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Midwest Fishing Report: Rivers around Chicago fishing

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Extremely low water and catfishing time lead this rivers section of the Midwest Fishing Report.


How good catfishing is symbolized by Alex Kiscellus caught this beautiful dark catfish while smallmouth fishing on the Fox.

Norm Minas said he knows catfishing is good when he catches nine with crankbaits while smallmouth fishing.

Then there is the low water, which is likely to be much lower in many places by the weekend by the looks of the forecast.

On Monday I took my kids wading in the Kankakee and couldn't believe how freaky low it was.

Sam Bennett emailed, "The water is as low as I've seen it in my five years on the Fox. Now il a great time to study spots that are usually underwater. Large sections of the St. Charles riffles are now dry ground."

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 a general overview of nearby river conditions, click here. Things look astonishingly normal.

To get to more specific gauges, even on creeks, in Illinois, click here.


Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass sent this:

South branch Sunday ; bass hitting jigs and spinners at day break bite stopped at 7am . Main stem Sunday Lots of big bass hitting deep cranks at state street and many following fish I had on line then got kicked off spot by Conan O' Brian film crew . BOOO ! Fished by bike/shore Tuesday eve and found some new spots I did not know about with great success , Ogden slip caught many large and small mouth in the new (kelp) forest that sprang up in the last few weeks also a very nice 2# plus large mouth under river city back water (not accessible by boat) Note ; I will be fishing the rest of the week by bike in honor of bike to work week Chicago look for extended report next week . I will revel some great fishing spots for bike riding anglers .


Alex Kiscellus sent this:

Fishing remains as hot as the weather, at least for me.  My past five outings have each featured no fewer than a dozen Smallies landed plus the occasional bonus species, with the average size continuing to increase with each outing as the females really strap on the feed bag to keep up with their higher metabolism as the water temps surge upwards.  Speaking of the water, the levels remain as low as can be, which I keep thinking will be problematic for fishing, but that doesn't appear to be the case.  Word of the wise, though:  Try & keep your battles short (use slightly heavier gear & line to assist in this) & have your camera ready before taking the fish out of the water as oxygen levels are very low right now & the fish are surely stressed.
With the low water, I had been focusing my efforts on what faster current I could find as the dissolved oxygen would be higher there.  Found a few small-ish fish here & there, but all the bigger specimens have come out of slightly slower moving stretches featuring gravel & random chunk rock just off or smack dab in the middle of the main river channel.  Speed remains key to getting the fish to bite, but everything in the river seems to be very active right now ---  Had a decent musky take a swipe at a smaller bass this week, lost a heavy flathead that would've made a noodler darn proud, landed an  8-10# Channel Cat (I think a Channel, very dark - check the picture I sent), & twice had deer invade the stretch I was fishing & cross to the other side.  Not quite like having a bull moose cross feet in front of your canoe on Boundary Water backwater, but stops your casting for a few to appreciate the beauty that abounds in a somewhat Urban river.
Topwater is still explosive VERY early (dies soon after the sun hits the top of the tree line) & during Happy Hour, where the water has been boiling with feeding fish, but my go to bait this week has been a shallow diving flatbill crankbait by KVD that runs 12"-24" deep.  Swiftly fan-casting gravel bars & main river channel beds has been netting me more fish than I can count, including the bonus Cats.  Not sure if others are having the same success as me, but this has been one of the best runs I've had in recent memory.  I've debated about throwing a bare hook to see what happens, but don't want to press my luck & risk the horseshoe falling out of you know where.  With no rain in sight & the heat set to return after a brief hiatus, conditions should remain the same through the weekend.  Master of the Obvious says we could REALLY use some rain, & for more than just helping the river's health out, but I can live with a dormant lawn while the fishing is this good since no necessary mowing means more fishing! 

I like that last line. And agree, but than I have been known to wonder off on rants about the destructive way we treat our lawns (not destructive for the lawns, destructive for the health of our rivers and world).

Ken Gortowski, who is back to guiding again with the Fox River Guide Service along with his usual prowling along the Fox, sent this:

Since Thursday I've fished in Geneva (a guiding trip), North Aurora, Aurora at Indian Trail Road, Oswego and down the hill from my house in Yorkville. Yorkville was the dead zone, not even a tap. A friend fishes near the Yorkville dam with his kids, he's done well. I won't fish near that dam. It's a shame the stretch below me has been so dead lately, it's a two minute walk from my house. That will change come fall, I'm sure.

Nothing hot and heavy, but consistent enough to keep you fishing. The bulk of the fish have been relating to the fastest moving water, from the edge to sitting in the fastest water no more than knee deep. If fishing the slower moving water, slow things down or crawl them on the bottom. The fish are still there, but I didn't experience any savage attacks, just hits if you got it in front of their face.

The bonus at North Aurora were a few white bass. Was getting a lot of fast hits and me and Steve Spiz finally landed a couple. Should have scaled down a bit for them. They're fun when they're hitting like that.

On the algae hunt, they have none of it north of Aurora. Nothing out of the ordinary anyway. Stopped at a few spots below Aurora to see if any was floating down stream or building up on the shallow gravel bars. Didn't see anything. Last place I stopped was Route 30, a few hundred yards up stream of the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District plant that I believe is the source of the problem. Didn't see anything there either. I hope to wade from Route 30 to the plant soon to see if any of this algae is in this stretch. That will nail it down for me.

I already know something is different about the outflow at the plant. The outflow used to look like a clear water stream. Now it's choked with weeds and algae. It's this same algae, only brown and dead for the most part, that is floating down stream from there and piling up on the shallow gravel bars, for miles. I have pictures from this and last year that show all this.

I did notice that below the Yorkville dam there is some of this algae still floating down stream, but not as bad. I'm assuming much of the algae is dropping to the bottom of the river when it hits the slow moving pool above the Yorkville dam.

Last thing I need to do is find the article I recall reading in the last three years that mentioned FMWRD was changing their outflow some how. I can't recall how. I do remember being told years ago that the chemical make up of the outflow, I'm no chemist so I don't know how, was different for winter and summer. The assumption being that no one (but me and a few diehards) were out in the river during the winter.

I have no clue what I'm going to do with this info once I get it figured out. I'll decide later.

Sam Bennett sent this:

The water is as low as I've seen it in my five years on the Fox. Now is a great time to study spots that are usually underwater. Large sections of the St. Charles riffles are now dry ground.

Find smallmouth at the heads and tails of what riffles are left. Fish the fastest water you can find. The dam is a good bet with oxygen at a premium. I've noticed more bait in the water lately and have been catching most of mine on silver and black floating Rapalas. Time of day doesn't seem to matter a whole lot right now.

Flatheading is decent with reports of a 31" fish caught from shore last night. We got a 26" last week. No river monsters to report yet. Finding moving fish is the key. It's been on-again-off-again.

Please Lord, just send us some water. As soon as the first drops start to fall I'll spend every possible minute on the river as the water rises. The bait gets moving and the smallmouth readjust. Looking at the long-range forecast our next shot for rain could be Father's Day. I hope so - I'll be out at dawn and gunning spots until past sunset, rain or shine.


River is dropping enough that some launches require caution. Time on the Water Outdoors reported catfish are the top bite, some white bass are around.


Norm Minas reported catfish as very good, especially around neckdowns or current areas; smallmouth are good at the tail of riffles.

Ed Mullady sent this:

Hope we have some rain soon.
     INDIANA: Catfish fair to good along shorelines, bridge piers, bayous mouths. *Worms *minnows
*cheesebaits *chicken liver.
     Rock Bass, Croppie, Bluegill all good on *crawlers *redworms *#1 and #2 spinners, top water fly rod
flies, *plastic spiders. Good from Point north of English Lake thru IN Rt. 55 to IL State Line.
     Pike, walleye, fair at mouths of bayous ditches.
      ILLINOIS: Same baits as above.
      CATFISH: IN STATE LINE through Lake Alexander RV Park *Aroma Park through Cobb Park, Kankakee
*Johnson's Veterans Fishermans Park,Kankakee through Kankakee River State Park. *Wilmington Dam through DesPlaines Conservation Area.
       PIKE, WALLEYE fair at points water flowing from ditches, creeks into the river, and near islands. Good
on *Weedless Dr. Spoon *jig and minnow *jig and crawler *jointed lures resembling minnows.
       LARGEMOUTH BASS: Fair  east of Momence on *Spinner baits *Jointed plugs *Mepps #3 Spinners
*live crawlers *minnows.
       Fishermen need to check all species in both states as to regulations, such as size, open and/or closed seasons and other details.

Ed's advice is particularly true in this low of water conditions.


There is access at Morris Wetlands at the mouth.



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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on June 13, 2012 6:04 AM.

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