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More change comes: Smelt & Heidecke for Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report

John Schnell with his 9-pounds, 15-ounce, 31-inch walleye from the Kankakee River on Monday; a full size photo in the Kankakee River report.

More opening days–at Heidecke Lake and smelt netting on the Chicago lakefront–come for this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

Both Heidecke and smelt netting reopen on Monday. More details near the top below. And as the photo above of John Schnell with a 31-inch walleye caught and released on the Kankakee River, it is near walleye prime time on area rivers. Speaking of which, guide Bill Stoeger texted that the ice went out Friday night on the Wolf River and walleye are going.

The condensed Midwest Fishing Report appears Wednesdays on the outdoors page of the Sun-Times newspaper. The sprawling raw-file report is posted here online on the Sun-Times outdoors page.


New fishing licenses are needed on Monday, April 1, for all four Lake Michigan states.


Smelt netting on the Chicago lakefront opens Monday night. Prospects are the same as other recent years. Not very good. Regulations are the same as always.

* 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.


Regional fisheries administrator Rob Miller shad were plentiful last fall in the every-other-year survey, notable because weather was awful during the survey days. Also largemouth were up, “We saw quite a few 8 to 12 inches, that was kind of reassuring,” he said. Considering the conditions, he was OK with collecting 79 walleye. “We still get good population structure on the walleye,” Miller said. “The numbers of fish, 22 inches and longer have been increasing since 2012.” They didn’t get many crappie, but that was probably due to the conditions because for smart anglers, crappie have sort of become the star species at Heidecke. They also didn’t survey many hybrids, but what they caught averaged 20-21 inches, about what it has been for years. In the spring muskie survey last spring, two fish that topped 30 pounds.


Tim Baker sent this report and photo:

I also spent time targeting salmonoids along the lakefront. I personally did not have any luck but saw anglers near the North Ave beach having success power lining with minnows. Mostly Coho but one nice brown (pictured below) was pulled in that morning as well.Thanks again,

Tim Baker

Stracey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor said, waves and wind and all on Monday, there was still a lake trout caught at the mouth of Montrose; coho are coming right along with a few browns and the occasional whitefish.

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

Coho action over weekend decent lots of good catch’s lots of so so catches fish are spread out

Cal park to new buffalo giving up fishFishing top 15 ft of water in 20 to 40 ft of water thinfish jointed rapalas and bayrats doing a lot of the catching variety of other crankbaits doing ok alsoShore guys in Michigan city and portage riverwalk did ok skein on bottom was best


Illinois’ early catch-and-release (keep in mind that is strictly enforced) season for trout is open at nine early-stocked sites. The regular spring trout season opens Saturday, April 6.

Here is the explanation from IDNR spokesman Ed Cross:

While it is not specified in the release, most early-stocked trout fishing sites are open to catch-and-release fishing, including fly fishing, for trout beginning March 23.

IDNR Fisheries encourages early-season catch-and-release fishing for trout at these open sites, including fly fishing, as we try to provide more fishing opportunities for anglers, including fly fishing enthusiasts.

The early-stocked sites are mainly IDNR sites (same as last spring):

Apple River at Apple River Canyon State Park

Rock Creek at Kankakee River SP

Pine Creek at White Pines Forest SP

Siloam Springs SP

Gridley Lake at Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA

Horton Lake at Nauvoo SP

Morgan Lake at Nichols Park in Jacksonville

IDOT Lake in Springfield

Willow Lake at Peabody River King SFWA

And as an additional reminder – catch-and-release means just that; no trout may be kept (harvested) until the opening of the Spring Trout Fishing Season on April 6.


Justin McGuffin sent this photo of a good largemouth caught on a fly.<br>Provided
Justin McGuffin sent this photo of a good largemouth caught on a fly.

Some surprising good bass reports (see photo above from Justin McGuffin); otherwise it is crappie time.

Justin McGuffin sent a note on the photo of the largemouth bass as the topper:Largemouth bass on the fly.

Nice, very nice.

And he added this note and photo:

Dale Bowman 5lb~ range. I should buy a scale for next time.

Chicago area largemouth bass.<br>Provided by Justin McGuffin
Chicago area largemouth bass.
Provided by Justin McGuffin

I should think so.


Click here to find river closures listed by the Illinois DNR. Go to to check area water levels and projection. To get to more specific gauges, even on creeks, in Illinois, go to


When weather allows, good bass fishing keeps going, especially for boaters. Open 6 a.m.-sunset daily.

As Ken “Husker” O’Malley noted in this report:

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this past week’s fishing.Braidwood- bass are good on a variety of baits considering they are post spawn. Lipless cranks, senkos, and craw imitators worked best. Focus on areas with wood, break points, flats, and wind blown shorelines holding baitfish. North end water temps were 65-67 and south end was up to 75. Best bite was in the 70-72 range.TTYL—Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Husker Outdoors

Waterwerks fishing team

Rob Abouchar sent this report and photo:

Hi Dale

I hit Braidwood with friend Joe “The Grasseater” Schatz of the Schatzee Lure Company Saturday and the good action for Bass continued at Braidwood. The morning bite was best on with bass hitting on crankbaits in chartreuse and white colors along the cool side rip rap. Shad were following baits as they were being retrieved to the boat. Matching the hatch and banging the rocks is critical to help get more bites cranking. I also was getting more bites on soft plastics in the midlake natural areas around plackards #13 through #16. A black and blue senko took good bass near grass edges and pockets. The tournaments will be starting for the season with Happy Hookers Open this weekend with 40 boats already registered, and Anglers Choice Braidwood division to start April 14th.Tight LinesRob

Joe “The Grasseater” Schatz of the Schatzee Lure Company with a Braidowood bass.<br>Provided
Joe “The Grasseater” Schatz of the Schatzee Lure Company with a Braidowood bass.


No update.


Fox River and the Chain are closed to boating from the Algonquin dam to the Wisconsin line. Check updates at Fox Waterway Agency or (847) 587-8540.

STRATTON LOCK AND DAM: The lock is closed through April 30. Click here for more info on the lock and dam.


Capt. Pat Harrison at Pat Harrison Outdoors sent this:

The Show Season ended for me this weekend with the Greater Chicago Boat Show at the Schaumburg Convention Center. It was the first time the promoters did the show in Chicago. There were a lot of large boats to view and a lot of fishing boats to compare in one building. Attendance was a bit slow but for those that came out there were some deals. l’m in prep mode this week getting everything ready to start the season. I will be out checking spots and finding new ones for the 2019 season. I’m hopeful it will be the best one yet. I am going to be fishing a couple other bodies of water this year too. Mainly because of request Shabona and the Illinois River are available and I’m also doing a couple weekend trips on Clinton Lake. The Chicago River surface temp is 38/39 right now.Here’s to a Great 2019 Season hope everyone is on em when they get out. Thanks Capt. Pat,


No update.


Coming off high water.


POWERTON LAKE: Boat and shore fishing are open. Hours remain 8 a.m.-4 p.m. through April 30.

LAKE SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson Guide Service. REND LAKE: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Have not yet seen the opening day for spring/summer fishing to begin.


No update.


River continues to run high and fast, but fish are still being caught, as Moses Torres showed with some quality largemouth bass at Carpentersville.


No update.


No update.


Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. sent this:

Good day fellas. Here is what I have for the fish report

The ice is slowly starting to dwindle as it usually does this time of year and most fishermen are starting to gear up for the open water season. So we are a bit in-between seasons here, but this is what I’ve up until this point.

Whitefish action is still good for the walk-out fishermen that are fishing relatively close to shore. Henderson’s Point and Sherwood point have been quite popular areas along with the shoreline to the north of Sturgeon Bay. An assortment of jigs tipped with minnow pieces and wax worms work well

Walleye fishing is really starting to heat up as it usually does this time of year as those Walleyes are staging up and getting ready for the spawn. Henderson’s point, Riley’s Point, Sherwood Point and Sawyer Harbor are the go-to areas this time of year, or until the ice is no longer safe for ice travel. Oddball jigs, Rapala jigs, Rippin Raps and Shiver minnows are just a few of the top baits.

Pike fishing still going strong and will be good until the ice is gone. Sawyer Harbor, Little Sturgeon, Riley’s Bay and Sturgeon Bay all good spots to target pike in the spring. Large Golden shiners and sucker minnows suspended under tip ups and auto fishermen generally the method of choice.

Brown Trout fishermen are catching fish through the ice on the bayside of the peninsula and trolling the open water on the Lakeside of the peninsula. Ice fishermen will concentrate their efforts in the bays from Sturgeon Bay north up to Sister Bay ice permitting. Golden shiners and sucker minnows under tip-ups and auto fishermen the ticket there. And on the lakeside of the peninsula, fishermen generally troll in as little as 2 feet of water out to that 20 foot mark. Floating Rapalas, Thundersticks and Mauler spoons just a few of the top baits

And stream fishermen are starting to see fish in most of the Lake Michigan tributaries now that we are seeing a substantial thaw. Drifting with spawn sacs or pitching spinners and spoons into the pools generally the ticket there


Lance LaVine

Howie’s Tackle

1309 Green Bay Rd

Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Ph: 920-746-9916

Click here to see the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report.


Prospects at the top. Reopnes Monday, April 1.


Check with B&B Live Bait at (815) 433-0432.


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.

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

Steelhead action ok in salt and trail creek spawn saks and voodoo jigs tipped with waxworms doing good


John Schnell 9lb 15oz 31″ walleye Kankakee River 3-25-19<br>Provided
John Schnell 9lb 15oz 31″ walleye Kankakee River 3-25-19

Kyle Lund sent this:

Good Afternoon noon Dale. My report for the Kankakee River was looking somewhat stagnant up until last night when a i caught word of a 30″ 9lb 15oz slob walleye caught out of the Kankakee by John Schnell. He informed me the fish was measured, weighed, photographed and released to fight another day. Water temps have been flirting with 46° during the day and falling off to around 41° over night for about 2 weeks now. I would say that some fish have spawned or are about to and more fish will spawn in the coming days. River levels are looking very good for both the fish and the fishermen. Rain is predicted for Thursday and Friday so things could be high and muddy come the weekend. Saw a few reports of smallies being caught on the warmer days in deeper current breaks on craw imitation baits. The carp bite has also turned on with a few locals landing fish in access of 20lbs. Once we can establish an actual spring weather pattern and get a few consecutive days above 60° the river will really come to life. If you are looking for something to do until then the Kankakee River Rats along with Elliott’s Bait and Tackle will be hosting a grand opening event this Sunday March 31st in the parking lot of the bait shop (975 N 5th Ave, Kankakee, IL 60901) from 8am until 2pm. Food games and a fishing tackle swap meet will be taking place. For more information call Elliott’s Bait and Tackle. I feel like todays quote is very appropriate and more of a direct thank you from myself and from other anglers to John Schnell and the many others that practice CPR on the true giants of our waterways

“The greatest gift you can give to another fisherman is to put a good fish back” – Lee Wulff

Larry Green found some smallmouth going, too, and tweeted Monday:

First bass Kankakee River. Bass starting if you can locate them.@BowmanOutside @mullady21 @gilford_fishing @AlexOquendo1

Larry Green with his first of the year smallmouth on the Kankakee.<br>Provided
Larry Green with his first of the year smallmouth on the Kankakee.


Click here to see the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report. It generally comes out Tuesday.


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


Even with a blow day on Monday, there were some coho and trout caught from shore.

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor said a laker was caught Monday at the mouth of the harbor and “coho are being caught right along” with a few browns and the occasional whitefish.

Lori Ralph at The Salmon Stop said shore anglers are catching some coho off the South Rocks. She also noted that the Army Corps of Engineers are closing government pier soon and it will probably run through July 4.

PARKING PASSES: Passes ($10 for two months) for parking at the two small fishermen’s lots at DuSable and Burnham harbors are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait, Park Bait and Northerly Island (credit card only and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday).

ACCESS/PARKING OPTIONS: Here are some parking and access notes for winter perch fishing. Information on parking passes and pier passes is below under separate headings. Several guys have said the parking app, Spot Hero, has been working well for them while trying to park downtown for fishing; otherwise find street parking or small lots. . . . Montrose Harbor has plenty of free parking within easy walking. . . . At Navy Pier, check in at the parking office in the east lot, then be out by 10 a.m. sharp for the reduced parking rate. . . . For DuSable Harbor, use the small fisherman’s lot. . . . At Burnham/Northerly Island, use the Burnham fishermen’s lot or meter parking north of the old terminal (on days with no events at Soldier Field or the music pavilion). . . . Only legal fishing at the slip north of 87th is on the east end at Steelworkers Park. Plenty of free street parking. The slip at 89th is private property.


Click here for my Sunday column on prospects and opening day on March 15. Hybrid stripers continue to be the main story, from shore and boat. As biologist David Wyffels noted, it is a blue catfish and hybrid striped bass lake now. I would also throw in bluegill, with hopes that largemouth and smallmouth rebound.

Open daily 6 a.m. to sunset.


D & S Bait can be followed on Facebook.


Both units are open daily 6 a.m.-sunset.


Click here to see the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report. It is generally out Tuesdays.


Gamefish season is closed.

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

Warmer temperatures and easier travel (by foot) has brought more anglers out to do some late season ice fishing. Snow pack has gone down on lakes, with the exception of southern shores where the sun doesn’t hit the snow to melt it down as fast. There is still plenty of ice, reports vary from 20” to 25”+. Bring your ice creepers, it can be very slick in spots. There are areas where standing water and slush is present though. A few people are going out with ATV’s and snowmobiles, but we’re not recommending it, once you hit a slushy spot and get stuck, it’s very difficult to get your machine out.

Bluegill: Very Good – Plenty of good reports of Gill catches this weekend. Anglers were finding them in the weeds from 7-12’. Waxies and spikes were working the best. For the bigger Gills, tip your jig with plastics to keep the smaller ones off the hook.

Crappies: Good – Tip-downs tipped with minnows and jigging with small spoons are a good combination to finding and catching Crappies right now. Small pinmples, rockers and Lethal Cecils are all producing well tipped with a minnow, minnow head or waxie. Best times are early morning and at dusk.

Yellow Perch: Fair-Good – If one’s willing to walk a little bit, Perch are coming on mud flats 15-20’ of water for larger fish. Wigglers are really working well this time of year. Pound your jig in the mud to stir up the bottom to get the Perch’s attention.

Warmer weather and a few rain showers are predicted for the week. We’ll be updating, or feel free to call, for changing ice conditions. We should still be ice fishing for a little while though.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop

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

Coho action over weekend decent lots of good catch’s lots of so so catches fish are spread out

Cal park to new buffalo giving up fishFishing top 15 ft of water in 20 to 40 ft of water thinfish jointed rapalas and bayrats doing a lot of the catching variety of other crankbaits doing ok alsoShore guys in Michigan city and portage riverwalk did ok skein on bottom was bestSteelhead action ok in salt and trail creek spawn saks and voodoo jigs tipped with waxworms doing good

Crappie action was great in Hobart in lake George for crappie below the dam on rufas jr jigs tipped with waxworms and minnows on gold hooks hundreds caught over weekend


Coming off floods.


No update.


The Wisconsin DNR’s Root River Report is usually out Tuesday or Wednesday. Click here to see it.


Anglers stacked Saturday on the St. Joseph pier in Michigan.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times
Anglers stacked Saturday on the St. Joseph pier in Michigan.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Walleye and pike season is closed. On Saturday, I saw a couple browns and coho caught off the pier at St. Joseph and as you can see from the photo the pier was packed. Most that I talked to figured it needs to warm up just a bit more, so maybe this week or next week. Check for the latest with Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor.


Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.


Hours at Lakeside remain 8 a.m.-2 p.m. for now. Park hours in March are 8 a.m.-8 p.m., on Monday, April 1, park hours go to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.


For the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report, click here to see it. Streams flow info is at


No update.


Check with River’s Edge.


No update.


No update.


Guide Bill Stoeger texted Monday:

Dale, Ice went out Friday night. Still some chunks coming down, but very fishable. Mornings and late afternoons best using jigs or river rigs. Walleye are biting