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Heidecke opener, smelt, trout: Chicago fishing

An opening day scene at Heidecke Lake in 2013.
Credit: Dale Bowman

It’s the beginning, truly, of fishing around Chicago.

Heidecke Lake reopens Friday; smelt netting opens the same day, then the next day spring trout season opens in Illinois, all that leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

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

The sprawling raw-file report is posted here online on the Sun-Times outdoors page.

The photo above is Heidecke Lake on opening morning a couple years ago.

REMINDER: New licenses are needed for all four Lake Michigan states on Friday.

HEIDECKE

The former cooling lake near Morris reopens Friday. Hours are 6 a.m.-sunset. For those who find them, crappie have become the glamour fish, both in numbers and size. Walleye were expected to be the star fish last year, but that never really panned out, fisheries biologist Rob Miller wonders if that might happen this year. But he is making no predictions on walleye this year. I know it would make a lot of people happy if walleye became the fish. He said bass continue to limp along. When Heidecke became an ambient lake, Miller expected aquatic vegetation to take off and the bass to explode. It never happened except in “some isolated pockets.” He said, “We did find some emergent Illinois pond weed on the west, maybe the size of a couple boats together. That is a good sign. As to muskies and hybrid striped bass, expect about the same. A couple site details. There is no concessionaire. The off-limits area remains the same. The trestle is not and will not be coming out. Boaters will need to continue to monitor water levels.

SMELT NETTING

Netting for smelt begins Friday night. Regulations are the same for the Chicago Parks. Nets may go in at 7 p.m. Netters must be out of the parks by 1 a.m. Prospects are as poor as recent years. Smelt are not around.

SPRING TROUT IN ILLINOIS

Inland spring trout season begins Saturday. If 16 or older, you need a fishing license and an inland trout.

Here is the word from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, though I added several lakes to the DuPage County list:

Illinois Spring Trout Fishing Season Opens April 2

Spring Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing-Only Season Opens March 19 at select sites

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The 2016 Illinois spring trout fishing season opens on Saturday, April 2 at 50 ponds, lakes and streams throughout the state. Prospect Park in Moline has been added to the list of spring trout fishing locations.

The Spring Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing-only season will be available at nine sites beginning on March 19. Fly fishing anglers can use fly fishing gear to catch and release trout beginning March 19 at the nine select sites designated in the list below. No trout may be kept during the fly fishing-only period, but anglers can keep trout after the opening of the regular season beginning April 2.

The Illinois catchable trout program is funded entirely by those who use the program through the sale of Inland Trout Stamps. The IDNR stocks more than 80,000 rainbow trout each year in bodies of water where trout fishing is permitted during the spring season.

No trout may be taken from any of the stocked sites from March 11 until the spring trout season opens at 5 a.m. on April 2. Anyone attempting to take (harvest) trout before the legal harvest season opening will be issued citations.

All anglers – including those using fly-fishing gear who intend to release fish caught before April 2 ¬¬– must have a fishing license and an Inland Trout Stamp, unless they are under the age of 16, blind or disabled, or are an Illinois resident on leave from active duty in the Armed Forces. The daily catch limit for each angler is five trout.

Not all sites open at 5 a.m. on opening day. Anglers are reminded to check the opening time of their favorite trout fishing location prior to the season.

For more information on trout seasons and other Illinois fishing opportunities, check the website at www.ifishillinois.org.

Illinois fishing licenses and Inland Trout Stamps are available at DNR Direct license and permit locations, including many bait shops, sporting goods stores and other retail outlets. For a location near you, check the IDNR website at this link: http://dnr.illinois.gov/DNRDirectMonitor/VendorListing.aspx

Fishing licenses and trout stamps can also be purchased by using a credit card through DNR Direct online via the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov, or by calling DNR Direct toll-free at 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648).

For more information about all site regulations, anglers should contact individual sites that will be stocked with catchable-size trout. The 50 locations that will be open for spring trout season are listed below:

2016 Illinois Spring Trout Locations

(** Denotes Sites Open for Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing-Only Early Season)

North — Boone County — Mill Race Ponds, Belvidere

North — Bureau County — Hennepin Canal Parkway

North — Cook County — Wolf Lake at William W. Powers State Recreation Area, Chicago

North — Cook County — Green Lake in Calumet City, Cook County Forest Preserve District

North — Cook County — Axehead Lake, Cook County Forest Preserve District

North — Cook County — Belleau Lake, Cook County Forest Preserve District

North — Cook County — Sag Quarry East, Cook County Forest Preserve District

North — DuPage County — Silver Lake, DuPage County Forest Preserve District

[ADD: Grove and Pickerell to the DuPage list]

North — Jo Daviess County — Apple River, Apple River State Park **

North — Kankakee County — Bird Park Quarry, Kankakee

North — Kankakee County — Rock Creek, Kankakee River State Park **

North — Kendall County — Big Lake, Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area

North — LaSalle County — Illinois and Michigan Canal, Utica

North — LaSalle County — Lake Mendota, Village of Mendota

North — Lake County — Sand Lake, Illinois Beach State Park

North — McHenry County — Lake Atwood, McHenry County Conservation District

North — McHenry County — Piscasaw Creek, McHenry County Conservation District

North — Ogle County — Pine Creek, White Pines Forest State Park **

North — Rock Island County — Prospect Park, Moline

North — Stephenson — Waddams Creek, Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Recreation Area

North — Stephenson — Yellow Creek in Krape Park, Freeport

North — Whiteside County — Centennial Park Pond, Rock Falls

North — Will County — Lake Milliken, Des Plaines Conservation Area

North — Winnebago County — Four Lakes, Winnebago County Forest Preserve District

Central — Adams County — Siloam Springs State Park Lake **

Central — Cass County — Gridley Lake, Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA **

Central — Champaign County — Lake of the Woods, Champaign Co. Forest Preserve Dist.

Central — Christian County — Manners Park Pond, Taylorville Park District

Central — Coles County — Eastern Illinois University Campus Pond, Charleston

Central — Hancock County — Horton Lake, Nauvoo State Park **

Central — Macon County — Sportsman’s Club Pond, Macon County Conservation District

Central — McLean County — Miller Park Lake, Bloomington

Central — Morgan County — Morgan Lake at Nichols Park, Jacksonville **

Central — Moultrie County — Wyman Lake, Sullivan

Central — Pike County — Kings Park Pond, Pittsfield

Central — Sangamon County — Southwind Park, Springfield

Central — Sangamon County — IDOT Lake, Springfield **

Central — Sangamon County — Washington Park Pond, Springfield

Central — Shelby County — Forest Park Lagoon, Shelbyville

Central — Vermilion County — Clear Lake, Kickapoo State Recreation Area

South — Jefferson County — Mount Vernon Game Farm Pond

South — Johnson County — Ferne Clyffe State Park Lake

South — Marion County — Boston Pond, Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area

South — Massac County — Fairgrounds Pond, Fort Massac State Park

South — Randolph County — Derby Lake, Sparta (World Shooting and Recreational Complex)

South — St. Clair County — Frank Holten State Park Main Lake

South — St. Clair County — Jones Park Lake, East St. Louis

South — Willow Lake at Peabody River King State Fish and Wildlife Area **

South — Wabash County — Beall Woods Lake, Beall Woods State Park

South — Wayne County — Sam Dale Trout Pond, Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area

AREA LAKES

Crappie continue to lead the local reports.

Norm Minas sent a pond report to this week:

shore fished a triangular shaped retention pond, east -west axis, widest and deepest on the east end . main input culverts on north shore at east end . some emergent vegetation that comes to the surface otherwise mostly sand grass . a few other input culverts on east and south shore, outtake culvert at west end .

partly cloudy , winds blowing at good clip from the east, rain/t storms predicted for evening and tomorrow .

I walked west to east on the high ground saw no sign of emergent vegetation either by sight[wearing polarized sun glasses] or by the way it would have affected the surface currents caused by the wind . Ok , sandgrass beds are the main target .

I was using a 3/8 oz spinnerbait cast across or slightly downwind as I worked my way from east to west on the north side . I choose the north side because it gets the better angle of the sun early in the year and can be warmer than the south side . Also the culverts are there so that is the first spot I check. I got a couple small bass there .

When I cast to the sandgrass beds I counted the lure down until I felt it hit bottom to check for depth changes . I also deliberately tried to snag some sand grass to make sure it’s green. Most of it was green, when I found some that wasn’t I moved down.

After the initial check for depth/green weeds , I counted the spinnerbait down to just above the bottom and slow rolled it back in .

7 more largemouth off the sand grass beds , all took the spinnerbait with no doubt about it hits .

Of the nine bass , eight were in the 10 to 14 inch range , which is the usual size for this pond in my experience . One was 17 inches, caught him when the spinnerbait got hit at a two count instead of the five count that I had been having. After I released it, cast back and got a 3 count when it hit bottom. A hump I didn’t know about, triangulated it for future fishing

went back to the same retention pond. partly sunny , winds from sw .

walked the north shore from east to west doing the same thing with the spinnerbait, no fish .

went backed walked again from east to west , this time with a rattlebait , got 3 largemouth .

went back, walked from east to west with a swimbait, got two largemouth . also had about a dozen panfish grab the swimbait by the tail and eventually let go . well at least the ones I saw let it go were sunfish .

rattlebait steady retrieve after a two or three count drop, just felt the lure stop vibrating and set the hook .

swimbait counted down just above the weeds , solid thumps from the bass .

peace

norm

AREA WATER LEVELS

A lot depends on how much rain comes tonight. 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

BRAIDWOOD

Hours are 6 a.m.-sunset daily. Continue to receive decent bass reports. I am trying to set up getting regular water temperatures and such. NOTE: Exelon’s Fishing for a Cure is May 7. Click here for info and to register.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports & Marine said crappie are the top bite in the channels; some are trying for channel catfish, especially around the Route 12 bridge; there’s some good walleye and white bass, best in the river north.

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

CHICAGO RIVER

No update.

DELAVAN/LAKE GENEVA AREA, WISCONSIN

No update this week from Brian Gates at Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle.

DES PLAINES RIVER

No update.

DOWNSTATE NOTES

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: 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. 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.

DuPAGE RIVER

No update.

FOX RIVER

No update.

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 and some big walleye (John Dalzot caught a 7-7, someone else caught an 8-4); numbers are best on three-ways, jiggers are taking the bigger fish. White bass are inconsistent at the creek mouths. One of the special bites is crappie in the backwaters, brush piles and bridge pilings. NOTE: The Illinois River Walleye Classic is Saturday and Sunday out of Spring Valley.

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

INDIANA STREAMS

Have not heard much. Access points for Trail Creek can be found on the Trail Creek Access Map.

KANKAKEE RIVER

NOTE: The Route 102 bridge over Rock Creek is undergoing work, which means access to the state park and Warner Bridge will require some driving around.

Norm Minas sent this update:

After a week of barely any fishing and too many stressful events , I had to get out or go under .

Simple was what was needed so I grabbed some fluke jrs, circle hooks, couple crappie size spinnerbaits, small jigs/ plastics, the ul and headed for the cricks.

First was a tributary of tributary, water was lower and clearer than I thought it would be . I started with the fluke jr nose hooked on the circle. That worked well enough that I never bothered to change. Smallmouth and rock bass about the size you expect from such water but they were willing . Front and back of riffles for the most part , the rest around woody cover. No one else in sight, talked to the birds and squirrels until they ignored me for lack of intelligent conversation.

Next up hit a different tributary that flows directly to the river, this one was higher and murkier. The fluke got a decent rock bass and was thereafter ignored. I switched to the jig/small plastics got rock bass, sunfish and some nice sized chubs No smallmouth to be had. Pools were far and away the best bet, riffle areas so/so . Action while slower was steady enough to keep me going .

On the way home, decided to give the river a shot, it’s close to normal flow but normal flow is 7000 cfs . Water temps low 50’s by that time in the afternoon. I put on a Wart, hit the seam where the creek meets the river . a couple smallmouth 15 inch range . I moved to a spot with slower flow fished the wart upstream . One smallmouth, the same size as the other two . Called it a day , ham with all the fixings awaiting me at home

river dropping under 7000 cfs, clarity is poor, water temp 50 degrees the only time I checked it. weather fair , mostly sunny but not as warm as promised , likely due to wind .

first place I fished was a creekmouth, very nice seam and foam line where crick meets river. I started with a crankbait cast down stream , shorter and closer, working out further with each cast . I picked up 5 small smallmouth biggest about 14 inches. I checked the surrounding area with crank, rattlebait and jig, no fish .

the other place I fished was a nice sized slow/slack area. cobblestone mixed with larger rock, limestone shelf and soft bottom. decent size waterwillow island at upstream end . I checked the cobblestone flats with crank, rattlebait and jigs, no fish. I worked up the the waterwillow island and started with a spinnerbait over the waterwillow stubble, nada. I switched the the reversed fat ika rigged on a ewg hook and shoved a bit of extra lead into the bottom of the ika. that got me 6 more smallmouth, these were nicer, 15 to 18 inches

river slightly rising from recent rain, still around normal flow about 6300 cfs for this time of year. visibility poor, green stain to water. water temps 51 degrees only time I bothered . overcast, windy, maybe 45 degrees at best .

fished a variety of current situations and techniques .

at one creekmouth struck out with rattlebait and crankbait but got 3 smallmouth on a 1/0 weighted keeper/power pulse worm on the mudline . at the other creekmouth got 2 smallmouth on a crankbait retrieved against the current at the seam twixt river and creek . no fish on rattlebait or jig/plastic.

fish a couple bridge abutments with 2/0 and 3/0 weighted keepers/power pulse worms , got a nice smallmouth from each in the downstream seam from the abutments .

fished three slackwater spots that are back to back to back . 3/8 oz singlespin w/size 3 Colorado blade and no tip w/plastics . I got a nice smallmouth at the head of each spot and 5 decent smallmouth hugging the banks. I fished the flats out to the faster water with the spinnerbait , no fish . I switched to a rattlebait as I made my way back to the path up . I picked 15 smallmouth out on the flats with a steady retrieve as close to the bottom as I could get without constantly snagging .

I hit a couple riffles, cranks and ratlebaits up and downstream sides, no fish . I went with a football head jig/plastic craw got 5 channel cat and three smallmouth on the upstream end, nothing on the downstream end

peace

norm

LAKE ERIE

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

LAKE KOSHKONONG, WISCONSIN

No update.

LAKEFRONT

Clearer water, not sure when that will happen, would really help to bring back the bite, but there is still coho and browns being caught.

CHICAGO: Stacey Greene at Park Bait said they are catching coho and browns at Montrose and Belmont, powerliners are doing best. Staff at Henry’s said lots of people are trying.

WAUKEGAN: Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop said steady reports are coming from government pier, browns on the bottom, coho higher.

LaSALLE LAKE

Blues continue good, see Fish of the Week; also Jim Hartley and Wayne Skoff caught four topping 20 pounds last week.

The cooling lake south of Seneca is open daily, 6 a.m.-sunset.

District fisheries biologist David Wyffels expects blue catfish to be “historically good;’’ fishermen have caught blues heavier than 50 pounds and biologists surveyed them heavier than 30. Expect the usual on bass and hybrids. Bluegill should be good on the east bank. I plan to be there, waiting in line Monday night.

MADISON CHAIN, WISCONSIN

Go to Facebook for the latest updates from Gene Dellinger at D & S Bait.

MAZONIA

Open daily, 6 a.m.-sunset. Few trying yet.

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:

Ice fishing season continues to shrink along with it’s most important ingredient..ice. Fewer places are accessible everyday with a forecast of heavy rain for Wednesday (3/30) even the forecast for nighttime temps in the teens for Friday/Saturday (4/1 and 4/2) may not be enough to give the hard water anglers safe footing for the weekend. Keep an eye on our website fishing report for further details.

Crappies: Good-Very good. At times the bite is relegated to early morning and evenings. But with the south end of Big Arb reporting 14-15” on Monday (3/28), most of the fishing pressure in this area is on the very protected south shore. Tip-downs with minnows as well as slow dropping plastics and spikes has been effective. Work from just under the ice to the bottom to find where fish want offerings. Some true slabs of 13-15” being caught, though majority of reports are 10-11”.

Bluegills: Good-very good. Gills active, preferring darker plastics (purple has been hot). Mostly shallower than crappies (6-8’ vs 10-12’) but also tending to move more up and down the water column. Moussees have been hottest live bait.

Perch: Good. Not as many reports as deep water tougher to access and more of the gravid (egg bearing) females migrating to shallower weedy cover as ice thickness lessens. These fish will eat, so feed them a big meal of wigglers, medium fatheads of several waxies on a minnow shaped jig.

The pond behind our shop looks to be about 30% open as of 3/29 morning. Traditionally 7-10 days after the pond goes ice free, Minocqua Lake will be ice free. No one is fishing west side of Lake Minocqua. Use caution anywhere you go.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop

http://www.kurtsislandsports.com

EAGLE RIVER: No update, other than waiting on open water, from B+L, from interviews with guides George Langley, Muskie Matt and Colin Crawford, for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce

NORTHWEST INDIANA

Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station said the dirty water makes for variable coho and brown action, some boaters are doing OK, with the warmer water, some are going to Dodgers and peanut flies. Shore fishing for coho has been sporadic. There are no perch reports in recent days. When winds allow, some good bluegill at Willow Slough. Lots are scrappie fishing at Deep River, on Pine Lake (boaters) and by Grand Boulevard (evenings, quality, not big numbers.

ROCK RIVER, WISCONSIN

No updates.

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 the bite has been tough with the roiled water, both for boaters and from the piers.

ST. JOSEPH RIVER, INDIANA

Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.

SHABBONA LAKE

Staff at Lakeside said at least four muskie were caught Saturday, including a 44- and 40-incher, most using crankbaits or bucktails; crappie are consistent in the north-end cribs; walleye are being caught on the dam face and trees.

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.