Smelt, Heidecke opener, inland trout opener: Chicago fishing, MFR

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Opening night of smelt netting at Burnham Harbor in 2016.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Big week for fishing around Chicago, especially Saturday when Illinois’s spring trout season opens, smelt netting begins and Heidecke Lake reopens to fishing; that and much more leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

The MFR for Chicago fishing 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 new license season begins Saturday, April 1, in the Lake Michigan states.


Smelt netting in Chicago begins Saturday, April 1. The regulations are the usual, though there may be one tweak in the open sites (stay tuned later in the week). Prospects are poor, though some perch fishermen caught some smelt at the South Side slips this winter.

Here is the general word from Bob Long, “The Fishin’ Guy,” for the Chicago Park District, on lakefront regulations for smelt netters:

SMELT REGS FOR CHICAGO LAKEFRONT Smelt Fishing is a family affair. It’s a community of Fishermen enjoying each other’s company and nature’s bounty. Let’s make this season a safe and clean one for families and our fishing future. The following rules apply: * No open fires * No enclosed tents * No alcoholic beverages * No parking or driving on the grass or sidewalks. Park only in designated areas. Violators will be ticketed and towed. * Do not destroy fences, benches, trash receptacles, walkways, and grassy areas. * Do not dump hot coals under trees, on concrete or on grassy areas. Dispose of all coals in the appropriate trash receptacles. Harbor Gates will close at 1 a.m. –start breaking down at 12:30 a.m. to be out by 1 a.m.

I would emphasize that last one, the regulation is to be out of the parks by 1 a.m.


Illinois’ spring trout season opens Saturday, April 1. Click here for the statewide release. Usual regulations are in place: those 16 and older need a fishing license and inland trout stamp; daily bag is five. Nearby sites include Axehead, Bellaeau, Green, Horsetail (new for spring), Sag Quarry East, Wolf (Cook County): Grove, Pickerel, Silver (DuPage); Bird Park Quarry, Rock Creek at Kankakee River SP (Kankakee): Big Lake at Silver Springs SFWA (Kendall); Sand at Illinois Beach SP, Banana (Lake); Atwood, Pisacaw Creek (McHenry); Milliken (Will). NOTE: EARLY FLY FISHING FOR SPRING TROUT: Illinois’ Spring Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing-only season is now open (regular spring trout season opens Saturday, April 1, see above). Those 16 and older need a valid fishing license and an inland trout stamp. Fly fishing is available at nine sites statewide: Apple River, Apple River State Park (Jo Daviess County); Rock Creek, Kankakee River SP (Kankakee); Pine Creek, White Pines Forest SP (Ogle); Siloam Springs State Park Lake (Adams); Gridley Lake, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (Cass); Horton Lake, Nauvoo SP (Hancock); Morgan Lake at Nichols Park, Jacksonville (Morgan); IDOT Lake, Springfield (Sangamon); and Willow Lake at Peabody River King SFWA (St. Claire)..


The former cooling lake near Morris reopens to fishing Saturday, April 1. Regulations are the same. Launch opens at 6 a.m., shore fishing at 6:30 a.m.; close is sunset. On Monday, site staff said water levels were good at the launch, there is about 36 inches of clearance at the bridge, they figure half the boats will be able to get through.

My column today included some prospects from fisheries biologist Rob Miller; good news is that walleye looked good last fall in the survey and white bass, hybrids and yellow bass were solid, too.


Note this change coming for lake trout in Indiana as of Saturday, April 1. Here is the word from the Indiana DNR:

Indiana lake trout bag limit increases in April Indiana is changing the daily bag limit for lake trout in Lake Michigan. On April 1, the limit will increase from two fish per day to three fish per day under an emergency rule, while waiting for a permanent rule to be approved. Indiana biologists used input from multiple user groups in crafting this regulation. The increase will put Indiana in sync with Michigan’s bag limit. Since many Indiana boaters routinely fish in both states during the same trip, having the same bag limit for both states will make fishing less complicated. Additionally, the increased bag limit will offer more harvest opportunity for lake trout in the spring and fall, when they are readily available in Indiana waters. The nearshore fishery for lake trout is becoming more popular. Biologists are confident the lake trout population can sustain the additional harvest pressure. The lake trout population has been increasing in the southern basin due to the changing Lake Michigan ecosystem.



Joseph Christopher Alfe messaged about this crappie:

Dale, I thought you would like this: Here is a picture of a 17″, 2.9# Crappie that I caught yesterday on a jerk bait on a small area lake. For scale, that is a Plano 3700 box. Now here is the kicker. I got this 17″ Crappie on the same spot, almost a year to the date last year. Similar bait.

And he is right, I Like that kind of stuff.

BoRabb Williams messaged Monday:

At Saganashkee now water is 50 …. cold front ..3 crappie.

Ken “Husker” O’Malleyemailed Monday:

Hey Dale,

The lipless crankbait bite continues to be the most consistent bite on area lakes. Focus on wind blown shorelines to find the most active bass. Bass are moving up closer to shore as the day goes along. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Huskeroutdoors Waterworks fishing team


Might be worth going to  to to check area water levels and projection. To get to more specific gauges, even on creeks, in Illinois, go to


Adam Gundlach messaged:

Fished north side of braidwood again yesterday. Water was up to 68 at ramp and saw 72 in shallow areas. We caught a lot of bass all 14-16″ nothing big. Used all sorts of stuff.

Rob Abouchar emailed Monday:

Hi Dale fished Braidwood North side Saturday with friend Joe Schatz and action was really heating up. Squarebill cranks in Chartreuse and craw colors were again taking numbers and size of bass. Also got some nice fish on wacky rigged stick worm in riprap, and in midlake area around placard #5. Bass are moving in midlake area and should improve with stable warmer weather as tall grass growth continues to emerge. temps were 68 by riprap and 70 in midlake natural area.Another angler reported doing well on cranks and green pumpkin jig.Rob

Ken “Husker” O’Malleyemailed Monday:

On Braidwood, water temps range from 70-75. South end is a bit warmer. Focus on pitching to shoreline cover with a multitude of plastics. Let the fish dictate what they want from day to day. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Huskeroutdoors Waterworks fishing team

Braidwood is open daily 6 a.m.-7 p.m. until April 13, when hours will change again. Check with Jon Meder at Jon’s Bait Shop–(815) 237-2822–in South Wilmington.


BoRabb Williams messaged Monday:


CHAIN O’LAKES AREAProprietor Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said with the low-water conditions, use caution when, where and how launching; most effort is on chasing crappie in the deeper backwaters or walleye on the south end of the Chain.

For water and lake updates, go to Fox Waterway Agency or call (847) 587-8540.


No update this week from Capt. Pat Harrison (click here for his site).


No update this week.


No update.


POWERTON:Boat and shore fishing is open. Hours are 6 a.m.-8 p.m.  LAKE OF EGYPT/REND: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard FishingSHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson Guide Service.EVERGREEN: Bait shop and boat rental are closed for the season. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for season.


No update.


No update.


Lance LaVineat Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay sent this Monday:

Good morning…here is what I have as far as the fishing is concerned Brown Trout fishing is off to a very strong start for both the shore fishermen and the trollers. Fishermen are having good action trolling the Lake Michigan shoreline from Bailey’s Harbor south past Algoma especially out in front of the tributaries. Another very good spot right now has been right in downtown Sturgeon Bay from the bridges out to the pier heads and as soon as the ice finally totally goes away, fishermen will be trolling the shorelines from Sturgeon Bay and north all the way up to Gills Rock on the bay side. We anticipate that to happen within the next 2 weeks. Mauler spoons and stick baits like Thundersticks and Rapalas have been the top baits. Stream fishermen are having some very good success in the Lake Michigan tributaries for those high flying Rainbow trout. Floating spawn sacs, yarn eggs, gulp eggs and spinners all have been quite effective. Walleye trollers and rip jig fishermen are getting for all of the floating ice to go away so they can go after some giant pre-spawn Walleyes. Areas to try are right in downtown Sturgeon Bay, the Potawatomi Park shoreline, Sherwood Point, Henderson’s Point along with the vast shoreline to the north of Sturgeon Bay. Night time trolling with large suspending crank baits is what most folks do, but some will anchor up and cast a spot with active fish. Also, during the day, you can drift with sucker minnows while pitching some plastics and Rip n Rap style baits to trigger some good bites. Pike fishing has been OK for the fishermen in the Sturgeon Bay channel that are willing to dodge ice berges…jigging with OddBall jigs tipped with minnows, dragging suckers on bottom bouncers and trolling large crank baits and spoons all good ways to boat a big Pike or 2 Thanks; Lance LaVine Howie’s Tackle 1309 Green Bay Rd Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235 Ph: 920-746-9916

The Wisconsin DNR report is usually posted Tuesdays and includes reports from both the bay and lake sides.


The Spring Valley Walleye Club tournament is this weekend out of Spring Valley, some question of where the sauger will be in terms of the spawn.

Have bait before you go. Live bait is tough to get. B & B Live Bait–(815) 433-0432–is open in Ottawa, 7 a.m.-noon until weather breaks, then it will be open the usual 6-6 or so. Joe Sanderson messaged that Cajun’s in Utica is now open, too.


Access points for Trail Creek can be found on the Trail Creek Access Map. Access points for Little Cal and Salt Creek, which are closer to Chicago than Trail Creek, may be found at littlecal_saltcreek_access.


No update.


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


CHICAGO:Biggest story is ongoing coho bite, especially for powerliners; but still some good perch reports, too.

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Very similar report for us lots of browns and coho did picked up a bit since the weekend. Water clarity clear water seems to help coho fishing

Staff at Park Bait said powerliners were taking lots of coho Monday and Tuesday; best spot varied (Horseshoe best Monday, jetty Tuesday) depending on wind, minnows or crawlers are working.


Victor “The DIZZ” Blackful emailed Tuesday after fishing 89th:

Well after hanging out in Anglers Outlet this morning I thought I might run out to the big pond and see if any perch were around. It was cold and very windy and there was only 2 guys out there fishing. In 35 minutes I went through a 2 dozen minnows and caught about 30 fish with this nice 1 pounder as eight I kept for dinner. Just picked up some mango salsa and now looking forward to dinner.

Indeed, I can taste why.

Arden Katz said there were excellent perch at Navy Pier Sunday, best on jigging spoons tight to wall; but the key was to keep moving to find active perch.  NAVY PIER NOTE: The fisherman’s parking special is $6, if out by 10 a.m. Find an parking attendant after you pull in to get the special. PIER PASSES: Friday, March 31, is the end of this season for pier passes.

WAUKEGAN:Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop texted:

piers,No boat reports yet Same as last week, but getting better!😃same bait and lures


Check Jarek Wujkowski of Rodsbent Guide Service.


Darryl Turner is on the big blues again. They are still going.

The cooling lake south of Seneca is open daily, 6 a.m. to sunset. Click here for my column about prospects. Also, boaters should be aware that there will be no launching if wind is 14 mph or higher.


Check the latest from D & S Bait on Facebook.


Both units are open for fishing. Hours are 6 a.m.-sunset daily. Check with Jon Meder at Jon’s Bait Shop–(815) 237-2822–in South Wilmington.


Check with Mike Mladeik at Mike Mladenik Guide Service.


Check the Wisconsin DNR Lake Michigan Report, which generally comes out Tuesdays for updates.


Remember that gamefish season is over, as in closed.

MINOCQUA: Kurt Justice of Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua, Wis. sent this:

Some intermittent rain, but mostly cloudy weather has been hanging over the Northwoods this past weekend.Fishing overall good, if not great. East wind on Saturday may have slowed bite but action has been considered steady with some periods of excellent action.Crappies: Very Good – Fish of choice for many anglers at this time of year. When bite on, tip-downs baited with crappie minnows or small rosies hard to beat. As bite slows, slow dropping Lethal Cecils tipped with sliver of Chena, white plastic or waxie best. If fish shy from this offering, time to get more subtle with a smaller jig, preferably #10 or even #12 Rocker, tipped with plastic. Still some deep fish being caught, yet on most lakes the 8-12’ cabbage, with some reports of fish in as shallow as 5-6’ being foundYellow Perch: Very Good – Most action in shallow weeds. Fish moving to these areas heavy with spawn, feeding big. Use crappie minnows or even medium fatheads on tip-downs or below small floats. Jigs shaped like tiny bluegills tipped with waxies a favorite. Some deep perch still being found in 20-25’ of water. Tip-downs baited with rosies on larger Tungston jigs as well as Halis and Pimples to get down quickly. Tip these jigs with wigglers or red spikes.Bluegills: Very Good – Action hot in some locales, but sorting needed. Still, nice limits of gills reported. Anglers using small Purest, VMC Larvae jigs, and small #2.5 or #3 Fiska jigs tipped with a waxie or single spike as well as any ant style jig. Fiska jigs tipped with dark colored plastics (purple, red, maroon, black and motor oil) doing well.Ice thickness varies from as high as 20 to as few as 14 with most reports of 15-16 averages. Low 40’s with clouds wasn’t enough to counteract the night time lows – but that could be changing! Forecast of highs in the low to mid 50’s this week, plus sun, could eat away at the ice pretty good. For most locations this weekend, will probably be the last for safe ice. The south end of Big Arbor Vitae lake traditionally holds on to its ice longest so should still have some fishable ice next week.Access and bite still good for now, take advantage while you can.Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop

EAGLE RIVER: B+L, from reports from Colin Crawford of Colin Crawford Guide Service for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, sent this:

Fishing Report Bluegills: These fish are being found in the weeds using small jigs tipped with waxies, spikes or tipped with plastic. Perch: You can find these on the deep weed edges and muddy bottoms feeding on minnows and bugs. Be sure to match the bait to the area you’re fishing for success. Crappie: We are finding a few up in the shallow weeds, but the majority are still in the deeper water. Reminder: All ice fishing shelters must be removed from the ice daily and when not in use on inland waters north of Highway 64 by March 19 and Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters by March 15.


Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind., texted:

Coho was good for boaters anytime the weather let them get out. Brads thinfish 00 dodgers and peanut flys doing best. Shore not producing nearly as good but a few being caught on squid shrimp and skein fished bottom or slip bobber at portage lakefront port of indiana and washington park michigan city Good gill and crappie action yesterday for a couple groups of customers fishing the slough in boats black jigs tipped with waxworms and moving around did good. The ditch was giving up a bunch of crappie and some gills along old docks and stick ups hot colored jigs tipped with waxworms or peices of crawlers along with crappie minnows did well for the guys that went


No update.


The Wisconsin DNR Lake Michigan Report is generally posted on Tuesday and includes a Root river section. Click here for the stream flow update, which can be really important for how good the fishing is.


Remember walleye, pike and muskie seasons are closed inland. Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said coho are going when weather allows for boaters and off the pier, some steelhead at Berrien Springs.


Click herefor reports from the Indiana DNR.


Clint Sands at Lakeside said muskie (a big one caught over the weekend), walleye and catfish are the best bites, bass and crappie are slow; water is 46 and about 3-feet of clarity as of Monday.

Lake hours go to 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday, April 1; during March, hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Clint Sands at Lakeside sent this update on hours for the bait shop, camp store and cafe.

Pokanoka’s Cafe will be opening for the season on April 8th and will be open Saturdays and Sundays 11 AM to 4 PM! The Camp Store will be opening for the season on April 7th. If you need firewood before the camp store opens for the season, see the friendly campground hosts at site 132. They have large bundles of wood available for sale. If you need anything from the camp store when it is closed. Call the bait shop and we can meet you over at the camp store so you can get anything you need. Spring hours are Fridays 5 PM to 8 PM, Saturdays 8 AM to 8 PM and Sundays are 8 AM to 12 PM.

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


The Wisconsin DNR posts a report during open water at It is usually posted by Tuesday afternoon. Stream flow info is at


No update.


BoRabb Williams messaged Monday that fishing was slow.


Jim Popek emailed:

The walleye run is on. Catching some limits of eyes from Fremont to New London. I caught nice eaters 15″-18 1/2″. I was anchored pumping 1/4 oz jigs in 9-10 fow. This week thru the weekend should see a tremendous amount of eyes moving upriver to the spawning grounds. Some guys are drifting the holes with 3/8 oz jigs catching the males. Stay vertical is the key if you are drifting. Tightlines- Jim

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