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Midwest Fishing Report: Rivers around Chicago fishing

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Dealing with the impact of the heavy weekend rains leads this rivers section of the Midwest Fishing Report.


Alex Kiscellus sent the photo from a recent trip on the Fox River.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays. Well, it is the rivers section. The lakes section will be posted later.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here. Yeah, this is a week to check this.


Marcus Benesch of River Grove sent this report:

Northern Pike fishing was steady all week, however weekend rains have cause river levels to increase. Creeks and tributaries are at or above flood stage and the Des Plaines itself has spilled its banks in some of the low lying areas. Visibility can be a huge issue when trying to fish in these conditions. When the river is as murky as it is, target creek mouths and the low flood plains. Water clarity on the flood plains is better than in the river bed itself creating a better scenario for ambushing pike. Slack water is also harder to find with the river being a raging torrid, but when located it will most likely produce. Gnats and mosquitoes are beginning to hatch but are not plentiful or mature enough to be annoying just yet. According to this up coming week's forecast, looks like the weather is going to cooperate through the weekend, so that should produce great fishing conditions for the Des Plaines River this week.


Ken Gortowski, the wading guide and great prowler of the Fox, sent this reminder about fishing high water this time of the year on the Fox and a link for a fishing report:

In case nobody sends you anything this week, this might be helpful. Just a trip down the river and where to fish at this slightly higher water.
Hate to see the Fox section so empty. Slackers, I'll have to rip them a new one.

Plus I have a fishing report up on my blog.
Might have another one up there tomorrow, we'll see.

Ken G


We finally got some much needed rain. A little at a time would have been nice, but after two months of dry weather, my garden appreciates it.

Considering how much rain came through northeast Illinois, as well as the dumping that took place up in Wisconsin, I'm surprised the Fox River topped out at 2500 cubic feet per second. I was expecting double that amount. This is still too high for the average wading angler, but those that know how to deal with it can still walk along the edges while in the water. At least I can.

I think the ground did what it was supposed to do and absorbed most of the moisture. Usually in the spring the ground is pretty well saturated and any amount of rain brings the river level up. That all being said, it's still a good time to fish high, fast and muddy river techniques.

I never go north very far, but based on past experience, two of my favorite high water spots were St. Charles and Geneva. In St. Charles, start at the dam and walk either shore for as far as you could go. Don't bother casting far out into the river, you want to concentrate on the first five feet from shore. Fish especially tight to any structure along the shore, rocks, trees, whatever might be lying in the water.

In Geneva, walk the east shore from the dam down to the railroad tracks. Down stream casts and bringing the lure back up tight to the limestone wall is the way to go. Smallies tuck in tight at high water. At the railroad tracks, either shore will work. It's rare that I see anyone on the west side, the east side is much easier. Which is why I used to go to the west side.

In Batavia, fish from the Wilson Street bridge down for as far as you can walk. The west side is limited in length, but was excellent fishing. East side offers more, but you may have to do a bit of bushwhacking the further down you go.

Further down you have the remnants of the South Batavia Dam. Nearby is Glenwood Forest Preserve. From the old dam for as far as you feel like walking is all possible, but it's not a nice paved walkway. You'll be doing some crawling around trees.

On the west side, there's a bike path that runs the whole length. It doesn't take you right along the river, but you can easily get to the river from the path. This goes as far as you're willing to go. Something worth trying is going to Les Arends Forest Preserve. There's a side channel. Follow that upstream till you get to where it starts. At this water level you can easily walk across the channel to the island. Then go fish on the island along the river. That won't be easy, but could be worth the effort.

Further down, North Aurora, Sullivan Road, Indian Trail Road, all worth figuring out. Many new access points that make it much easier than it used to be.

Downtown Aurora, west side. Few do it, would be worth the effort.

The only stretch I was ever disappointed in was the east side from Montgomery to Oswego. I always do better on the west side. Doesn't mean it's not worth trying, but the more adventurous will look for those west side access points. It's a hike at times.

From Oswego down and even through Yorkville, it's hard to give advice. I know long stretches I can wade even when the river is flowing at 2500 cfs, but I can't say that anyone else should try this. I know where all the small spots are that will get you in trouble and that's the problem, you pretty much have to be in the water otherwise you'll be fishing the same few spots everyone else is fishing. The shores along these stretches were not made for walking.

I have a feeling the trickle down effect from Wisconsin is going to keep the Fox from coming down very quickly. I think it will be a long slow decline, I've seen it take a few weeks in the past, we'll see.

Then there's the creeks. They tend to come down and clear up much faster than the river. Could be a matter of days. As for which ones and where, I don't talk about that in public anymore.

I checked the USGS gauge for the Apple River just for the heck of it, barely burped. A little bit of new fresh water in the system. If I had money to burn in gas just to catch smallies, I would head out there.

Sam Bennett sent this:

As the water warmed up we've been able to find fish, although not in the numbers we'd prefer. I saw huge numbers of carp spawning on Saturday. Lots of people were stopped on the path to watch them do their thing. Quite a spectacle. Sunday's rain will have fish back in their high water spots. We're all waiting to see exactly how high the water will go. Flathead fishing starts (again) for me tonight. Last water temp I saw was 67.

I am curious how the flathead fishing went in the high water.

Alex Kiscellus sent this on the northern sections of the river:

By the time you read this, my report is null & void as the weekend's Monsoon-like rains, especially North of the border, have flipped the river upside down. My area, with the exception of Sunday, avoided a lot of the rain, but there was inches of the wet stuff North of me, & you know what they about "stuff" rolling down hill. I was fishing in around 1000 cfs my last two outings - just checked & my stretch is over 2000 cfs. What I wrote you a couple weeks back about high water Spring fishing will apply as much as ever.

Prior to the rising waters, the flow was swift but more than manageable if you stayed out of the main current or knew where you were crossing the river. Despite the warmer temps, most all fish were still on a crayfish patterned bite. The surprise was that Old Mr Walter was interested in a shellfish diet too! Landed a few nice Walleye on medium-diving crawdad colored cranks, focusing on the first set of deeper, rocky pools with slower current as you head south of the dams. For me, those first holes are actually a couple miles south of the dam, so crowds are not an issue. Lost a real nice female that was way in the upper 20's. Bounced some jigs off the bottom in these areas, but the walleye wanted something brighter, faster, & louder.

Smallies are still avoiding the real fast water until it warms up more, but have been picking them off with the aforementioned crankbaits on boulder-strewn gravel bars in anywhere from 1'-3' FOW. These bars for me are in wider bends in the river where the current is a bit subdued & broken up by larger chunk rock. Even in the shallower water, I've been sticking with something that dives a hair deeper and bounces off the rocks, which is usually when they smack it. Using braid and/or re-tying regularly is advisable when doing this. Still a few singular fish relating to wood in or just out of the current and hitting spinnerbaits in white/olive/chartreuse or weedless swim jigs. On Sunday morning prior to the heavy rain, I finally observed some surface feeding activity this year, presumably from Smallies. They weren't interested in what I had to offer, but it's a sign of things to come as the nights stay mild & the semi-dry forecast means dropping levels, and concurrently the topwater bite starts! Already starting to lose sleep thinking about it... Black buzzbaits are hard to beat on the Fox, & with any luck & dry weather, the river may settle down by the weekend to allow for me to partake.

I can only hope, as the weekends are my only time to hit it hard anymore!

He speaks for many.


River is forecast to come off flood stage at LaSalle by the weekend.


The river is around the bank, of special concern is much water coming out of the Iroquois, so keep that in mind when planning a trip.

Norm Minas sent this:

The report before the rains came was pretty much the same as the last few, bass on seams and riffle areas on aggressive techniques. The flow rate since the rains came here, in Indiana and in the Iroquois basin at last check have about quadrupled, very near 25,000 cfs. The river is either very close to or out of it's banks depending on low the surrounding area is. The visibility is dimmer than my team's chances of winning the World Series this year. There is some vary large and varied pieces of flotsam upon the water, in addition to all the litter folks left bankside despite the efforts of those who routinely pick up trash. I guess that's one way to have a river cleanup, albeit not the way I prefer it to happen. There are hopefully two positives to come out of this flood, it won't wash out the eggs/fry of smallmouth bass and it should wash much of the algae off the bottom. As a life long Cub's fan, you learn to take your positives where you can find them.
I went out today in the rain to fish as I actually enjoy the challenge presented by flood stage waters. I decided that I would hit a few creek mouths and a few eddies as they can produce in these types of conditions. I had the trusty J-9 floating rap on as I approached the first creek mouth. When I got there I saw the unmistakable signs of gar activity and made a quick switch to a wire leader and a Mepps Killer Combo. That choice lead to my best day ever on actually landing gar with 19 strikes and 11 landed. It's usually more like 1 in 3 or 4 actually landed, I have no idea why that percentage was way up today outside of sometimes the fish gods do look upon you with favor.

I moved up into the creek a little to pitch jigs/plastic into some flooded tress, that got a couple small bass. I fished a couple eddies in the creek with the jig to no avail and hit the first major riffle with a crankbait and rattlebait also with a decided lack of success. I moved to another, smaller creek on the other side of the river that usually does better in high water than low water. After checking it with a variety of techniques/lures it became apparent that it didn't have the go, so I split.

I moved to a third creek mouth and decided that hitting the upstream side offered a better casting angles and no trees to cast around and under as compared to the other side. After striking out with a rattlebait and a jig, I switched to a singlespin tipped with a twister tail. That choice inspired a couple pike to hit, one hit close enough to where I was standing to splash water on me.

All in all. it was a good day in what most consider to be less than ideal or unfishable conditions. Three different species, fifteen fish landed is a good day in any type of current regime. Get on out and give it a try, you can be pleasantly surprised. If you do though, put safety first as any mistake could turn into a disaster very easily.

I think Norm nicely captures the adventure for those who fish high water.

Ed Mullady sent this:

Kankakee River and tributaries waters murky. Catfishing will be good, especially along any
Indiana or Illinois shoreline and bayou waters on *nightcrawlers *minnows *cheesebait*chicken
Northern Pike fair to good along flooded banks, bayou waters, behind bridge piers. Some of
better places include around Point north of English Lake, Rt. 49, LaSalle Areas,esp.bayous.
In Illinois: State line through Momence *Aroma Park Area *Kankakee Dam through Johnson's
Fisherman's Park *Island Park shorelines near Wilmington, IL 4-5"suspended minnows *Weedless Doctor Spoons.
As water recedes more fish will be caught!


The river is dropping off a very significant flood. Not sure what that means for the access at Morris Wetlands at the mouth.


No new Wisconsin DNR's Root River Report, I suspect because of the rains.


Mother's Day is the traditional peak for white bass. While guide Bill Stoeger reported they are picking up in the shallows, the peak will only come when the water warms. Most are being caught with a jig and minnow; a few guys are getting them on spinners.



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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on May 9, 2012 5:50 AM.

Fish of the Week: Double from IHSA bass fishing on Carlyle was the previous entry in this blog.

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