Charter Fishing Adventures on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Kenosha Wisconsin Charter Fishing Outing

IMG_3707.jpgI stood at the stern of Fourever - a charter boat - taking in a cool foggy summer morning on Lake Michigan. With the beautiful Kenosha Harbor out of view, an eerie quiet came over all the passengers as we strained our necks to watch the Western sky. A rouge weather front wash pushing rapidly across the lake, filling the sky and our minds with grey doubt. Then as quickly as it the front came on, it was gone. I was left with a sense of awe realizing just how small I am on this gorgeous lake. My adventure for the day was just beginning.

I was asked to join a group for a charter fishing trip with the Kenosha Charter Boat Association. Our Captain, Russ Ruegger, assured us that this is the last we would see of the fog, and sure enough… minutes after we feared being stuck in a rain storm, the sky lines from Chicago to Milwaukee became mildly visible. Before the poles go into the water, I looked over the crystal blue, glassy sheen resonating off  the lake, and take an inventory of the local landmarks, share stories with the captain, his crew, and the new friends around me. More than a dozen miles from shore, we are ready to rock!

Capt. Russ shared that in his 17 years as a charter boat fisherman, he has only had three days where he hasn’t caught a fish. Almost immediately after casting our lines (which Capt. Russ did for us while we ate breakfast on the boat), the rod nearly plunges into the water and Russ barks out a loud “Fish on!” That was the signal - I scrambled over to the rod and start to reel in what I could only assume is a 90-foot-long fish, because nothing is budging and I was reeling for what seemed like FOREVER (Was this where the boat got its name?!). Russ, with his dry humor, only smirks - “You didn’t think this would be easy, did you?” After two or three minutes, the fish finally comes near the surface, and suddenly the knowledge of my aching back and shoulder fade away. Pure adrenaline kicks in. I want this fish more than ever! Little by little, I reel in a medium sized lake trout. (It felt like a lake record in size… Russ assured me it wasn’t. Ha!)

IMG_3701.jpgOver the next five hours, we take in a spattering of fish - more than enough for each person to enjoy later at our planned lunch. The Fourever crew and passengers share plenty of success/failures , fishing superstitions and laughs. Despite the confusion over my strength and abilities this isn’t my first fishing charter outing, but I am blown away at the friendliness and attentiveness that was offered by the Kenosha Charter Boat Association – a bit different than the charter I had gone out on. The standard with this group is to set up the poles, help reel in and net the fish, and clean the fish on the way back to the harbor. While out on the water, the Captain and crew help as much or as little as the group wants – which is nice. In this case, we did all the hard work of reeling and Russ helped to net the fish into the boat.

After we filled the cooler with fish, we headed back to the Kenosha Harbor - waving at envious fisherman and people enjoying HarborPark as we trek back up the channel. The sun was shining down onto what came to be a very beautiful and successful day on the lake. Many of the other local charter boats are bringing in folks after a morning on the water, and as we pulled back into the marina we spotted some additional boats prepping a new group to head out for the afternoon. People on the docks shared stories with each other, explain how their lake trout was  90-inches-long (Seriously, I swear it was! Ha!), and haul their fresh caught fish from the boat back to their cars.

IMG_9965.jpgWhat I would consider enough fun for one day was just part of the adventure, though. Our group then headed to the Boat House Pub & Eatery - which is situated overlooking the Simmons Island Marina. I sat with my fellow fishermen(women) and enjoyed drinks and a fully prepared lunch with the fresh caught Coho Salmon, Lake Trout, and King Salmon that we had just caught. The fish was prepared three different ways and served with fries and coleslaw! It was the perfect reward for the hard work we put in. We even saved some of our fresh filets to take home and grill another time, and more yet was left at the Boat House to smoke for us. It was like the fish multiplied once it was cleaned! Between the two boats that our group occupied, we caught more than 20 fish!

Beyond the service at the Boat House, two members of our fishing party were local chefs. They took fresh fish back to their kitchens and created recipes to share with people who catch Lake Michigan fish in the future. Chef Erica Buskirk of Twisted Cuisine prepared a Summer Orzo Salad with Grilled Coho Salmon and Chef James Shields of Mangia Wine Bar prepared a Pan-Seared Coho Salmon with Broccoli Risotto. I enjoyed grilling the fresh filets and sharing my experiences with my family that evening, too. I can’t wait to head back out on Lake Michigan to chase more fish. Maybe next time I’ll get that 90-inch-long Salmon!                  

Allen Radeck

Community Blogger

Proud Kenosha convert of seven years. Father, husband, and math teacher. Part-time naturalist. Full-time bad movie and sub sandwich aficionado.