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Midwest Fishing Report: Lakes and rivers around Chicago fishing

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Some philosophy/river fishing advice from Norm Minas, the reopening of Braidwood Lake and ongoing ice fishing lead this Midwest Fishing Report.


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 cooling lake in southwest Will County opened to fishing on Friday. Weather and wind have limited effort most of the days. The exception was Sunday and the Fish of the Week, a 4.75-pound largemouth, was caught.

I got in a couple hours Monday evening on the south end, hard east winds made it tough and I zeroed. I was the only one there as one boater left as I pulled in.

Mike Lynch messaged about the opener:

There was no more than 6 boats at the south launch. Nobody caught anything in the morning. 9-11 was good for everybody with bass with some nice ones coming on the rip-rap. After 11 everything died down again and we got a couple small cats and that was it.

Another faithful reader tweeted:

Sir, I received a Braidwood lake shore fishing report from a friend..he advised Catfish are on fire. He caught over 40 Cats. He said most were under a pound.

REMINDER: Anchoring outside the restricted area on the north end, then casting in is illegal.


The big question is what the heavy wet snow has done to ice conditions. Have not heard yet or been out yet myself this morning.

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, other lakes are open now. Any 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.


I started some early reports on river fishing. I suspect this weekend could see some guys, other than hardcores like Norm Minas, getting out.

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): Walleye, northern, catfish and panfish all hitting strong;' all in
and amidst the lakes and the Wisconsin River in Wisconsin¹s Marathon and
Lincoln Counties (near Mosinee and Wausau).  Editor's Note: The walleye and
northern season REMAIN OPEN on many of the waters of the central Wisconsin
area.  Check with the DNR about the particular water you want to fish before
going out to make sure that water is open for walleye and northern.

Recent snows have hampered travel on central Wisconsin area lakes, but if
you can get out the fishing has been outstanding.

The walleye bite in the central Wisconsin area has been very good for us.
Most of the walleyes have been coming during low light periods in shallow
water 3 to 6 feet deep.  We are running tip-downs baited with golden shiners
or small sucker minnows and setting them so our baits are about one foot off
the bottom.

The northern bite in the central Wisconsin area has been keeping us very
busy.  This past week we caught several very nice fish in the upper 30 inch
range along with quite a few mid 20 to mid 30 inch range.  Most of the
northerns are coming on tip-ups baited up with large golden shiners.  We are
fishing in 4 to 10 feet of water, along sharp break lines and open pockets
along dense weed beds.  The big key to connecting with these toothy fish is
to keep your bait suspended well off the bottom and in some instances right
below the ice.

Catfish are hitting hard in the central Wisconsin area.  It looks like the
bite is going to continue until we run out of ice. We are catching some
really nice catfish in very deep water (20 to 30 feet) by running heavy
jigging spoons tipped with waxies or a small minnow and banging them right
off the bottom. The strikes are fierce and the fight is unforgettable.

The crappie bite in the central Wisconsin area remains the best we've seen
in years.  We are catching not only numbers of fish, but really nice big
slabs, as well.  Most of the fish we are finding are suspended 2 to 6 feet
off the bottom over 20 feet of water. Tip-downs with small crappie sized
minnows are working well, but jigging with a heavy tungsten jig is quicker
to get down and working better.

The bluegill bite in the central Wisconsin area continues to be good especially in deeper water.  We are finding most of our bluegills scattered
in 10 to 12 feet of water staying tight to cover, so use your electronics to
find structure and the fish will be there.


Triangle Sports and Marine reported Channel is producing good bluegill and crappie; pike are feeding throughout, best on roaches on tipups; yellow bass are coming back; white bass are better; and walleye are fair. Use caution around middle areas.

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. It's in that in-between time. BRAIDWOOD: Set top. LaSALLE: Opens to fishing on March 15, details to come. HEIDECKE: Opens to fishing on April 1.


Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait and Tackle reported lake trout remain good on Geneva on white tube jigs, Swedish Pimple or airplane jigs in 90 feet west of Black Point to Fontana; on Delavan, nice perch in deep water on spikes or wigglers; there's bluegill, crappie and perch on Turtle; some reports of monster bluegill on Red Cedar.


We are getting close. Marcus Benesch will start reports shortly.


POWERTON LAKE: The cooling lake near Pekin will be closed to all fishing through April 7 for levee work.

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


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.


Click here to check for any updated Wisconsin DNR fishing report.


Fishermen had started to get out and chase sauger and walleye in the deeper holes. I suspect this weekend will be busy as can be. Should be a lot more information after the weekend.


There continues to be action for steelhead for those drifting spawn. One of the better spots for the public has been behind the Bass Pro in Portage.

Click here for the Indiana DNR's map of Trail Creek access.


Norm Minas sent this note with a hook of philosophy:

Sometimes it's good to get back to the simpler, less stressful things in fishing. I enjoy catching smallmouth bass as much as anyone and am challenged by trying to be consistent with walleyes. Catfish and rock bass also have a lot of attraction to me. However, the simple joy involved in taking a light action rod, rigging up with a split shot, hook and crawler and fishing an eddy for redhorse suckers is something I need to do more often. There is a lot to be said for letting the crawler do the work while you enjoy the sun, the wildlife and the freedom to muse upon whatever strikes your fancy while waiting for the tap that brings you back to the task at hand. The suckers weren't huge but they were biting often enough too keep me from taking a journey all the way to the center of my mind.


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


Best perch action has been at Belmont, but all harbors have perch; harbors vary from open water to safe ice. Winds brought ice back to shore on the main lake.

CHICAGO PIER PASSES: Good time to remember the $6 pier passes for Chicago harbors, except 31st, are available at Henry'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.


D&S Bait reported perch are tougher on Mendota and bluegill are OK in other spots. Bite should pick up closer to ice-out in a couple weeks.


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

With gamefish season closed until  May 4th, all of our ice fishing attention will be geared toward panfish and some whitefish.  The walleye/pike season closed rather quietly.  A few anglers reported some spotty walleye action the last few nights.  Pike fishing was fair, but overall, nothing special.
Crappie:  Good and improving.  Deep water crappies are still being found suspended over 18-30' mud flats taking rosie reds on tip-downs and by anglers jigging glow jigs and spoons tipped with waxies.  These have generally been larger fish 11-14", location is not always easy and timing is just as important.  Early and late in the day along hard to soft bottom transition zones and mouths of bays best.  There has definitely been a migration of crappies just starting into the weedy bays of lakes where they had been absent all winter.  These fish on aggressive days are taking small spoons such as Slender Spoon, Russian Hooks, Little Cecils and little Gem's pan gems tipped with waxies.  When this bite slows finessing with #8 rocker jigs tipped with plastic or Chena fished below a light rod with a spring bobber is necessary.  Always have a couple tip-downs or dead sticks out baited with a crappie minnow at different depths to increase your odds and help figure out depths. 
Perch:  Good-Very good.  Mud flat fish gorging on mayfly larvae (wigglers) and blood worms.  Number 2 Pimples, small Flickers, Slender spoons, Buckshot spoons and Hali jigs tipped with wigglers and red spikes.  Outside of weeds of 6-10' perch are staging.  These fish very aggressive taking crappie minnows on tip-downs and minnow imitation jigs tipped with waxies.  The deep fish averaging larger - shallow fish numerous but need sorting.
Bluegills:  Good and Improving.  On tough days, downsizing to 2# test, #14 tungsten jigs and single spike or small plastic needed to entice some very nice 8-10" gills.  On overcast days with warming temps, upgrade to larger jigs and waxies or plastics to score.
Check out the DNR site.  Information is being gathered on public opinion to start managing panfish.  These meetings are for us to let the DNR know what we would like to see, such as creating some waters for quality panfish.  Get to these meeting and be heard.
Ice thickness I've measured is 23-30".  Snow depths 8-13".  Slush is bad in spots, but cold nights last weekend did firm things up.  Should have a solid month of ice fishing to go.
Kurt Justice
Kurt's Island Sport Shop

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

(Head): Crappies, bluegills and perch providing good action in the Eagle
River, Wisconsin area.

Ice thickness in the Eagle River, Wisconsin area ranges from 18-24 inches,
lake dependent.  Travel has gotten a little tougher because of slush
formations on the ice.  ATV's and snowmobiles are your best bet, with trucks
tending to get stuck, especially if they go off trail even a bit.  Ice
anglers should be watchful for thinning, cracking, and unsafe ice areas,
especially around bridges, or other structure. Caution is strongly advised.
Best idea is to hire one of Eagle River's great guides, who will be able to
put you on lots of fish in safety.

Panfish (crappies, bluegills and perch) are putting on a good bite in the
Eagle River area.  Fish 12-35 feet off of break or weed edges, and adjacent
mud flats.  The crappies and bluegills will be suspending up and down the
water column.  Use your electronics to determine the depth of crappies and
gills, as it will vary almost daily.  The fish can be right under the ice,
deep, or widely scattered.  Perch are tight to bottom, usually on the mud
flat areas.  Use a spike, wiggler, waxie or crappie minnow under a small jig
or slip bobber.  All day bite.

(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.


North winds piled ice on shore of Lake Michigan, inland ice is not safe.


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


Clint Sands at Lakeside reported good crappie in the deep trees; catfish are doing well, bluegill slowed. North and south ends have good ice.

Check updates at


Arden Katz reported very slow fishing at Milwaukee with murky water, ice remains good.

Click here for any updated Lake Michigan Fishing Report.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

Well pier fishing has been improving Whitefish being the most common caught species. Chunks of cured and uncured eggs are taking fish. Rivers are started to become quite packed with anglers but the bite has been really slow. Some steelhead and walleyes have still been caught. Ice is looking great, but as we progress through the week the ice season will come to an abrupt end. I would expect to see rising water levels in the river by the end the week and fishing action greatly improved for both pier and river anglers throughout the entire area if the forecast stays the same path.



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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on March 6, 2013 6:27 AM.

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