FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Choosing a charter fishing boat is a big decision, so we want you to have all of the information you need. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we hear.
Do you have a question that’s not listed here? Drop us a line at matt@jackpotfishing.com
or call 1-800-345-0259.

Fishing License and salmon stamp
We have 1 day (Illinois) and 2 day (Wisconsin) licenses for sale on the boats. Both licenses include the salmon stamp for the day.
License cost is between $12 and $17 each depending on which state we fish and where you live.
If you already have a license, and need the great lakes salmon stamp, check with us to see which state we will be fishing and you can buy that in advance (we don’t have just the stamps for sale)
Your camera or phone for pictures
I will be taking pictures also for the website and social media.
I will be more than happy to take pictures of you, your friends and family with your catches from the day so you can post on your social media too! Ask each Captain about tagging your photos and make sure to add Jackpot Fishing Charters to every post!
Jackets and rain gear
As with any trip that you may take it is always necessary to check the weather and the forecast for the day of your Lake Michigan fishing charter. We also have enclosed cabins to get in out of the weather or sun for your comfort.
So whether it is hot or cold or the occasional windy rainy day on the lake I will do my best so you may more enjoy your outing.
Non-slip shoes
The Jackpot’s are outfitted with a special slip resistant flooring that helps you to keep your footing while you are aboard the boat. It is generally agreed upon by most people that tennis/running shoes and most sandals with a soft rubber sole is the ideal footwear. As opposed to dress shoes or hard soled boots.
Lunch and Drinks
Feel free to bring anything you’d like to eat or drink. There is room aboard for your cooler.
Cooler (for transporting fish)
It is not necessary to bring a large cooler for your fish aboard. We have adequate space to store your catch and keep them on ice. At the end of your trip your fish will be bagged. Fish cleaning is available during your charter.

We have 1 day (Illinois) and 2-day (Wisconsin) fishing licenses available on the boat, (Salmon stamps are included) The cost is between $12 and $17 each depending on which state we fish in and where your residency,
Kids under 16 do not need licenses!

If you wish to purchase your fishing license online then please follow the directions below.

Be sure to check with Captain Matt on the day prior to your charter BEFORE PURCHASING YOUR LICENSE to see if you will need an Illinois or Wisconsin fishing license. (We do not sell Salmon stamps – just the 1 and 2 day licenses that include the salmon stamp)

CLICK HERE to here to purchase your ILLINOIS license online.
Please note that you will need a 1 day Lake Michigan Fishing License (Salmon Stamp is included)

CLICK HERE here to purchase your WISCONSIN license online.
Please note that you will need a 2 day Lake Michigan Fishing License (Salmon Stamp is included)

YES!!! The Jackpot is the perfect place to take kids fishing. The action is fast, so they won’t get bored. The boat is huge, so there is plenty of room for them to occupy themselves while it’s Dad or Mom’s turn to land a big one.

Our boats are equipped with rod holders on the back of the boats to make it easier for kids to hold the rods, so youngsters (and adults) don’t get tired too easily.

We absolutely love kids and nothing lights me up more than to help a youngster land the fish of a lifetime!

Choosing a great charter is not really that hard if you just look for a few things and ask a couple of easy questions. Knowing what to look for and what questions to ask will probably make your choice very easy.

Is your Captain a full-time fisherman?

Most charter captains are part time fisherman who hold regular jobs and do this on the weekends or free days. Some are excellent fisherman, but quite honestly, being on the water every day offers advantages to full-time captains that there simply is no substitute for.

You’re much more likely to get a competent and productive trip from a Captain who fishes full time.
We fish full-time from April 1st until October 31st.

Does your Captain offer a guarantee to catch fish?

If he doesn’t, ask yourself, “why not?” I guarantee that you will catch fish, or I’ll have you back for free. We catch fish every day!

Are rates a good indication of quality?

Quite honestly, most times yes.
Like all things in life, you get what you pay for…The busier a Captain is, the more likely it is that his rates will be higher. Captains get that busy by providing clients with an excellent all around experience on the water. It’s not just about catching numbers of fish, it’s about making the whole day fun, and a part of that is the quality of the catch.

Although the price isn’t always an indicator of the quality of experience, it’s a pretty good guideline. You need to decide for yourself if the price is the most important issue, or is it the quality that you are looking for. Getting a Captains license has nothing to do with fish catching ability or the quality of the experience you will have aboard that captain’s boat.

How long is your trip on the water?

Captains have different ways of assessing their times. Just because it says it is a six-hour charter, the actual time you spend fishing may differ quite drastically.

Some captains start the clock while you are filling out licenses in the slip and then come back in time to clean fish before your 6 hours are up. Other captains start the clock when you pull out of the slip and arrive back at the slip at the end of 6 hours.

Jackpot Fishing Charters spends the entire time of your charter on the water.

Your charter aboard the Jackpot begins when we leave the slip and ends when we pull back in the slip.

How important is the boat?

Although the boat isn’t as important as the captain, it’s still an integral part of your total fishing experience. The two most important aspects of a fishing boat are the size and the condition.

The size of the boat is relative to your comfort, it’s seaworthiness and space.Although boats under 32 feet can catch fish, and smaller groups of 4 or less may have enough room, they will generally bounce around a bit more and be less stable and comfortable.

The 33 to 36 foot class of fishing boats are considered the cream of the crop when it comes to comfort, stability, ride, and plenty of room to make your excursion the most enjoyable possible. The heavier the boat, called displacement in nautical terms, the better it will generally ride. Typical displacements for larger boats are 16,000 to 24,000 pounds.

Chris Craft boats like the Jackpot and Trojan Yachts like the Jackpot II have been the benchmark for large sportfishing boats for over forty years – Unlike many charter boats which are pleasure boats modified for fishing.

The Jackpot and Jackpot II were designed specifically for fishing, and to ride comfortably in all seas, at the speeds required for trolling.

Both boats have been completely refurbished, from all new electronics, auto-pilot, down-riggers, rods, reels, and tackle to being re-powered with 2 brand new high output marine engines.  The Jackpot and Jackpot II are actually in better condition, with superior equipment than the day they came from the factory.

All the equipment aboard the Jackpot is the absolute best that the marine industry has to offer.

Coho salmon
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 reds (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 weigh 5 to 10 pounds before spawning.

Up to 75% of the salmonoids 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.

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 to find their preferred water temperature. Coho may be found in water temperatures from 45 to 60 degrees F., with a peak feeding temperature at 54 degrees F.

Chinook salmon

Chinook Salmon are 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.

rainbow trout

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 salmon (coho and chinook )

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 weighs about 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 fishing for rainbow.

brown trout

The most distinguishing characteristics of the Brown Trout include large black and sometimes reddish-orange spots with a pale border on the sides of the fish. These spots are modified when the fish is large.  The food of the adult brown includes terrestrial and aquatic insects, worms, crayfish and fish. Brown trout spawn in late autumn at the gravelly headwaters of streams.

They grow rapidly and may live to an age of six years and reach weights of eight to ten pounds. Some may reach 30 pounds in Lake Michigan. Brown trout prefer water temperatures between 55 degrees and 65 degrees F. and are typically found in near shore waters. This wary fish can be taken more readily in early morning and twilight hours. Light line is in order using conventional lures or natural baits. Shore fishing methods are similar to the rainbow trout.

lake trout
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 diet 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. 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 stay 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.

6 passengers plus the crew is the maximum allowed on all charter boats. Regardless of age or whether they are fishing or not, 6 passengers is the maximum allowed by federal regulation.

Yes,
beer, wine etc. are allowed.
Non breakable containers are strongly recommended.

No, but you are welcome to bring whatever you would like to eat or drink.
Yes, fish cleaning is available. Fish can be cleaned and bagged to take home. I recommend bringing a cooler and ice to take your fish home – you can leave this cooler in your vehicle, we have coolers on board to keep the fish fresh while we are fishing.
This depends on which species you are looking to catch and whether you are looking for numbers or size. The following is a seasonal summary of the area fishing season based on the last several years’ results.

APRIL
We begin fishing Salmon on April 1st, and Coho Salmon action is usually hot right from the start, with a mix of some Brown and Rainbow Trout. A typical catch would be 20-30 fish, most of which are 3-5 lbs. coho’s. Towards the end of April, Steelhead (Rainbows) will also figure into the catch.

April and May are great months to bring the kids, as the action is fast, and the Coho Salmon are more manageable than the bigger fish we’ll catch on charters later in the year.

MAY
Features more Coho action with most days producing limit catches. Many Steelhead and some Brown Trout and Lake Trout are caught. The Coho Salmon average 3-7 lbs. and the Lake Trout range from 4-30 lbs. This is some of the most exciting charter fishing available in freshwater. The majority of the Rainbow trout are taken on the surface and once hooked they often spend more time in the air than in the water

JUNE
Typically in early June, Lake Trout begin to migrate more toward the “hill” in front of the harbor and fast Coho and Steelhead action continues in our offshore waters and King Salmon begin to show up near shore. While Lake Trout average 8-15 lbs. it is not uncommon to tie into a 25 or even 30 lb. monster!!

Average sizes of Coho Salmon increase dramatically as the season progresses and by the end of the month, Coho’s in in excess of 10 lbs. are common. We also begin to catch King Salmon (Chinooks) in June. Limit catches occur frequently, and the weather is predictably nice!

JULY, AUGUST, and SEPTEMBER
If it’s trophy King Salmon you’re after, this is the time to come! These tackle busting monsters are in a full-scale feeding frenzy as they prepare to spawn, and can usually be found within sight of our harbor.

This charter period also features some of the best fishing in terms of quantity, quality, and variety.

The largest fish of the year are often taken as are some of the heaviest catches. The types of fish include Kings Salmon (Chinooks), Steelhead, Brown Trout, and Coho Salmon. Big Lake Trout can also be found in abundance. The weather is generally very nice and the fishing is exciting, King Salmon and Steelhead are the target species, but on many days all five species can be found schooled together. The size of fish can range between 6-30 lbs.

OCTOBER
This is the time for hardcore trophy hunters. Limits are usually made up of Lake Trout and Brown Trout, and once in a lifetime trophies are taken regularly. We will also catch 3-year-old (8-15 lb.) King Salmon, and occasionally late spawning 4-year-old Kings. Fish over 20 pounds are a daily occurrence in October, and charter action is consistent.