At least this weekend appears to be headed toward a normal mid-winter Wild Weekend Wandering around Chicago outdoors.
And ice fishing events and doings lead the way.
ICE FISHING: The return is here.
North and west of the city should hold up fine through the slight warm-up today and tomorrow. For example, Shabbona Lake events are a go this weekend. The Chain, with some exceptions around current areas and middles, is going good.
South of the city might be trickier. For example, Willow Slough, one of the area's hottest panfish spots just over the Indiana line, just iced over. As of Thursday, site staff had not seen anybody testing the ice yet. I expect there might be this morning. But it will be very borderline and tricky until it firms up early next week. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Mazonia lakes were nowhere near safe for ice fishing. I would be very cautious there until the cold settles in there early next week.
SHABBONA ICE EVENTS: The photo above is of a young Anthony Robison from some years ago at Shabbona's night ice fishing. I am sure he is much bigger young man now. And I need to get out and update my photos for ice fishing at Shabbona.
Shabbona has a night of ice fishing on Saturday, right while Lakeside is holdings its first weekend for ice catfishing. The night ice fishing at Shabbona is another unique thing about the lake and park and I love it. Haven't done it for years, but love it.
Here's the latest update from Lakeside:
The lake appears to be iced up and we have gotten a green light for Night Ice Fishing this Saturday, January 19th.
But always, always be careful & extra careful after dark. Know where you are going and stay only on safe ice.
On Saturday, ice fishing will be allowed until 9:30 PM. You must be off the ice by 9:30 and out of the Park by 10:00 PM.
Good luck and be careful out there!!!
Remember we have also have an "Ice Catfishing" contest this weekend. You must stop in at Lakeside & donate $5 to the Walleye Restocking Fund before you go fishing to be eligible for prizes.
Pokanoka's will also be open Saturday & Sunday, 11AM - 2 PM.
Lets make it a safe fun weekend!!! Hope to see many of you guys & gals.
WISCONSIN'S FIRST WINTER FREE FISHING WEEKEND: Again Wisconsin comes up with a leading-the-pack idea in the outdoors. Our northern neighbor is holding its first winter free fishing weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
Here is the word, well, the first two paragraphs of the explanation, from the Wisconsin DNR:
MADISON - Pull up a pail and help family and friends discover that ice is nice when it comes to fishing in Wisconsin -- doubly so when the fishing is free.
Wisconsin's first winter Free Fishing Weekend is set for Jan. 19 and 20. Residents and nonresidents alike can fish anywhere in Wisconsin for free. No licenses or trout stamps are needed. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.
"We invite everybody to get out and start a new tradition," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Ice fishing is all about family, friends and fun. It's a great time to get out, get some fresh air and try fishing from a new perspective."
SHOW SEASON: In the lull between the two busiest weeks for outdoors shows is Bedford Sales Open House Friday through Sunday in Morris. David Dudley and Jim Saric headline. Forrest L. Wood appears on Saturday.
PERCH FISHING: Mixed reports continue to come from the Chicago harbors and the ice cover coming and going makes for variable fishing conditions. Navy Pier and Diversey seem to be the most consistent. The other consistent spot for action and sometimes for keepers has been at 92nd and 95th in the river on Chicago's Southeast Side.
CHICAGO PIER PASSES: With iffy ice, remember that the $6 pier passes for Chicago harbors, except 31st, are available now at Henry's Sports and Bait, 3130 S. Canal.
HUNTING: The second part of the late winter antlerless and CWD deer seasons runs through Sunday. Over-the-counter permits remain. . . . Archery deer and turkey seasons end on Sunday.
GOOSE HUNTING: Goose season continues in the central zone through Jan. 31. Traditionally, this is the hot time at Braidwood Lake and the clubs around it. Not this year. It has been slow, every slow. I am not sure the freeze-up early next week will be enough to kick it in.
INDIANA STREAMS: Cold slowed fresh fish coming in. Now if we get the forecast rain for Thursday next week, it might be worth planning a day over in Indiana. Click here for the Indiana DNR's map of Trail Creek access.
POWERTON SHORE FISHING: If you're itching for some cooling lake fishing, shore fishing is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at Powerton, just outside of Pekin.
ARCHERY: Archery Bow Range Chicago offers instruction.
YOUTH TURKEY PERMITS: Youth (younger than 16 years old before turkey season) may apply now for outdoors access for youth turkey hunting in one of 23 counties. Click here.
BUCK OF THE WEEK: With show season underway, I have BOTW on hold. However, I can be persuaded otherwise by the right buck or right story. BOTW, the celebration of big bucks taken around Chicago outdoors, runs Wednesdays on the Sun-Times outdoors page. Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PERSONAL PICKS: It is primarily a family weekend, part birthday celebration. I suspect, if the ice builds enough, I will take the young ones out ice fishing again on Saturday in the warmth. I would like to get them on fish. . . . Otherwise, I am pretty much taking a breath before the packed week of shows next week. . . . Listeners/readers keep sending ideas for my Outside radio show on WKCC-FM (91.1).