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Midwest Fishing Report: Rivers around Chicago fishing

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Normalcy returns to all but the Illinois River for this rivers section of the Midwest Fishing Report, and just in time for the prime of spring river fishing, including white bass/walleye combo on the Wolf River.


There's even some outstanding reports, such as Ken Gortowski's bass thumb above.

This is the extended online version of the rivers report of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays.

Normally, I post Wednesday mornings.

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


Fish are coming and going, perfect to double up on white bass and walleye. Guide Bill Stoeger said walleye are still coming down, so some are catching limits of walleye on a jig and crawler, then white-bass fishing.He said white bass turned on around Fremont on light jig and minnow. If water cools, switch to a river rig and twitch it in deeper water for the white bass. Mother's Day is traditionally the peak of white bass, but he said, ``Temperatures are going up and down, we will be catching white bass into June. There is a lot of fish in the river.''


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

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


Tough fishing from what I saw last Wednesday. River is taking its time cleaning up.


Marcus Benesch sent this:

Down south, Joliet-Channahon area, channel cats are making their move.   The catfish is probably the best bite right now although only in limited southern sections.  Dams being the best spot for good numbers.  Large mouth and small mouth are starting to warm up in the shallows as well in places like Riverside and Romeoville.  In northern Cook County the river has finally receded from its swollen stage, but remains a little stained still from all the run off.  The northern pike bite is still slow for this time of year.  Hopefully that'll change with the steady temperatures forecasted. 
Marcus Benesch
River Grove, Il


No report. Levels are nearing spring normal.


There's a bait shop open in South Elgin 7 days a week: SS MINNOWS, ROUTE 31, (847) 289-0135.

Sam Bennett sent this:

Hey Dale-

The water is coming down nicely. Slowly, but now some of my favorite high-water spots are fishable again.

Smallmouth are starting to get out of the boulders and back into current breaks near faster water. That makes me happy.

The smallmouth have also moved out of the slowest water and the largemouth and crappie have moved in. At least in the water I fish. As always, your mileage may vary.

Saturday I found a nice mixed bag of smallies, flatheads, crappie and largemouth:

Sunday I floated from South Elgin down to my boat launch, just north of the Q Center. The fishing wasn't there but the scenery was great. I got out of the canoe a few times to look for morels in likely spots. No luck yet. I expect I'll dedicate more time to the hunt this week.

This morning I had a great outing - both size and numbers of smallmouth were absolutely fantastic. I'm not sure if it's that my favorite spots are now fishable, the water warming up or the early hour that I arrived. Probably a combination of the three.

I snapped a few bad pics on my phone and did a writeup:

The Fox River Anger Diary Project is going quite strong. The anglers who are participating have logged 150+ hours of catch data so far.

To join the Fox River Angler Diary Project, click here. I think it is one of the neater projects around.

Ken Gortowski sent this:

Attached a photo for your Wednesday lead in if you have nothing else.

Not a bad few days.

Wednesday fished for around an hour, covered about 50 feet of too deep water and caught 8. But I was standing on my toes for a lot of it with water nearly up to my nipples. Tough to set a hook with your arms already in the air. Missed the hook set on twice as many as caught, at least. Getting out of the water was a real treat.

Saturday fished for 20 minutes, caught nine.

Sunday fished for just over 2 hours. Caught 42 fish. Two green sunfish, two largemouth bass and the rest all smallies.

Hence, the bass thumb.

When you take into consideration that you always miss the hookset on a few fish, quite a few in my case, not a bad few days of fishing at all.

Click on for a rather interesting visual and written account.

Then Gortowski added this:

They changed the course of Blackberry Creek again in order to fix the damage done by the floods and to finally get the coffer dam out of there. I'll bet they're done by the end of the week with the weather the way it is.

This killed the fishing in the pool below the old dam. Eight missed little hits and three little things barely worth reeling in.

Did finally get to see the ever elusive gar. I've heard that they dwell in the stretch from Yorkville all the way down. I've assumed some of the porpoising I've seen over the years were them, it's different than carp, but never could verify that.

Saw a school of a half dozen gar cruising around the pool. Maybe that's why all the other fish went away. I have no clue what gar snack on. Beautiful fish though. Two of them were well over three feet long.

The creeks are all pretty much back to normal, but the Fox is still cruising along at 3900 cfs. That's normal high water for this time of year. If it hits 3000, I've got spots where I'm going in the water. I don't recommend others do this unless they really know what they're doing and where they're walking.

Alex Kiscellus sent this:

Howdy sir - Coming out of hiding with a late contribution to the online reports. Luckily the fish have been coming out of hiding too in full force as the big flood slowly fades and they regain their bearings. As I write this the USGS charts depict a steady decline in level and flow, though still quite treacherous for wading overall. I am getting back in the water, but only in hard bottom areas out of the main flow to primarily gain a better casting position. Most river rats seem to have an accentuated case of "shore fever" which shortly followed a late winter's cabin fever, leaving us all wound like springs as we await the opportunity to wade through our favorite stretches for the first time in ages as far as we're concerned. Will be interesting to see how all that water has changed these areas that have been inaccessible with the heavy flow, but I'm anxious to explore -adds to the allure of wading the river. Even better, the fishing seems to be peaking as things start returning to normal.
Clarity is still a bit muddy, but clearing up nicely. Fish are holding in faster moving water again, but still out of the main flow where the current is a bit more subdued. I found a number of fish throughout areas somewhat closer to shore where the current was broken up sporadically by boulders and still submerged gravel bars that are normally dry. A couple on crankbaits, but the never say die jig and 3" white grub was hard to beat. Largemouth, smallmouth, white bass, bullhead, carp, quillback, and even a cranky flathead all were interested over the weekend. A little bit of everything will work right now, and I am even hearing topwater is already seeing some action in the evenings. Stay away from the soft bottoms and you should find something willing to play. Bonus is bigger smallies seem to be getting more numerous too.
If this weather can stay consistent and we avoid the occasional 5" rain, the next few weeks should be quite fun. Still practice patience and caution in the meantime; the river is still a little angry...
Good fishing Dale! 
Alex Kiscellus
Wonder Lake, IL

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


It's going to be a while to things to settle enough for serious fishing.


Remember, roughly 7.5 miles of some sections of Trail Creek and the East Branch of the Little Calumet river are closed to angling to protect newly stocked steelhead yearlings through June 15.

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


Norm Minas sent this:

River is below it's normal flow for this time of year but the normal flow isn't conducive to great wading opportunities. It's possible if you really know the area, are an experienced wader and go slowly and safely. Mostly it's limited entry to get better casting angles. The water temps are in the mid 60's, visibility is best described as very limited to none in the main flow. The tribs have dropped significantly and are much clearer with distinct mudlines at the confluence with the river.
 There are fish on beds in the most popular creek, unfortunately about half of them in a short stretch I looked at had the fish already caught and harvested. I guess they either don't know or don't care that it's against the law to harvest smallmouth until after June15.
 Today it was some simple stuff that worked. There were gar actively feeding at a creek mouth. Fishing a fluke in full panic mode, skipping and slashing on the surface brought strikes. Slower methods of using the fluke were ignored. For smallmouth it was fishing the waterwillow stubble on water willow humps out in the flow or shoreline related areas. There were minnows hanging in the stubble and the bass were there taking advantage of them. I was there taking advantage of actively feeding fish. A singlespin slow rolled near the bottom caught some fish. A jig/pig fished down into the stubble and popped free brought some ferocious strikes and caught about 7 times as many fish as the spinnerbaits.


Root River Report from the Wisconsin DNR had this:

Root River Fishing Report for May 6, 2013
The water level and flow rate are close to normal for this time of year and the muddy water is finally beginning to clear up.  The river temperature averaged 54F over the weekend.
For up to date river conditions, check out the USGS web site of stream flow conditions  in Wisconsin.
Above the weir: Earlier in the week, anglers at the dam landed a few brown trout and steelhead from the gravel bar under the bridge. Some carp and a couple of northern pike were taken on Sunday. The most popular bait at the dam continues to be red or orange yarn flies. At Quarry Park, a few anglers used nightcrawlers to fish for rock bass. The majority of the anglers in the park were at Quarry Lake, fishing for stocker trout and largemouth bass.
Below the weir: A few fishermen at Lincoln Park worked the river with dry flies but only a few suckers were taken. Washington Park was taken over by golfers this weekend. One of the best producing fishing spots in the park is now part of the 7th green.


Tyler Harmon messaged:

Bass fishing has been great on the rivers and in the lakes. Also in the rivers Suckers for the most part are done spawning, still some walleyes around to be caught.



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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on May 8, 2013 6:00 AM.

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