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Midwest Fishing Report: Early summer & spring coho

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lakefront09-13-10hancock.jpg Last weekend was a historic one for coho fishing

around Chicago; that and the arrival of record summer-like temperatures leads this Midwest Fishing Report.

We are getting close to where I need to split the rivers and lakes section again. If this weather holds through next Wednesday like this, I will. A sign of that is the first report from Frank Macikas on the DuPage River.

For ice fishermen, you need to head far north, and even there it's sloppy on top.

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, followed by notes on the LaSalle Lake opener on Thursday.


I've done the outdoors for 16 years for the Sun-Times and I don't remember a weekend even close to last weekend for coho fishing like this around Chicago fishing. North Sider Carl Vizzone, a veteran lakefront fisherman, messaged that it ``was the best coho run in decades, for me anyway.''

CHICAGO: ``It is like a gamefish school that has moved into Chicago area from Montrose to 95th,'' said Steve Palmisano at Henry's Sports & Bait. ``They are catching them like bluegills.'' The most popular method is night crawlers down 4-5 feet, but other baits and lures (spinners, spoons, crankbaits) are working. ``All the points and jetties, more than the harbors, the usual places up and down the lakefront,'' Palmisano said. ``It is really amazing. it is great fishing with great weather.'' Park Bait reopened Tuesday and reported coho ``jumping in the buckets'' at Montrose; and a few steelhead.

WAUKEGAN: Capt. Augie Ralph of Salmon Stop reported Johnson Pier ``was off the hook with browns, browns and browns'' on golden roaches and frozen shiners. Browns are 2-4 feet off the bottom, coho are in the top 5 feet. Also some off south rocks and government pier. Boaters reported browns at the power plant, coho by Great lakes.

INDIANA: Mik-Lurch coho remain good along shore. Capt. Ralph Steiger reported good coho and browns. Mik-Lurch reported boaters catching coho at will with Dodgers and flies, but lures are also working.

MICHIGAN: Tyler Harmon messaged, "Coho have been alright over here, should be alright so long as the wind does not get too crazy. Steelhead action slowed down a bit, but still going strong.'' Winds might make it interesting today. Hope to give it a try there this weekend.


I will be packing gear later today and heading over tonight to get in line for the LaSalle opener on Thursday morning.

The cooling lake south of Seneca reopens to fishing Thursday. During March, it is open Wednesday through Sunday only, 6 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Biologist Ken Clodfelter reported good largemouth and smallmouth, especially on the east end. A few smallmouth were 4 to 4.5 pounds during surveys. Blue catfish remain the star. Clodfelter said they caught them in shocking surveys at the unheard rate of 180 per hour. He said they got a lot in the 20-pound range. LaSalle continues to be the best cooling lake for bluegill. Clodfelter said many were 7 to 9 inches, especially on the east end. Hybrids look OK. Channel catfish remain skinny but plentiful.

Hatchery staff reported only 56 degrees at the intake on the cold side Tuesday morning. That may go up some by Thursday.


With this bizarre and extended stretch of extreme warmth, I suspect at least some shallower lakes may climb into the 60s by the weekend and have fish pulling up. With weather like this, people will be fishing.

Jason Norris of sent this:

Did real well on Sunday at Busse Lake. 5 total bass, 4 of which were 17"+. All caught on a redeye shad lipless crankbait in 4 feet of water. Finding the green weeds was key.

Palmisano reported crappie are picking at Tampier, Saganashkee, Maple and Monee Reservoir. Skokie Lagoons is slow with muddy water.


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): Panfish hitting strong, and SOME open water fishing starting; all in and amidst the lakes and the Wisconsin River of Wisconsin's Marathon and Lincoln Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau). Editor's Note: The season for walleye and northern has closed on most waters in northern Wisconsin. 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. Before you fish for walleye and northern in central Wisconsin, check with the local DNR to make sure that the water you may want to fish in central Wisconsin remains open.

Open water fishing has started in the central Wisconsin area, but there is still time for ice fishing.

With the warm temperatures anglers are starting to get that that itch for spring walleyes. There are a few open boat landings on the Wisconsin River "where season is open year round" and there are several great locations for early season pre-spawn walleyes. Before we get that first major run-off walleyes will be pooled up in deeper holes during the early morning hours and then "if" it is sunny they will move up into 10 to 12 foot flats to feed around mid-day. This is the time to take advantage of heavily feeding walleyes. Run jigs tipped with fathead minnows right on the bottom. Slowly drag them across the bottom and wait for that light pick-up. It is early season and the fish are lethargic but not impossible to catch and now with the warming days and higher sun you can get out and start enjoying the weather as we move into spring.

Panfish action in the central Wisconsin area has been outstanding all season long and now with the last few weeks of ice left you can bet is it going to be even better. Bluegills have been the number one targeted species and have been present in shallow weeds ranging form 4 to 8 feet of water. We have been running small ice jigs tipped with waxies or spikes for bait and on some occasions tiny plastics will work on these feisty panfish.

The perch bite in the central Wisconsin area has been the best we've have ever seen in many years . We have been catching a lot of nice fish in the 9 to 11 inch range regularly along with a few 12 inchers thrown in the mix. We have been targeting 10 foot mud flats this past week and setting up jig poles with ultra-light line and tiny teardrop jigs tipped with wigglers and in some instances waxies or spikes. Most of the perch are within a foot of the bottom so keep your bait right in the strike zone to be efficient and effective.

Crappies in the central Wisconsin area have been on the move and to be consistent you have to stay with the school. We have been doing very well on big slab sized crappies this past week by keeping active and relocating when the school moves on. You can stay put and wait for the fish to come back and you will catch a few and a lot of people do that but when you are willing to work for them you can really pile up a mess of nice fish in a days time. This is where having a nice lightweight quick cutting auger like the Strike master Lazer Mag comes in handy. It is not at all heavy and it is lightning fast at cutting holes through the ice. Most of the fish we have been catching have been in the 10 to 14 foot range and are holding off the bottom about 3 to 5 feet. We have been running Frosties in chartreuse and white for best results and tipping them with waxies or spikes and in some cases tipping them with the head of a minnow.

Walleye and northern action in the central Wisconsin area through the ice has kind of taken a back seat to the panfish. But now is not the time to put your gear away. Some of the best walleye and northern fishing is to be had. Late season for northern is a s simple as setting up your tip-ups in very shallow water (1 to 3) feet deep and rigging them with large golden shiners or in some instances smelt. These fish are on the prowl and have moved up to very shallow water to take advantage of warmer water and trapped prey. The walleyes will be in the same general areas but to target them fish low light and after dark periods of the day. Unlike the northerns where the brighter it is outside the better the fishing the walleyes want it dark. Run Medium shiners or small sucker minnow s on your tip-ups and set them about 8 inches to a foot off the bottom. Don't forget to put lights on your tip-up's so you an see them when they go off after dark. There is nothing better than fighting an 8 pound walleye in the dark!!


Greg Dickson at Triangle reported, ``Crappie fishing is best I have ever seen it. The weather is being consistent with the warm-up, not flip flipping. Water levels are rising slowly.'' With the current, walleye bite should be good.

For more reports, see

More Chain info at


BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA:Bass fishing remains good at Braidwood--on fire as Jim O'Neil messaged. Crappie and bass should be take off at Mazonia. Close is now 7 p.m. HEIDECKE: Reopens April 1. LaSALLE: See top for Thursday's opener.


HENNEPIN CANAL: In Bureau County, Thom Matejewski at Time on the Water Outdoors reported crappie starting to take off.
POWERTON: 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. I have not heard much from here in recent weeks, expect that to change over the next few days. HENNEPIN-HOPPER LAKES: They will be closed again for 2012 as work on common carp removal continues.


Frank Macikas sent this:

I was able to get out for a little over an hour and a half after work today. I stopped at a stretch in Bolingbrook that I started fishing last year or the year before. I like to start right at the convergence of the West and East Branches and fish the first two or three bends of the east branch before heading on downriver. Today the only bait I had tied on was a new swim jig that I just got in the mail from Jonn Graham. I have been seeing great reports of big smallies being taken on this bait and I see why. It looks great and is very well made (never even had to adjust or replace the trailer after 3 fish).
Compared to fishing early Saturday morning in 25 degree weather picking ice out of my guides and getting skunked; today was GREAT! I picked up three fish total in an hour and a half; a 10", 12", and a nice chunky 15" Smallie that went airborne! All fish were taken tight to shore with the first being behind a small laydown in very slow moving water. I saw something swirl a few minutes before I was in casting range and first cast to where I saw the swirl came my first fish of the year! Both the second and third fish were caught slack water from current breaks on outside bends of the river. The first bend had large boulders all along the shore and the second bend had a nice large eddie along an undercut shoreline. Water conditions were still about the same as on Saturday although the gauges were still reading higher; I really expected higher faster water. clarity was still only 10-12" at best but the water is getting much warmer from what I could tell without a thermometer.

I will have another report for you this weekend; I expect a very big day with the weather and river conditions that we are looking towards.

Yeah, I think a lot of us are thinking along those lines.


It is unbelievable how stable and low the water levels are on the Illinois. It's unnatural. Thom Matejewski at Time on the Water Outdoors Fishing reported lots of sauger of 1.5 pound range; more walleye than usual. Jig and minnow is best, but pulling three-ways is good and crankbaits are doing better.


Norm Minas sent this note from Tuesday:

flow rate dropping and below normal level, about 5,000 cfs. water temp 52 degrees. lots of visibility but decent green stain to color.

beautiful day. heard peepers around the ponds, saw a butterfly, first of the year. so much activity, insect, avaian herps, animals, fish, plants, you name it , it's going.

started out got two walleye and missed two out on a flat adjacent to the channel on suspending rogues. one big female with solid egg sac.

I started fishing current seams with cranks and rattlebaits for smallmouth. I switched to riffle areas with the same, no fish. I bit the bullet and switched to a weighted keeper hook/power pulse worm on the seams and started catching bass. I slid over to the riffle area and got more fish on the upstream and downstream there.

I was moving to fish a point off the backend of an island when I stepped on what I thought was a rock. The rock scooted out from under my foot. I lost my balance and ended up landing on my left side. No damage to anything but my pride. I saw a turtle looking at me from downstream when I got my head back together, figured most likely stepped on it.

I fished the side channel of the island on my way back out. I kept the jig/worm on, got one largemouth, a couple rock bass and a few smallies off logs/wood piles.

I kept the rod dry, the cell rides on my right hip, it stayed dry and my pocket watch as well. All else including tackle and clothes are drying in the garage. The essentials will be dry enough to get back at it in the morning

Ed Mullady sent this:

Kankakee River fishing improving
Walleye good in both IN and IL at creek and ditch mouths, below dams, around bridge
piers. Baits working include: jig and twister *jig and leech *double jointed minnow shaped
artificials*jig and minnow.
Pike good in quieter areas - Smallmouth Bass improving near mouths of creeks, ditches,
on *Mr. Twister Keeper Hook & Twister tail *Rattlin' Rogue *Mepps #2,3 Spinners.
Catfish, Bluegill, rock bass, croppie all active.


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


See top for salmon/trout. CHICAGO: Arden Katz reported lots of perch at Diversey, minnows are needed to sort out even 1 in 8 keepers. With things like spikes, it is more like 1 keeper in 20 perch. 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 action continues for crappies, bluegills and perch in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Ice thickness remains at between 15-17 inches in the Eagle River area. With the recent heavy snows and somewhat warming temperatures, there is a lot of mushy wet snow, slush and water on the ice. Travel is very difficult. Those who are getting out are usually sticking to foot travel. It's the time of year when things just start to "think" about breaking up, but there's still some very good ice fishing to be had up here in Eagle River.

Crappies, bluegills and perch are all putting on a good all day bite in the Eagle River area. Fish two areas: In and around the weeds in 15 feet of water or less; or over mudflats in 18-35 feet of water. The perch will be tight to bottom, with the crappies and bluegills suspending up and down the water column, but usually can be found 4-6 feet off the bottom. Use a waxie, spike or crappie minnow under a tip-down, slipbobber or small jig.

(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's Island Sport Shop staff sent this:

As you may know, Feb. 29, we got anywhere from 20"-22" of snow in less than 24 hours. Due to this massive amount of snow, the fishing turned off. Since that Wednesday, we have had very warm weather in the Northwoods, ranging from the mid 40's to the low 60's with a small amount of rain, which causes ice conditions to vary. On average, we have about 18" of ice under approximately 3"-4" of slush mixed with 3"-4" of water which causes driving conditions to not be good. I would not recommend taking a vehicle out on the ice right now, nor a snowmobile because we don't have very much snow on the lakes. Taking an ATV would be alright, but I'm not promising you're not going to get stuck. If you do take an ATV out, putting chains on would be the best idea.

Perch- Good. On the bottom of mudflats or even a foot above submerged weeds, approximately 15'-20' on blue, chartreuse and firetiger shad darts, tipped with a wiggler, red spike or even a waxie. If you're planning on going for them on tip-downs, small rosie reds are what their getting them on.

Crappies- Good to very good. Tip-downs with a size 14 treble hook, mostly on crappie minnows. Crappies are being found in 10-15 feet of water right on the weed edges. If your jigging, blue, chartreuse and firetiger shad darts or moon jigs tipped with a waxie.

Bluegills- sporadic to okay. While fishing for perch, you're bound to run into some bluegills, approximately 6'-10' in submerged weeds. While fishing for them, blue, chartreuse and firetiger shad darts work perfectly, unless you want a jig that's a little bit heavier, go with the new fiskal jig, size 4.


For salmon/trout, see top. Mik-Lurch staff reported perch in 50 feet off Gary Light. I expect more to be out trying this weekend. Capt. Ralph Steiger reported some good deep-water smallmouth fishing on Sunday, as the Fish of the Week showed.


Lakeside is open. A couple muskie have been reported. Denny Sands reported crappie remain deep in the deep trees or the bottom of fish cribs and brush piles. Water warms through the 40s.

You can check updates on Facebook.


Bill Stoeger reported water warming through the 30s and walleye picking up; best with jig and minnow on sand bars; or drifting and vertical jigging.


Mik-Lurch reported crappie and walleye improving on the Indiana side; expect the shallow Illinois side to warm quickly and trigger good fishing there, too.



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This is one great report mate!

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on March 14, 2012 6:19 AM.

Illinois fishing: Walleye record, long form was the previous entry in this blog.

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