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Midwest Fishing Report: Spring signs & variable ice

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From spring coho beginning on southern Lake Michigan to extremely dangerous and variable ice conditions, there's a lot of seasonal notes for this Midwest Fishing Report.

I also included updates on scheduled derby events and would highlight two fishing things: Milwaukee harbor for browns, and browns and coho beginning along southern Lake Michigan shoreline, both from shore in spots and by boat.

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


The 52nd annual Chain O' Lakes Fishing Derby and Winter Festival, sponsored by the Northern Illinois Conservation Club, is on for Saturday and Sunday. The headquarters, as usual are at the Thirsty Turtle on Channel Lake.

The Island Lake Lions Club's Ice Fishing Derby is postponed until Feb. 18.


Conditions are extremely variable from completely open water to patches of fishable ice north and west. Know what you're doing and use common sense. There will be some safe ice building through the weekend.

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. 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): Northern and panfish hitting hard, with walleye providing a very
good bite after dark; 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.

This past week has seen a drastic turn around in the perch bite in the
central Wisconsin area. We have been limiting out on very nice jumbo perch
on almost every trip - sometimes in less than a couple of hours. We are
fishing mud flats in 10 t o14 feet of water right on the bottom with
wigglers and rosie reds.

The northern pike bite has also been outstanding in the central Wisconsin
area. We have been catching on average 20 to 30 fish a day. Now most of
these northerns are in the 20 to 26 inch range but the action is about as
much fun as anyone can have. We have also been targeting some very nice
sized pike on other bodies of water but you won't get the quantity. The fish
on these lakes average over 30 inches and up to and over 40 inches. Most of
the pike are coming on large golden shiners set on tip -ups right above the
weeds in 6 to 8 feet of water. But we are also seeing a number of the
larger pike out roaming the sand flats in 10 to 15 feet of water adjacent
sharp break lines.

The panfish bite is about as good as it can get in the central Wisconsin
area, and we are catching very good numbers of bluegills and crappies to
create a sort of mixed-bag catch for the day. It is a lot of fun not
knowing what is going to take your bait next and it is very rewarding when
you feel the strike and your thinking 8 inch bluegill and a 13 inch crappie
comes flopping through the hole. We are using small ice jigs tipped with
waxies or spikes fishing weeds in 6 t o8 feet of water. But the key to our
success is to make sure that the tip of the jig hook is covered with bait.
If the hook point is exposed the fish are very reluctant to strike.

Walleye action is still an evening and early morning bite with some very
good action after dark in the central Wisconsin We have been fishing a
variety of lakes with both dark and clear water and it seem that the darker
the water the shallower we can fish. If we are in clear water we are
averaging 10 t o15 feet or deeper to find the fish and if we are in stained
water we are finding them in less than 6 feet of water. Most of our
walleyes are coming on small suckers or shiners that are set on tip-ups and
run about a foot off the bottom.

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


Extremely dangerous ice conditions, a few local anglers are accessing small areas of their home lakes. By the weekend, more areas may be fishable. The south end of Channel might be fishable for bluegill for the 52nd annual NICC derby this weekend. Until unsafe ice, pike were outstanding as fish staged for the spawn. Some are fishing open water around the Route 12 bridge.

EARLY ACCESS: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:Both units at Mazonia are now open for fishing. Any ice fishing, if safe ice forms again this winter, is at your own risk. HEIDECKE: Closed for the season. LaSALLE: Closed for the season.


Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle--(262) 245-6150--reported good bluegill, crappie and pike at the west end of Delavan; ice is building again though the middle is open from geese. Como has decent pike, 3-6 inches of ice. Turtle has perch on wigglers. Bluegill remain good on Pleasant.


Nick Doumel, VP of the Des Plaines River Anglers Association, sent this:

The typical cold water targets are happily feeding. If you are willing to get out with some live bait under a float you will be rewarded with some toothy critters. Look for slack water areas in deeper pools, especially at the end of a current run, as well as any seams. Pike seem to be stacked up waiting for easy meals to come to them and generally aren't willing to give chase to any lures. A few sauger and a stray walleye were found in the same conditions but much tighter to the seams than the pike.


SPRING: Site super Stan Weimer said, ``Muskie guys are tearing them up. We are ice free as we speak [Tuesday afternoon].'' Call 309) 968-7135 to check on ice, if the forecast cold comes. POWERTON: Boat fishing reopens next Wednesday. Remember, there are no docks. Weimer said that catfish--channel, blue and flathead--have been good with some big fish being taken by shore fishermen. Site is open daily 8 a.m.-4 p.m. SHELBYVILLE: Guide Ken Wilsoniter of Lithia Guide Service reported limits on crappie, fishing live bait in 25-30 feet, down 15, on main lake points or channel breaks. Look for wind blowing bait in and gulls diving. A few walleye below the dam. 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.


For open water, I will rerun this from 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.


Ed Mullady sent this:

With cooler weather, not too many fishing.
Good time to try for walleye, croppie or pike along the Kankakee.
Best along shorelines with fairly quiet water *bridge piers *mouths of ditches creeks on
favorite river live bait or artificials.
Should have more info for you soon. Rex Mullady and I will be at the Tinley Park High School Show Saturday and Sunday, and will enjoy talking to Kankakee River enthusiasts at
our display. It is a nice show.

Norm Minas sent this from Monday:

flow rate 7,300 cfs and dropping, visibility and water temps no change from yesterday. chillier today, knit hat, gloves, winter coat.

I decided to chase some pike than switch to bass so I went to a spot where it was possible to do both in a reasonable walk. It's a side channel of an island that makes a hard left after it comes over a broken dam. There is a small backwater type area off of it to the right. The local park district was draining a temporary skating rink via a large hose to the end of the backwater. It was shallow, lots of vegetative type stuff so I started tossing a fluke into the more open areas. Three decent pike grabbed it when I killed the fluke and let it sink by the veggies. I moved further down to where the veggies thinned out, there was a distinct mudline set up. The pike didn't want the fluke but three of them liked a husky jerk sitting still on the mudline.

No more fish down to where the current flow started so I took off the 6 inch wire leader and put the husky jerk back on. I snapped it down and let it drift on the seam, got two walleye and a white bass. I got two more walleye at the point where the side channel rejoined the river by using a slow steady retrieve.

Next up was a logjam surrounded by foam piles. I tossed a hollow soft plastic swim bait rigged on a swim bait hook . got two bass hanging tight to the wood.

Last stop was an area that has slower current between a water willow island and a bluff off the main river channel. I swam the soft plastic swim bait from one end to the other. I tried to keep it slightly above the bottom. Four more walleyes liked that approach.


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


CHICAGO: Northeast winds are dirtying the water, but Henry's reported powerliners took some coho at Montrose Tuesday; there's been some browns at Diversey; and a few steelhead at the mouth of Montrose. Perch at Navy Pier have been in and out; good on Sunday, poor on Tuesday. Most consistent for perch remains in the river 92nd, 95th, 106th, etc.; even that can be variable. 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 ice holding with some perch and pike on Waubesa; bluegills take sorting on Monona and Squaw bays; a few perch on Monona off Wild Haven; on Mendota, pike are being taken on the city shoreline, walleye on the bars, and perch by Second Point.


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

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

Ice thickness in the Eagle River area is running 12-14 inches. With slush
present on the lakes, travel is tough - -especially by foot. Use a
snowmobile, if possible. Motor vehicle travel is still not recommended.

Northern are putting on a very good all day bite in the Eagle River area.
Fish 12 feet of water or less on weed edges or in the weed beds themselves.
Use a medium shiner on a tip up, and set your bait just above the weeds.

Panfish (crappies, bluegills and perch) are locating in two areas in the
Eagle River area. Fish in and around the weeds in 12 feet of water or less,
or fish 15-30 feet of water over mud flats. Use a small jig tipped with a
waxie or crappie minnow. The perch will be tight to bottom, with the
crappies and bluegills suspending up and down the water column. Depth for
the crappies and bluegills is day dependent. One day they'll be up high, the
next day close to bottom. Fish all depths starting from the bottom and work
your way up until you hit them. Good all day bite.

Walleye action is fair in the Eagle River area. Fish 12 feet of water or
less outside weed edges. Use a small shiner under a tip up, or a jigging
spoon tipped with a minnow head. The walleye will be locating with a foot
off the bottom. Sunset provides the best bite.

(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:

A super week of weather, plus a couple of big ice fishing derbies brought anglers out in droves. Someone should have told the fish! Temps in the high 30's to low 40's made for very comfortable anglers, but not great fishing. Still, results weren't terrible, it is the first week of February. High pressure didn't help and actually some fishing did improve.

Pike: Fair-Good. Been a good sport most of the winter. Fewer of the large fish of early January, but still enough action/eaters to keep flags flying. Shiners on tip-ups the standard. Jigging spoons (slender spoons, pimples) and jigging Rapalas also effective.

Perch: Fair-Good. Slower than usual for this time of year. Deep water perch tougher to locate. Wigglers on Hali jigs and #2 pimples over 15-20' mud. Red spikes also good bait. Up along weeds use a medium fathead on tip-downs.

Walleye: Fair-Good. Some surprisingly good reports. Walleye seem to be moving shallower during the warm spell. Fish 8-14' on suckers/shiners. One 26 1/2" caught on a crappie minnow and tip-down suspended 5' below ice for crappies. Weed edges were key this past weekend, could change with coming cold.

Bluegill: Fair-good. 8-12' weeds on #12 - #10 darts and tungsten jigs to get below smaller fish to target larger gills. Deep sandgrass flats holding gills on super clear lakes. Wigglers, spikes on larger jigs (#8) working best.

Crappies: Fair. Spotty catches at best. Deep mud/gravel edges of 22-28' producing on tip-downs baited with rosies. Weed fish taking plastics, waxies at times.

Largemouth Bass: Fair. Most action on tip-ups with shiners meant for pike.

The warm spell pushed snow down and seemed to have gotten rid of some slush. ATV travel is once again ok, little rough due to ruts, but snow depth is not bad. Even in a pick up the rides are rough now that things have firmed up so don't drive too fast.

We lost some ice this past week. Most lakes reporting 12 1/2" to 16". This coming week we could gain some with below zero overnight cold and highs in the teens.


There's some real spring news here. Mik-Lurch reported trollers taking coho and browns out of Portage and in shallow sand off Ogden Dunes; some perch at the R4 near Portage; a few coho off the Michigan City piers.


A local reported boaters taking good steelhead in the river; shore guys, a few; some coho and whitefish off the St. Joe piers. Also true for New Buffalo.


You can check updates on Facebook.


Milwaukee Harbor continues to be the hotspot for boaters catching nice browns, both trolling and casting.


Mik-Lurch reported walleye improving at night in the corn channel.



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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 8, 2012 8:47 AM.

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