Spring fish, Wis. opener: Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report

SHARE Spring fish, Wis. opener: Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report

Rainbow Flowage, summer of 2016.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Spring fishing, the opening of the Stratton Lock and the Wisconsin inland opener are highlighted in the 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.


There are changes this year for the operation of the Stratton Lock at the Chain O’Lakes. Here is the word from the Fox Waterway Agency:

The Stratton Lock will open for the 2017 season on Wednesday, May 3. IDNR lock tenders will operate the Stratton Lock on Wednesdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., and on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until midnight through October 29. The lock will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (with the exception of holidays) for the 2017 season. The Stratton Lock is also closed for the winter season each year from Nov. 1 through April 30. https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/WaterResources/Pages/StrattonLockandDam.aspx


Wisconsin’s traditional opener is Saturday, May 6. Below I have more intensive looks at the possibilities for opening weekend. Here’s the general list of dates for the various openers.

2017-2018 fishing seasons

(dates inclusive)

Early inland trout (catch and release) January 7 (5 a.m.) to May 5 General inland trout May 6 (5 a.m.) to Oct. 15 General inland fishing May 6 to March 4, 2018 Largemouth bass northern zone May 6 to March 4, 2018 Smallmouth bass northern zone catch and release May 6 to June 16 Smallmouth bass northern zone harvest June 17 to March 4, 2018 Large and smallmouth bass southern zone May 6 to March 4, 2018 Musky – northern zone May 27 to Nov. 30 Musky – southern zone May 6 to Dec. 31 Northern pike May 6 to March 4, 2018 Walleye May 6 to March 4, 2018 Lake sturgeon Sept. 2 to Sept. 30 (hook-and-line) Free fishing weekends June 3-4, 2017 (summer) January 20-21, 2018 (winter)


Sectionals for IHSA bass fishing are scheduled for Friday, assuming water levels are suitable. Give the high schoolers their time and water that day. Nearby sites scheduled include Braidwood, Busse, Chain O’Lakes, Des Plaines River (Big Basin), Heidecke, Lake Holiday, Shabbona and Skokie Lagoons.


Perch fishing is closed in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan through June 15.


Steve Palmisanoat Henry’s said crappie reports are finally improving some at Saganashkee Slough.

As to bass, Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed:

Hey Dale, Before the rains, water clarity was very good on area lakes. Bass were up shallow staging for the spawn. Various baits were taking good numbers of male bass. Chatterbaits, mojo rigs, and lipless cranks were the baits of choice.Once the rains hit, water clarity was down to a few inches as water levels rose. Throwing spinner baits tight to flooded shorelines took good numbers despite the conditions. Weather has not been cooperating this spring, but at least the fish have.TTYL—Ken Husker O’Malley Huskeroutdoors Waterworks fishing team


Another week to keep an eye on water levels. 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


Steve Palmisanoat Henry’s said good action for catfish and bluegills continues.

Rob Abouchar emailed:

Hi Dale Heavy wind and rain kept me off the water this weekend. Still Hardcore tournament anglers were on Braidwood on Sunday. The Anglers choice Tournament had 32 boats and was won by Joe Ambrosini and Jeff Vandenburg with 3 bass weighing 10.35 lbs. Second went to the team of Steve Morrison and Erik Quick with 10.11lbs. Third place went to Tomas Sanders and Peter Banach with 9.09 lbs. The biggest fish was caught by the first place team and weighed 4.46lbs. word was that the carolina rig bite has slowed. Other anglers tight lipped on tactics.I will be heading up to Wisconsin to fish the river in Merrill for the opener and will report if action is good.Rob

Braidwood is open daily. Hours are 6 a.m.-7:30 p.m. through May 14; from May 15-June 11, close is 8 p.m.; from June 12-July 16, close is 8:30 p.m.; from July 17-Aug. 13, close is 8 p.m.; from Aug. 14-Sept. 10, close is 7:30 p.m.; from Sept. 11-24, close is 7 p.m.; from Sept. 25-Oct. 7, close is 6:30 p.m.

Check with Jon Meder at Jon’s Bait Shop–(815) 237-2822–in South Wilmington.


No update.


Art Frisellat Triangle said crappie in the channels remains the top bite; white and yellow bass are very good on main lakes on spikes or small minnows; bluegill are good when it warms; walleye are very good, try trolling crankbaits to find fish, then try jig and minnow or leech.

NOTE: As of Tuesday, the lower river–Algonquin dam to Stratton Lock and Dam–was at no-wake. Check updates at Fox Waterway Agency. In general for water and lake updates, go to Fox Waterway Agency or call (847) 587-8540.


Capt. Pat Harrison (click here for his site) sent this Tuesday:

I was out 3 times last week surface temps were mid 50’s fish are starting to move but the carp are getting ready to spawn so they and jumping and splashing and spooking a lot of the fish.We caught Bass on smaller crank baits, jigs; drop shot rigs alone the walls. Crappie and gills are in the pilings and wood Mini Mites and white jig and twister tails are what is working for me. We mixed in about 8 catfish too.Fish are starting to show up in the normal spots I would like to see surface temps in the 60’s soon this up and down weather is nuts.Till next week tight lines and big fish. — www.patharrisonoutdoors.com Thanks Pat

Yes, on his description of the weather.


Dave Duwe emailed his opening day article:

The many opportunities on Opening Day in Walworth county. The first Saturday in May is the official start of fishing season. I’m always excited for opening day to get here and then to decide where I want to fish and what I want to fish for. There are so many choices! Since it also means the start of my guide season, I’m fortunate to have a lot of choices since not all lakes are equal on opening day. My opening day takes place on the lakes of Walworth County in Southern Wisconsin. The biggest Lake in the county is Lake Geneva; it’s big and cold in the early part of summer. Since I am blessed with several lakes that have an abundance of fish in early summer I’m likely to choose a shallow lake that warms quicker making the fish more active. My go to early summer lakes in Walworth County are Whitewater Lake or Lake Como, both lakes have an abundance of shallow water haunts for the largemouth bass or Northern Pike. Delavan Lake is also one of the best known fisheries in the state and can be very productive. My bait of choice is a White spinnerbait or a Texas rigged All Terrain Stik in Green Pumpkin color. I work a water depth of 3-5 feet of water, concentrating on the hard bottom locations where the bass will spawn in a couple of weeks. Panfish are in less than 3 feet of water and feeding aggressively, the largemouth bass and walleyes are cruising the shallow weed flats feeding on the immature baitfish. They can be caught on crankbaits trolled at low light conditions in a crappie pattern or firetiger or a live bait presentation like a Thill slip-bobber rig. I generally work in a depth less than 10 feet of water. The water is ultra clear so low light conditions will always produce the most action. Northern Pike fishing as a rule is fantastic, shallow weed flats is the way to go. I will free swim a medium sucker on a 1/0 hook and let it entice a strike. I will use either fireline or 17 pound test monofilament to reduce the bite offs. Some opening weekends it is easy to catch a lot of Northern in a short period of time. If smallmouth bass is your deal, then off to Lake Geneva you go. The water is cold, but if you find the baitfish you find the fish. Small hair jigs in pink/white are the best bet. It mimics the mirror shiners in the lake perfectly. I search for the smallies around spawning flats like Elgin Club or the Military Academy. I swim the hair jigs back I employ a lot of pauses. The strike is really subtle. If you think it is a weed set the hook. Largemouth bass will be in Abbey harbor or Trinkes were the warmest water in the lake is. I like to use a weightless Texas rigged All Terrain Stik. Root beer red flake or green Pumpkin always catch the fish. Other lakes that don’t see much pressure are Pleasant Lake and Turtle Lake these lakes have an ample supply of fish. In early summer the best bite is the panfish. They are located in less than 5 feet of water. The simple bobber and worn can catch all that one desires. At Turtle lake look for the fish in the channels or on the East shore. On Pleasant Lake the fish are in the shallow bays. Both lakes have an ample largemouth bass population, but the fish are usually on the small size. Walworth County is blessed with many more lakes, small creeks and urban fisheries that have a good population of fish stocked by the Wisconsin DNR. Urban fisheries have special regulations so make sure you follow the rules. The creeks have everything from carp to northern pike. Like the Urban fishery most of the fishing is done from shore. It is a great place to take a kid fishing.


Many areas remain in flood or are coming off of flood.


HENNEPIN-HOPPER: The lakes reopen to fishing on May 16 and remain open through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Fishing is closed on Mondays other than Labor Day. Click here for complete list of regs and details. POWERTON: Boat and shore fishing is open. Hours are 6 a.m.-8 p.m. LAKE OF EGYPT/REND LAKE: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing. LAKE SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson Guide Service. EVERGREEN LAKE: Will find out about bait shop and boat rental hours.


Many areas are in flood or coming off of flood, time to fish tight to shore in the shoreline eddies and pockets.

NOTE: As of Tuesday morning, the lower river–Algonquin dam to Stratton Lock and Dam–remained no-wake. Check updates at Fox Waterway Agency or (847) 587-8540.


No update.


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

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


The coming couple weeks tend to be the prime time at Heidecke, might be time to really start targeting it. Click here for my preview column, which 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.


Much of the river is in flood, the LaSalle area is forecast to be in flood into next week. B & B Live Bait–(815) 433-0432–is open in Ottawa, as is Cajun’s in Utica.


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.


In terms of water levels, best conditions of our local rivers, but it is high and stained and another major rain forecast for Thursday. Both walleye and smallmouth fishermen are trying.


Click here for the Ohio DNR’s annual fishing prospects. The Ohio DNR has general Lake Erie info and a fishing report.


See perch closure note at the top. CHICAGO: Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop said that smallmouth bass are the hottest thing going, primarily on a variety of plastics and jigs. 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. WAUKEGAN: Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop texted that there are a few more signs on parking of trailers; but weather limited any effort.


Check Jarek Wujkowski of Rodsbent Guide Service.


Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop said the catfish and blues reports from customers has been very good. 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.


Gene Dellinger at D & S Bait said the water on Mendota was still as cool as 45, but typically for the opener there is a night bite for walleye on Mendota, Waubesa and Monona, around inlets, outlets and points in 2-12 feet; not much on crappie yet; muskie guys will be targeting Wingra, which warms quicker.

Check the latest from D & S Bait on Facebook.


Recent weather slowed effort, but the time is right for the next couple weeks: redear, bluegill, crappie, bass and catfish should or will be going. 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.


Gamefish season opens Saturday.

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

A little smack of winter came back (just to let us that live in the Northwoods know where we live) and with the cold, wind and snow brought a slow down to our fishing.Reports of the panfish bite shutting off somewhat have been mixed with good reports of Walleyes being accidentally caught by anglers seeking Crappies.Crappies: Good-Fair – Bite best on warming days. Small jigs of hair or plastics best below small floats suspended 6-8’ down over 12-14’ of water. Crappies moving shallower when weather warming. A 15 1/4 brought in, along with numerous reports of 12-13 fish.Yellow Perch: Fair – Dropping water temps pushed them out from their post spawn feeds. As with the Crappies, warmer conditions will bring them back in as the shallows will fill back up with minnows and insects.Bluegill: Poor – Few reports due to cold and snow.Water temps have fallen a bit (avg 40-43 degrees) while water levels have risen. What started out as a warm mid-April has given way to a cold late April/early May. Luckily the forecast for the opening weekend is warmer and dry.Down side to all the rain is with streams and rivers swollen, our favorite early season live bait – redtailed chubs and rainbow dace – are impossible to come by. Black chubs, 3-4 suckers and large fatheads, as well as leeches if waters warm into low 50s, should all be good choices. Shallow running stick baits – Rattlin Rouges, X-Raps, Husky Jerks, Thunderstiks and good ol’ floating Rapalas will be good low light period choices. Casting 1/8 oz jigs tipped with 3 twister tails is a great way to search out aggressive fish. On most small to medium sized lakes, target patches of green weeds. On large lakes, Walleye spawning still occurring – focus on gravel beds next to deeper water.At this writing the snow is coming down , but outlook is for a good opener this weekend.Kurt JusticeKurt’s Island Sport Shopwww.kurtsislandsports.comLike us on FaceBook

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 Walleyes: These fish will be in post spawn for the most part, but there will still be some females and some young males on the tail end of it. The post spawn fish will be in a little deeper water right off the area they spawned, while the late fish will be in the shallower water. You can target both of these fish with jigs and minnows. There is some new weed growth that a few fish can be found in with jig and minnow. If weeds are too big and you are getting hung up, go to a slip bobber rig to catch a great fish fry. Northern: They have the feedbag on and you will get them on jig and minnow. Specifically, look around the new weeds. Panfish: They will be either in the new weeds or on the rocks. A slip bobber rig will work here. Crappies: They are still coming in and can be found around lay downs and weedy areas. Similarly, slip bobbers and a minnow are the ticket for these specs.


As my column notes, the smallmouth bite is on for the Lake Michigan shoreline when weather allows. That weather allows is the big part. Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind., texted that not much is going with the weather. BOATER NOTE: East Chicago is closed for launching, so use either Hammond or Portage. LAKER REMINDER: Indiana now has a daily bag of three lake trout on Lake Michigan, to match Michigan. Illinois’ daily bag remains at two.


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.


Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said not much going with the weather limiting effort on Lake Michigan and the river high.


Click herefor reports from the Indiana DNR.


Staff at Lakeside said the lake is up a foot and is dirty (about a foot of clarity), but by the weekend it will be cleaner; largemouth are being caught, crappie up shallower is not really going yet.

Lake hours are 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Here are the hours for Lakeside for the next few months:

Shabbona Lakeside is now OPEN for the SEASON Lakeside will be open everyday, 7 days a week, April 11th to September 5th 6 AM to 7 PM September 6th to September 30th 6 AM to 6:30 PM October 1st to October 10th 6:30 AM to 6 PM October 11th to October 31st 7 AM to 5PM

Clint Sandssent 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 shabbonalake.com or call (815) 824-2581.


The Wisconsin DNR posts a report during open water 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.


No update.


FREMONT: Guide Bill Stoeger said river had cooled down to 46 degrees by Tuesday morning and the white bass bite really slowed; a few are being caught in 15-20 feet on very slowly worked river rigs; just a few walleye being caught.

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