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Midwest Fishing Report: First 2012 rivers section

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As we move into spring, the Midwest Fishing Report begins its summer split into rivers and lakes section; this is the rivers section with some odd notes off this wild warmth.


It is hard to believe, but several people note we need rain to flush our rivers. Algae is becoming a major problem for fishermen.

We have some new contributors for the fishing report for the rivers section. And I am glad to have them.

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


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here. It seems bizarre this time of the year, not to be compulsively checking this for high water levels and flows.


Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass reported good bass action, on about anything, downtown--good enough that he earned Fish of the Week honors. He said water temperatures downtown were running in the 50s.


Frank Macikas sent this:

Well I was able to make it out for a float trip on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend! I am not sure yet how to describe the float trips this weekend; confusing, frustrating, disappointing, or wonderful..... The fishing was extremely tough but it was GREAT to be out in the sun floating on the Dupage again, there is something about fishing that river that has a calming and relaxing effect on me. Even when the fishing is bad there is no better release or stress reducer than slowing drifting down a river listening to the sounds of the water and feeling the warmth of the sun on your face!

On Saturday our plan was to fish from just above Downtown Plainfield down to the Caton Farm Rd canoe launch which is about a 6 mile stretch of usually very productive water. The water levels were great but a few things surprised me. First is clarity was only around 12 inches with a green stain to it. Second was the amount of algae in the both the water column and covering the bottom; which is where I think the poor clarity was coming from. Fishing was tough to say the very least, disappointing at best. I had it stuck in my head that with pre-spawn feeding plus a week of 75-80 degree temps would add up to incredible fishing. I was wrong. My buddy was skunked; not even a bite and I only managed three fish; a 14" Smallie, 10" Smallie, and a 12" largemouth. That was it. First Smallie hit a Warrior Swim Jig in a small pocket behind a lay down. The other two fish were caught on a 3" white grub and jig. We fished shallow, deep, fast, slow, different baits and all came up short.

Sunday we floated from Seil Rd in Shorewood down to Sheply Rd in Channahon. Again you couldn't have asked for better weather but the fishing was even tougher than Saturday. Only two fish on Sunday one off of a small eddy next to fast current on a white spinnerbait and the other tight to the bridge support under I-80 on a white Warrior Swim Jig.

The algae is so thick and abundant through both stretches that no matter what you throw you will be cleaning off algae EVERY cast. I never say this but we need a lot of rain in a short period to flush this algae out! A lot of people will disagree but I hardly ever wish for rain; I prefer fishing low, gin clear water for Smallies. Watching a Smallie come up and crush your bait is very exciting and I think when the water is that clear it becomes even more challenging; if you see them, you can sure bet they see you too.


A pair of fishermen added reports this week, and hopefully will continue weekly, and Norris picked in a side trip.

Sam Bennett sent this:

As of the 3/16 the Fox was flowing at nearly 3,000 cubic feet per second. If you're not a flow geek, that's fast. Water temperatures were as high as 65 as of Sunday night and the water has been muddy. Fisherman are catching smallmouth bass in respectable numbers on current edges. Fish are holding in their classic high water spots and can be reached from shore, which is good, because it's a tough time wading. I've been doing well on anything that resembles a crayfish, although I've heard reports of fluke-type baits outpacing my catches.

I took a trip with Marty Jandura, a fellow Fox Valley Flatheader, on Sunday night and we boated an average size (28") flathead. The Fox Valley Flatheaders have been collecting catch data for the past four years and this is the earliest a flathead ever recorded. That's good news for those that chase flatcats, the fish seem to be moving.

If you're interested in learning more about flathead catfish in the Fox River, the DNR put out a great podcast on the subject earlier this month:

Adam Micaletti sent this:

3/14/12 (sunny and in high 70) The Fox flow still heavy and high water wading is out of the question so I hit the St. Charles and Geneva area for some open shore fishing. Plenty of great areas to walk and fish without having to climb rocks and stumble through tall grass. I only had an hour to fish and I took the slow approach and only brought a bag of flukes (Texas rigged soft jerk baits) to throw. I was casting up current and just twitching it back slowly and if the current was a little strong I would just let it almost drag and just pick up the slack line. Casting the fluke down stream and trying to work it back against current just doesn't have as real of a presentation in my opinion. I found fish against concrete structure and walls, behind large rock breaking current, and anything that created shade from the sun. Landed 12 small mouth, the largest was 16".

3/17/12 (low light and mid 70s) The Fox is still just to high right now to try and wade and the south stretches of the river do not offer much for walking the shore to fish with ease so I shot up to the St. Charles and Geneva areas to shore fish.. I began my outing just after 6PM with some daylight still available and fished for about an hour after dark set in. Found fish in all the typical spots again. Found them behind rocks in current, in seams and on the slow sides of seams, in deadfall/driftwood pileups, along any concrete/wall structure, and in riffles and the push just before them. The 4 1/2'" fluke was my bait of choice again casting it up stream and working it back slowly in current. Pop and a couple jerks then just let the bait fall in the current worked great. Most hits coming on the fall. As dark set in I changed to a shallow crank bait 0 to 3' diver and had the same success casting up stream and bouncing it of structure or 1/4 casting down stream and letting the current do the work for me on drift and working it back slowly along shore against current. I had lots of hits this way today around chunk rock. Caught 18 small mouth nothing larger than 16" but majority 10" to 12", 1 small channel cat after dark on crank, and 1 large mouth in 3 hours of work.

This is a rare large mouth catch for me from current, don't catch many large mouth but then again I don't fish much slack water where they would typically be found.

Jason Norris of reported,

Also fished the Fox River near Port Barrington on Saturday for largemouth bass. Water was a bit high and stained and action was apparently mediocre, but did manage 2 14" bass and a real nice 18" largemouth bass. On, of course, Red Eye Shads.


As the IWT showed on Sunday, sauger and walleye can be caught many ways and fish are scattered. The MWC is Saturday and Sunday out of Spring Valley, so be prepared. It is unbelievable how stable and low the water levels are on the Illinois. On Monday, while I prefished with Roy Vivian, click here for the story, the water temperature was 66. I saw some guys fishing for catfish and white bass.


Norm Minas sent this note from Tuesday:

Saturday was fantastic, 33 smallmouth before work on flukes, mostly unweighted. At one point 17 fish on 17 casts. Sunday, not as good, 14 smallmouth, would only take a crankbait.

water temps are about 64 degrees, levels lower than normal but still can't wade every where I want to go. The biggest problem is all the algae on the bottom and the clumps in the water column. It made cranking tough on Sunday, either get bit in the first three turns of the reel handle or pick green off. I guess the river gods didn't get the word that St Pat's day and the wearin o' the green was Saturday. I hate to say it but the river needs a good flushing to clean out the algae.

Ed Mullady sent this:

River continues low, and fishing improves.
In Indiana: Walleye good around ditch and bayou mouths on *Mr. Twister Kpr Hook & Twister
tail *Weedless Doctor spoons and pork rind *jointed plugs*live minnows
Pike in deeper ditches, along quieter logs, brush piles on *big live minnows *Weedless Dr.
Spoons *Mepps #5 spinners.
Catfish good, esp. right at dark on 3-5"minnows *nightcrawlers *cheesebaits.
Smallmouth Bass more active now on *minnows *Mepps #2,#3 Spinners *Rattlin' Rogue
*jig and twister tails.
Largemouth Bass active in reachable bayous, quieter waters on *Top water baits *Mepps
Spinners *nightcrawlers *plastic worms.
Rock Bass, Croppie, Bluegill all good at quieter waters.
In Illinois: State Line to Momence good for pike, walleye, both smallmouth and largemouth bass(Same baits as above).
Kankakee Dam to Johnson's Fisherman's Park, esp. on pike *catfish *rock bass, croppie.
Kankakee River State Park: Good on *smallmouth bass *walleye *catfish. *Some ;pike
also hitting.
Wilmington Dam around Island Park good for *walleye, catfish, mostly on jig and minnows
*jig and crawlers *minnow shaped artificials.
Could stand a little more water!


Most attention is on the lakefront for perch or inland for panfish, but some fresh steelhead came in last week, according to Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert.


Tyler Harmon messaged that suckers are running good in the rivers; steelhead have slowed way down.


Bill Stoeger cracked that fishing had been so good that he had to ``buy a new freezer.'' He said walleye slowed down as they spawn; but white bass are being caught as they stage in deeper holes. I think that's more than a month early.



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My thanks to all of you who make (and have made) the effort to provide helpful reports!

Des Plaines River Lemont/Burr Ridge Area: Water was at a good height for boating on Saturday with temps running 60-64 degrees. Unfortunately couldn't hook up with any fish even being able to float in the back waters.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on March 21, 2012 5:45 AM.

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