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Midwest Fishing Report: Chicago fishing, rivers

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Because so many of the river reporters wax poetic and/or are long-winded, I am splitting out the reports on the rivers of Chicago fishing into a separate section of the Midwest Fishing Report.


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.

Obviously, if you have thoughts on this or other suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here.


From Andrew Ragas, Counsellor of the Fish Parliament

Water levels have shot up a bit with the recent rains, and clarity is
poor, but the river is still manageable for everything. What's keeping
the fish biting are the cooler water temperatures as things are still
in the 60 to 65 degree range.

Best bets for right now are Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, and the
occasional Crappie.

Most Pike are being found close to wood, and some are on the prowl in
the river channels. Fish up to 30 inches (long and skinny) are being
found throughout with the best areas located in the southwest suburbs,
and far north. Spinnerbaits in black/orange and white/silver/gold seem
to be receiving the most action. However, shallow running crankbaits
in shad profile and smaller Musky sized bucktails and in-line spinners
in gold/yellow are also working. I would use larger lures to avoid
catching the small snakes.

Largemouth Bass are the most active of all species right now and they
have been found in wood, current breaks, bridges, and sitting in weeds
tight to shore. You can even find good numbers out in the open
channel. Most fish are running 12 to 16 inches and are responding very
well to crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and in-line spinners. Better fishing
for them further south where river widens more.

Panfish are also on the move as well, and if you can locate schools of
Bluegills and Crappies, some fun can be had. Slackwater pools near
shore and log jams are holding fish, and are reportedly being caught
on small jigs suspended beneath a float.

Channel Catfish are poor, and Carp are becoming fewer in number due to
cooling water. Still no signs of Walleyes and Sauger.

Weekly co-contributor and one of my "peeps", Dan Sims, who is in the
process of developing his own brand of in-line spinners, says that the
river treated both him and David Mannion well over the weekend. Sims
writes the following:

"The Largies were out in force while testing my prototypes. Dave lost
a DPR GIANT! Same thing [as usual], current near deeper water. She
leaped out of the water with drag screaming. Next jump... and that was
that. She was a nice fish. I then hooked up with a Largemouth from the
same mid river area Dave just lost his fish. My first fish with my own
built spinner! Then began Dave's 30 minutes of misses. He had
something huge attack his inline near some slack water. I was standing
five feet to his left and saw this fish just scream right, left,
right, left! I thought I was going to get run over by this thing for a
second. One last run back to mid river and she was off. The fish never
surfaced. My guess, Carp. It was a tank whatever it was. A few more
missed Largemouth Bass and we returned back to our starting point.
Tons of wood in this hole, mind you. Dave dropped his spinner next to
the wood and out came the fattest 14-inch Largie I have ever seen from
the Des Plaines! We each had one more Bass come unbuttoned and then
wrapped it up. No Pike this day. Water clarity was only a few inches
after this recent rain. I am very proud of these custom creations thus
far, and I am now going to make hundreds of spinners in size-3's, 4's
and 5's!"

Overall, another decent week of fishing is ahead of us if big rain
stays away. Otherwise, the fish should still be biting with regularity
wherever you fish.


From Frank Macikas:

I made it out on a float trip both Friday and Saturday and it seems I was half right in the note that I sent you on Thursday. The part I was right about was there were bigger fish holding deep in the wood the part I was wrong about was the overall bite. Fishing was tough both days. Friday we did about a 4 mile stretch through Plainfield and I only picked up three small smallies and two decent largemouth and missed several bites. My fishing partner picked up 3 total but with a very nice 17.5" picked up deep in the wood as expected. All fish were tight to shore or cover next to deeper water. On Saturday with storms expected and the tough bite on Friday a friend and I decided to try to float a new stretch from south Plainfield into Shorewood. With this being a new stretch I was not sure what to expect with a tough day on Friday but had high hopes due to the weather coming in and having some cloud cover. The first half of the stretch was either thick grass or a solid sheet of rock with no structure. Just when we started to get into the best part of this trip it got very dark and the storm was moving in fast. We had to paddle through the entire second half and missed all of the prime spots. I was skunked and again my fishing partner had the big fish (and only fish) of the day; no measurement but I would say around 15-16" and very fat which also came from the wood. Seems I am very good luck for whoever I am fishing with lately. All fish were on either stickworms, crawfish or creature style plastics, or imitation hellgrammites; fishing anything besides plastic in most areas is next to impossible due to floating grass. The river is still in excellent shape and honestly I expected a much better bite this past weekend. The strange part was we didn't even really see many fish cruising or holding in the deeper holes; not even carp. I will be floating the river again this weekend hopefully with better results.


Ken Gortowski sent this:

My time in the Fox River has dwindled to virtually nothing. A far cry from years past when 3 or 4 trips to the river each week was the norm. Back then I drove 25 miles one way to take advantage of the opportunity. Now I live a two minute walk to the river and rarely get the chance to take that walk.

Things have changed. Dramatically.

I joke that I have forgotten more about the river than most will ever know. I'm starting to think it's no longer a joke. And yet I still meet people that fill me in on it's long history. Things I never knew and have no clue where to look. But what I know is different. An intimate knowledge of what it's like to walk the river. Boulders that have been in the same spot for thousands of years and will be there for thousands more. Gravel bars that never move. Indentations in the river bottom that I can find with my eyes closed. Knowledge perhaps, but how useful really.

If anyone ever wants to bank roll me so I can finish the most comprehensive wading maps of the Fox River you'll ever see, get in touch. Geneva beyond Yorkville and all the creeks in between. I can look at an aerial map and locate within a foot all kinds of bottom structure. Pin point stretches of under cut banks. Tell you how deep an outside bend is and whether it's worth fishing.

All these spots have produced smallies at one time or another. And as an IDNR biologist once told me, if you know where the 5 foot deep water is you'll find flatheads in the 40 to 60 pound range.

I know where most of that water is in the stretches I know. I just never went fishing for flatheads. But I can mark them on a map.

Now the most I can offer are memories of falls past. I did not get out fishing this past week or so, but I drive along it daily. I check the river level often. I can tell you that right now conditions are ideal. This on and off rain will only serve to make the fish active and the fishing better.

And I'm working too much.

Years ago I offered in the water fishing classes. September into October and into November if the weather cooperated. I concentrated on 3 areas.

North Aurora from the dam down to I-88. When it would rain this time of year, I would wait 24 hours and the white bass would be running to the dam. The river only had to come up a couple of inches for them to turn on. 24 hours later when the water came back down a couple of inches, the white bass would disappear. The cycle would repeat itself with each burst of rain.

Indian Trail Road from the north tip to the south tip of Gregory island. Smallies, white bass and walleye seemed concentrate throughout this stretch. Never could figure out why, but at times the numbers of fish were astonishing.

My favorite is the stretch from Orchard Road down to Saw Wee Kee Park. Just remember you want to be on the north side of the islands when you get to them. I have pictures in my archives of a mild day on a Thanksgiving weekend many years ago. Friends holding 14 to 16 inch smallies caught in this stretch. A minnow bucket floating on the surface of the river gives away what was needed to catch these fish that weekend.

I also fished all the areas in between these in falls past. All have produced. All are worth exploring.

It seems that on any given day you can get plenty of fishing reports from the local web sites that focus on the areas north of South Elgin. I see virtually nothing reported from the stretches further south. I rarely see anyone in the water. The swarms of waders that were combing these lower stretches of the Fox 6 to 12 years ago are all but gone. The 100's of anglers I guided there and had out to my fishing classes seem to have never gone back.

I wonder if they have the same issues with time I now have or if their interest in fishing the river has simply faded away. A wise outdoors writer recently mentioned how after the age of 50 if you don't continue to go fish, the desire to do so falls by the wayside.

Or something like that.

My problem is that the river flows through me like blood through my veins. I can hear the music it makes as it tumbles over rocks if I close my eyes and sit quietly for a minute, even while sitting in my car. I can feel the pressure of flowing water on my legs even when standing on dry ground. I can't imagine not being obsessed with wanting to experience this as often as possible, with the tug of a fish on the end of a line as an added bonus.

The desire to do this is as strong as ever, even after 14 years of fishing this river time and again. I just want the time


Sauger and walleye bite remains strong, but it takes sorting for keepers. There was a slight spike in the river, but it should just be enough to spark fishing I would guess.


Norm Minas sent this Tuesday night:

I got out tonight for some evening fishing. after some very fast action for smallies in fast water with rattlebaits, I switched gears. I fished a channel between some riffles that drops into a little deeper slot maybe 3 to 3.5 ft deep. I was using a 2/0 weighted keeper hook with a saltwater assassin rigged upside down, I let it bounce with the current until there wasn't enough current then I slowly swam it just ticking the bottom. 7 walleyes between 17 and 24 inches, all released.

Ed Mullady sent this:

ED MULLADY, EDITOR, 815 932 7285 -
POINT, north of English Lake: *Catfish good on *minnows *jumbo redworms *cheesebaits. *Rock Bass and Bluegill good in ditches, shorelines on * minnows *Jumbo Reds *spinners *rubber spiders *poppers.

KANKAKEE STATE F&W AREA: *Catfish good on *crawlers* minnows *jumbo reds. Bass along the shorelines on * minnows *crawlers *imitation frogs *crankbaits. Pike in ditches on *minnows *large jointed plugs *Weedless Dr. Spoons.(Best to use wire leader on end of line!).

GRAND KANKAKEE MARSH AREA: *Walleye fair on *jigs/twister tails *minnows *Johnson silver spoon
And pork rind.* Smallmouth Bass good. Dick "Flip" Phelps caught them up to 3 lbs. He recommends fishing river "drifts". Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass fair to good on *minnows *spinners *crankbaits. *Catfish good in ditches up to 10 lbs *Brian Pasko caught several walleye and an 8 lb. Catfish recently.

RT. 41 UP TO BOAT LAUNCH AT RT. 55: Do not fish in river or anywhere in LaSalle F&W Area during certain hunting seasons. *Croppie *Rock Bass GOOD along shorelines and in ditches. PIKE, LARGEMOUTH BASS good on *minnows *larger spinner baits.
STATE LINE THROUGH MOMENCE: Veteran riverman Dave Zack, Momence Conservancy District, tells of fishing continuing good east of Momence! In addition to smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye are ending up on the line with more regularity. Larry Leriger caught a 25" walleye this past week.
KANKAKEE AREA: Catfishing improving on already mentioned baits. Rock Bass good along bridge piers, shore lines on *minnows *crawlers *spinners *Wtd. Kpr.Hook & Twister tails *rubber spiders.
KANKAKEE RIVER STATE PARK: For most fishermen, the smallmouth bass have been hitting good on *minnows *Mr.Twister wtd., Keeper Hook & Twister tail. Catfish, rock bass good!
WILMINGTON DAM & DES PLAINES AREA: ROCK BASS good on *minnows*redworms*spinners!
Smallmouth Bass Good on *crankbaits *jig and minnow *artificial or real crawfish *Mepps #3 Spinners.


Guide Mike Mladenik of sent this:

This past week was excellent for Big Smallmouth. The Big Smallmouth are stacking up, but not in the normal locations. This has been a strange year, but one thing is for certian, THE BIG FISH BITE IS ON.


OREGON: Jan Prose at TJ's Bait/Tackle & Canoe Rental sent this:

The rain kind of shut things down Sat. and Sun. but I've had a few good reports today. A 25" walleye was caught at the dam on minnow, and several other of good size caught last week. I weighed an 8 pound channel cat this morning caught on liver. Most say liver and dip baits are working the best. Stripe bass are fair on minnow.


BJ Sports reported lots of salmon and trout being seen in the river, but few being caught because of the high water temperatures. The expectation is that the rains will cool the water significantly and trigger the bite.



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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on September 22, 2010 6:34 AM.

Chicago fishing: Latest walleye was the previous entry in this blog.

Midwest Fishing Report: Lakes and shorelines is the next entry in this blog.

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