From freshly opened waters to sloppy-topped ice, a very mixed bag of conditions makes this week's Midwest Fishing Report a touch-and-go one.
This is the extended online version of the MFR, 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.
ICE FISHING AND FESTIVAL
Chain O'Lakes Ice Fishing Derby and Winter Festival, Illinois' longest-running winter festival, is this weekend on the Chain. Headquarters for the Northern Illinois Conservation Club's event are at the Thirsty Turtle on Channel. Go to www.lake-online.com/nicc/.
Ice is deteriorating. Shorelines, neckdowns and current areas are giving way. Some waters south of the city could be open by today, while north ones may hold fishable ice. If ice fishing, remember: stay together, and have creepers and rubber boots.
For an overview of nearby river conditions, go to this NWS site. Though I think heavy rains may wash away the start to open-water fishing today, I included brief Chicago-area river reports.
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
This is one of the touchy ones.
Coming into the warm-up, there were 18-20 inches of ice. Shorelines will be compromised, but the main pad of ice should hold. Obviously watch current areas and check with somewhere like Triangle at (847) 395-0813.
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
MAZONIA: Meltdown likely has ended the good ice fishing.
BRAIDWOOD: Set to open March 1.
LaSALLE: Set to open March 15. The lake will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in March.
HEIDECKE: Set to open on April 1, the only hitch would be ice.
DELAVAN/GENEVA LAKES AREA, WISCONSIN
Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle said lakers are best on Geneva, but some of the shorelines are questionable. The west end of Delavan has been hot for crappie and bluegill. Pleasant has some bluegills and crappie. Como has fair bass and pike.
SPRING: The lakes opened up Tuesday and staff opened the gates. Muskie fishermen were plying the north end.
POWERTON: Boat fishing reopens Sunday, Feb. 15. But no docks will be in.
SHELBYVILLE: For more, call (217) 774-2020.
EVERGREEN: Any fishing report is posted here.
FOX RIVER: WESTERN SUBURBS
As the Brad Carder's FOTW shows (click here), smallmouth are already going. A lot will depend on the rain and snow melt.
ILLINOIS RIVER: STARVED ROCK AREA
``Baithouse Bob'' at Riverview reported sauger being taken on the Illinois at Hennepin and Ottawa. Water levels will be the hindering point.
The river rapidly opened up Tuesday:
Ed Mullady sent this:
``Still not many fishing on the Kankakee. A few small walleye, smallmouth bass, some croppie have been caught. River is partially open, while other areas have some ice. it may also come up some if rain continues.
This is the time someone could nail good sized Kankakee River fish, but not many are fishing!''
Harborside said open water in the main harbor by the Best Western is producing rainbows and browns. Others are ice fishing by the small-boat harbor.
LAKE ERIE: PORT CLINTON
For Ohio DNR report go to wildohio.com and or call (888) HOOKFISH.
CHICAGO: A friend checked Tuesday afternoon and saw dozens of fishermen catching perch (takes sorting for keepers) in the open water at Navy Pier. Ice in the harbors is deteriorating and not recommended, but shore fishing and pier fishing should continue to produce some perch. Browns slowed at stateline power plant.
WAUKEGAN: Steelhead caught by the south rocks over the weekend, according to the Salmon Stop.
MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN
For D&S Bait, go to dsbait.com
D&S Bait reports ice should hold, though there is some sloppiness. Otherwise, fishing is decent. There's decent bluegill on Waubesa and Monona Bay, a few perch on Kegonsa and variable perch on Mendota.
Minocqua guide Kurt Justice sent this:
``The warmer temps have made access better, but a little sloppy. Lots of anglers took advantage of the warmth to get out on the ice. Certain species responded very well to the warm up, while others, while not bad, were not up to the bite expected.
Bluegill: Very good. Lots of action along 8-12' weed edges. Bites were aggressive so little finesse was required. Bright colored teardrops, gill pills and shrimpos tipped with waxies or moussees produced best. Lots of reports of limits, mostly 7-8" but a few 8 1/2 to 9" to make things interesting.
Pike: Very good. Seemed to respond well once things started warming. Large suckers and shiners tops, but a lot of anglers talking of getting hit while jigging for other species. Fish to 30" this weekend, most average 22-26"
Largemouth Bass: Very good. Don't usually report on this species in the winter, but can't ignore how active they are. Very nice LMB taking big Wild shiners meant for pike. Fish of 18-19", lots in the 14-16" range working same 8-12' weeds as bluegills and pike.
Walleye: Fair to Good. Best action at dawn and dusk. Some late night angers reporting night bite between 9:30 - 10:30pm. Medium shiners, river shiners on tip-ups in 10-14' weeds, suckers over sandgrass of 18-28'. Jigging #5-#7 Rapalas on off-shore humps for larger fish of 4-7#s.
Perch: Good-Fair. Reports not as strong as expected. Problem could be that most anglers fishing too shallow. Better reports from 30-36' mud using wigglers on Hali jigs, Vinglas.
Crappies: Fair. Some tip-down action on rosies in 20-28' mud/gravel transitions areas. some scattered weed fish taking waxies, chena, but not enough to key on.
The warm weather (40 at 6am 2/10/09) has been a welcome relief for anglers use to fighting a lot of cold this winter. Snow drifts that were starting to be a problem are no more. Sloppy now, but not bad. Below freezing temps later in week should firm things up and make travel easy, but slippery. Ice thickness averaging 26-33".''
Mik-Lurch reported some boaters got out at the Ditch on Tuesday, but they had to maneuver around ice. Ice on Willow Slough and Wolf Lake is not recommended.
ST. JOSEPH AREA, MICHIGAN
BJ Sports said the river is open from the dam to the lake. Steelhead and walleye are being taken. For launches, places like Shamrock and Riverview are out of the current and good options. Steelhead should start popping.
There's a neat photo gallery of RockFest at www.shabbonalake.com. Ice conditions will depend on the rain, wind and warmth today.
For more reports, click here.
CHICAGO AREA CHAT/REPORTS
CHICAGO AREA INFO
MICHIGAN DNR REPORT
WISCONSIN DNR REPORT
IOWA DNR REPORT
INDIANA DNR REPORT