The opening of the Braidwood cooling lake on Sunday provides hope for those sick of winter and leads the Midwest Fishing Report.
This was the hopeful scene when I fished along the rocks on the west end of the hot side opening morning last year.
But there's plenty of ice from Chicago north. There will be ice fishing in places like the Fox Chain well into March.
I couldn't resist this photo Sunday when fishermen lined up for the weigh-in of the NAIFC event behind The Thirsty Turtle Beach Bar & Grill on Channel Lake Sunday. I thought it pretty much summed up this time of the year around Chicago.
And those headed to Wisconsin, remember that game fish season ends at midnight Sunday, March 1, on most inland waters.
This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online version by Wednesday morning.
If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at email@example.com.
We begin with a meeting reminder and a Braidwood preview.
FISH MEETING REMINDER
I plan to be there when the Lake Michigan Program holds an informational meeting on the salmon and trout fisheries at 7 tonight. It will be held at the CMS Suburban North regional office, 9511 Harrison St., Des Plaines. Call (847) 294-4134 for more information.
The cooling lake just south of Joliet reopens to fishing at 6 a.m. Sunday. It will be open daily. Closing time begins as 6 p.m. Regulations are unchanged. The IDNR page is here.
Biologist Rob Miller is hopeful this is the year blue catfish will finally bust out, similar to what has happened at LaSalle Lake.
As for bass, which seemed to rebound last fall, he said, ``I am keeping my fingers crossed with this bass stocking. We are stocking a lot of a fish. Can't say that we are not trying.'' Since the inaugural stocking in 2006, 247,000 largemouth fingerlings, averaging about 4 inches, have been stocked. That includes 112,700 in 2008. His ``gut feeling'' is they will need to keep stocking bass.
Fishermen should expect about the same on bluegill and channel catfish.
The problem with Braidwood has never been the forage base, it's been issues related to thermal conditions. ``That is the thing out there, forage has never been a problem,'' Miller said. ``There's not only gizzard shad, but threadfin shad. They have jumped, plus you have all the minnow species from the Kankakee.''
Most years I like to get in line, and join the morning rush as a symbolic way of shaking off winter. Not sure if I can make it before afternoon or late evening this year.
Ice was made in recent days, but southern lakes are unsafe, while northern waters may have fishable ice well into March. Know your waters.
For an overview of nearby river conditions, go to this NWS site. I included individual river reports this week, though I wonder how much the rain, warm-up and snow melt may impact conditions later this week.
BIG GREEN LAKE, WISCONSIN
For guide Mike Norton's report, go to www.biggreenlakefishing.com, then click on fishing, then lake report.
CHAIN O'LAKES AREA
Ice should hold for weeks.
This was part of the scene on Channel Sunday for the NAIFC tournament, which showed bluegill remained good.
Triangle reports crappie are fair on small minnows or spikes, especially on Petite or Channel in 8-13 feet. Walleye are good on large fatheads or roaches, or jigging Rapalas or Swedish Pimples tipped with minnow heads. One surprise is fair perch on small minnows in 8-10 feet on Marie, Petite and Spring. Catfish are fair on red worms or small roaches on Pistakee or Petite. Pike, staging around the creek areas, are good on large roaches.
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
For Braidwood opener, see the top. Ice fishing on Mazonia lakes is not recommended. LaSalle is scheduled to open March 15; Heidecke, April 1.
DELAVAN/GENEVA LAKES AREA, WISCONSIN
Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle reports crappie and bluegill continue good on the west end of Delavan. On Geneva, there's some perch in 16-22 feet; lakers, which remain open even when game fish season closes, are good.
SHELBYVILLE: For more, call (217) 774-2020.
EVERGREEN: If there is a fishing report, it is posted here.
POWERTON: Winter hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
FOX RIVER: WESTERN SUBURBS
There was a bunch of reports last week about muskies caught and released. BTW, I could use somebody who is an all-round fisherman to give reports for the Fox. And this should be the time to target walleye with live bait.
ILLINOIS RIVER: STARVED ROCK AREA
Baithouse Bob at Riverview Marine reported the river is clean with sauger starting around Hennepin and Ottawa. It's less than a month to MWC at Spring Valley.
Ed Mullady sent this:
``Warmer weather is going to improve fishing(as well as numbers of people fishing!)
The Kankakee with just a small amount of shore ice in some places, but plenty of areas available to fish from shore.
In Indiana some pike at creek and ditch mouths on large minnows *Countdowns, Dr. Spoons, Mepps #2 or 3 Spinners. Largemouth Bass in quieter water areas on plastic worms *
Johnson Silver minnow and pork rind *
Illinois: small walleye on *jig & minnow *jig and Crawler *jointed countdowns in Kankakee Dam area through Bourbonnais Creek * Wilmington Dam along shorelines of Island Park.
Some smallmouth bass around Aroma Park *Kankakee River State Park*mouths of creeks on *Mepps #1,#2 spinners *Crankbaits *jig and minnow.
*Will be at Spring Fever Show with Kankakee River Display(2/28 and 3/1). Large selection of Seminars, including Kankakee River at 1 pm Sunday. Hosts: Rex and Ed Mullady.''
LAKE ERIE: PORT CLINTON
For Ohio DNR report go to wildohio.com and or call (888) HOOKFISH.
CHICAGO: Navy Pier continues to give up good perch. Action was better Saturday than Sunday; but Arden Katz reported limits on Tuesday, despite some shell ice. He thought belly meat was best. As FOTW showed, some browns moved into Navy Pier and the harbors, too. Henry's reported some perch in the slips off 92nd and 95th. Mik-Lurch reported some good size on the slip perch.
WAUKEGAN: The Salmon Stop reported some browns and steelhead off the south rocks and government pier on a variety of baits, and a few perch off the end of government pier.
MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN
For D&S Bait, go to dsbait.com There's plenty of ice, and report remains about the same.
Minocqua guide Kurt Justice from Island Sports sent this:
``If ever an example of how weather, especially the barometer, affects fishing it was this week. Mostly high pressure, cloudless skies, with some tough bites. Wednesday morning and throughout Saturday, the fish were snapping.
Walleye: Fair to Good. Big fish this past week. Lots of reports of walleye 23-26" with several 28-29"ers caught this weekend. Jigging Rapalas, shad raps, chubby darter took aggressive fish over off-shore humps/14-17' weed edges. Lots of eaters (15-20") on tip-ups baited with shiners, set up along weed edges by 3:30 to be ready for the bite around 5pm.
Perch: Very good. Reacting to changes in barometer, but the right days bite is hot. Wigglers are choice, lightly hook on a #25 Hali or #2 Swedish pimple. Fish mud flats of 29-33' depths producing larger fish. Once perch move in and are hitting switch to red spikes to save on bait.
Crappies: Poor to Good. Very weather dependent. When the clouds come in and the snow flies, hit weedy bays of 8-12'. Use small minnows, waxies, plastic. Fish to 14 1/2" this week with lots of 11-13" being caught on the right days. Tip-downs along mud breaks of 18-28' with small rosies also producing. Best bite first 2 hours of light, last two hours before dark.
Pike: Very good. Lots of action and some of the best size of the season with fish up to 38" being reported. Good numbers of 26-30" pike on large shiners/suckers along 10-12' weed edges.
Bluegill: Good. Go dark on tough days. Use 1-2# test and small #12 black or purple jigs tipped with single spike or small plastic. When aggressive, gills taking larger #8 teardrops in bright colors tipped with waxie, bright plastic.
Game fish season ends March 1st at midnight, you'll have through Sunday to catch the last of your pike and walleye for a while. Lake access is very good. Truck (some car) traffic excellent. 30+ inches of ice, some anglers buying extensions for use on Flowages.''
Mik-Lurch reported some browns and a few coho at the stateline power plant. The surprise is trollers taking lakers trollers in the shipping channel. Shore fisherman took a few coho and browns at Pastrick. When fishermen can reach it, Gary Light has browns and the occasional coho; same at the Ditch. Ice if not recommended at Wolf or Willow Slough.
ST. JOSEPH AREA, MICHIGAN
BJ Sports reported some walleye and steelhead below Berrien Springs, and steelhead throughout the river, which is open. Some whitefish and steelhead off the piers.
Baithouse Bob said they continue to take bluegill and crappie. Ice is thick enough to hold, though shorelines may get tricky.
For more reports, click here.
WINNEBAGO STURGEON SPEARING
Here's the wrap-up for the 2009 sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes:
Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearers harvest 89 Saturday
The 230-pound behemoth lake sturgeon netted by state fish crews in the fall eluded the record 10,239 licensed spearers who took to the ice for the 77th consecutive 2009 Lake Winnebago system sturgeon spearing season.
But the separate seasons on the big lake and the Upriver Lakes were still fit for the record books. Sturgeon history was made on day 2 of the season when Amy Van Beek of Menasha threw an 80.8 inch, 168.8 pound female sturgeon out of her shack on Lake Poygan. It was the largest fish ever harvested by a woman spearer, the largest fish ever registered from the Upriver Lakes, the fourth largest fish by weight on record and the sixth longest fish on record.
Van Beek's fish was one of 32 sturgeon harvested that weighed more than 100 pounds; in all, spearers took 1,512 fish during the 2009 sturgeon spearing season on the combined lakes of the Winnebago pool which includes Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes -- Poygan, Winneconne, and Butte des Morts.
Last year, spearers registered 42 sturgeon that weighed between 100 and 172 pounds, the highest percentage of trophy-size fish ever recorded in the history of the fishery. A 100-pound sturgeon can be anywhere from 65 to 80 years old; heavier sturgeon are proportionally older.
"The number of these trophy-size fish has been increasing significantly over the last decade," said Ron Bruch, DNR senior sturgeon biologist. "This is due to the distribution of age classes currently present in the population and due to the impact of harvest regulation implemented over the last 17 years designed to increase survival of these large fish."
The 2009 season opened on a partly sunny day with light wind that didn't chill the excitement in the record 6,853 shanties on the lakes for the first day of the spearing season. "The season ended with a snowstorm and strong winds that created white-out conditions on Lake Winnebago, but that didn't stop large numbers of dedicated sturgeon spearers from driving out on the ice to their shacks in an attempt to get their sturgeon on the 8th and last day of the 2009 season," Bruch said.
The Upriver Lakes season, which is limited to 500 licenses and is controlled by a lottery, was open five days, closing Wednesday, Feb. 18. The focus then shifted attention to the big lake, where the season ran another three days. "The average season length on Lake Winnebago since we've gone to the 6-hour spearing days in 2002 is 11 days," said Bruch.
"We are always glad to see the season go longer than be very short -- at least into or through two weekends -- to give the spearers ample opportunity to get out on the ice, and to give the local establishments an opportunity to take advantage of the extra patrons that sturgeon spearing produces while the season is going on," he said.
Of the 1,512 fish speared, 301 were juveniles (86% of quota), 615 adult females (97.6% of quota), and 596 males (59.6% of quota). Harvest caps for the 2009 season were set at 350 juvenile females, 630 adult females, or 1,000 males.
"At this point, it does not appear that we exceeded our 5 percent exploitation limit for any of the three harvest categories (juvenile females, adult females, or males) but we won't know for sure until all the data are entered," Bruch said.
Wisconsin has the world's largest lake sturgeon population. The DNR has been intensively managing the lake sturgeon population and fishery for more than 60 years, conducting annual surveys and working closely with the public to maintain safe harvest levels, Bruch says.
The current lake sturgeon population in the Winnebago System is estimated at about 60,000 fish ages 1 to 80, including 25,000 males and 13,000 females in the adult spawning stock.
This season, 4,031 people applied for the Upriver lottery; 500 licenses were authorized and 490 Upriver licenses were sold. The DNR also sold 9,749 licenses for Lake Winnebago. In all, 10,239 licenses for spearing on both Winnebago and Upriver lakes.
"We have seen a 20 percent increase in sturgeon spearing license sales in the last two years," said Bruch. "I believe the success of our management program in producing and sustaining this high quality fishery with a high success rate has caused interest to grow around the region, state and Midwest."
The average success rate on the Upriver Lakes is 56 percent. The success rate on Lake Winnebago averages about 13 percent, which means that if regular sturgeon spearers apply every year, they may be able to experience spearing success six to eight times in their lifetime.
CHICAGO AREA CHAT/REPORTS
CHICAGO AREA INFO
MICHIGAN DNR REPORT
WISCONSIN DNR REPORT
IOWA DNR REPORT
INDIANA DNR REPORT