Ice fishing is the story with Chain O'Lakes remaining the most popular destination, but the Chicago harbors are producing decent perch.
This is the extended online version of the Midwest Fishing Report, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.
If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at email@example.com.
But let's lead with a note of caution about the ice.
The rains of several weeks ago lifted water levels, even on small lakes and ponds, but especially on those with feeder streams. The same is true on the Chain O'Lakes. Now that we had a couple weeks of brutal cold making ice while water levels are dropping, it has led to some interesting results.
Namely guys drilling holes and finding a big gap of air between the water and ice. In general, the main shell of ice in the middle finds its level, the problem areas are generally near shorelines where the ice is anchored to shore at the high water level.
That can lead to some interesting results as Russell Dingus reported from an outing on Sunday in southern Cook County.
``I work out in Tinley Park at the Southtown Star. I read your column all the time and appreciate all of the info you have on all the area lakes. I just wanted to put the word out for people to be careful out on the ice. You would think that the ice would be plenty safe with all the cold weather we have had lately But I found out Sunday that there are still some unsafe ice out there. I was fishing out at horsetail lake on Sunday when I noticed that there was about 4 inches of slush On top of the ice. I didn't think too much of it considering that there is about 10 inches of ice under the slush. I drilled about 10 holes, fishing was slow. I decided to call it a day And was about 5 feet from the shore and the next thing you know my feet were firmly planted on the bottom of the lake. Luckily the water was only about 4 feet deep and I was able To climb out. It scared the heck out of me but I had a good laugh after I thawed out. Just wanted to put the word out to my fellow fishermen, be careful out there. Thanks Russ''
Primary sources: Kolar Bait and Henry's Sports, Bait & Marine
Here is the ice fishing information for the winter of 2008-09:
CHICAGO LAGOONS: Closed to ice fishing because of liability concerns.
COOK: It's ice fish at your own risk on the designated ice-fishing lakes of the forest preserve: Arrowhead, Axehead, Beck, Belleau, Big Bend, Bode South, Bullfrog, Busse main and south, Horsetail, Ida, Maple, Papoose, Powderhorn, Saganashkee, Sag Quarry east and west, Tampier, Turtlehead and Wampum.
DuPAGE: Unless otherwise posted, it's ice fish at your own risk on forest preserve waters (4 inches of ice is recommended). Spring Creek Reservoir in Bloomingdale is closed to ice fishing (fluctuating levels). Late-night fishing is allowed at Deep Quarry Lake in Bartlett (fishermen must be out of the preserve by 11 p.m.) Ice holes are limited to 10 inches in diameter, and fishermen may only fish two holes. Only portable shelters are permitted, and must be removed when not in use. The Outdoor Report line is (630) 871-6422.
KANE: Unable as yet to confirm regs for this year.
LAKE: Forest preserve ice fishing is permitted at Banana, Independence Grove (new this year) and Sterling, when the ice is uniformly 4.5 inches thick and the area is posted as safe for fishing. Shelters must be removed by the end of the day, only two poles allowed, and holes must be drilled 6 inches or smaller. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to sunset, except an additional hour in the evening is given at Sterling. For the latest, call (847) 968-3235 or go to the ice fishing page at lcfpd.org.
MAZONIA SFWA: Monster Lake is open year-round for open-water or ice fishing, except during in-between periods of unsafe ice. All fishing, ice fishing is done at your own risk, open at Mazonia South after duck season (Dec. 24) and at Mazonia North Unit after upland game ends (Jan. 9).
McHENRY: The McHenry County Conservation District allows ice fishing 8 a.m. to sunset at the Fel-Pro RRR, the Hollows (Lake Atwood and West Lake), Lyons Prairie & Marsh, Pleasant Valley, Rush Creek pond and Stickney Run pond, when there is 4 inches of clear ice. Rangers check conditions daily if necessary, and it will be posted. Shelters must be removed daily. Live bait is prohibited at Fel-Pro, the Hollows and Rush Creek. Parking lots are plowed, but other areas are not prepped by MCCD, so be prepared to make paths, etc. Updates, if needed, are made daily at (815) 338-6223.
SILVER SPRINGS SFWA: Ice fish at your own risk on both lakes (Loon and Beaver). The west entrance is generally closed in winter, the east entrance may be closed temporarily because of icing.
WILL: The forest preserve district does not offer ice fishing; however, Monee Reservoir and Whalon Lake (Naperville) allow fishing year-round, if the water is open.
For an overview of nearby river conditions, go to this NWS site.
Otherwise I did not include river reports.
BIG GREEN LAKE, WISCONSIN
Primary source: Guide Mike Norton.
Go to www.biggreenlakefishing.com, then click on fishing, then lake report.
CHAIN O'LAKES AREA
Primary sources: Triangle Sports & Marine or Capt. Darrell Baker
Triangle calls the north end of Channel, partly because of cleaner water, the most consistent for crappies, walleye and bluegill. White bass are decent on Marie and Petite, look in deeper water.
Chain access points: Most charge $5 for parking, but most will also strike a deal for those who come in to eat or drink. At the T Channel, the best early-ice spot, staff at Famous Freddie's--(847) 587 9677--said fishermen could park for free in back if they leave by 11:30 a.m. Or, go in and eat. By the way, that's good advice all around to help build good will.
On Channel Lake, Chopper's Bar--(847) 838-1230--and the Thirsty Turtle--(847) 395-4704--both offer deals for fishermen.
At Spring Lake, there's Joe's Rock N Wave Diner--(847) 838-9283.
On Lake Marie, there's Barnacle Bob's--(847) 395-2036 and the Sand Bar & Grill--(847) 395-8990--where the owners asked that ice fishermen park around the back, but don't block the dumpsters and patronize the place.
More Chain info at www.foxwaterway.state.il.us.
COOLING LAKES/STRIP PITS
Ice fishing, at your risk, is underway at both Mazonia South and North.
DELAVAN/GENEVA LAKES AREA, WISCONSIN
Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle reports a finicky bite for bluegill and crappie on Geneva Bay, with some jumbo perch in 18 feet. Delavan has decent pike, best bluegill are on the west end.
For more, call (217) 774-2020.
Mike Steffa said:
``Some guys were out ice fishing, but not a lot being caught. A few gills and crappies. Mallard Cove, White Pines Cove, and in front of the Boat Rental is where most are fishing.''
Bank fishing is open. Boat fishing reopens Feb. 15.
Site Super Rick Seibert said ice fishing started again Saturday for members, but it is not as good as earlier. For memberships, call (815) 481-0778.
Primary source: Harborside Bait & Tackle and Capt. Bob Poteshman
Arden Katz report browns are better farther out. He uses small tube jigs, but said others are catching good fish on spawn. Steelhead are higher in the water column. His fishing partner Jose Gutierrez has been limiting.
LAKE ERIE: PORT CLINTON
Primary source: Rickard's and Ohio DNR
For Ohio DNR report go to wildohio.com and or call (888) HOOKFISH.
Primary sources: Henry's Sports, Bait & Marine, Park Bait, Capt. Bill Kelly and Capt. Bob Poteshman
For perch, Henry's reported the east side of Burnham (avoid the center) is probably No. 1 followed by Montrose and Belmont. Mik-Lurch reported good browns at the stateline power plant on roaches.
CHICAGO PIER PASSES
The Chicago Park District is selling pier passes at the ice rinks at Daley Bicentennial Park, McFetridge Sports Center, Midway Plaisance Park, Mt. Greenwood Park, Riis Park, Rowan Park, Warren Park and West Lawn Park. Pier passes grant legal access to designated piers in the boating off-season.
Primary sources: Eagle River Sports, Pastika's and Minocqua guide Kurt Justice
``Following a brutal week of weather with actual lows of 22 below and highs of 7 below, things warmed up for the weekend to make conditions bearable. Fishing was poor to downright impossible mid-week, but action popped back up with the more seasonable temps.
Walleyes: Poor to Good. Action picked up with the warmer temps. Nice fish to 24" reported Sunday, bite picking up before light snow fronts even during the day. Shiners in green weeds of 10-14', also #5 jigging raps in perch and firetiger were hot. Sandgrass flats of 18-25' producing better on suckers, wild shiners (if available). Jigging also effective, tip center hook with small minnow heads.
Perch: Poor to good. Deeper mud bite picking up. Use #25 Hali jigs, #2 Swedish Pimples to get bait down quickly over 18-27' mud flats at base of drops. Tip hooks with wigglers, red spikes for best action. Perch on weed flats taking Rosie reds, waxies on forage minnow jigs.
Pike: Good. Action picked up over weekend. Large shiners, suckers best under tip-ups. Try small spinner blade 12-14' above hook for added attraction.
Bluegills: Good. Fish holding best in 8-12' weeds taking small dark jigs tipped with moussees, single spike.
Crappies: Fair. Not as many reports. May need warmer temps, but most anglers still working weeds, at this time deep water crappies are better. Work 20-30' mud flats with tip downs baited with Rosie reds. Jig glow jigs tipped with waxies.
With warmer temps and new moon coming, we should see some good action this week. More anglers mean more reports. Access had been excellent, but recent snow may start to affect things. Slush not a problem, but if snow keeps coming down, snow depth could make it tough for ATVs''
Primary sources: Mik-Lurch Tackle Outlet, Capt. Chuck Weis and Capt. Ralph Steiger
Mik-Lurch reported the stateline power plant is best for browns, some at Amoco discharge (and good carp) too. Willow Slough continues to produce good bluegill, also pike up to 37 inches.
ST. JOSEPH AREA, MICHIGAN
Primary sources: BJ Sports and Michigan DNR
BJ Sports said river access OK by the dams (Shamrock Park was open Tuesday). But more are ice fishing on inland lakes.
Primary sources: Lakeside and guide Jay Angel
Mixed panfish reports on Shabbonalake.com. Allen Outboard and Bait reported a foot of ice.
For more reports, click here.
Mik-Lurch reported good crappie and bass on the Illinois side, and some big pike from the deeper water by the island on the Indiana side.
There's been some real nice bass, such as the Fish of the Week, a 24-incher caught by Ray Hinton.
CHICAGO AREA CHAT/REPORTS
CHICAGO AREA INFO
MICHIGAN DNR REPORT
WISCONSIN DNR REPORT
IOWA DNR REPORT
INDIANA DNR REPORT