 years of age. Lake trout may live 20 years or longer and attain weights of 30 pounds or more. They are usually found on the bottom between depths of 90 to 250 feet, but may be found at lesser depths when the water temperature is near 48 degrees F. Generally, lake trout are caught only from boats in Illinois.
The lake trout in Lake Michigan have been maintained by an annual stocking program since 1965 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with hopes of reestablishing a naturally reproducing population. Lake trout disappeared in Lake Michigan in the early 1950s due to the ravages of the sea lamprey and an intensive commercial fishery.
During the spring months, lake trout can be taken in the upper layers of warmer water, but as the season progresses and water temperatures go above 48 degrees F., lake trout are normally taken near the bottom. During the summer months (July-September) they tend to occur near the bottom where temperatures are between 45 and 50 degrees F. During the fall months mature lake trout move into shallow waters and reef areas in search of spawning areas.
Shiny metal spoons are successful lake trout lures when fished properly. Certain salmon lures and flies in combination with a dodger also are effective. Lake trout feed on alewives, smelt, chubs and sculpins.
The chinook salmon is also known as the king salmon. It is distinguished by dark spotting on the back and usually on both lobes of the tail, a long anal fin and teeth set in black gums.
Chinook feed primarily on fish such as alewives and smelt. Most Chinook have a four-year life span. Mature Chinook spawn similarly to coho salmon, then die. A portion of a year class of Chinooks may return before the normal four years to spawn.
Some Chinook may live longer than 4 years and reach 40 pounds or more.
The elusive Chinook is typically found in deep water except when it starts its fall spawning run into rivers and/or harbors. For this reason the bank fishermen's catch of the Chinook is restricted to early fall, casting with lures and snagging during the latter fall period (check local and state snagging regulations) . The Chinook run usually peaks before the coho run.
The Chinook fishery is maintained by annual stocking because it does not reproduce in adequate numbers in Lake Michigan tributaries. Chinook spend about 6 months in the hatchery until they are stocked as 2-3 inch long fingerlings each spring.
Chinook tend to prefer warm temperatures in the mid-50s and seem to be more light sensitive and harder to catch than coho. Chinook are active in water temperatures from 45 to 60 degrees F. with a peak feeding temperature at 54 degrees F.
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