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Midwest Fishing Report: Spring variety in Chicago fishing

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Signs of spring come in this Midwest Fishing Report: coho and browns on southern Lake Michigan and walleye reports in the rivers.

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

I'll open with coho and browns, but good reports on walleye/sauger are in the river sections.


The lack of ice cover on Lake Michigan has allowed fishermen to access spring coho and brown trout sooner than most winters. CHICAGO: Henry's reported powerliners with crawlers or minnows taking coho at Montrose, but also down to 67th. Casters are taking some browns and coho, too from shore, especially at the mouth of Montrose. WAUKEGAN: Capt. Augie Ralph of Salmon Stop reported fishing ``taking off'' for browns (live or frozen shiners), steelhead and coho (crawlers or shiners); on Johnson or government piers, and the south rocks (See Fish of the Week). If weather keeps moderate, boaters should be out this week. INDIANA: Capt. Ralph Steiger reported coho limits on Monday with a few big browns mixed in; they were casting jig/squid combos. Ed McCain at Mik-Lurch reported limits of coho from shore at East Chicago Marina the past several days on spawn or squid. Most are running 14-16 inches. McCain said spoons should work, too. MICHIGAN: Tyler Harmon messaged that coho should be great from surf and piers with spawn at St. Joseph, Mich., and for trollers with crankbaits. He said coho are scattered from South Haven to Michigan City, Ind.


Ice fishing appears to be ending, other than a few pockets of fishable ice. By the weekend, I suspect it will mainly be guys targeting early crappie and walleye.


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here. Normally, this time of the year, this is a vital link. With our mellow winter, the spring flow is equally mellow.


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): Great northern and panfish bite, with increased night action for walleye; all in and amidst the lakes and the Wisconsin River of Wisconsin's Marathon and Lincoln Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau).

The northern have been just about as reliable as you could want this winter in the central Wisconsin area. We have seen outstanding numbers and some very good size this entire winter and this past week was no exception. We have been catching most of our pike in 3 to 6 feet of water tight within the weed line. We are running tip ups baited with large golden shiners set right below the ice to keep them from tangling up in the weeds and so the fish can find them as they cruise below.

This past week has been outstanding for all species of panfish in the central Wisconsin area. The crappie bite has been very good with the majority of fish holding in 14 to 18 feet of water. Small minnows on tip downs and tiny ice jigs have produced the best for us. Bluegills are biting about as fast as you can get your bait in the water with limit catches not uncommon. Most of the gills are holding in 4 to 8 feet of water associated with heavy weed cover and can be caught on tiny ice jigs tipped with waxies or spikes.

The perch bite has been absolutely fantastic. we cannot remember a winter where we have had such great perch action and not only has it been consistent but we have seen good numbers and size too. Depending on the type of day the fish are holding in 8 to 12 feet of water. The determining factor is that on cloudy days the perch are out roaming the flats and on sunny days we have found more perch hanging tight to the weeds.

The walleye bite in the central Wisconsin area has been for the most part an early morning and late afternoon bite with a substantial increase in activity after dark. Most of the walleyes we are catching have been found in 4 to 8 feet of water associated with current breaks and wood or rocks. We have been running tip ups baited with large golden shiners or small sucker minnows right near the bottom for the best results.


As of Tuesday, some ice fishermen were on Deep Lake. But ice fishing appears to be coming to end otherwise. Probably best to check back before the weekend. ``We had a guy here yesterday with a boat,'' Triangle proprietor Greg Dickson said.

For more reports, see

More Chain info at


Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass sent this:

Chicago river report: South branch some small bass hitting on small cranks, Main branch; Lots of bass hanging out near water discharges we did fantastic 40+ 2#s and some big gills and crappie Note: we did see some very big bass but could not get them to bite best bet, downtown


BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA: Remaining ice is disappearing at Mazonia lakes. Braidwood reopens March 1. HEIDECKE: Reopens April 1. LaSALLE: Tentatively reopens March 15, depending on summer help arriving.


Arden Katz reported good bluegill, keepers take sorting, in 6-8 feet with small jigs and spikes on Delavan, which had 8-10 inches of ice. Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle--(262) 245-6150-- said he expects to have some shanties out for the weekend. On Geneva, a few daredevils are ice fishing for perch; launching for boats is variable. Some spotty panfish at Pleasant.


SPRING: Fishermen are catching some muskie. Should be an ice-free weekend. POWERTON: Boat and shore fishing is open. Site is open daily 8 a.m.-4 p.m. EMIQUON: The 2012 permits are available at Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown. EVERGREEN: The 2012 permits are available here, too. Any updated fishing report from staff will be posted here.


Ken Gortowski:

I was just sitting here thinking about how in years past, I'd be out there roaming the river on a day like this. Now I can't get motivated to go. Sign of age when I can't seem to put up with this cold, damp air. Or I'm just lazy.

Would be a good time to go. As of right now, the river level is perfect. No ice anywhere. I was giving tips to someone on Monday about where to go for walleye. Maybe it's my focus on all things Fox River further south, but all my suggestions seemed to focus from Montgomery down through Yorkville. I know exactly where to go, lots of long, slower moving pools for well over 10 miles. Nice current breaks along them. Lots of gravel bars to fish in front of and behind. The pools have depths of up to 4 feet, at least.

For those exploratory challenged, try from Route 30 down to the power lines, almost a mile I think. There also happens to be a warm water discharge along this stretch, so anything is possible. Down in Yorkville, you can now get closer to the dam with a bridge in place over the whitewater course. But the dam has always been accessible from the north side. I'd concentrate more from the Route 47 bridge downstream for a half mile. Very good chance of walleye and there's always a chance of a stray muskie. Not much in the way of shore access, but layering up and getting in the water isn't that bad. At least for others.

There's a slight chance I'll get out to a creek nine miles up from the Fox this week. We'll see. For me, time better spent trying to coax a lethargic smallie or two out of a wintering hole.


Jim Lukancic messaged:

We found sauger18-25ft with the higher concentrations of fish 22-25ft.Jigging minnows and plastics and 3-waying minnows best. Which technique works better varies day to day or even time of day. Most of the fish we caught still seem to be males with the occasional bigger female. Jigging plastics took the bigger fish.


Ed Mullady sent this:

Walleye of various sizes are being caught from the river in both Indiana and Illinois parts of
the Kankakee. *Dams, Spillways, mouths of ditches, creeks are all good. Good baits include
Mr. Twister Wtd Kpr Hook *Jig and minnow *jig and crawler*jointed minnow-like plugs.
Northern Pike good at Ditch and Creek Mouths, up in deeper bayous, along quieter shorelines. Good on Weedless Doctor spoons *Mepps #5 spinners *4-6'"minnows. Double
River right now is near a normal level in most places.

Norm Minas sent this from several days of rambling:

water levels below normal for this time of year. about a foot of visibility, water temps low 40's. weather has been decent.

the walleyes are chewing, might be your best option. jointed minnow baits, j-11 and j-13 producing walleye in mid to high twenty inch range. rattle baits producing teener walleyes.

getting smallmouth on rattlebaits, they have been hitting hard, no doubt about it

pike should be better, only managed a few on single spins

mostly fishing eddies, seams and inflows.


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


For coho and browns, see top. For perch, the river around 92nd and 95th remains the most viable option, otherwise, just a few at Diversey. 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.


EAGLE RIVER: Creative Brilliance sent this report for the Chamber of Commerce on Sunday, so keep that timing in mind:

(Head): Good to excellent northern bite, with good panfish action and walleye fair in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Ice depth in the Eagle River area is holding between 12-15 inches on most lakes. Travel can be difficult (especially by foot). Best way to get around is by ATV or snowmobile. Motor vehicles still not recommended.

Northern are putting on a good to excellent bite in the Eagle River area. Fish 15 feet or less off of weed edges. Use a medium to larger shiner, under a tip up. Place your bait 4-5 feet off the bottom. All day action.

Panfish are hitting in two patterns in the Eagle River area. Fish 15-35 feet over mudflats, or in weeds in 15 feet of water or less. Perch will be tight to bottom. Crappies and bluegills will be suspending up and down the water column, with depth being day dependent, and changing continuously. Start fishing near the bottom and work your way up until you find the schools. Use a crappie minnow under a tip down or slip bobber; or use a small jig tipped with a waxie or spike. Good all day action.

Walleye are fair in the Eagle River area. Fish mud flats in 15-35 feet of water. Use a jigging spoon with a minnow head, or a small shiner or sucker minnow under a tip up. The walleyes will be locating within a foot of the bottom. All day bite, with peaks around 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:

Continued mild weather helped put anglers out in droves this past weekend. High pressure and a switch to an east wind by Monday put a damper on what started out to be a very good weekend of fishing.

Pike: Good-Very Good. Lots of flags flying. Big shiners and suckers producing nicer pike in the 26-34" range. Numbers of smaller "picklers" on medium shiners. Jigging Rapalas (#7-#9s) tipped with a minnow head as well as #4's and #5 Pimples sweetened the same way also scoring as pike very active. Five to ten foot weeds producing best.

Bluegills: Good-Very good. Action slowed with high pressure, but should return with snow, low skies this week. Moussees tops on #10 rockers, tear drops. Single spikes on small darts in 5-10' weeds. Good eaters (7 1/2-8 1/2") best at early am and from 5pm to dark.

Largemouth Bass: Good to Very good. This species likes the warm up and are being caught regularly on tip-ups baited for Pike. Jig anglers also catching lots of bass in the 13-18" range. Stick to the same weed beds as you would pike and gills.

Perch: Fair-good. Mud flat action picking up. Wigglers usually best but in some areas red spikes shine, probably due to areas inhabited by midge larvae and not mayfly larvae. If fishing a new area take both wigglers and red spikes to figure out which bait they prefer. Rosies on tip-downs are also catching fish over some of the 20-26' deep mud flats. The fish in 25-35' seem to prefer the insect larvae.

Walleye: Fair. Some good catches last Thursday and Friday nights, slowed with the high pressure. Suckers best bait. Offshore humps topping at 12-22' surrounded by 20-45' best.

Crappies: Fair. Like with walleyes, the action started to pick up last Thursday and Friday, then slowed. Slow dropping waxies, plastics. Crappies oddly tight to bottom. Look for this action to pick up in coming weeks.

The upcoming week, with a mix of a little snow, clouds and new moon should make for a good bite. Two weeks left to the gamefish season. Warmer weather leads to better tip-down fishing. Ice average about 18", access is excellent from Minocqua and west. There is a little bit more snow and some slush east towards St. Germain.


Tyler Harmon's report on coho and browns is at top. The rest of his messaged report is here:

Many inland lakes in the Southwest MI area should be free of ice by the weekend. Panfish, and pike action should be good. Pike will be near weed beds and shallow water getting ready to spawn. Spinner baits would be my choice bait. Remember it is very important to toss the female or big pike back during this time of year. Panfish should be shallow or near structure as well, fishing bobbers with wax worms, red worms or shiners, will take fish. Crappie should be getting ready to spawn, again important to toss back them big crappies to let them breed as well.


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I was thinking about heading up to the south rocks in Waukegan this weekend. Have any suggestions on getting into some Steelies? Which FOTW are you referencing in this article?

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 22, 2012 7:11 AM.

Stray Cast: Johnny B, dirges, dry flies & rainbows was the previous entry in this blog.

WWW Chicago outdoors: Maritime festival to spring coho to sheds is the next entry in this blog.

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