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Midwest Fishing Report: Winter comes in

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I am a little troubled how to word this Midwest Fishing Report as we are about to finally enter winter.

Everything will have changed--from river fishing, where guys were getting out and catching fish for the past week, to local ponds and lakes, which have been largely covered with unsafe thin ice.

Safe ice will be coming, unless of course there's too much snow cover. It's going to be a tricky few days, probably a good thing that this is the big show weekend around Chicago fishing and Chicago outdoors.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays. I am running a bit late today.

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


Tony Boshold holds an ice-fishing seminar from 6-8 tonight at Anglers International Resources in Palatine.


Northern and western lakes and ponds should rebuild some safe ice by the weekend. With that in mind, here are the regulations for public waters around Chicago fishing.

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.


I decided to post river reports again this week, even though they will probably become irrelevant by Thursday when the snow is flying and the ice building. 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): Steady panfish bite, northerns hitting, and a good night bite for
walleyes; all in and amidst the lakes and the Wisconsin River of Wisconsin's
Marathon and Lincoln Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau).

As we move into the new year the panfish bite continues to remain very good
in the central Wisconsin area. Shallow weeds in 3 to 6 feet of water are
holding a good majority of the gills but some larger fish are holding
deeper. Small ice jigs in purple and green have been the best producer this
past week when tipped with either waxies or spikes.

We have been catching quite a few nice crappies this past week in the
central Wisconsin area, holding in about 12 to 16 feet of water . The
crappies are suspended about 4 feet off the bottom and by using your flasher
unit finding them and the depths that they are holding at isn't very hard.
Tip downs set at appropriate depths and baited with small minnows has been
working very well but jigging with small teardrop jigs tipped with plastics
or live bait has been the most productive way to catch them.

Northern activity in the central Wisconsin area has been a pleasant
surprise this winter season as we have encountered quite a few nice fish
over the past couple of weeks. For anyone looking at catching a few try
running tip ups baited with large golden shiners in 4 to 8 feet of water.
Set your tip ups so your bait is anywhere from 1 to 2 feet off the bottom in
the deeper water and right under the ice in the shallower holes (less than 5
feet). Add attractants such as colored beads and blades on the line above
the bait to bring more attention to your offering and increase your catch.

The walleye bite in the central Wisconsin area has been very good especially
during low light conditions and after dark. Tip ups baited with small
suckers and golden shiners have been our go to set up. We are running the
tip ups in 3 to 8 feet of water along weed edges and shallow gravel bars.


Greg Dickson at Triangle expects this will be the weekend for ice fishing. Some of it will depend how much snow comes down and insulates the ice. Basically, like most other area waters, we will have to wait and see what and how much happens in terms of snow, wind and cold.

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


Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass sent this Tuesday night:

Chicago river fishing report ; Tony K and I took full advantage of the great weather this week . Just getting in now Tuesday 7pm , South branch temp 55 very slow with a few large mouth near Origins park . Wolf point a few small bass and a Albino brown trout 4.8 #s on XPS deep diving crank bait . Main stem ; temp 41 very good under Wabash bridge Large mouth hitting drop shots and big cranks even after dark . A great winter bite !


BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA: Only Monster Lake at Mazonia South remains open year round. Mazonia North Unit opened this morning. It is open-water fishing. I would not expect ice fishing before next week or even later. HEIDECKE:Closed for the season. LaSALLE:Closed for the season.


Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle expects good ice more generally by the weekend. As of Tuesday, the east end of Como had good ice, there were good bluegill reports from Pleasant, and a few are trying the west end of Delavan. Good ice or at least safe ice should be much more widespread by the weekend.


EMIQUON: The 2012 permits are available at Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown. POWERTON: Shore fishing is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. EVERGREEN: Remember the main park is closed for the late deer season Friday through Sunday. Also, the 2012 permits are available here, too. Any updated fishing report from staff will be posted here.


Patrick McKernin of Lombard sent this,

I have been hammering the Musky and Northerns in the Fox River the past week. Area from Batavia to Geneva, Deeper pockets around bridges and other structures have been the key. I took the camera with me on Sunday 01-08-12. 3 Musky and one Northern for me. Musky largest on was 44" Largest Northern 42" (picture of fish in the water)

Large X-Rap, Perch color, Slow retrieve.

Which reminds me, I should rerun what Ken Gortowski sent last month, which should hold much of the winter:

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.


Mik-Lurch staff reported a few steelhead remain in the streams.


Ed Mullady sent this:

Hi Dale,
River continues to be in fishable condition.
Good places to try, include:
IN - Kankakee River near Point, near English Lake *Rt. 55 to 41 for walleye on jig and minnow *jointed minnow plugs *Doctor Spoon *Mepps #5 spinner.
Catfish good throughout on *minnows *cheesebait if temp warm enough to keep on hook.
Pike at mouths of all available ditches *bayous*bridge piers on *larger 4-6"minnows *Mepps
#5 Spinner.
Croppie good in open water bayous, in water logs, drifts with edges of branches. Good on
pinkie jigs *#1 Mepps Sinners *2-3"minnows.
Actually, baits above work well on Illinois side at:
*State Line to Momence *Aroma Park Area *Kankakee Dam thru Sawmill Creek
*Kankakee River State Park*Wilmington Island Park.
Quite a few people fishing now with present weather.
The Michigan City, IN Spring Fever Outdoor Show is on Sat., Jan. 14 and Sun., Jan. 15 at Marquette Mall. Along with many other Fishing Seminars,. Rex and Ed Mullady
will be presenting a Sportsman's Letter Kankakee River Seminar at the Show on Sunday at 1 pm. Admission to the Show and other Seminars are free.

Norm Minas sent this Monday:

flow still dropping and clearing, about 4,500 cfs. water temps upper 30's. weather warmer than usual but not like earlier in the week.

I started today by checking a creek mouth and point pool with cranks, rattle baits and jigs, casting practice.

I wanted to try a slack spot at the head of an island that also has a waterwillow hump nearby. There are a variety of current conditions and some nice washout holes in the vicinity. There is also a duck blind, full set of dekes visible. I was back in the brush up on shore, don't think I disturbed anything, just backed off to find plan C.

Plan C was fishing some current seams upstream a ways. I was going to fish a crankbait against the current with a stop and go, but got a wildhair up the backside. I used a 1/2 oz jig/pig retrieved slowly against the current instead. I made about 5 passes along the seam varying from dragging to short hops with no fish. I got hung up on the next pass and started jiggling to try to free it up. When it popped free, it got smashed hard, put a bend in the rod. At first i thought I had snagged and spooked a huge carp, turned out not to be the case. After a bit, I landed a big smallmouth, quickly taped at 22 inches and released. I fished that area hard in both directions until it was time for work, no more action.

Still smiling.


Those braving the weather continue to hit on a good fall run of steelhead, according to Mik-Lurch staff.


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


CHICAGO: Arden Katz reported lots of small perch at Diversey, but keepers can be sorted out. As the water clears, a few more perch are being taken at DuSable, Navy Pier and Montrose, too. There's a few trout (browns and rainbows) around, too; Diversey is the most consistent. A couple boats were trolling out of Diversey on Tuesday. Mik-Lurch reported perch continuing in the river at 92nd. WAUKEGAN: Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop reported boaters are trolling in 4-15 feet for steelhead. Those fishing from shore with spawn or frozen shiners under floats are also picking up steelhead. CHICAGO PIER PASSES: In a related note with the perch in the harbors and no ice, 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 some ice fishing on Monona Bay, parts of Squaw Bay, parts of Waubesa and Cherokee Marsh. By the weekend, there should be more widespread safe ice.


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

(Head): Very good to excellent northern action, with a good walleye bite,
and panfish hitting well in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Ice conditions are generally good in the Eagle River area, with ice depth
ranging from about 8 to 10 inches. ATV's and snowmobiling are being used
consistently, with foot travel a bit difficult because of some snow cover.
There are a few motor vehicles here-and-there, but the guides we've spoken
to are still not advising using them. Remember - -caution is always "job
one." Heed the advice of our excellent Eagle River guides.

Northern action in the Eagle River area ranges from very good to excellent.
Fish 10 feet of water or less on the outside of weed edges. Use a medium
shiner or sucker minnow under a tip-up. All day bite.
Walleye are providing good to very good off-and-on action in the Eagle River
area. The bite is day dependent. The walleyes are biting, but it's
up-and-down ? somewhat sporadic. So patience is a must. Fish at sunset for
the best action. Fish 10-12 feet of water on the outside of weed edges. Use
a tip-up with a medium shiner, or a jigging spoon tipped with a fathead.
The walleyes are locating a foot off the bottom.

Panfish (crappies, bluegills and perch) are locating in two places in the
Eagle River area. Fish in the weeds in 10 feet of water or less, or over
mudflats in 15-25 feet of water. The perch will be tight to bottom, with
the crappies and bluegills suspending up-and-down the water column, which
will be day dependent. Sometimes the fish are suspending a foot off the
bottom and sometimes half way up ? and pretty much anywhere in between. So
fish all depths starting near the bottom and work your way up, remembering
that crappies always bite "up," never "down." Use a crappie minnow or a
waxie under a small jig. All day bite, with good action.

(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 said ice is averaging 10-11 inches, he is not recommending driving cars or trucks. Pike remain very good with above average fish being caught to 38 inches; best on big shiners or suckers, or vertical fishing Chubby Darters. Walleye have been good on the big lakes after dark (9-11 p.m.), some big fish up to 9 1/2 pounds; best on No. 7 or 9 jigging Rapalas with a crushed minnow. Bluegill are good; bite is better late morning, best in 8 feet with red spikes or wax worms.


For steelhead, see Indiana stream. Mik-Lurch reported perch and a few whitefish at the Hole-in-the-Wall; a few steelhead in the creeks; some browns at the mouth of the Ditch; and some crappie at Wolf Lake. I fear the Hole-in-the-Wall will be closed by tomorrow or Friday by the weather.


Denny Sands at Lakeside had hoped they would be open for this weekend, but he e-mailed yesterday,

No, we are hoping for the following weekend, as that is our Night Ice Fishing Event.

January 21st, 2012 - 1st Night Ice Fishing Event Sponsored by Cabela's Outdoors of Hoffman Estates - Crappie & Bluegill Contest heaviest 5 Crappie & 5 Bluegill will win Cabela's Gift Card - Pokanoka's will be open with a winter menu. Lakeside will be open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM and Pokanoka's will be open from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

I enjoy the night ice fishing at Shabbona. I just hope there's safe ice.

For reports, click here.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

Steelhead action has been great, spawn and plugs. A few walleye here and there. Cold weather in the forecast. Should be safe ice on the Channels and smaller lakes next week if the forecast holds.



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what, no midwest hunting reports anymore? Since there are no geese at Braidwood all winter, you choose not to report the daily/weekly harvests and only do it when the times are good? How about some articles about how terrible the waterfowl hunting has been with the mild weather? Don't just brag and report about it when the times are good, so that by reporting it in the newspaper you'll get everyone out to hunt. Talk about it now too when it's slow, when people actually have to work for the birds and it isn't as easy as reading the newspaper clips to know when to go.

Was out on the Fox on Tuesday hoping to tie into some bigger fish, but had to settle for dinks. This is good in a way. Same size dinks last fall in massive numbers. Big flood of 2008 wiped out quite a few smallies. The size I've been catching in big numbers would all be from the 2009 year class. This bodes well for the next few years, barring any more massive flooding.

Did a float and fly kind of thing with out the float. I know how to hang things where they need to be without it.

Tom, I check it every week. The couple weeks it has been decent, I reported on it. But it has been a poor year and I am not going to hype something that is not going and have guys waste their time. Braidwood is a public site, it is for the public not just the regulars or locals. And it is the only daily draw in NE Illinois. Want to address something, address that at the Springfield level. I assure you I will continue to try to let people know when things are going good at Braidwood and other nearby sites. It was a tough year, especially tough because it was supposed to be one of the great duck years.

Thanks for the response Dale: you just confirmed what I though your
opinion would be.  You say "I am not going to hype something that is not
going and have guys waste their time" and that says it all: you opinion
is basically then to only promote hunting or encouraging guys to go out
when they are guaranteed limits of birds, right?  Lets only report and
get them out of the house when the chance to kill is at it's highest,
rather then encourage people to still go and try because "you never
know" when the birds might show or migrate down?  Talk about
hypocritical. Try more of the "you should go out and try your luck" or
"don't just sit home because they aren't killing 100 ducks a day"
attitude. Why not encourage guys to go out for the camaraderie and not
just when times are good for a full limit?  If that's what you're saying
about guys wasting their time, then you have the absolute WRONG opinion
on what hunting waterfowl is all about.

Why would he send people out to hunt if the hunting is poor? That's an even slimmer chance of you shooting anything and looks bad on Dales part for reporting it... And who are you to say his opinions are wrong? I just don't think you're comprehending the issue appropriately... BTW, I live out in the braidwood area and last couple days I seen about 3 dozen people out there at braidwood and the surrounding fields amongst dozens of flocks...hmm

This is what a good fishing report should be like!

This is a great report! Thank you.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on January 11, 2012 9:05 AM.

Illinois fishing: Walleye record, extended tale was the previous entry in this blog.

Chicago outdoors: Showtime must go, snow or no (UPDATED) is the next entry in this blog.

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