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Midwest Fishing Report: Rivers around Chicago fishing

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Heat, dropping waters and the Kankakee River Fishing Derby lead this rivers section of the Midwest Fishing report.


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


I know people tend to laugh at the hyperventilating that goes on about the weather, but in recent years with the advent of air-conditioning in vehicles, homes and work places, extreme heat is something most of us are not prepared for.

So pretty simply, here a few reminders that apply not only for fishing, but doing about anything around this holiday.

Pre-hydrate and continue to hydrate during fishing. Veteran Kankakee River fisherman/explorer Norm Minas added, ``Try dipping your hat and bandana in the river and lay the bandana on the back of your neck. . . . Another thing to try is submegrging your arms past the wrists for a while, it also seems to help. Don't try to be the macho guy either, take some breaks in the shade or in the air-conditioned car if it's close. Once the heat starts getting to you, you start making questionable decisions. Even in the lower flow, mistakes can be fatal.''

I especially would note that part about not trying to be a macho guy in this weather.


One of the long-time fishing derbies on a river, the Kankakee River Fishing Derby, runs through Sunday. Click here for details. As of Tuesday, notable leading catches included a 14-12 northern pike by Joyce Siwicki, a 7-pound walleye by Tim Cassata, a 20-2 carp by Tim Guerin and a 10-13 channel catfish by Darrell Powers.


For a general overview of nearby river conditions, click here.

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


Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass sent this:

Chicago river fishing report; South branch temp 85 big numbers of small bass... Main stem;temp 78 small numbers of big bass . The week to go low and slow in deep water 2 weeks in a row only makes sense to get out at day break till 11am fish just not biting after noon or evenings just too damned hot ! Special note; after Sundays sudden storm the Chicago police boat did a great job scooping up all the flipped kayaks, it was like a yard sale out there. Great job guys!


Marcus Benesch supplied the photo above and sent this rather interesting note:

Water temps high, water levels are low. However, larger Pike have been coming out to feed. Seen and also heard of reports of multiple fish over 30inches caught this past week. Blue gills and sunfish are still active. Rock Bass seem to be taking a break from the furious feeding of about a month or so ago. Took my new brother in-law Dan Kiska out for his first kayak fishing trip two days before his wedding to my sister Brooke Benesch. We landed 10 fish, 2 were at or a tad over 30inches on large jerk baits.  If I had to guess, I think my brother in-law had more fun on the Des Plaines River than he did at the bachelor party after being tugged around in the kayak by a nice healthy 30inch Des Plaines River Northern Pike.


Sam Bennett sent this:

Flatheading has been decent despite the low water. Still no monsters. Smallmouth are being caught but the action in my stretch has been steadily slowing down. Cooler, deeper water is 80 degrees. I took a new(er) fisherman out for a Saturday wade and the bite was sub-par. The handful of fish week found were warm to the touch and seemed quite lazy. Time of day hasn't been much of a factor. Still getting them at lunch. I know I said I'm going to stop smallmouth fishing soon... I will eventually.

There are several nice pictures of fish on the boards, but I'm not getting any reports of big numbers up my way. Traffic has kept me off of some spots I usually fish. Just too crowded most days to fool with it. Most of the less-crowded water I frequent is dry ground right now.

BTW, click here for Bennett's ``Getting Started Guide'' for folks who are new to the Fox or river fishing in general.


Time on the Water Outdoors reported low water and water temps running about mid-80s with fishing is slow; catfish on cut bait, cheesebait and crawlers in deep holes and snags near current; a few white bass and sauger for those casting bladebaits around creek mouths and sand points.


Some steelhead are in the streams with the rain over the weekend, but the heat will make it tough. Another pod appears to be staging, according to Mik-Lurch. If we get a shot of rain, probably would be worth a trip, they will likely come flying in.


River is becoming low, very low, very quickly.

Norm Minas sent this:

despite the recent rains the river is still at less than half it's normal flow for this time of year. The river is a bit more stained as a result but that is about it. there is a lot of pieces of weeds drifting in the water but it's a minor annoyance at best. with the heat and the lack of any shade at some of the more productive areas, pre hydrate and re hydrate frequently. Try dipping your hat and bandana in the river and lay the bandana on the back of your neck. The evaporation will help cool you. Another thing to try is submegrging your arms past the wrists for a while, it also seems to help. Don't try to be the macho guy either, take some breaks in the shade or in the air conditioned car if it's close. Once the heat starts getting to you, you start making questionable decisions. Even in the lower flow, mistakes can be fatal.
 As far as the fishing goes, for me it's been mostly good recently. There have been some trips that were less than spectacular but that's part of the game. You just do your best to learn from the good and the bad. Mostly it's been fishing faster water, riffle areas, neckdowns deeper flats and channel areas. Fishing in shaded areas, man made or natural can be an advantage all things being equal. For the most part aggressive techniques/lures have been the best bet. Rattlebaits, crankbaits, topwaters and fluke style lures have worked well enough that the jigs/plastics haven't got much use except in some woody cover.
 Smallmouth bass for the most part with some channel cats, rock bass and a stray walleye or three. There have been some large fish caught, for instance a 31 inch channel cat on a Bandit 200, a 20 3/4 inch smallmouth on a Arbogast mud bug, a 19.5 inch smallmouth on a rattle bait and an eleven inch rock bass on a jig/plastic. Most of the smallmouth though have been of the much more abundant 12 to 15 inch size range. There have been quite a few smallmouth putting on aerial displays including both the big ones. The cats on the other hand just bulldog you on the bottom.
If you can arrange your schedule to do so, the early morning and evenings have been quite productive and well worth the effort.

Ed Mullady sent this:

At present, Kankakee River continues to go down in most areas, but could change if we do run into some rain.
      CATFISH: Good throughout river and tributaries, like in Indiana, around 10 mile road at
Kankakee River State F & W Area *Grand Kankakee Marsh *River in LaSalle F&W.
     In Illinois, good up and downstream from Momence *Mouth of Iroquois River *Cobb Park
*Johnson's Veterans and Fisherman's Park *all of Kankakee River State Park *Wilmington
     Dam through DesPlaines F&W Area.  Good baits include: *Cheese baits *live minnows
*jig and crawlers *raw hamburger *chicken liver.
     SMALLMOUTH BASS: Good for this time of year. In both IN and IL try to locate rocky areas *weedbeds *quieter shore lines with fast moving water nearby. Good on *live bait
*jig and crawler *live minnows and in the artificial line, imitation minnows *Crankbaits *Keeper Hook & double twister tail *weedless Doctor Spoons *Rattlin' Rogues.
     LARGEMOUTH BASS: Best around Indiana in 10 mile road *all creek, ditch mouths
entering main river *bridge piers. In Illinois: Same as above, as well as many in the river
weed beds, in the water logs and branches. Topwater baits , good. Mepps Spinners *Dr.
spoons *Jig and minnow *deep running crankbaits.
     PIKE; Good mouths of ditches in both IN and IL, Edges of quiet shorelines *Below Dams, edges of sandbars. Try your own favorite as well as #5 Mepps Spinners *Weedless
Doctor Spoons *Double blade Spinnerbaits *4" to 6" live minnows.
     WALLEYE: Fair throughout esp. on jointed-minnow artificials  *3 to 5" minnows *jig and night crawlers along* *bridge piers *Wilmington area *mouth of Iroquois rivers*Kankakee Through State Park around islands.
     ROCK BASS, CROPPIE, BLUEGILL: Still good throughout river system.
= = =  = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    Rock Bass are in good numbers in the Kankakee and are fun to catch and to eat!
A good rig is to use the wiggling smaller redworms for bait. If that doesn't work put
on a juicy nightcrawler and be ready.  No. 1, 2 Mepps Spinners good, as well as
small minnows.  Not a big fish, but a fighter for their size!
                                                                   Ed Mullady, Sportsman's Letter


There is access at Morris Wetlands at the mouth.



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1 Comment

Got out to the Fox River this HOT 4th of July. Was in the water at 5 AM and the heat pretty much ended things by 8:30. Wound up catching 8 smallies and missing another 9, not bad for a short trip, I think.

I hear whiners are on one of the local fishing forums going on about crowded fishing conditions on the Fox. I ran into Chris Beckstrom of and his wife in the stretch I was fishing. If it weren't for him, I would have had the whole mile long stretch all to myself. Didn't see another soul for as far as I could see up and down the river.

I think anglers should quit whining and do more exploring. This is the lowest I've seen the river and it's a golden opportunity to learn all the nooks and crannies. I keep tying into fish everywhere I go. One thing to remember when the water is this low, the fish have to be there. Nowhere else for them to go. Just figure out how to hook them.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on July 4, 2012 6:42 AM.

Chicago fishing: An evening through early morning was the previous entry in this blog.

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