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Midwest Fishing Report: Ice fishing

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As it finally should be for late January, ice fishing leads this Midwest Fishing Report.


A friend sent this varied catch of a friend from a lake to the north of Chicago, and that is all the details I pulled from him.

I would note that there have been catfish reports from widely scattered spots.

Ice fishing is going. Conditions vary wildly, as do reports.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at


Travis Brasfield and others noted creepers are important with slick ice with the refreezing. But, as Steve Palmisano at Henry's noted, there is a good base of ice down. Lakes to the north and west are in better shape than those south. As of Tuesday, all the sites in the McHenry County Conservation District were open; while none in Lake County FPD were (go figure the sense in that one). Ice fishing is underway at most other public sites around the suburbs at your own risk. I listed the public site regs below.

Brasfield sent this account of a weekend outing,

which kind of sums up a lot of things: hit a small bay with a group on Saturday and we did pretty good. We fished a small docking bay on a lake in McHenry that was holding 4 inches of ice. The bay averaged about 4 feet deep - no a lot of weeds. We finally found a hole that was about 5 to 6 deep were we found fish We had good bite going from about 8:30am till about 1pm and then the fish turned off. Gills averaged about 8 inches and an impressive 10.5 was pulled out from another group of guys about 40 feet away from us. We ended up taking about 50-60 gills, from just our small group. only one crappie came in and a few yellow bass. I had one miss with the tip up and another guy brought in a 3 pound large mouth on a jigging stick. White wedgies w/plastics was the key.

Capt. Ralph Steiger had a photo on Facebook of a beautiful big catfish he caught somewhere on the Chain.

PUBLIC AREAS REGS: Ice fishing isn't permitted on the Chicago lagoons or the lakes of the Forest Preserve District of Will County. Here are the other regulations. COOK FPD: Ice fish at your own risk (4 inches is recommended) on the designated ice-fishing lakes, same as last winter: Arrowhead, Axehead, Beck, Belleau, Big Bend, Bode South only, Bullfrog, Busse main and south (no north pool), Flatfoot, Green, Horsetail, Ida, Maple, Papoose, Powderhorn, Saganashkee, Sag Quarry east and west, Tampier, Turtlehead and Wampum. DuPAGE FPD: 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.) KANE FPD: Ice fishing, at your own risk, is permitted at Lake Patterson at Oakhurst in Aurora and the various ponds at Burnidge in Elgin. LAKE FPD: No sites are open yet, When ice fishing is permitted, the sites are Banana, Independence Grove south bay and Sterling, when the ice is uniformly 4.5 inches thick and the area is posted as safe for fishing. Call (847) 968-3235 or go to the ice fishing page at MAZONIA SFWA: Monster Lake is open year-round for open-water or ice fishing. All ice fishing is done at your own risk. The other Mazonia units open after various hunting seasons. McHENRY COUNTY CD: None are open yet for ice fishing. When ice fishing is permitted, it is 8 a.m. to sunset at the Fel-Pro RRR, the Hollows (Lake Atwood and West Lake), Lyons Prairie & Marsh (after bowhunting ends Jan. 15), Pleasant Valley, Rush Creek pond and Stickney Run pond, once signs are posted after 4 inches of ice are formed. Then it is at your own risk. SILVER SPRINGS SFWA: Ice fish at your own risk on both lakes (Loon and Beaver). Use the east entrance.


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here.


For guide Mike Norton's report, go to, then click on fishing, then lake report.


From licensed guide and trapper Phil Schweik and guide Glenn Moberg of Hooksetters Guide Service:

(Head): Panfish are the main attraction, but walleye and northerns are
hitting as well; all in and amidst the lakes and the Wisconsin River of
Wisconsin's Marathon and Lincoln Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau).
EDITOR'S NOTE: At the end of this report, see the information about a great
ice fishing tournament being held on Lake Wausau

Panfish are still the main attraction but walleye and pike are not to be
taken of the hit list in the central Wisconsin area.

With plenty of ice on central Wisconsin area lakes anglers are getting out
and having good action on all species of fish. Crappies and bluegills have
been biting well on small tear drop ice jigs in 4 to 8 feet of water around
weed beds. Work all the levels of the water column as panfish will suspend
at different stages when searching for food. This past week also saw us
starting to get into the first regular perch bite of the year. We are
working small rocker style jigs in purple and green tipped with wigglers
right on the bottom in deep water from 16 to 25 feet.

Walleyes in the central Wisconsin area have been feeding regularly at low
light times and after dark with the best bite being right as the sun goes
below the tree-tops. Tip-ups baited up with golden shiners or small sucker
minnows has been the best bait for us when suspended about one foot off the
bottom. We are targeting water depths of up to 20 feet during the daytime
period but as the sun starts to go down move your tip-ups in to less than 10
feet of water. And don't be afraid to go as shallow as two feet as the
walleyes will regularly move up extremely shallow to tap minnows along
shoreline areas.

The northern bite in the central Wisconsin area has been very good all
winter long and some really nice fish are being caught. We are running
tip-ups baited up with large golden shiners and suspending them directly
below the ice in 3 to 6 feet of water. Good areas to target are along weed
lines an shallow backwater bays off the main river channel of the Wisconsin

Trails End and Hooksetters Guide Service

1st annual ice fishing tournament.

Fish anywhere on Lake Wausau!

Trails End Bar & Grill Located at: 3901 Sherman Rd. Wausau, WI 54401
Date: February 11th
Time: 7:00am until 5:00pm
Entry: $10.00 per person ? Purchase between now and the day of the
tournament at Trails End. Bar will open at 6:00 am on the day of the
tournament for registration.
To register fish: Bring them to Trails End Headquarters. Come by road or
water?. Fish must be at the Headquarters no later than 5:00 PM

There will be prizes awarded in the following categories:
There will be cash prizes for 1st through 3rd place. Prize amounts will be
determined by the amount of participants.
1st through 3rd place will be determined by the three largest fish brought
in by length in each division. In case of a tie the tie breaker will be
determined by weight. If there is still a tie the winner will be determined
by the first fish registered.

There will be food and drink specials all day long during tournament hours
at the bar. There will be several different raffles going on throughout the
day with lots and lots of great door prizes as well. Too many to give

There will be FREE food for tournament participants after 5:00 pm ? and it's

Mark your calendar for February 11th.
We will see you there.....
Any questions please call John: 715-370-3018


Ice varies, but averages six inches; use usual caution around current and middles. Action is underway on all Chain area lakes, including Deep and Loon. Staff at Triangle said the best panfish action is south end of Channel; some on Pistakee Bay; ice fishing is underway on Mineola, which suggests some white and yellow bass are being caught. For walleye, try night fishing the flats on Channel or the flats next to drops on Marie.

EARLY ACCESS:In case, ice is safe, here are early ice accesses. For T-Channel, park in back at Famous Freddie's--(847) 587 9677--then come in and eat. . . . On Channel, Chopper's Bar--(847) 838-1230--has relatively early access. Chopper's takes the $5 parking off if you order food. . . . Granny's--(847) 395-2328--at Spring Lake Marina has parking and takes the $5 off if you order food. Be careful, early ice is tricky there. . . . For Hermann's Lowlife Bar & Grill--(847) 639-9644--has $5 parking, wax worms, food and drink.

For more reports, see

More Chain info at


BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA: Only Monster Lake at Mazonia South remains open year round. Mazonia North Unit lakes are open. Any ice fishing is at your own risk, and at a time like this, that truly has meaning. HEIDECKE: Closed for the season. LaSALLE:Closed for the season.


Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle--(262) 245-6150--reported sporadic bluegill on Delavan; he has three shanties out. Remember Lake Lawn Marina has $5 parking. There's good pike but few bass on Como; lots of good bluegill on Pleasant. On Geneva, ice fishermen are sorting keeper perch on Geneva Bay.


EMIQUON: The 2012 permits are available at Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown. POWERTON: Shore fishing is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. EVERGREEN: The 2012 permits are available here, too. Any updated fishing report from staff will be posted here.


As to ice fishing Nielsen's Channel at Port Barrington, Arden Katz reported good bluegill to eight inches, trick is to use 2-pound line with ice jigs and spikes, then jig all the way down because some fish are suspended right under the ice.

We are in that winter period, where I will run this winter suggestion by Ken Gortowski:

Don't forget for the rest of the winter to say that Float 'N Fly fishing is the deadliest cold water fishing technique out there. Slack areas near shore. Don't reel much. Let the fly cover the whole slack area.


The guys at Mik-Lurch report some steelhead continue in the streams. It's been a good winter.


Ed Mullady sent this, which includes some pretty good general mid-winter advice:

Not very many fishing right now. River came up slightly from recent rain, snow.
This is the time of year that often brings fishermen fishing in open waters of the river
and tributaries with good catches of walleye *northern pike and yes, catfish. Minnows for walleye and northern pike or artificials resembling minnows seem to work best.
Croppie time along shoreline brush piles, mouths of ditches, creeks!

Note the last line at the end of this report from Norm Minas:

air temps in the 40's and a lot of rain overnight made about a half foot of snow pretty much disappear. Right into the storm drains, ditches, cricks and the river, river about doubled in flow rate in short order.

Unfortunately the warm spell was gone before noon. high winds blowing in cold air and kicking tall whitecaps upstream. some rain drops rattling against the hood of the coat, they started to sound more solid than rain by the time I quit and felt it when they bounced off my face.

I tossed the waders on, mostly to keep the mud off and break the wind. very limited entry into the water with logs and ice floes the size of the hood of my old t-bird crashing around in the water.

manmade or natural, intermittent or steady, inflows were the pattern of the day for me. even hit a spring that flows out of a limestone ledge into the river.

there was lots of ice floes of all sizes and shapes, made fishing a jig extremely problematic and it wasn't producing fish any way.

I got my best bass working a rattlebait against the current out on the seam where a crick kissed the river. all the ice floes made a very distinct edge and easy target to cast to.

I got the other bass over by the spring on the rattlebait, vertically jigged from up on the shore, right at the edge of a very slight color line. that fish was in about a foot of water. figured it had potential when some minnows skittered when i initially dropped the rattlebait in.

last fish of the day was a pike in the mid 30 inch range, didn't get a real accurate measurement as the wind had a bit of a nasty edge to it and I just wanted to get my hands dry. it came off a slack spot in a crick mouth that has produced pike for many years now,

I tried a crankbait and a singlespin, got a bunch of leafy/woody debris and a couple plastic bags. I tried a zara spook but there was just too much ice floating on the surface to make that anything but frustrating.

It's the best day of fishing I've had in over two weeks.


For Ohio DNR report go to and or call (888) HOOKFISH.


CHICAGO: Conditions in the harbors and Navy Pier vary with unsafe ice in and out. There's still some perch at 92nd, though slush had limited some fishing over the weekend. NORTH POINT: Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop reported some ice fishing for pike with roaches. CHICAGO PIER PASSES: With little ice in the harbors, remember the $6 pier passes for select piers in the Chicago harbors are available at Henry's Sports & Bait. CHICAGO FISHERMAN'S PARKING: The fisherman's parking pass--$10 for two months and available at Henry's Sports & Bait--is needed to park south of the main building at Northerly Island. . . . That's the same pass good for the small fishermen's lots at Burnham and DuSable harbors.


Gene Dellinger at D&S Bait reported good ice, but fair fishing. A few nice perch on Kegonsa, a few deeper on Monona and just beginning on Mendota. Monona and Squaw bays are best for bluegill, but they take sorting.


EAGLE RIVER: Creative Brilliance sent this report for the Chamber of Commerce:

(Head): Northerns and panfish putting on a good bite, with walleye fair, in
the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Ice in the Eagle River area ranges from 10-13 inches. With a snow cover,
foot travel is difficult. Use an ATV or snowmobile if possible. Vehicle
travel is not recommended - -although a few trucks have been spotted on area
lakes (usually small) where the ice is even thicker than the area average.

Northerns are putting on a good bite in the Eagle River area. Fish 10 feet
of water or less. The best bite is outside of weed edges, but northerns are
also being caught in the weeds, themselves. Use a medium shiner or sucker
minnow under a tip up. All date bite.

Panfish (crappies, bluegills and perch) in the Eagle River area have moved
deeper with some consistency. Fish 14-25 feet deep over mudflats. The
crappies and bluegills will be suspending up and down the water column, and
the perch will be tight to bottom. Use a small jig tipped with a waxie or
spike. Good all day action.

Walleye action in the Eagle River area is fair. Fish 12 feet of water or
less outside of weed edges. Use a small shiner under a tip up. The walleye
will be within a foot of the bottom. Best bite is at sunset.

(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:; web:
* "Muskie Matt", 715-891-5980; e-mail:
* Mat Hegy, 715-571-7544, e-mail:
* Guide's Choice Pro Shop, guide/owner "Ranger Rick" Krueger 715-477-2248
* George Langley, Eagle River Fishing Guides Association, 715-479-8804.

MINOCQUA: Kurt Justice of Kurt's Island Sport Shop sent this:

Cold moved in at the end of the week through Saturday to help ice production. Kept more than a few people off the ice. Snow on Monday 5-6" but plenty of ice to support it. Average thickness is now 15-16".

Walleye: Fair-good. Windows of opportunity seem smaller. Dusk, 9-10pm and a few anglers scoring between 2-3am. Deeper water action (some in as deep as 45') requiring suckers, large #7 or #9 jigging raps. Big fish (26-30") but less action than earlier in the month. For eaters stick to weed edges of 8-14' at dusk with shiners, #5 jigging raps, #5 Chubby darters or #4 pimples with minnow head.

Perch: Fair-good. Action over mud flats heating up, still not fast but nice 8-10" perch over 16-18' mud on pimples, flickers tipped with wigglers. Bright or glow tungsten jigs help get single red spikes down when perch in negative mood.

Pike: Fair. Small fish still fairly active, but few larger fish reported, tops being a 30" this week. Shiners, river shiners, suckers held 18" off bottom below tip-ups. Rig small spinner blade foot above bait for added attraction.

Bluegills: Fair. Cold held back anglers for this species. High pressure on Thursday and Saturday didn't help. When it's like this, go light line 1-2# test and small #14 jigs with small plastic or single spike or moussee.

Crappie: Poor-Fair. Few reports. Too cold for tip-downs, slow dropping.

Good new is with an average of 15" most lakes are good for truck travel. This weeks forecast with lows in the teens, highs in the 20's should keep snow as snow (not slush) so travel by trucks should be good.


Reports and conditions at Willow Slough are varied; pike and bass are most consistent, the sporadic bluegill bite is best before dawn.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

Well we had a good 4-6 inchs of ice, but with todays warm spell I would say the ice isnt safe anywhere until it freezes back up. Steelhead fishing should be good on the river on the warmer days of this week. Water levels will be up and fish will hold in all different areas.


Denny Sands at Lakeside reported 5-6 inches of ice (geese are swimming two holes open); some guys on deep trees in 30 feet fishing down 25 were catching good crappie Tuesday on a very light bite. Some big catfish in the deep trees on a gob of redworms on the bottom.

You can check updates on Facebook.


As the Fish of the Week showed, ice fishing is beginning in spots with some crappie and pike. Conditions and reports are variable.



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hi went to blackwell forest preserve du page county wed. ice was 4-5 inches caught about 30 blueguill and one crappie with weather warming again i would not go until temps drop again sunday blackwell is having a ice fishing tournament feb. 11 if safe ice 12 pm till 3pm 15.00 pre registration online 20.00 day of

Fishing is pretty good according to this report. That is definitely great news.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on January 25, 2012 6:01 AM.

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