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Midwest Fishing Report: Varied ice

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There are some hilarious reports on the extremely variable ice conditions, which obviously leads this Midwest Fishing Report.

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


Conditions are extremely variable, there is no other way to put it. Safe ice is gone south of Chicago, while pockets of safe ice west and north may linger until the major cold snap next week. The forecast for next week seems to indicate conditions may firm up in time for batch of ice fishing events scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 11-12. We shall see.

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): Crappie action has really picked up, with bluegills and northerns hitting well, and a great walleye night bite; 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.

Crappies are biting well in the central Wisconsin area, and just this past
week we have seen a very good increase in our catch rate. We have been
finding the crappies in about 12 to 16 feet of water suspended anywhere from
1 foot off the bottom to 6 feet off the bottom. The key to finding the
larger fish is to stay higher in the water column. You may catch more fish
near the bottom but the larger fish are usually holding higher. Small
minnows have been working well but I generally like to run a tiny jigging
spoon tipped with just a minnow head or a plastic wedge tail.

The bluegill bite has been very good this past week in the central Wisconsin
area. We have been seeing the best action early in the morning up to about
10:00 AM and then good action from about 3:00 PM until dark. The best baits
have been Northland Mud Bugs and Mooskas in yellow and orange. We have been
tipping them with waxies or spikes depending on what the day brings. For
the larger fish we have been using plastics like Shrimpo's and Rat Finkies,
or just tipping our regular jigs with wedge tails.

For you guys that don't want to mess around with the small stuff the
northern action in the central Wisconsin area has been pretty good. We
have been fishing in 4 to 10 feet of water along sharp break lines with good
timber on the bottom. Large golden shiners have been the bait of choice
when suspended about 1 to 3 feet off the bottom. For the best action
instead of running a steel leader we have been using a 14 to 17 pound
fluorocarbon leader. The clear leader helps give the bait more freedom to
move around and it is almost impossible to see and I really don't seem to
get many bite offs due to the strength of the fluorocarbon line..

Walleye activity has been very good especially in the evening in the central
Wisconsin area. . Small sucker minnows or golden shiners run on tip-ups has
been the best bait when suspended below a tip-up in shallow water.. We are
generally fishing less than 6 feet of water when targeting the walleyes and
keeping our bait right near 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


As of Tuesday, most lakes held some safe ice, but it is decreasing. There will be some areas on some lakes, especially on deeper, later freezing lakes, that will hold fishable ice through the warm up.

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 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.


On Geneva, Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle--(262) 245-6150--reported boaters went vertical jigging for lakers out of Fontana on Tuesday, while others were ice fishing on the east end of Geneva Bay. Gates said there is a 50-50 chance of having his small shanties on Delavan for the weekend, the problem will be shorelines giving way; as of Tuesday, there was 9-12 inches on the west end of Delavan and Monday was the best day of ice fishing for bluegill and crappie. Remember Lake Lawn Marina has $5 parking. Bluegill are good on Pleasant, which might have the best ice; Como ice may go the quickest.


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 said on Sunday the front channel had 5 1/2 inches of ice (Hermann's reported still 5 inches on Tuesday); with 80 percent of the bluegill suspended halfway up or higher; best with spikes and ice jigs on 2-pound line. Conditions will be changing.

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.


Time on the Water Outdoors in Spring Valley had so many sauger fishermen on Tuesday that they sold out of minnows and had to restock. The river is up slightly, but very manageable. As of Tuesday, launches were open.


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

Very little fishing being done.
River very fishable now. Main active fish will include *Walleye on *jig and minnow *jointed or
double jointed plugs *Snagless Doctor Spoons.
Best areas include in IN & IL: Shorelines *logs in water *bridge piers.

Northern Pike good under these conditions on 4-6" minnows *#2, #3 Spinners *larger Doctor
Spoons. In both IN & IL Fish good up on flooded shorelines *mouths of bayous, ditches.

Croppie good in any bayou or backwater off the river in both IN and IL on *pinkie jigs *small white spinners *small spinnerbaits. Work brush piles near shore also.

A surprising account of January in review from Norm Minas:

not my best coldwater month on record. weird winter, less than stellar results, my fault. the fish know what they are doing in these unusal conditions but I haven't figured it out with any consistency.

2 out of 3 trips ran the skunk flag. 12 smallmouth, 2 walleye, 1 pike, 1 rock bass and 1 red horse sucker

rattlebaits, crankbaits, singlespins, jig/pig and weighted keeper/3 inch cigar worm

inflows and seams best bets.


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


CHICAGO: Spring signs: Powerliners are trying for trout and coho at Montrose. Henry's reported perch picking up again at Navy Pier; reports from the river at 92nd and 95th are variable. NORTH POINT/WAUKEGAN: On Tuesday, Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop reported some ice fishing at North Point, while some were going to launch from Waukegan for steelhead. 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 as of Tuesday, but there may be trouble spots by the weekend. Most interest is perch on Mendota, Monona and Waubesa; bluegill take sorting.


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

(Head): Very good to excellent action for crappies, bluegills and perch, with the northern bite good, and walleye fair, all in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Ice is 12 inches plus in the Eagle River area. There's about a foot of snow
on the ice, and areas of slush, which makes foot travel difficult. Use an
ATV or snowmobile. There are mixed opinions from guides about using motor
vehicles. The ice is still too "iffy" according to some, to use motor
vehicles. Caution is a definite "must do" - -and if there is any even
slight question ,do not take any chances which will compromise your safety.

Panfish ? crappies, bluegills and perch - -are putting on a good to
excellent bite in the Eagle River area. The panfish have moved deeper.
Fish 15-30 of water. The perch will be tight to bottom, with the crappies
and bluegills suspending up and down the water column. Start at the bottom
and work your way up. Use a small jig tipped with a waxie or spike, or a
small crappie minnows on a bare hook.

Northern action is good in the Eagle River area. Fish 10 feet of water or
less in and around the weeds, with the weed edges best. Use a medium shiner
under a tip up, setting the minnow a foot above the weeds. A sucker minnow
will also work, but shiners are best.

The walleye bite in the Eagle River area is fair. Fish 15 feet of water or
less outside weed edges. Use a small shiner on a tip up, or jig with a
small spoon tipped with a minnow head.
Best action comes when you start fishing about an hour before 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:

Change on the ice has happened quickly. Travel and access conditions have changed from very good to poor in the past week. Either 15-17" of ice isn't enough to support the fresh 6-10" of snow we got, or they just ain't making ice like they used to.

Slush is bad. Some areas it's 6-8" or better. Snow drifts on the lakes, plus the slush are almost putting an end to ATV travel on the lakes for now. A few high traffic areas (Stacks Bay, south end of Big Arb ect.) are packed down and not as bad, otherwise it looks like truck travel is your best option.

With mobility being a bit more limited, reports were fewer as anglers had tougher times fishing some lakes.

Pike: Fair-good. Action on tip-ups with shiners in 7-12' of weed edges best. Average size down from beginning of January. More of the 20-24" variety.

Bluegills: Fair-good. Weed action fair along bays of 6-10'. Small #12-#14 jigs tipped with single spike on light 2# test best. Deep water gills, use tungsten jigs over 17-22' sandgrass. These fish seem to be more aggressive and put on a better bite.

Perch: Fair-poor. Bite slow. Tough time covering flats due to slush. Seems right now shallow weed perch a bit better bet than deep mud perch. Wigglers still a good bet, but weed fish taking small minnows best.

Walleye: Fair-poor. Windows seem shorter. Some anglers reporting action on suckers over deep bars/humps in 18-32' after dark.

Crappies: Poor. High winds Saturday, then high skies Sunday made for slow action. Look deep at this time of year. Work transition zones in 18-28'. Rosie reds on tip-downs (when applicable) or below floats best, usually 2-3' off bottom.

Maybe it's the mid winter blahs, the troublesome slush or we were just spoiled by the December and early January fishing. The blanket of snow reducing light penetration which in turn cuts back on oxygen production could be it. Either way fish have slowed. The deep perch bites should start picking up and thank goodness that the weather has been tolerable enough to keep the pike flipping flags.

Use trucks when you can for travel, carry a shovel, tow strap and knee high boots. Hopefully a warm up followed by a cold snap can firm things up.


Capt. Ralph Steiger caught a few browns in the shipping channel on Tuesday, while the guys at Mik-Lurch said two guys steelhead fishing at Michigan City caught some coho.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

Ice ended up staying good all last week. As long as its cold at night no reason it shouldn't stay alright this week as well. Pike action has been good, and gills have been doing alright as well.


Denny Sands at Lakeside reported guys ice fishing Tuesday in the road bed and deep trees, that's not going to last. Rockfest scheduled for Saturday is cancelled.

You can check updates on Facebook.



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As you said about the chicago lakefront, what do you mean by "powerliners"?

Wow, that sounds pretty awesome. and unusual since i've never heard of it. (two thumbs up)

"while pockets of safe ice west and north may linger until the major cold snap next week"
Dale, major cold snap?
I checked the weather channel and weather undergound for De Kalb County, and I see only one day that the high doesn't break freezing, and that's 31 degrees. Nothing below 23 overnight. Do you have some inside info I don't know about? lol
The wife got me a ice fishing shelter for Christmas, and this weather is killing me.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 1, 2012 10:57 AM.

Chicago fishing: Fish of the Week was the previous entry in this blog.

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