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Midwest Fishing Report: Lakes and rivers around Chicago fishing

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Ice fishing settling in leads this Midwest Fishing Report.


Photo is from Saturday, when I was able to get out and fish on a good three inches of ice on the town pond, while 50 feet away there was open water. It's been that kind of winter.

Perch guys take note, the deep-water bite is going on Mendota on the Madison Chain in central Wisconsin.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays. I think until next spring I will go back to combining the rivers and lakes sections again.

Normally, I post Wednesday mornings.

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


The granddaddy of winter festivals is this weekend. The 53rd annual Chain O'Lakes Ice Fishing Derby and Winter Festival, sponsored by the Northern Illinois Conservation Club and headquartered at the Thirsty Turtle on Channel Lake, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Top prize is $1,500. Call 847-395-NICC or click here.


Sturgeon spearing season (licenses needed to be purchased earlier) on the Lake Winnebago systems in Wisconsin opens Saturday. Wisconsin DNR staff wonder if the state-record 212-pound fish, speared in 2010, may be surpassed. A 240-pound, 87.5 inch adult female lake sturgeon was captured in April by spawning surveys below the Shawano Dam.


I should have done this a month ago. Busted my butt drilling four holes by hand on Saturday. And blistered my hand. Fran Connelly in Des Plaines sharpens blades for augers. He can reached at Ice Auger Sharpening on Facebook or by calling (847) 297-8297.


Ice conditions still vary, but are much improved generally from last week. Still use special caution around middles and current areas, and any spots that geese had been swimming open. To the south of Chicago is still borderline in spots.

PUBLIC AREAS REGS: Ice fishing isn't permitted on the Chicago lagoons or the lakes of the Forest Preserve District of Will County. Here are the other regulations.

COOK FPD: Ice fish at your own risk (4 inches is recommended) on the designated ice-fishing lakes, same as last winter: Arrowhead, Axehead, Beck, Belleau, Big Bend, Bode South only, Bullfrog, Busse main and south (no north pool), Flatfoot, Green, Horsetail, Ida, Maple, Papoose, Powderhorn, Saganashkee, Sag Quarry east and west, Tampier, Turtlehead and Wampum.

DuPAGE FPD: Unless otherwise posted, it's ice fish at your own risk on forest preserve waters (4 inches of ice is recommended). Spring Creek Reservoir in Bloomingdale is closed to ice fishing (fluctuating levels). Late-night fishing is allowed at Deep Quarry Lake in Bartlett (fishermen must be out of the preserve by 11 p.m.)

KANE FPD: Ice fishing, at your own risk, is permitted at Lake Patterson at Oakhurst in Aurora and the various ponds at Burnidge in Elgin.

LAKE FPD: No sites are open yet, When ice fishing is permitted, the sites are Banana, Independence Grove south bay and Sterling, when the ice is uniformly 4.5 inches thick and the area is posted as safe for fishing. Call (847) 968-3235 or go to the ice fishing page at

MAZONIA SFWA: Monster Lake is open year-round for open-water or ice fishing. All ice fishing is done at your own risk.

McHENRY COUNTY CD: None are open yet for ice fishing. Ice fishing is sunrise to sunset at the Fel-Pro RRR (closed until bowhunting ends Jan. 20), the Hollows (Lake Atwood and West Lake), Lyons Prairie & Marsh, Pleasant Valley, Rush Creek pond and Stickney Run (closed until after bowhunting), once signs are posted after 4 inches of ice are formed. Then it is at your own risk.

SILVER SPRINGS SFWA: Ice fish at your own risk on both lakes (Loon and Beaver). Use the east entrance.


Not sure how many more than dedicated fishermen like Norm Minas will be plying the rivers.

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

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


For guide Mike Norton's report, go to, then click on fishing, then lake report.


From licensed guide and trapper Phil Schweik and guide Glenn Moberg of Hooksetters Guide Service:

(Head): Good action for walleye, northern and panfish;  all in and amidst
the lakes and the Wisconsin River in Wisconsin¹s Marathon and Lincoln
Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau).

Good walleye bite for walleye in the central Wisconsin area.  All you have
to do is be willing to stick it out after dark.  Large golden shiners and
sucker minnows run on tip-ups in shallow backwater areas off the main
Wisconsin River have been producing some nice fish for us.  Most of our
action is coming well after dark and in less than 6 feet of water.

The northern action in the central Wisconsin area has been very good with
nice catches of fish up to and over 30+ inches.  Most of our fish are coming
on tip-ups baited with large golden shiners or sucker minnows. We are
setting our tip-ups in 4 to 10 feet of water along the sharpest breaking
contour lines we can find. If you can pinpoint the quickest drop to deep
water in the area you will have located a key target location for holding
not only size but numbers of northern.

The bite for panfish has been very good in the central Wisconsin area, and
we're coming in with mixed bags of perch, crappies and bluegills.  Most of
our action is coming from 10-14 feet of water over mud flats.  We are using
Northland tungsten fireball jigs in orange or yellow and tipping them with
the Impulse Mayfly or Tapeworm. The key to not only getting numbers, but
nice fish as well is to drill a lot of holes and don't be afraid to do a lot
of moving or hole hopping.


Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports and Marine reported a few reports of white bass on Petite, Marie and Fox; bluegill (take sorting) are steadiest, especially on Channel; Deep has been a better spot for crappie; walleye reports remain variable. Use caution around current areas; or travel areas already traveled.

For more reports, see

More Chain info at

ACCESSING THE CHAIN: Here are some basic access points.

For the T-Channel, best first-ice spot, park at Famous Freddie's and go in to eat or leave before the lunch crowd arrives.

For Spring Lake, Granny's Lakeside has parking for $5, but takes the $5 off your order. Most eating places with parking access offer similar deals.

For Channel Lake, there's Chopper's Bar or the Thirsty Turtle.

For Petite, Greg Dickson at Triangle said there is now a drop-box behind the old Kempf's resort.

Access Pistakee Lake from Oak Park Lounge ($4 per car, $8 with trailers).

For Ackerman's Channel, Dickson said the best access is from Captain's Quarters.

For Marie, the last to be safe in the middle, there's Barnacle Bob's ($5), McKinney's East Marina ($5) or the Sand Bar & Grill (park in back and patronize the place).


MAZONIA: The site is open for fishing. Any ice fishing is at your own risk and I would suggest extreme caution.


Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait and Tackle reported some bluegills in Geneva Bay and perch on the eastern end of Geneva; on Delavan, doing well on the west end for bluegill, crappie are deeper and later afternoon into evening legal walleye are being caught on tip-ups and medium roaches; frozen sardines are producing pike on Whitewater; perch and bluegills being caught Turtle; Pleasant slowed; and Como has sporadic pike and largemouth.


POWERTON LAKE: Shore fishing is open. Winter hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Boat fishing reopens Feb. 15.

EVERGREEN: The 2013 passes are available. Any updated fishing report from site staff will be posted here. New passes are out.


Access for ice fishing at Nielsen's Channel at Port Barrington is at Hermann's Lowlife Bar & Grill.

Sam Bennett has a getting started guide for the Fox posted here.


From the Wisconsin DNR fishing report:

Green Bay Fishing Report: February 4, 2013
Brown Co.
Fishing pressure during this past week was light with the weather playing a factor. Ice conditions have improved, but care should be taken when traveling out on the ice. Voyageur Park fishermen are catching perch, walleye, and whitefish. Jigging with minnows and wax worms has worked best. Sunset Beach is another hotspot for perch and pike. Large shiner minnows have been working well for pike, while small minnows and wax worms are capturing the attention of the perch.
East Shore
The beginning of the week started out slow with the temperatures being high and causing lots of snow to melt. Ice conditions were not bad, but there were several inches of water on top of the ice from the high temperatures. By the end of the week, the temperature lowered causing it to freeze and make ice conditions a little better overall. When the weekend hit, there were lots of fishermen overall. Lots of fishermen at Lime Kiln Rd and Big Rock Place were looking for Whitefish. Little Sturgeon had high fishing activity as well.
Sawyer Harbor: In Sawyer Harbor, at Potawatomi Park, fishing activity was high with fishermen looking for Perch and Northern. A good number of Perch were caught on wax worms in about 8-10 feet of water, while the Northern were caught on Shiners in about 10-16 feet of water. Ice conditions here are good with about 14-15 inches of ice, and most fishermen are driving their vehicles and ATVs onto the ice for travel.
Birmingham's: There were a few fishermen at Birmingham's at the beginning of the week. More shanties are on the ice, and they are further out from shore with some vehicles being parked further from shore as well.
Volk's Landing/Bay Shore Park: Volk's landing and Bayshore park were busy this week with fishermen using ATVs and snowmobiles to get out on the ice. At Volk's landing more fishermen are parking on the ice by the shoreline, and some trucks are out by shanties.
Red River: At Red River, fishing activity is also busy, but some fishermen were taking their shanties off the ice when a lot of the snow melted but planned on putting their shanties back on the ice towards the weekend.
Sugar Creek: At Sugar Creek, a few fishermen were targeting whitefish and catching their limits. They used Swedish Pimples and wax worms for bait and were fishing in about 12-15 feet of water. Fishermen were reporting good ice conditions of about 15 inches of ice.
Sturgeon Bay: At the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club, the ice is open by the docks and no fishermen were at this location.
Oconto Co.
Fishing pressure during this past week was light with the weather playing a factor. Ice conditions have improved, but care should be taken when traveling out on the ice. Fishermen in the Geano Beach area are reporting some nice catches of whitefish and a few pike. Whitefish are being caught in 3 to 5 feet of water on top of the reef south of the Geano Beach landing; jigging with wax worms is working best. Whitefish and perch are being caught near the mouth of the Oconto River at Oconto Breakwater Park. Jigging with wax worms is producing the most fish. Gator (pike) fishermen have been having success fishing in 3 to 8 feet of water all along the shore from Geano Beach to Oconto Park II. Dead smelt fished on bottom or large shiner minnows are working the best.
Marinette Co.
Fishing pressure during this past week was light with the weather playing a factor. Ice conditions have improved, but care should be taken when traveling out on the ice. Pike fishermen dominate the landscape from Oconto Park II all the way to the Menominee River. The best fishing has been in the 3 to 8 foot range using large shiner minnows or smelt in the round fished on bottom. Most of the activity on the Menominee River is happening just below the Hattie Street Bridge. Walleye is the target species with most fishermen using jigging spoons tipped with minnows.


Some steelhead are in and some fresh ones came in with the high water. Click here for the Indiana DNR's map of Trail Creek access.


For Ohio DNR report go to and or call (888) HOOKFISH.


Ice in Chicago harbors is tricky and variable, but some are ice fishing, more common is punching holes in the ice from piers. Montrose and Navy Pier remain the steadiest spots for perch reports, according to Henry's Sports & Bait, but it takes sorting for keepers. Staff at Mik-Lurch reported small perch in the river at 92nd and 95th.

CHICAGO PIER PASSES: Good time to remember the $6 pier passes for Chicago harbors, except 31st, are available atHenry's Sports & Bait.

CHICAGO FISHERMAN'S PARKING: The fisherman's parking pass--$10 for two months and available at Henry's Sports & Bait--is needed to park south of the main building at Northerly Island. . . . That's the same pass good for the small fishermen's lots at Burnham and DuSable harbors.


Gene Dellinger at D&S Bait reported they are catching perch in deep water water (65 feet off Governor's Island on Mendota. He said it is good enough that guys from the Chicago area should consider the drive. However, the shortest access is via Governor's Island, and even that is a mile; otherwise, come from ``Four Doors.'' A 44-inch pike was caught on Mendota in the past week; some decent crappie on Waubesa in 30-32 feet.


MINOCQUA: Kurt Justice of Kurt's Island Sport Shop sent this:

These reports are so much easier to write when fishing is good!  Real cold and high pressure kept the bite down again.  Anglers experience much of the same as they did the week before - fish very negative and not in the mood to bite.  We had been spoiled with all of the thin ice and good fishing.  Actually this isn't uncommon for mid-winter, but a few bites are even worse than usual.
Pike:  Fair.  Most action has been slow with the extreme cold, especially early mornings.  Late morning through mid day has been best for some pike anglers.  River shiners and large golden shiners best on tip-ups, not much jigging due to cold (unless in shacks).
Perch:  Poor-Fair.  This is one species that usually produces mid winter, but hasn't been very well.  A few lakes had some bites going, but have shut down.  This is most likely due to weather.  When the bite has been good, mud flats of 17-26' where perch are sifting for blood worms and mayfly larvae are best.   Heavy lures such as tungsten jigs in the #4 and #5mm sizes tipped with a red spike as well as #2 pimples, #25 Hali jigs, Gapen Flicker jigs and slender spoons tipped with a wiggler are best.
Walleye:  Poor-Fair.  A few decent reports last week when the weather warmed.  Action stopped with high pressure.  Deeper sandgrass flats of 20-30', especially humps near deeper water best. Suckers preferred for these deep fish.
Crappies:  Poor-Fair.  Try the same deep mud as you would for perch, though areas near gravel transition better.  Glow jigs tipped with waxies and tip-downs (weather permitting) baited with rosies catching some nice slabs (12-14") from 20-26' depths.
Bluegills:  Poor.  Cold keeping anglers stationed in shacks - bites few.  Along with traditional 8-12' weeds, some adventurous anglers finding gills over 16-20' sandgrass flats taking Fiska jigs tipped with spikes.
The good news is the weather is breaking.  This morning (2/5) it was ten degrees at 6 am vs. 17 below yesterday.  Moderate winter temps in the 20's by weeks end should bring about better action.

EAGLE RIVER: On Sunday, Creative Brilliance sent this update for the Chamber of Commerce:

(Head): Northern and panfish biting strong, with walleye action good, all in
the Eagle River, Wisconsin area.

Ice in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area ranges from 12-18 inches.  Travel on
the ice is a bit more difficult, with a foot of snow in places. ATV's and
snowmobiles are being used extensively, with trucks also getting out, but
local guides tell us that trucks should only be used on lakes and areas that
are totally familiar to the driver.  Best suggestion remains hiring one of
Eagle River superb fishing guides, who will get you out safely and put you
on lots of fish.

Northern in the Eagle River area are locating in 15 feet of water or less in
and around old weed growth.  Use a medium to large shiner or sucker minnow
under a tip-up.  All day bite.  Action is good to excellent.

Panfish (crappies, bluegills and perch) in the Eagle River area are locating
in 10-35 feet of water off of break edges or over mud flats.  Perch are
tight to bottom, with crappies and gills suspending up and down the water
column.  Use electronics to find the fishing depth on any given day, as it
will vary considerably.  Use a waxie, spike or wiggler under a small jig or
slip bobber.  All day bite.  Action is good to excellent.

Walleye in the Eagle River area are locating in 12-40 feet of water, off of
break edges or adjacent mud flats.
The walleye are tight to bottom. Use a small to medium shiner or walleye
sucker under a tip-up, or a jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head. All day
bite, with peaks at sunset.  Good action.

(Report for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce based on Creative Brilliance
interviews with Eagle River guides "Muskie Matt" of Wild Eagle Lodge,
"Ranger Rick" Krueger of Guide's Choice Pro Shop, and Mat Hegy).
Contact info for Eagle River:
* Eagle River Chamber of Commerce; 800-359-6315; 715-479-6400; e-mail:; web:
* "Muskie Matt", 715-891-5980; e-mail:
* Mat Hegy, 715-571-7544, e-mail:
* Guide's Choice Pro Shop, guide/owner "Ranger Rick" Krueger 715-477-2248
* George Langley, Eagle River Fishing Guides Association, 715-479-8804.


Ed McCain at Mik-Lurch reported a few were ice fishing Tuesday at Willow Slough, where ice is 1-3 inches; on Lake Michigan, shore fishermen are catching a few coho, browns and whitefish at the Ditch and a few early coho at Michigan City.


Click here to check if there is an updated Root River Fishing Report from the Wisconsin DNR. There probably will not be until spring.


Ice fishing is underway with the best being crappie in the trees. Check status and reports at


Arden Katz reported ice fishing produced some whitefish Saturday at Milwaukee, then some steelhead and browns Sunday on large fatheads on tip-ups or jigging with Berkley Gulp! smelt minnows.

From Lake Michigan Fishing Report from the Wisconsin DNR:

Southern Lake Michigan Fishing Report: February 4, 2013
Kenosha Co.
Report will be updated after the return of the open water creel survey season in mid-March.
Racine Co.
In the Racine harbor ice fishing has been slow recently, but a mix of browns, rainbows, and northerns have all been caught. Spawn sacs and shiners have taken the majority of fish.
Milwaukee Co.
In Milwaukee ice anglers have been fishing the harbors at McKinley Marina and South Shore Park, as well as the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park. Success has been hit-or-miss for brown trout and steelhead. Conditions have been changing daily at Riverfront Ramp and on the Milwaukee River under the Hoan bridge. Ice floes have been moving through the area, and the river mouth is currently ice covered. When boats have been able to get out in the harbor, brown trout have been biting. There is fishable open water on the Menomonee River near the MMSD office, but fishing there has been fairly slow.
Ozaukee Co.
Fishing in Port Washington has been slow overall with only a few browns and rainbows being caught by shore anglers fishing off of the Rotary Park rocks or the white railing area. The power plant discharge has also given up a few small browns; spawn sacs fished near bottom or casting bright colored crankbaits have worked best.
Sheboygan Co.
In Sheboygan ice anglers have been in the marina, however brown trout and steelhead fishing has been spotty. The lower Sheboygan River is also frozen over.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

ice conditions vary across Southwest Michigan. People are getting out, and catching some good numbers of panfish in certain spots. Spring Steelhead season should be getting better and better from this point on, Walleye as well. Most rivers are still high from last weeks warm up, but they are started to lower back down a bit and clear up.



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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 6, 2013 5:51 AM.

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