Chicago Sun-Times
Stray Casts will intelligently report and observe, hopefully with a touch of wit, on daily occurrences, reports and releases related to Chicago-area outdoors from bucks to bass to birds to bugs

Midwest Fishing Report: Coho, walleye & ice-out

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Good coho fishing on the southern Lake Michigan lakefront, walleye in the rivers and transitioning from ice lead this Midwest Fishing Report.

We are getting close to where I need to split the rivers and lakes section again with the ice going off the lakes.

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 salmon and trout around southern Lake Michigan


One of the better runs of coho keeps going on southern Lake Michigan.CHICAGO: Henry's reported powerliners taking coho and a few steelhead from 63rd, McCormick and Belmont. Arden Katz reported casters taking a few steelhead and coho at Diversey while perch fishing.WAUKEGAN: Lori Ralph of Salmon Stop reported steelhead, browns and coho are being caught from shore fairly consistently; mostly on bait, but some are casting spoons. All three piers produce, depending on the day. INDIANA: Mik-Lurch reported coho everywhere for shore fishermen and boaters alike. Glen Gajewski said, ``We probably pulled 2,500 from shore around East Chicago Marina.'' A few coho have even gone up the streams to join remaining steelhead. MICHIGAN: Tyler Harmon messaged that steelhead improved in local rivers and coho were variable along the entire Southwest Michigan shore.''


With rapid warm-up, I expect many will be out trying today. Target the northern shorelines and shallow muddy bays, which will warm the quickest.


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): Strong panfish action across the board, with walleyes and northern STILL AVAILABLE for harvest, all in and amidst the lakes and the Wisconsin River of Wisconsin's Marathon and Lincoln Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau). Editor's Note: Remember that the walleye, and northern seasons on many waters of the central Wisconsin area DO NOT CLOSE, and you can fish for those species after the season has closed in most of northern Wisconsin. Make sure you check with the local DNR about which waters you want to fish remain open.

This past week has been very good for big slab crappies in the central
Wisconsin area. . We found most of our fish in 20+ feet of water suspended about 2 to 4 feet off the bottom but on some occasions they were right up under the ice. Most of the fish were caught using electronics to locate the proper depth and then they were taken on medium sized jigging spoons like Frosties and Forage minnows in white or pink. We then tipped the spoons with a minnow head on the treble hook o give it added scent as an attractor.

The perch have been very consistent in the central Wisconsin area in the past few weeks and we have been doing very well on some very nice sized fish. Most of the perch have been in shallower water form 4 to 8 feet deep holding tight to the bottom. We have been catching them on Swedish Pimples in gold prism and orange and again tipping them with a minnow head for an added attractor.

The bluegill bite has been very good this past week in the central Wisconsin area. and most of our action has come from shallow weeds ranging from 3 to 6 feet of water. We have been using Hexi Flies in orange and chartreuse along with Gill Getters in Firetiger for best results. Most of the time we are tipping out jigs with live bait ( waxies or spikes) but for the largest fish in the system we are running our jigs tipped with plastics like wedge tails threaded right on the jig hook

For anglers targeting larger species like walleyes and northern their season are closed on most bodies of water in northern Wisconsin. For those of you who still want to target them the Wisconsin River system and it's backwaters in the central Wisconsin area are open year round and have ample opportunities for targeting these species. Check with the DNR before you go out to make sure you're fishing on waters that remain open.

For walleye anglers in the central Wisconsin area look for shallow
backwater areas of the main river channel of the Wisconsin River and low light conditions for best action. Set tip ups baited up with golden shiners or small sucker minnows about a foot off the bottom for best results. The really great thing about this set-up is that it works out very well for northern pike during the daylight hours, so you can basically set up in the same areas and target walleyes under low light conditions and northern pike during the daylight hours. The only difference would be the bait. For the northerns we would suggest using larger bait set higher in the water and in some cases right under the ice. Northerns always look up and can easily find prey that is suspended above them.


There should be boat access on Marie for walleye and white bass, according to Triangle staff. Each lake is different, Catherine still had ice Tuesday. Pike should be spawning (practice catch and release) and catchable on Johnson spoons or live bait. Best bite is crappie in back channels and bays.

For more reports, see

More Chain info at


BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA:Braidwood opens daily at 6 a.m. For now, close is 5:30 p.m. Bass fishing, especially for boaters, has been very good; and, as always, there are more small channel catfish than you can possibly want. Should be a good time for crappie at Mazonia. HEIDECKE: Reopens April 1. LaSALLE: Reopens March 15. During the rest of March, it is open Wednesday through Sunday 6 a.m.-12:30 p.m.


Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle--(262) 245-6150--reported launching is available on Geneva Lake, and he expects they might be able to launch at Delavan by the weekend. As of Tuesday, a few were ice fishing on Delavan's west end, but that ice fishing likely will be ended by today.


SHELBYVILLE: Guide Ken Wilson--(217) 454-2672--of Lithia Guide Service reported good crappie deep (15-20) on main lake structure on (blue or white) plastics on a 1/4-ounce Shelbyville Killer jig. A few walleye are being caught below the spillway; that should improve greatly if rains come and kick up water flow. SPRING: Site super Stan Weimer said water temperatures are jumping around, but muskie remain the steadiest bite. He expects crappie to kick in again with the warm-up. POWERTON: Weimer said catfish--channel, blues and flathead--remain the top bite. Boat and shore fishing is open. Site is open daily 8 a.m.-4 p.m. EMIQUON: The 2012 permits are available for fishing at Emiquon from Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown. EVERGREEN: The 2012 permits are available here, too. Any updated fishing report from staff will be posted here.


For this time of the year, the Illinois has remarkably sane water levels. Of course I probably just jinxed us all. Jim Lukancic messaged that sauger have started to move up a little out of the winter holes, and some bigger fish are showing up.


Norm Minas sent this encouraging note:

After taking a day off from fishing to spend with the family, I was back at it today. I just wish the aches and pains would heal in a day like they used to when I was young and invincible.

Judging by the number of road killed skunks, spring is getting closer to being sprung. The geese are getting a bit more territorial and there is more insect activity. There are still some large flocks of birds hanging about adding their cacophany of calls to the mix. When the 10 AM tornado siren test went off, I discovered there were some coyotes a lot closer than I thought, judging by the yowls they don't like it any better than my lab. I saw three deer crossing a side channel and about a dozen turkeys hanging near the tree line in a sun flower field. There were carp and suckers rolling in a slack area behind an island. The highlight of the animal activity was a squirrel misjudging how much the wind was blowing and missing the branch on the tree it was jumping to. A wet, pissed off squirrel makes an ungodly amount of racket when it gets back on shore. If I hadn't seen it happen, I wouldn't have recognized it as a squirrel when it climbed out, definitely had a bad hair day.

Early on it didn't seem as warm as advertised with all the wind but by about 11 AM it started feeling better. the wind still made using a jig problematic but not a reason to go home by any means. Pretty much washed out , high blue skies but the sun felt good on old bones.

Flow rate about 5,400 cfs and dropping. Visibility 6 to 8 inches, never bothered to take water temps account CRS. You still can't wade every where you want but you can get enough access to catch some fish. Every crick I checked was on the low side but I did manage a crappie on a smaller husky jerk in a small hole up from the confluence a bit in one of them.

Other than the crappie all the rest of the fish came from the river. The first two smallmouth were holding on a current seam on the outside of a washout hole downstream of a water willow bed/stubble. They both took a rattlebait swam slow and steady just off the bottom against the current. No real hard hits just the lack of vibration from the lure and a mushy kinda is it a weed or a fish feeling.

Next up came the hottest action of the day, 4 walleyes in the mid 20 inch range in about 20 to 25 minute span. They were holding right on the top edge of the channel along a cobble/chunk rock flat. They were in 3 to 4 feet of water and took a Cordell Deep Wally Diver retrieved slowly against the current. They hit harder than the two bass but not by much. An hour of pounding the surrounding area with a variety of presentation proved futile.

I tried a couple more seams caused by bridge abutments with cranks and jigs but there was no response by fish. I did manage to pull in some line I snagged, it had two spark plugs for weight and a size 8 hook attached. One less headache for the future.

I hit a series of eddies with crankbaits, rattlebaits, jigs and a spinnerbait. I got two more smallmouth on the outer seam at the head of two of the eddies on a weighted keeper hook with an Eire Darter. I snagged something in the heart of one of the eddies. It took off for the faster flow at a high rate of speed. Luckily the crankbait popped free. Even luckier it missed me and buried itself into a patch of muddy bank. It definitely would of hurt judging by the noise it made whacking into the bank.

l The last stop of the day was a riffle area. I checked the downstream side first with crankbaits, rattlebaits and jigs. No fish.
I checked the upstream side and got two walleye on rattlebaits on a slow steady cross current retrieve. The rest of the lures got ignored.

Good day to be and the fish were cooperative.

Ed Mullady sent this:

*Walleye improving in Indiana and Illinois on 4" to 6" minnows *Jointed minnow like
plugs*weedless Doctor Spoons. Best around quiet edge waters *below spillways *dams
creek and ditch mouths *island areas
*Northern Pike good, esp. around both IN and IL near State Line *up into any quieter
waters like at *mouths of tributaries *bridge piers *in water logs *,branches. good on *large
4 to 7"minnows *Mepps #5 spinners.
*Smallmouth Bass continue to become more active along fairly shallow banks *mouths
of tributaries *around islands *below dams on *Mepps #2 Spinners *live minnows.
*Catfishing improving, esp. right at dark on *minnows *cheesebaits.


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


CHICAGO PIER: See top for salmon/trout. Arden Katz reported plenty of perch at Diversey, but keepers are about one in 20. Henry's reported perch continuing to be steady in the river around 95th. 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.


D&S Bait reported fishable ice as of Tuesday, but Gene Dellinger didn't suggest that people head north to fish because he wasn't sure how long fishable ice will last.


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

(Head): Good panfish action, with very heavy snow cover on the waters of the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Eagle River area lakes have anywhere from 12-17 inches of ice. There is also a very deep and very heavy snow cover, which makes travel extremely difficult. The only method of getting out right now that is recommended would be on a snowmobile. There is also a lot of slush forming underneath the snow. However as one area guide said: "You can have a lot of fun catching fish, if you get out, and are willing to do some shoveling to get to the ice."

It's panfish time in the Eagle River area, and they're hitting. The panfish (crappies, bluegills and perch) are locating in two areas: 15 feet of water or less in and around weeds, or over mudflats in 15-35 feet of water. The perch will be tight to bottom, with the crappies and bluegills suspending up and down the water column - -usually locating in the bottom 8 feet of water. Use a crappie minnow under a tip-down or a slip bobber, or use a small jig tipped with a waxie or spike. Good all day 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 sent this:

So much for the last weekend of gamefish season. Last Wednesday's dumping of snow (20-22" on average) put a halt to getting out on the ice. Prior to that, fishing was very good, but now access is tough. Two days of warm weather (mid 30s) compacted snow down some, but still truck and ATV travel are out of the question. Foot traffic and some snowmobiles will work. Be careful, take a friend with a good back, a shovel and tall boots. Actually, things should get a bit easier as the weekend approaches and snow packs down. But, slush will remain a problem.

Perch: Very good to Excellent. Prior to the storm, perch very aggressive. Fish Gapen Flicker Jigs (1/32oz), #2 pimples, #2 jigging raps, and #25 Hali jigs in 15-26' of water. Bait Raps with minnow head or waxies on center hook. Other jigs, use wigglers and red spikes. Tip-downs with rosie reds also very effective. Lots of nice 9-11" eaters.

Crappies: Good to very good. Bays with standing weed in 8-12' holding lots of crappies still tight to the bottom. Finesse with bright colored rocker jigs tipped with Wedgee plastics in chartreuse, yellow, white or silver. Other anglers reporting big crappies to 14" on Russian Spoons and #2 pimples tipped with waxies or Gulp Alive spike in 20-28' of water 6-10' off bottom. Tip-downs with rosies have also been working well for these fish.

Bluegills: Good. Small tungsten jigs tipped with a single spike or piece of Chena bait in 8-12'. Deep water gills over sandgrass in 15-23' taking waxies, wigglers tipped on Moxy jigs. Good sized gills in the 7 1/2 to 8 1/2" range out over the deep mixed in with some perch.

As far as gamefish, not much to finish up. A few nice pike to 35" caught and released along with some walleyes to 25". Snow really hindered movement, so not a lot of reports.

The panfishermen that got out said if they got where they wanted to go, it only took a few holes to get the action started.

Average ice depth 20". Snow on lakes 12-14". Snow should protect ice for few extra days once warm weather returns.


For salmon/trout, see top. Mik-Lurch staff reported whitefish are the other story with shore fishermen working the bottom with spawn around East Chicago.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

Same thing as last week, steelhead bite has got a little better on all local rivers.

Last week, he messaged this:

The ice continues to disappear from inland lakes, some are free of ice some are not. Most that still have some ice should be clear by the weekend or close to it. Coho and whitefish are still being caught with limited to good success along the entire Southwest Michigan lake shore. Steelhead, suckers, and walleye are being caught in the rivers of the area, but the bite is slow.


Lakeside will be opening this weekend. Lake is opened completely on Monday. Half dozen boats, mostly muskie guys, were out on Thursday. For those going out this weekend, Denny Sands had a good strategy. ``Just pretend you are ice fishing out of a boat,'' he said.

You can check updates on Facebook.


I'm glad I checked with guide Bill Stoeger Tuesday afternoon. He had just put in at Fremont. There was a lot of ice still coming down, but he expects weekend fishable water for boaters by the weekend.



Water Dog Journal
Fishing Headquarters


Click here



Click here


Click here


Click here


Click here


No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on March 7, 2012 6:35 AM.

Stray Cast: Cowley, Guillen was the previous entry in this blog.

Chicago outdoors: Showtime is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.