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Trickier ice & early coho: Chicago fishing

Ice fishing remains the central theme of this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report, but the smattering of coho and brown trout reports on southern Lake Michigan build.

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

The photo above is of Patrick Hoeft, who caught his largemouth bass on Jan. 24 on Nielsen’s Channel in Port Barrington. It was sent by his brother Tom, who emailed:

Most of the fish caught that day were small panfish such as bluegill, but this hog hit a waxie on a tungsten jig right before we called it a day. It was quite a fight on a small rod with light line. For a minute we were concerned the hole in the ice was not big enough. The fish was quickly returned to the water after a photo of course.

It has been a good couple weeks of ice fishing for largemouth around the area.

ICE FISHING

This is one of those times where it shows definitively how variable ice fishing is around Chicago. To the south the ice is unsafe or tricky at best, while to the north ice fishing, though a bit sloppy, is just fine. And, even south, the bigger lakes, such as forest preserve lakes have a better chance of holding ice fishing.

Click here for the ice fishing regulations on area public sites.

AREA WATER LEVELS

Might be a good week to go 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

Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports & Marine said ice fishing will hold, even with the rain; the best bite has been crappie and bluegill. Arden Katz said bluegill and crappie were good Saturday at Nielsen’s Channel on the front channel; tungsten jigs a major help.

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

CHICAGO RIVER

No update.

COOLING LAKES/STRIP PITS

MAZONIA: Ice fishing is not recommended at this point. If you do try it later this week or next with colder weather, any ice fishing is at your own risk. Monster Lake at Mazonia South is open year-round. HEIDECKE: Closed. BRAIDWOOD: Closed. LaSALLE: Closed.

DELAVAN/LAKE GENEVA AREA, WISCONSIN

Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle said the best bite on Delavan is the last two hours for crappie and bluegill, and a few walleye, bite has slowed some; lots of pike, some legals, on Como; on Geneva, perch are on and off in Geneva Bay on little shiners, some crappie at Trinkes; Lorraine has decent bluegills, small crappie and pike; Pleasant has slowed but there are bluegill in 30 feet down 15.

DES PLAINES RIVER

No update.

DOWNSTATE NOTES

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Unless there is an unbelievable arrival of polar air, there will be no ice fishing day this year; staff decided. Otherwise, it will reopen to general fishing, most likely around Memorial Day, with an expanded format.

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

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. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing McMASTER LAKE at SNAKEDEN HOLLOW: Closed to fishing until Feb. 1. 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.

CHICAGO RIVER

No update.

FOX RIVER

No update.

GREEN BAY/STURGEON BAY

I did not receive an update from Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay, but I know from talking with people at the Schaumburg Show, the ice fishing for whitefish around Sturgeon Bay is in that hot time.

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

ILLINOIS RIVER

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

INDIANA STREAMS

Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station said not many are fishing or catching, but the steelhead caught are quality fish of 9-12 pounds.

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

KANKAKEE RIVER

A good shot of rain, which will alter conditions, came after Norm Minas sent this Monday night:

only two trips with any success, goose eggs otherwise . it was real simple , a 1/8 oz darter head jig with a 4 inch paddle tail swimbait. fish inflows and slower flows off the main channel . catch more walleye than smallmouth . walleye small to medium sized, smallmouth decent sized fish . slow steady retrieve just off the bottom .

the weather was great for late January/ early February . river close to normal flow, some stain , water temps upper 30’s

peace

norm

LAKE ERIE

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

LAKE KOSHKONONG, WISCONSIN

No update.

LAKEFRONT

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait said powerliners are taking some coho at Montrose; casters trying crankbaits when there’s open water. In harbors; it is back to fishing from piers; perch bite is fair. 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

I did not call for an update from Gene Dellinger at D&S Bait.

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 2/2/16

A second weekend in a row of fishing success not meeting the expectations of us anglers, what with all the great weather we had.

Warm temps cresting 40 degrees, a little sunshine, made for a great time to be on the ice., just not as much under the ice. Reports from Fri / Sat were slow, with things picking up by Sun/ Monday as the fishing pressure dropped off.

Northern Pike: Fair-Good. Winners of the weekend as pike bit just enough in some areas to keep anglers attention. Actually a few good reports of fish 28-34” with others catching “ picklers” of 20-24”. Large shiners, River shiners and Pike suckers under tip-ups. Not much for technique, just put a spread out over a weed flat and its deepest edge till the fish tell you where they’ll eat.

Bluegill: Fair –Good. Best on the lakes with 8-12’ of weeds. Flowages seeing better bites in 16-18’. On clear lakes use mousees, spikes on dark tungsten jigs one foot off bottom. Flowage gills responding to 1/16 oz. Flash Champs tipped with 4-5 red spikes. Bright colors, UV colors seem to get best response.

Largemouth Bass: Fair to good. Medium shiners on tip – downs. Tingler spoons tipped with a minnow head. Numbers of 14-16” bass this weekend, with a few over 18”. They love those warm ups.

Yellow Perch: Fair – Good. Some bites over deep sand grass of 22-26’ or over mud flats in 18-28’. Grass bites on natural or brownish jig / plastics tipped with spikes or mousees. Over mud, Hali jigs, #2 pimples and Perch Talkers banged into bottom to stir up mud, tipped with wigglers or red spikes. On lakes where perch found in 10’ or less of weeds, Ratso jigs in motor oil or red tipped with waxie working well.

Crappies: Fair. As good as the weather was for tip-down anglers, the crappies just didn’t seem to want a big meal. Best slow working jig and plastics one foot off bottom. Some very nice Crappies reported, fish of 13-14” – most of those from the flowages. Bright colored jigs tipped with waxies or spikes best in the dark water.

Walleye: Poor-Fair. Tough bite of late. Late night anglers reporting small windows of activity on smaller sucker minnows. Very little action while jigging.

With a snow storm looming our way today, travel on what had become an already messy ( slushy) ice cover will only get worse. The warm temps over the weekend condensed snow, but added to the slush. With a blanket of new snow forecasted, the slush will be insulated as will the ice! Don’t expect to see any more ice for the rest of the season. The 10-14” we have now will probably be it.

As of now, snowmobiles and A.T.V. traffic is good. There has been truck traffic on the Flowages, Stacks Bay and the south end of Big Arb. Watch our website for travel updates after the storm passes on Wed. For now wear water proof boots to combat the slush.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop

EAGLE RIVER:

B+L, from interviews with guide Muskie Matt and Colin Crawford, provided this report for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce:

The anticipated snowfall should deliver excellent conditions for snowmobilers, cross country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts. A winter storm is forecast to drop 5 to 6 inches of snow on the Eagle River area Tuesday, with more expected later in the week. For a full trails report, visit eagleriver.org/trailconditions/.

With ice depths holding at nearly a foot, local ice fishing conditions have been good. However, the snow will make travel on the lakes more difficult as the surface gets slushier, so caution is advised. The warmer temperatures from last weekend led to lots of people ice fishing. Most anglers reported that the fish are biting.

Fishing Report

Northern Pike: Finding them in 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 to very good all day long until dark.

Walleyes: Set up along the deepest weed edges during the day. In the evening, look to rock humps that have deeper water around them using tip-ups tipped with golden shiners set 1 to 2 foot above the bottom. The bite has been fair. Use rattle spoons tipped with a minnow head for jigging.

Crappies: Congregating 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.

Perch: Located on deep rock bars. Jigging a tungsten live bait combo of wigglers, spikes, waxies or crappie minnows.

Bluegills: Use small ice jigs tipped with 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 that on Sunday, boaters out of Portage ran to Gary Light for browns and a few coho; no perch; both casting and trolling.

Remember Mik-Lurch closed.

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

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

ST. JOSEPH, MICHIGAN

Phil Schuman at Tackle Haven said steelhead are good in the river; the fish had not been touched for a few weeks, both lures and spawn is working. Not much on piers.

ST. JOSEPH RIVER, INDIANA

Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.

SHABBONA LAKE

Staff at Lakeside said ice was 6-8 inches on Monday and it should hold; crappie and catfish were good on Saturday.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley sent this:

Hey Dale,

Went out to Shabbona yesterday as ice conditions south on area lakes are not good. Ice at Shab is holding at 7 inches. Hopefully tomorrow’s storm doesn’t deteriorate it too much. Fishing was decent. The bite had windows throughout the day much like the rain. Crappie were better in deep brush plies on wedgies. Bluegill were in cribs on spikes. Perch was the most consistent bite on both structures using spikes. Tungsten jigs was a must fishing deeper water.

TTYL

Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Huskeroutdoors

Waterworks fishing team

ROCKFEST NOTE: The Rockfest scheduled for Saturday has been postponed until better ice conditions.

LAKESIDE NOTE: Lakeside–open 8 a.m.-noon, Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday-Sunday during ice fishing–rents Vexilars, cameras, augers and ice tents. 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.

WOLF LAKE

No update.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

No update.