Venue Information


Lincoln Park Lagoon and Lincoln Park Zoo Pond




Lincoln Park Zoo, Fullerton Parkway and Canon Drive, Chicago, IL


Easy to reach from pretty much any area expressway. Simply drive into Chicago and join up with Lake Shore Drive. The Lincoln Park Zoo lot is located at Fullerton and Cannon Drive. Exit LSD at Fullerton Parkway, the zoo parking lot is just two blocks west on the south side of the street.


NOTE: The Zoo parking lot charges a $12 per day fee, although anglers arriving early may avoid this charge, as the lot's employees typically do not begin collecting fees before ~7:00 am.








Lincoln Park Zoo Pond: The pond is approximately 5 acres in size and has a maximum depth of around 5 feet. Being situated in the zoo, the pond has a path encompassing its perimeter which can, in turn, be subject to heavy pedestrian, bike and rollerblade traffic. Anglers wishing for a more tranquil angling experience are recommended to fish from the grass banks on the venue's eastern shoreline.


The best fishing areas seem to be are towards the south side of the pond (i.e. south of the bridge and away from the paddle boat rental area!). Most spots throw up decent numbers of bluegill, goldfish and carp, while the southeast corner of the venue is best known for holding good numbers of catfish.


The pond  can become crowded with paddle boaters from ~11:00 am until ~5:00 pm during the Summer. Thus, anglers should consider fishing the pond either late or early so avoid such complications. Most baits work well, especially corm for the carp and spikes for the gills. All manor of baits seem to work for the stocked cats (see below reports).



Lincoln Park Lagoon: The lagoon is a linear,  ~20 acre strip of water that connects to lake Michigan through Diversy harbor. It has a maximum depth of around four feet and is subject to a cyclic 'in' and 'out ' tidal flow of around twenty minutes in duration. The depth of water in the lagoon fluctuates in depth by several inches during each cycle.


Being connected to the lake, the lagoon can, and is, home to a diverse number of fish species throughout the year. Most notably, carp venture into the lagoon to spawn in early to mid may, exiting again in early summer. During this time 4 hour match weights in excess of 100 pounds are possible, with single fish in excess of 20 pounds often captured.


The most consistent tactic for carp at the lagoon is to fish on the bottom, over groundbait, at around 20 feet out from the bank. Carp seem to hug the nearside shelf of the venue, possibly because the flow is least strong here, as this is where they are most often caught. Corn and maggot baits work well for the carp, while  maggots will also temp perch, trout, shiners and, of course, the dreaded gobies(!).



Lincoln Park Zoo site
Chicago Paddling and Fishing

View of the Lincoln Park Lagoon and Zoo pond (courtesy of Terraserver )

Depth Map of the Lincoln Park Lagoon (courtesy Chicago Paddling and Fishing)

Close up satellite shot of the Lincoln Park Zoo Pond

MAC Founder John Wilkins with a fine bag of goldfish from the Pond

Bankfisher's own Pat Mills with a nice trio of carp from the Lagoon



Venue Ratings






Good. Good numbers of very large fish (well to double figures), excellent access, pleasant surroundings and above average facilities make both the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lagoon very good venues. The only possible negative is the $12 per day parking fee.



Good. Good numbers of 'exotic' goldfish, stocked cats, carp and bluegill make the pond a great choice for bankanglers looking for fast and varied action; while the lagoon offers some of Chicagoland's best big carp action during the Spring and early Summer.


Excellent.  Lincoln Park Zoo is situated just off Lake Shore Drive on the near north side of Chicago, so is within easy distance of most area expressways. The pond itself has a paved path around most its perimeter, although anglers are recommended to fish from the grassy areas if possible, as pedestrian traffic can be high. The lagoon is close to the parking lot, with only a short walk across grass to the waters edge required. The distance to the water's surface from the top of the lagoon wall is around 6 feet, so anglers should come prepared with long handled landing nets.



Good. The venue has ample parking, which can fill quickly during summer weekends. The Zoo itself is has no entry fees, so anglers may take advantage of it's restaurants, restrooms etc., all of which are a short walk from both the pond and lagoon.

Pat’s notes:  I've fished both the lagoon and the pond several times now during various competitions held there (see below). The pond offers a great sport for cats, goldfish and bluegill, although it can become crowded with paddle boaters from ~11:00 am until ~5:00 pm during the Summer. Thus, anglers should consider fishing the pond either late or early so avoid such complications. Most baits work well, especially corn for the carp and spikes for the gills. All manor of baits seem to work for the stocked cats, which often seem to shoal up around the venue's southeastern shoreline.

The lagoon fishes best from mid May through to late June, as carp from the main lake seek out it's shelter for spawning. Pre-spawn bags of carp from the lagoon consistently approach, and occasionally exceed, the magical 100 pound mark, with single fish in excess of 20 pounds often captured. Corn or spikes work well for the carp.


Venue Reports


6/4/05 MAC L2 match - twice in one day!


The 'L2' is an exhilarating, mini-marathon of an angling event - it features two separate matches fished back to back on Lincoln Park Zoo's two venues, namely the Pond and the Lagoon ("L2", get it?!). The first match was fished on the pond, while the second event of the day was fished on the Lagoon. It sounds grueling but, perhaps surprisingly, it was not. This is because each match was shortened to 3 hours, while a good sized break for lunch was inserted between the two fixtures.



Match 1: MAC's John Wilkins, the match organizer, had smartly elected to have us fish the pond first, so to avoid the inevitable later disturbance from paddle boaters. We gathered for the draw at around 7:30 am and I was happy to pull peg 8 out of the hat for this, the day's first event. This put me about mid way along the match length on the 'lawn' - a nice spot adjacent to a tree facing the island. In fairness to John, most pegs (aside from the last few) faced the island, so each angler had the option of fishing ‘long’ to this feature should they so desire. I was pegged next to angling legend and recent hall of fame inductee Mick Thill on peg 7, with MAC new comer Art on peg 9. With Mick on the next peg I was going to have to fish at my best to be in with a shot of beating this legendary angler, although my confidence was reasonably high, as that was just what I'd been able to do, with a run of decent sized carp, at our last peg-to-peg encounter during the 2003 US Open at Bear Lakes.


Due to the fact that I was pegged under a tree I had something of a catch 22 situation, as the overhanging tree limbs precluded the possibility of casting either a float or a sinker rig out towards the island, thereby restricting me to the use of my pole. This was indeed a shame, as there were some very large fish crashing around under the island's bankside vegetation! Having said that, the tree did provide a nice 'fishy looking' feature to my immediate left. Upon plumbing the area in front and to both sides of me I found an even 4 feet or so of depth all the way out to the limit of my pole (11.5 meters). I fed two spots with sweet groundbait and corn - one out in front at 11.5 meters, with the other directly beneath the branch of a tree to my left at around 8 meters. Since the pond has a reputation of throwing up good sized numbers of larger carp, my rig reflected this fact, being tied to a stout 6 pound test line and featuring a strong size 14 hook for my corn or bunch of maggots hook bait.


The carp had obviously not read the script(!), as most anglers with island swims, including myself, were finding the fish hard to catch at pole range during the early stages of the competition. Having said that, the pond's gills were active and I was able to catch large numbers close to shore while waiting for the larger fish to show. Regular loose feeding of spikes at around 2 - 3 meters was the key, with only a couple of gills showing over my two groundbaited areas. Regular sorties out to these carp lines produced some timid bites later in that match, which turned out to be from goldfish in the 1 - 2 pound range. I landed one of these and lost two others from the 11.5 m line, no goldfish, and very few gills, were (perhaps surprisingly) captured from beneath the tree. My final weight of around 9.5 pounds put me in the middle of the pack - Dara and John (who had drawn on the narrower section of the lake) did very well with the goldfish, while Brian Moran ran away with the match with a top weight (26.13) comprised of mostly catfish - great job Brain, way to go! Mick, who fished the long pole for the entire match, finished with a mere 2.11 pounds - the fish in his area were obviously beyond pole range for the majority of the match, which should, perhaps, not have come as a surprise as peg 7 was situated in a small shallow bay. This is in itself makes for an interesting observation / lesson, as the long pole, which typically out-fishes any other method(s) better than nine times out of ten, was not effective in this case. Hindsight, which is 20/20 of course(!), suggests that fishing long may have been the way to go from Mick's peg, but I guess we'll never know. Either way, I was very satisfied with my result, which now put Mick and mine's peg-peg record at 2-0 in my favor! 



Match 2: Match 2 took place on the lagoon but, due to the fact that the finish line of the previous days Chicago marathon was in the process of being taken down, was unavoidably split into two disproportionately sized sections. Section 1, which only held three anglers, was some 50 yards south of the main section which, in turn, housed the remainder of the field. I drew peg 3 out of the hat at the draw, which put me at the end of the 'mini-section'. Brian (the winner of match one) drew peg one with Mick Thill, once again my next door neighbor, on peg two. "Not again!" was the thought running through my head - beating Mick off an admittedly bad pole peg is one thing, but beating the hall of famer twice in one day off the next peg seemed like a statistical improbability! Could lightening strike twice in one day?


I'd fished the lagoon a couple of times before so had a good idea of what to expect. During my previous visits (see below reports) some very large carp had been caught just over the marginal shelf. Thus, I made up a strong pole rig - 6.12 line tied to a heavy gauge size 14 hook, all fished under a 0.75 gram carp float. The elastic in my pole was also stepped up to a 12-20, as in previous experience had shown that the lagoon's carp, which run to upwards of 20 pounds, tend to pull a bit! The thing with the lagoon is, it’s either feast or famine where the carp are concerned, with the first person to connect with the ‘big boys’ usually winning the match. Thus, I heavily groudbaited two swims, one out in front, just over the shelf at ~ 5 meters, with the other at the full length of my pole (11.5 meters) to my left, but again just over the shelf. This approach gave me two swims, in the catching zone, separated by 7 meters or so. This is a standard matchfishers’ trick, as if one swim dies or needs to be rested (after ‘bumping’ a fish for example) the other can be plundered. As the starting whistle sounded, the waiting game (for me at least) began. In contrast, Mick had opted for a small fish attack right from the start and was connecting with bluegill and the occasional small carp pretty regularly. Such a sight can cause panic (and most often does) among competitive anglers, as seeing ones neighbor pull out fish after fish, even if they are on the smaller side, can really test ones metal. To make matters worse, Mick typically thinks out loud when fishing: “that’s what they want”, “that’s a bonus (carp)” etc., which piles on the pressure even more. This unique form of torture continued for a couple of hours before the inevitable happened – the big carp showed up. The first angler to connect with fish in our mini-section was Brian on peg 1. Unfortunately, Brian suffered a run of bad luck and lost a good fraction of his fish. I really felt for him, as he had them ‘right there’ but was really suffering. Believe it or not, this is often par for the course at the lagoon as the fish get very large and, to use a baseball analogy, batting better than .500 against the resident monsters is generally considered pretty good going. With Brian doing battle with his third or forth hooked carp, with, unfortunately none yet landed, Mick’s float slide under and his first ‘whale’ was on the hook. This fish must have been big, as it shattered the top section of Mick’s pole! These fish are scary.


With Brain, and then Mick, connecting with big fish it seemed clear that the carp were moving down the venue in my direction, so it was with a pounding heart and clenched teeth that I struck into something very large a few minutes after Mick had lost his ‘beast’. Unfortunately, and in common with my section mates, the fish got the better of me. However, and luckily for me, I managed to retrieve the rig unscathed after a mere hook pull. It was time to rest the swim and try the second groundbaited area out to my left. No bites after 15 minutes or so implied that the fish were indeed traveling through the section, but had likely stopped to feed on my primary line. Sure enough, first cast back ‘out front’ resulted in yet another lost fish – we were all starting to pull our hair out at this stage! Cutting to the chase, Brain and I hooked around seven carp each, with Brain landing one, three for me, but no more ‘subs’ for Mick. The weigh-in proved just how big these fish can get, with my 3 carp and ‘bits’ pulling the scale around to 30 pounds, Brain’s one big carp and assorted small fish came in at 11.2 pounds, while Mick’s smaller carp and pan fish tipped the scales at 23.2 pounds. Further down the bank, in the larger second section, action had been hectic around the ‘depression’ (a slightly deeper area, see above depth profile) with Max F and Dara F bagging impressive bags of 70.2 and 88.7 pounds respectively. While my weight of 30 pounds was good enough for best in section and forth overall, I was more than satisfied with another peg-to-peg victory over Mick – the second of the day! Who says lightening can’t strike twice?


Match 1 (pond) was won by Brian Moran with a near 27 pound net of mostly catfish
  Match 2 (lagoon) was won by Dara Finnigan with an impressive 88+ pound net of carp.
8/14/02 MPBA match #10 - Catfish Heaven!

The MPBA's 10th match of the season was held at the Lincoln Park Zoo pond on the near north side of Chicago. This was the first time I'd fished this particular venue and I was rather interested to check the place out. Upon arriving slightly late to the match, we discovered that Gerald had pegged the easily accessible (2 minutes easy walk from the parking lot!) southeastern bank of the lake. Quite a nice location, as we faced an island and several aeration pumps were also in operation in and around the area we were to fish. The banks in this section of the pond are also paved, forming part of the ponds perimeter path, so allowing for easy access and a level (albeit pedestrianized) surface to fish from.

I drew peg #2, which was situated towards the extreme right (NE) of the pegged sector. Since no one had drawn peg #1 I essentially occupied and end peg, although a local angler was fishing just beyond the boundary of peg #1. Next to me on peg #3 was John W., while MPBA regulars Tony W., Al S., Gerald S. and Robert H. were stretched out down the bank and occupied respectively higher numbered pegs. We all essentially faced the island, with the last angler (Robert) able to cast past the tip of the island into open water.

As is the norm for MPBA events, we were permitted to fish with two rods. I prepared two long lines - one close to the island fed with fruit flavored boilies, with the other near an aeration pump, about 3/4 of the way across. This latter line was fed with sweetcorn via a catapult. Each line was intended to attract carp, which are known to inhabit the venue. I also prepped a short 'whip' line for catching 'gills in the early stages of the competition and fed this with sloppy cloudbait and loose fed spikes. I fished the boilie line for a 'lump' throughout the entire match, swapping from the whip to the corn line for carp as the light began to fade. Despite attracting what appeared to be two bites from carp over my corn line late in the match, I failed to connect with either fish. Somewhat astonishingly, my whip line ended up as the most productive, as I managed a good number of 'gills and a solitary small catfish. No bites were forthcoming on the boilie rod.

Robert Hoskins with part of his match winning catfish bag.   Tony Williams with part of his second place catch 

Most other anglers faired much better than I. Robert. H on the distant most peg tempted seven large cats for an impressive match winning total, while Tony W. on #3 also managed a good number of these fish for second place. As it turned out, the park district had stocked the pond with catfish the previous day and these fish were obviously hungry(!). Also, the conditions for catfish were just right, as it had rained hard the previous day and the water was no doubt higher than it had been over the previous few days. Having said that, Robert and Tony put on a great performance, mostly tempting their fish with a section of chicken meat fished under a float at long range. Congratulations guys, and thanks for the catfishing lesson! John W. fished mostly at short range for 'gills, but also managed a weight boosting cat or two for a well deserved 3rd place. All in all another great day out with the MPBA - I'm certainly looking forward to our next match at Barth Pond on the 25th of August. See you there!


6/11/02 MPBA Match #5 - which Lagoon?

My summer campaign didn't get off to a very auspicious start - I was forced to miss the CBA Fox river event due to a work commitment and, due to a communication mix up, I actually ended up fishing a different venue to the MPBA angler's in their 5th match(!). Nevertheless, both I and the MPBA crew had a productive evening at the Lincoln park lagoon. I fished the section of lagoon that runs adjacent to Lake shore drive. Fishing in essentially the same spot to the Spring CBA match (see below report), I was hoping for some carp close to shore. I fished two lines, one at 6M and one at 9M, both fed with a dense sweet bottom groundbait containing corn and hemp. 'Gills in the 4 - 6 oz class were plentiful, with one a cast coming for 45 minutes or so after introducing the bait. They were taking corn (intended for carp) fished on the bottom, but would most often intercept the bait before it reached bottom. It was obvious the 'gills were spawning - several times I had a male 'gill, to use a 'Bill Danceizm', 'tinkle' on me. If I were a mass of 'gill eggs I would surely have been fertilized several times over that evening! With the 'gills intercepting the bait before it could reach bottom (and hopefully the carp), I attempted to 'feed the 'gills off' by introducing a large pot full of corn. This tactic worked and my next two takes were from carp, both of which were unfortunately either 'bumped' or had the hook pull. Things settled down later in the evening though, with a couple of carp coming to the net. I finished the session with around 8 to 10 pounds of fish in total.


5/5/02 CBA match #2,  Lincoln Park Lagoon - the long and short of it.

Lincoln Park Lagoon, situated just to the North of Chicago's famed Magnificent mile and adjacent to Lake Michigan and Lake shore drive, is not only a spectacular venue, but also a very prolific one. Due to the fact that the Lagoon connects to the lake through Diversey harbor, one can expect to encounter any of the Great lake's diverse fish population - anything from trout, and perch through to the more familiar 'gills, shiners and carp may be encountered during an outing. What would the venue throw up for the competitors taking part in CBA's match #2?

The drive to Chicago is always quite speedy early on a Sunday morning, so I arrived at the Lagoon in good time for the 8:00 am draw. Unfortunately, the booths 'guarding' the Lincoln park zoo parking lot were already manned at this time so, unlike several anglers who had arrived earlier than I, I wasn't able to sneak into the much preferred (and convenient) zoo lot for free. I managed to find a spot on the street close by though, so avoided the zoo's somewhat extortionate $9 parking fee. I made it to the draw with around 5 minutes to spare. Eight anglers had made it out to the lagoon - along with stalwarts from previous matches, it was great to see Gary Fritz for the first time this season. Having arrived last at the venue I was last to draw my peg, but was delighted when peg #1 emerged from the bucket. I was pegged next to Elise D. on #2, with Paul Wells beyond her on #3.

Fishing from peg #1 at Lincoln Park Lagoon - this has to be one of the world's most spectacular match venues, not just for the impressive views but also for the weights of fish caught.

I'd come to the match with a strict game plan. Based on previous reports I'd learned that the venue possesses some unique features. First and foremost of these is that the Lagoon flows periodically from north ('out') to south ('in') with a cyclic rate of around 20 minutes. The flow is quite strong at times, so reasonably heavy floats and dense groundbait must be employed in order to 'fish out in front' effectively. Also, the level of the water within the lagoon rises and falls by several inches during each cycle, making it difficult for the angler to stay in contact with the bottom while float fishing. With these quirks in mind, as well as an idea that perch, as well as the usual carp, 'gills and shiners, may be caught,  I adapted my approach accordingly. Five pole rigs in total were assembled, which in turn could be fished at either 11.5 or 13 meters out.


0.75g Turbo pole float,  2.10/2.2 lb line, size 6 elastic, size 20 fine wire hook - small fish rig intended for use with single maggot hookbait when the water was still or slow moving (between cycles). The turbo is a sensitive river float that can be 'held back' in slow to moderate flows.

1.5g Turbo pole float, 2.10 lb line, size 8 elastic, size 18 medium wire hook, small pole feeder - first time I tried this weird rig(!). Intended to be used with double maggot when the lagoon was moving swiftly, this float leger / river set up is fished over depth, so allowing the angler to remain in contact with the bottom at all times. When a pole feeder is used in place of a regular sinker, small amounts of bait are also continually introduced into the vicinity of the hookbait.

As above, but with a heavy gauge size 16 hook, size 10 elastic and 3.6 lb line for use with either worm or corn baits.

0.8 g Flo pole float, 3.6 line, size 12 elastic through to a size 14 heavy gauge hook - light float with thick tip (big bait) carp rig for use with corn bait between cycles. The thick tip and pronounced shoulder of this river float allows it to be held back strongly without dragging under or riding out of the water.

As above, but 1.5 g version of the float for fishing in stronger flows.


I prepared two separate feeds for introduction at 13 and 11.5 meters respectively.

13 meter line:  My 'attack' line for the match was at 13 meters. Here I introduced a dense bottom mix based around my standard recipe, but with 20% molasses and ~10% clay, sand and dirt also included. The extra ingredients ensured the mix bound together well and was heavy enough to reach the bottom without being washed away or dispersed by the strong flows. A handful each of hemp, corn and spikes were also added to the mix before feeding.

11.5 meter line:  Just in case the perch made an appearance I fed a line at 11.5 meters with chopped worm and bloodmeal, again bound together with a little clay, dirt and sand.

The match:

Following the initial five minute baiting period (in which I introduced four balls via a cup at 13 M and a cup of chopped worm mix at 11.5 M), the match started well for most competitors. I was catching small fish quickly over my attack line, while others were beginning to connect with carp and 'gils over the near shelf at around 20 feet or so out. Elise on peg two hooked, and unfortunately lost, a nice carp within the first five minutes of the competition! As the match progressed it became obvious that the carp were in a ravenous mood - up and down the match length anglers could be seen to be battling with some pretty large fish. This initial flurry of activity set the tone for the entire match, with anglers continuing to hook carp right up until the final horn. While I managed to attract a large number of smaller fish throughout the match, I only managed to hook a single larger carp. Fish were caught over both lines, with the more heavily baited 13 meter line seeming more productive. Interestingly, the small fish captured mostly comprised of fingerling lake trout, with just a few 'gills thrown in. The only carp of the day (inevitably?) fell to corn, with the smaller fish preferentially taking single or double maggot.

Caught a bunch of these :-)   Caught way too few of these :-(

Other anglers faired much better with the carp than I and generally managed several or more each. Peter Wolan finished with 16 carp to around 12 pounds and a few smaller 'bits' for a spectacular total winning weight of ~ 116 pounds, a new 4 hr. U.S. match record - congratulations Peter! Derek A. also fished well with 17 carp for a weight in the mid 90s - even though Derek caught one more carp than Peter, Peter had a few more 'sub' sized specimens. In each case these successful anglers fished corn or spikes over a dense groundbait at reasonably close range.

A nice carp nears Elise's waiting net
  Robert Wolan showing just what an be caught at close range


My initial 'game plan', which was formulated based on the assumption that carp on open waters generally tend to congregate and feed further out from the shore, wasn't effective at the Lagoon. In hindsight, it made sense that the carp were occupying the margins, as the venue's strong cyclic flows were somewhat less prevalent closer to the shore. The moral of the story, I guess, is that practice and experience will always beat out even the best formulated plans, particularly when such plans don't factor in the unique characteristics of the venue being fished. A good lesson learnt.