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Coho, lakers & Braidwood opener: Chicago fishing

Sunrise came stunning Saturday, the day after 70-mph winds opened up some launches in Chicago.Credit: Dale Bowman

Spring signs, such as Braidwood reopening and coho beginning on Lake Michigan, and the last of ice fishing headline this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

The MFR appears in a condensed form Wednesdays on the Sun-Times outdoors page.

The sunrise above was from Saturday, earliest I ever boat fished on Lake Michigan, and we caught lakers with Capt. Ralph Steiger.

COOLING LAKES/STRIP PITS

MAZONIA/BRAIDWOOD: Reopens to fishing on Tuesday, March 1. Hours will be 6 a.m.-sunset, daily. At Braidwood, biologist Rob Miller is pleased with hybrids and blue catfish; bass have good numbers, but fewer legal fish in the fall survey; expect the same fiddlers on channel catfish; Miller is concerned about drop in threadfin and gizzard shad as forage.

LaSALLE: Reopens March 15, you read that right, and it will be open daily, 6 a.m.-sunset. HEIDECKE: Reopens April 1. Hours are 6 a.m.-sunset (usually 6:30 on shore side).

HENNEPIN-HOPPER SCOOP

I learned the The Wetlands Initiative will have the fishing season at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge (Hennepin-Hopper) from May 15 to Labor Day. Regulations will be the same as last year, with an emphasis on reminding fishermen there may be no large motors on boats.

AREA LAKES

Ice fishing is pretty much done, but just in case, click here for the ice fishing regulations on area public sites.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley sent this:

Hey Dale,

Here’s the first open water report of 2016. Some of the area lakes south have open up completely or are close to doing so. A minnow worked under a slip float took nice bluegill and a few bass along the outside weedlines. It was good to get the long rods out despite having such a short hard water season. I notice a few frogs swimming around after a long winters slumber. I’m thinking the early risers might have made a mistake.

TTYL

Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Huskeroutdoors

Waterworks fishing team

AREA WATER LEVELS

To to http://water.weather.gov//ahps2/index.php?wfo=lot to check area water levels and projection. To get to more specific gauges, even on creeks, in Illinois, go to http://waterdata.usgs.gov/il/nwis/current/?type=flow

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA/FOX RIVER BACKWATERS

Art Frisell at Triangle Sports & Marine said that ice conditions are deteriorating, but there is still easily fishable ice; stay near shorelines and avoid main lakes areas, be extra cautious around current or creek areas; try shallow weeds for crappie and bluegill; there’s pike there, too.

Check updates at Fox Waterway Agency or by calling (847) 587-8540.

CHICAGO RIVER

No update.

DELAVAN/LAKE GENEVA AREA, WISCONSIN

Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle said that he will still be renting shanties this weekend on the west end of Delavan, to give an idea on the ice there, but he said in front of Lake Lawn is getting questionable; Pleasant has good crappie action at night; they’re walking on Como; perch are being caught in Geneva Bay on Geneva.

DES PLAINES RIVER

No update.

DOWNSTATE NOTES

LAKE OF EGYPT/REND: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing. POWERTON: Boat and shore fishing is open, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: See top. NEWTON: If you are looking for open-water fishing, especially for largemouth, this is your lake from numerous reports. EMIQUON: Because of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s shutdown, fishing and boating permits will be done at the launch. Call (309) 547-2730. SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson Guide Service.

EVERGREEN: Bait shop is closed.

Larry Dozard of larrysfishinghole.com also had these updates:

CLINTON LAKE – REMEMBER an easterly area of Clinton Lake between the DeWitt (CH14) and the 48 bridges is CLOSED FROM OCT. 10th through MARCH 31st to protect fish and wildlife.

DuPAGE RIVER

No update.

FOX RIVER

Pete Lamar emailed that he caught a couple smallmouth in the tribs, which looked good; but struck out on the river, even by outflows.

GREEN BAY/STURGEON BAY

No update from Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay.

The Wisconsin DNR posts a report, typically updated on Tuesdays at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/lakemichigan/OutdoorReport.html

ILLINOIS RIVER

Thom Matejewski at Illinois Valley Outdoors said sauger are being caught well from Ottawa to Henry, best in 20-22 feet; best is a jig and minnow, but some on three-ways or crankbaits.

Illinois Valley Outdoors–(815) 663-1000–is open in Spring Valley.

INDIANA STREAMS

Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station a lot of steelhead were caught Saturday at Trail Creek, of course the beautiful weather might have had something to do with it. Voodoo jigs with wax worms or spawn are best.

Access points for Trail Creek can be found on the Trail Creek Access Map.

KANKAKEE RIVER

Norm Minas sent this, some of which could have been posted in area lakes, on Monday:

It’s been warmer lately, one day the wind was quite intense . river temps getting into lower 40’s , some stain , wadeable with care .

It’s been a mixed bag of current conditions fished and techniques used . Smallmouth bass on modified Carolina rig on flats off the channel. on a jigspinner/weighted keeper hook/4 inch ribbed swim bait at the upstream sides off points and riffles, on x rap shad raps on flats off channels and on current seams, and on husky jerks on flats off channels . Mostly mid sized fish with a fair amount of big fish . Walleyes on x rap shad raps, suspending rogues and husky jerks on flats off channels, on jigspinner/weighted keeper/ribbed swimbait at points and riffles . A few channel cats on the Carolina rig .

Today was my birthday all of 59 years young . I decided to give my self a little challenge , fish multiple types and bodies of water . The first turned out to be the easiest , got a largemouth on the third cast with a rattlebait in a retention pond . Cool, off to a nearby crick to catch whatever . That took a little longer about 45 minutes to get a couple rock bass on a jig/twister . Off to the river , decided to give some crankbaits a whirl, nothing, switch to rattlebait still nothing. I dead drifted a husky jerk on the flats off a channel got some nice smallmouth . I moved to another spot that holds walleye, same deal dead drift the husky jerk over the flats got a couple . I decided might as well try for some pike so I moved again . I tried three different spots with swimbaits, jerkbaits, minnow baits, crankbaits, rattlebaits and single spins, no pike action. I went to a local quarry to complete the challenge, figuring low and slow was going to be the way to go. I fished jig/pig[real pork] , a drop shot rig and a Carolina rig , totally struck out . 3 out of 4 ain’t bad , make untold millions if I could hit that .

I may be getting old and slow but I still get there . The upside of all this experience is that I generally know what to do now when I finally get there .

peace

norm

LAKE ERIE

The Ohio DNR has general Lake Erie info and a fishing report.

LAKE KOSHKONONG, WISCONSIN

No update.

LAKEFRONT

Boaters, when they can get out, are catching some coho, a few browns and some lakers out of Chicago. Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait said that shore fishermen are picking up some coho, and a few browns, from Montrose to 63rd, powerliners are doing best. Not much on perch. PIER PASSES: The $6 pier passes, which allow legal access to selected piers in selected Chicago harbors, are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait.

MADISON CHAIN, WISCONSIN

Gene Dellinger at D&S Bait said, “Ice is hanging in there. We will get another weekend.’’ Nice crappie are being caught in Waubesa’s main basin; decent bluegill on Monona; pike and walleye on Mendota.

MENOMINEE RIVER, WISCONSIN

Check with Mike Mladeik at Mike Mladenik Guide Service.

MILWAUKEE HARBOR

No update.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

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

Minocqua Area Fishing Report 2/22/16

Finally something to write a report about!

Fishing picked up across the board over the weekend, with Saturdays west winds and above freezing temps bringing the best of the weeks fishing.

Yellow Perch: Very Good. Deep water anglers plying the mud flats of 20-30’ of water had good success using Halis, Pimples, Perch Talkers and VMC Chandeliers tipped with red spikes or wigglers. On lakes with less mud, but good Sand grass similar depths provided good catches with a few reports of tip-downs and small minnows also producing. On shallower lakes perch patrolling weed edges and sparsely weeded humps found good catches using VMC Flash Champs and Northland Forage Minnows tipped with minnow heads or spikes.

Northern Pike: Good-Very Good. What started out a bit slow progressively got better as the week wore on. Pike were actively feeding taking large baits (suckers, shiners) on tip-ups. Lot of heavy fish as females are feeding up to help their eggs. Lots of 25-32” fish reported over the weekend.

Bluegills: Good-Very Good. The combination of hackle, weight and a bit of meat (spikes, waxies) on this years hottest jig for gills has made VMC & Northland Jig Fly’s and Larvae jigs a must have. The gills (as well as the anglers thanks to the warm weekend) got active and anglers iced lots of fish while probing the 6-9’ weeds. A few big gills were being found cruising with perch over mud flats in 21-24’ of water – probably picking off wigglers that the perch were rooting out of the mud.

Crappies: Good. The reports from the Flowages saw an upswing as tip-down anglers had some of their best success on rosie reds. On natural lakes, tip-downs with crappie minnows accounted for some of the catch, but anglers dipping plastics and grubs did better.

Walleye: Fair-Good. Catches improved this weekend. Anglers actively jigging for walleye were successful using jigging Raps, Slender Spoons or just Forage jigs tipped with large Fatheads. The late night / all night anglers are having their best success using pike sized suckers on tip-ups on off-shore humps topping at 18-24’.

Largemouth Bass; Good. Got into the action with warm temps. Most on tip-ups baited with medium golden shiners. Lots of incidental catches by pan fishermen with jigs and waxies.

Lets hope the improved fishing is here to stay for the rest of the ice season. The game fish season ends March 6th, so we’ve only got two weekends left.

Ice thickness seems to be averaging 14-17”. There is some water on the ice in places, but snow depth and slush have not been a problem. A.T.V. & Snowmobiles traffic best, but several areas good for truck travel. Colder temps this coming weekend (highs in teens) will firm up some wet areas. Forecast is for no new precipitation this week.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop

EAGLE RIVER: B+L, from interviews with guides George Langley, Muskie Matt and Colin Crawford, provided this report for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce:

Thanks to dedicated trail groomers and a powdery snowfall over the weekend, cross country skiing conditions in the Eagle River area are excellent. Snowshoe trails and fat tire bike trails are also in excellent condition.

Slush on area lakes became more abundant due to rising temperatures last weekend, but snowmobile trails remain open. The Ride with Pride Snowmobile/ATV Raffle is this Saturday with the drawing being held at Trackside. First prize is a choice of a 2016 SkiDoo snowmobile or Cam ATV. For a full trails report, go online and visit eagleriver.org/trailconditions/.

Ice depth on lakes is still good for ice fishing. The warm weather led to lots of activity on the lakes and fishing success seemed to increase as a result.

Fishing Report

Northern Pike: Suspended in about 8 to 14 feet of water. Set tip-ups 1 to 2 feet above the weed tops tipped with a medium to large golden shiner or a sucker minnow. The bite seems to be good all day long until dark.

Walleyes: Set up along the deepest weed edges during the day and in the evening look to rock humps that have deeper water around them using tip-ups tipped with golden shiners set 1 to 2 feet above the bottom. The bite has just been fair. Jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head or tipped with a couple wax worms.

Crappies: Located deep in the main lake basins suspended just a few feet off the bottom. Jigging with tungsten jigs tipped with either plastic tail, spikes or waxies will get you bit. Bite has been fair during the daylight hours.

Perch: Located on deep rock bars and on the mud flats. Jigging a tungsten live bait combo of wigglers, spikes, and waxies or crappie minnows. The bite is good to very good during daylight hours.

Bluegills: Using small ice jigs tipped with plastics, spikes or waxies in shallow weed of 4 to 8 feet of water.

NORTHWEST INDIANA

Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station said boaters caught some coho and browns at Gary Light; more are shore fishing at Portage and Port for coho and browns (skein or squid on a twistertail); more whitefish than coho at Michigan City pier.

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

The Wisconsin DNR Root River Report is generally posted on Tuesday.

ST. JOSEPH, MICHIGAN

Phil Schuman at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said whitefish are being caught off the pier, sometimes really good numbers of them, also a few coho off the pier; some steelhead are being caught in the river.

ST. JOSEPH RIVER, INDIANA

Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.

SHABBONA LAKE

To give an idea on conditions, Clint Sands at Lakeside messaged this on Saturday:

Ice Update!

Ice no longer safe! Ice is 4 to 6 inches but severely honey combing please do not take any chances! Lakeside will be closed until open water or ice drastically changes. We have plenty of bait so if you would like to get any bait in bulk message here or leave message at baitshop. Be safe!

For more information and reports from Lakeside, go to shabbonalake.com or call (815) 824-2581.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN

The Wisconsin DNR posts a report at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/lakemichigan/OutdoorReport.html. It is usually posted by Tuesday afternoon. Stream flow info is at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/current?type=flow.

WINNEBAGO SYSTEM, WISCONSIN

Sturgeon spearing season is open and looks to have a longer run this year because of lower water clarity. Previous permits are required.

WOLF LAKE

No update.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

No update.