I caught up with guide Ken Wilson as he was driving around Tuesday looking at the changes on Lake Shelbyville over the past week; and change defines this Midwest Fishing Report.
A lot of us were out driving around and checking things out after last week's weather change. It makes me happy to know I am not alone in doing that. In Chicago fishing, the biggest change is the reopening of fishing at Braidwood Lake on Tuesday. The photo above is of Larry Wright on opening morning three years ago. The Braidwood preview leads.
This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.
I included river reports today, which reminded me I should probably divide the river reports out to their own.
If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cooling lake south of Joliet reopens to fishing Tuesday. Click here for site info and directions. Hours for the first couple weeks are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The boat ramps at both ends were extended 15 feet last year, so launching should be much better. That should make putting in and taking out at peak times flow better.
Channel catfish (though there are a lot of fiddlers) and bluegill are the best species. Bass have come back a bit, but that species has a long way to go. The curiosity will be how the blue catfish are doing.
I intend to hit the hot side early, and maybe a bit during the day.
If I get some water temperatures later this week, I will post here.
Shorelines have given way everywhere, and many areas, especially south of Chicago are unsafe. Use caution. The weather forecast keeps changing so I am not sure how much of the unsafe areas will firm up by the weekend. This is truly an in-between period.
For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here. I started river reports this week.
BIG GREEN LAKE, WISCONSIN
For guide Mike Norton's report, go to www.nortonsfishingandhuntingadventures.com, then click on fishing, then lake report.
From licensed guide and trapper Phil Schweik and guide Glenn Moberg of Hooksetters Guide Service:
(Lead): Great late season ice fishing opportunities continue in the central
Walleye have been very active in the central Wisconsin area, with some nice
fish coming from area lakes. Target shallow mud flats early and late in the
day in 3 to 5 feet of water with tip ups baited with golden shiners or small
walleye sized suckers, set about a foot off the bottom. Anglers are also
managing to pick up some very nice northerns while walleye and crappie
fishing, with most of them being in the deeper 8 to 12 feet of water range.
The panfish activity in the central Wisconsin area has continued to get
better and better.
Crappies are moving into traditional late ice staging areas and the action
has really turned on. Small has been better as far as jigs and bait are
concerned. Tiny Marmooska jigs and Fiskas in orange and green have been out
producing any other colors or lures. Along with smaller baits, a slow
presentation has accounted for more action and larger fish on the ice. Work
depths of 10-14 feet and continually work the different water columns to
find active fish. The higher you find the fish, the more active they are,
and they are also usually larger.
For the bluegills in the central Wisconsin area, work several different
lakes in the area with different tactics, but with similar excellent
results. On the stained Wisconsin River backwaters work shallow water in 3
to 6 feet and on the clear lakes fish as deep as 24 feet. Most of the fish
have been coming on Gill Pills in orange and green, with a slow presentation
being the key. Anglers have actually have had fish charge up to 10 feet to
meet bait in 20 feet of water as long as the presentation has been real,
The perch bite is taking shape in the central Wisconsin area, and the most
recent activity shows decent fish moving into that 8 to 10 foot depth, as
they work their way towards their traditional spring spawning areas.
Jigging has produced the best. Run small teardrop jigs in red and purple
with a red spike, or set up a "Dead Stick" with a small #14 treble hook, and
a rosie red minnow, set about a foot off the bottom.
CHAIN O'LAKES AREA
Triangle Sports reported treacherous ice conditions, though some are still accessing certain areas. Caution first: stay away from current areas and the middle of lakes. However, bluegill have been a good bite, and walleye are decent toward evening.
For more reports, see http://www.foxlakefishing.com/
More Chain info at www.foxwaterway.state.il.us.
At the end of the warm-up, a poster noted multiple species were being caught downtown. And I would believe that. Not sure how much the weather swing back will slow that, but cold snaps can shut it down.
COOLING LAKES/STRIP PITS
BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA: See the top for Braidwood preview. Shorelines are really giving way at Mazonia, I would recommend against trying ice fishing. However, here's Bill Lanham's report from the weekend, which indicates how variable things are at Mazonia:
Ice fishing at Mazonia was poor and great this past weekend. On Saturday, we could hardly buy a bite but then on Sunday, it was game on. The bite was very good for northern pike and for large bluegills. The edges of the lakes became soft in places where the sun shines and stayed quite firm on the shady sides. The wind and the rain ate away at some of the ice but plenty still remained when we walked off Sunday afternoon.
We drilled through 6 to 10 inches of ice on each lake that we fished.
Anglers should carry a complete compliment of safety gear, not go it alone and spud before they step when the ice is in question.
LaSALLE: Reopening remains up in the air because of staffing issues. HEIDECKE: Reopens April 1.
DELAVAN/GENEVA LAKES AREA, WISCONSIN
Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle reported improved panfish action on the west end of Delavan in 8-10 feet, some pike, too. On Geneva, perch are good, but take sorting; and a few lakers have been taken in recently.
DES PLAINES RIVER
Sections are at flood stage. It will probably be two weeks before Andrew Ragas, Counsellor of the Fish Parliament www.fishing-headquarters.com begins his fishing reports.
SANGCHRIS: Wilson--(217) 454-2672--of Lithia Guide Service said crappie strong. COFFEEN: Wilson said bass remain good. POWERTON: Winter hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Boat and shore fishing are open. SHELBYVILLE: Wilson--(217) 454-2672--of Lithia Guide Service said the lake opened up and the ramps appear open. For info from the Corps, call (217) 774-2020. EVERGREEN: Any updated fishing report will be posted here.
EMIQUON: Emiquon Preserve near Lewistown is open to fishing. Interested parties may request a permit (remember you need the new one for 2011) and list of rules between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown. There is no fee. No gas powered motors are permitted, and bank fishing is not allowed. For more, call (309) 547-2730.
DuPAGE & FOX RIVERS
Both are open, high but fishable. Ken Gortowski sent this musical version of prospects:
Today's fishing prospects start out brought to you by Lightnin' Hopkins and his song Last Night, which is playing in the background . . . you should fall down on your knees and pray.
Tuesday found me with the need to drive along one side of the Fox River almost to Aurora. Across the river in a couple of spots. Across 5 of the creeks in this area that flow into the Fox and Finally winding up just south of Plano at the mouth of Big Rock Creek. As I pulled up to a stop sign that T's at the creek the bald eagle comes drifting down the little creek valley.
Makes my day.
The ice that was covering the river and it's creeks is now an afterthought. The recent thaw and rains has washed all of it away. Nothing along the edges, no sheet ice floating downstream, a beautiful sight to see. This years ice age is over, at least for the rivers. I don't recall too many years past where lingering arctic blasts have occurred this late.
Of course, we now have slightly elevated water levels. Runoff and rain has to go somewhere. I made the mistake of briefly watching the local news on Monday. I gave up on local news around 6 years ago and it's rare that I see any of it. It's local, but not much news. The doom and gloom of the day was rivers at flood stage. I checked the real time stream gauge, it didn't make it past the 4,000 cfs mark. That's not flooding, that's elevated. I wandered down the hill to the river. These people are idiots, the river is fine.
This next section is brought to you by Koko Taylor, with Keb Mo, hammering out the song The Man Next Door . . . hey baby, baby, baby, tell me how you want you're rolling done.
The river is also on it's way down already. The next couple of days will see temperatures in the 40's. There is plenty of open shoreline to go wander, the Fox is known for that. Bike paths, forest preserves and paths are everywhere. The water is still going to be cold so finding those areas that have enough still water bordering the current will be important. Geneva comes to mind. Batavia through the Glenwood Forest Preserve, but that won't be easy. Shoreline trees with undercut banks, perfect but not easy to fish.
It's kind of pointless to go down the list of where to go, go somewhere and give it a try. The information for access is out there. If you must wade, know the water where you will be stepping. Current moving at 3,000 cfs can still knock you down and that water will be cold. I'll might try a stretch of the river or a creek mouth on Wednesday. Fish slow, don't hurry and you never know.
The creeks are a little high. I was hoping to go try a few spots 9 miles up one creek to see if I'm right about wintering smallies. That may have to wait. With the creeks up it might not be worth it.
This next section is brought to you by Baby Face Leroy Trio doing a decent version of Rollin' and Tumblin' . . . I know my baby, she goin' to jump and shout.
A couple of weeks ago I drove over the DuPage in a couple of spots. It was already ice free then. The gauges show it high, but not awful.
The communities along the DuPage have been doing a pretty good job of buying up the shorelines and turning them into park land. I know at Hassert Boulevard is one relatively new chunk of land. Down in Shorewood a number of homes along the river were torn down and is now a park. I've parked at a few bridges the last few years and walked right into the river.
Your options are becoming pretty much limitless. Bollingbrook through Plainfield through Shorewood, it's really a matter of getting a map and figuring out where to park. I've done well walking the shore through Shorewood, so the high water shouldn't matter. If the plans in my head get put into motion, since I'm starting up my guide service again, guided trips along the DuPage through here won't be out of the question. I like fly fishing this river, I imagine others would.
I still think the DuPage River should be the river of choice in the next few days. I think the odds of tying into smallies there are pretty good. But I also think I'll get lazy and stay close to home. I feel like being in the water and I know where I can go to do that on the Fox. Now it's a matter of Fox creek or Fox River. I imagine that decision will be made as I pull out of my driveway.
We'll end this with Baby Face Leroy sorry that My Head Can't Rest No Mo' . . . when a man ain't got no money, you knows dem women don't want dat man aroun'.
ILLINOIS RIVER: STARVED ROCK AREA
Before the high water, sauger fishing was going. The river is already falling at Ottawa. It is projected to fall below flood stage at LaSalle by Thursday.
Norm Minas has been out nearly every day, leading up to his birthday celebration of fishing on river, and catching something every time out, a rarity this time of year. Here's his report before one of those outings earlier this week:
Well, I made it to 54 years old or young, depends on which body part you ask. I plan on celebrating by standing in a cold, flooded river fishing for smallmouth and anything else that wishes to cooperate. I've been out 3 out of the last 4 days, caught fish every trip which is unusual for cold weather. Maybe the fishing gods do like me. It's been a mixed bag, mostly walleye with some smallmouth, pike, rock bass and carp tossed in. It's been inflows both natural and manmade, bridge abutments flooded brush, grass and trees as well as shoreline related slack water spots. The water has been rising steadily pushing the fish in toward shore. No one bait has stood out or been consistent every day, jointed minnow baits, crankbaits, rattlebaits and weighted keeper hooks/twister tails have all had their moment.
Ed Mullady sent this:
The Kankakee is up....with some chances of flooding in part of Indiana. Over the weekend there were more out fishing. Nick at the Kankakee River Trading Post, in Altorf next to Kankakee River State Park, reported some smallmouth bass being caught. This is time for some of the walleye, catfish and northern pike to be caught. Sometimes, even with high water, shorelines find different fish feeding.
LAKE ERIE: PORT CLINTON
For Ohio DNR report go to wildohio.com and or call (888) HOOKFISH.
Arden Katz reported the hot perch bite at Navy Pier and DuSable over the weekend slowed by Tuesday, maybe a product of dirtier water. Continues to be perch around 95th and 92nd in the Cal system. Mik-Lurch reported some browns at the stateline power plant. CHICAGO'S FISHERMAN'S PARKING: The $10 parking passes for the small fishermen's lots at Burnham and DuSable harbors are available at Henry's.
MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN
For D&S Bait, go to dsbait.com
EAGLE RIVER: Creative Brilliance sent this report for the Chamber of Commerce:(Lead):
Ice conditions in the Eagle River area are generally good, with
areas of slush forming due to the warmer weather. As we move towards
spring, be extra cautious as ice will be thinning, honeycombing, and
breaking up, especially in current areas and around structure like bridges.
Be especially cautious about going out on lakes with motor vehicles.
Northern in the Eagle River area are hitting well, and locating in 15 feet
of water or less in and around weeds. Use a tip up with a large shiner or
sucker minnow. Anglers are also getting some largemouth bass as incidental
hits when going for the northerns.
Crappies are providing good action in the Eagle River area, but you have to
hunt for them. There are two areas to fish for the crappies: Shallow weeds
- -15 feet of water or less or the crappies are suspending up and down the
water column over deep mudflats. Fish at different depths starting at the
bottom and working your way up, remembering that crappies always bite up,
never down. Crappie minnows are working best, with waxies pulling in some
fish as well.
The bluegill bite in the Eagle River area is good. Fish 15 feet of water or
less in and around weeds. Use a small teardrop jig with a waxie.
Perch action has been good in the Eagle River area. The perch are really
scattered, with no consistent area to fish. Fish 5 to 25 feet of water,
over primarily mud bottom. The perch will be hugging the bottom. Use a
waxie, spike or wiggler - -all are working, and some real nice jumbos are
One suggestion that is paying off for ice anglers going for panfish in the
Eagle River area: Use electronic locators. This will save you an enormous
amount of time and effort- - especially since the panfish seem to be really
moving around right now. Be patient. Drill a lot of holes, and move
around. You'll find the panfish.
Walleye action in the Eagle River area is fair. Evening bite is best. Fish
10-25 feet off of break edges. Use a tip up with a small walleye sucker or
(Report for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce based on Creative Brilliance
interviews with Eagle River guides "Muskie Matt" of Wild Eagle Lodge,
"Ranger Rick" Krueger of Guide's Choice Pro Shop, and Mat Hegy).
Contact info for Eagle River:
* Eagle River Chamber of Commerce; 800-359-6315; 715-479-6400; e-mail:
email@example.com; web: www.eagleriver.org
* "Muskie Matt", 715-891-5980; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Mat Hegy, 715-571-7544, e-mail: email@example.com
* Guide's Choice Pro Shop, guide/owner "Ranger Rick" Krueger 715-477-2248
* George Langley, Eagle River Fishing Guides Association, 715-479-8804.
MINOCQUA: Guide Kurt Justice of Island Sports sent this:
Conditions and action took a dive by the weekend, with wind and some cold - along with a high pressure system ahead of this new front really slowing down the overall fishing.
Some species seem to take the changes harder than others. Odd that even on the warm days of mid week, walleyes, crappies and perch shut down so much.
With all the snow cover gone due to the February thaw, ice has no cover (1/2" of dust as of this report) to protect is from the sun. Could be another early ice-out.
Bluegills: Fair. Wind has made fishing for this species tough. Anglers using small tungsten jigs (more weight than lead) to try to keep tight lines. Single waxie or pair of spikes slowly lowered finding gills 3-4' off bottom. Bite slow and sorting necessary to come up with keepers.
Crappies: Fair to Good. Last week good but bite progressively slower as week went on. Anglers in 12-14' of weed growth finding action for small windows of time. Plastics on rocker jigs as well as Gulp Alive maggots producing for tight-liners. The hot minnow bite for tip-down anglers has slowed, deep water action better than shallow (less than 15'). Warmer weather and some snow cover should help.
Northern Pike: Fair. While action not as good as last week, a noticeable difference in pike action in shallower weed flats that walleyes have vacated. Hold shiners 2-3' off bottom below tip-ups. Panfish are holding a bit higher now and a lower oxygen content on some lakes (should improve with lack of snow) could have something to do with better action up higher.
Perch: Poor-Fair. What started off so good last week has really shut down. Anglers locating perch in mud flats of 18-26' having tough time enticing bites by Sunday. Best reports on small wigglers on tiny trebles, #14, #16 to pick up reluctant fish.
Walleye: Poor. One theory is the lack of snow coupled by sun and full moon nights has either shut the bite off completely or moved it to deeper water. Either Way fishing was mostly poor (except for a few late night anglers fishing deep-clear lakes). Daylight bite non-existent, we need some snow cover to put odds back in to their feeding favor.
Ice thickness reports range from 15-20". Not much for late February and no snow cover. The clear ice and bright sun definitely affected several species (most notably walleye and crappie). Ice access is excellent. Once on ice drive slowly as it is slippery. Wear cleats, things are like a bumpy skating rink.
Game fish season is over at midnight March 6th. Two weeks left. Seems a lot of anglers have already switched to panfish. I expect another early ice out, similar to last year unless we get some snow to protect the ice.
Mik-Lurch reported some browns at the stateline power plant from shore. Otherwise, it is waiting on south winds to come allow access to the big lake. There was a small window last week with south winds when coho and browns were being caught at Gary Light. Looking at the forecast, I am not sure when that window will reopen.
For reports, click here.
ST. JOSEPH AREA, MICHIGAN
Click here for BJ Sports.
CHICAGO AREA CHAT/REPORTS
CHICAGO AREA INFO
MICHIGAN DNR REPORT
WISCONSIN DNR REPORT
IOWA DNR REPORT
INDIANA DNR REPORT