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Chicago fishing: Braidwood reopens, early coho, return of winter, extended ice fishing

The reopening of Braidwood Lake and early coho lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

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Dawn on opening day last year at Braidwood Lake, which, as traditional, reopens March 1, a Sunday this year.
Dale Bowman

For this sprawling raw-fie Midwest Fishing Report, Braidwood Lake reopens on Sunday, March 1, early coho continue to be caught when weather allows on southern Lake Michigan and ice fishing will extend into March in at least some areas around Chicago.

BRAIDWOOD OPENER MINI-PREVIEW

Braidwood reopens to fishing on Sunday, March 1. Daily hours are 6 a.m. to sunset. I look forward to seeing others.

Here is quick preview:

With a Sunday opener for Braidwood Lake expect long lines. Some will sleep in line for the 6 a.m. start at the cooling lake south of Joliet. Forecast calls for enough cold (teens early) to make heavy fog for boaters and icy shores for bank anglers. Doubt that will deter many.

Fisheries biologist Seth Love said the survey in October showed no significant shifts in fish populations.

``Largemouth [bass] body condition looks pretty good for all length groups (particularly fish over 12 inches),’’ he emailed. ``The largest fish captured was just shy of 20 inches.’’

Blue catfish and hybrid striped bass will be the other big draws. There are no regulation or site changes.

Rob Abouchar weighs in again and I just enjoy his musical notes, so indulge me:

Hi Dale;

Just checking back in before the Braidwood opener. The closest I came to catching fish this winter was meeting Ike “The Thingfish” Willis of Frank Zappa Fame at the Zappa Fest in Milwaukee. There I met Jon Liedke; guitarist extraordinaire who was playing guitar with Willis in the band Gozortonplatt. Jon Knows my friend joe Schatz from the Wisconsin Athletic Club where he worked. We met and he is now going to help me out with my original reggae music. Quite a strange set of circumstances to be sure. A broken kitchen faucet flood at my home in Merrill did not help the fishing either. After 224,00 gallons of water went into the home over 8 weeks i am amazed it is as dry as it is. So just waiting on ice out to hit the river again.

The Anglers Choice Bass Tournament division held a meeting last Saturday and the division will have changes to the tournament schedule this year. There will be 4 events on Braidwood and 3 events on the Desplaines/Kankakee rivers system. The decision was based on several factors. One big factor was the heavy fishing pressure that occurs in tournaments during August and September of boats fishing ”on top of eachother” in the “Arrowhead area”. I assume this is what used to be called the rearing pond or walleye pond. Also the Braidwood events will go out of the South Ramp.

Things are also busy with the fishing Club with jerseys ready to be picked up and a trip to the Indoor Fishing Flea Market coming up on March 7th.

I will be hitting Braidwood on Monday for Pulaski Day and will report!!!

Tight Lines

Rob

LAKEFRONT PARKING

Readers suggest SpotHero app downtown. Montrose (free parking); Navy Pier (check in parking office in east lot, be out by 10 a.m. for $8 angler parking); DuSable Harbor (fisherman’s lot); Northerly Island/Burnham Harbor (meters or fisherman’s lot); Steelworkers Park (free street parking at east end of 87th).

CHICAGO LAKEFRONT PASSES

Pier passes ($6) for select piers in Chicago harbors and $10 parking passes (DuSable, Burnham fisherman’s lots) are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait or Northerly Island (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, credit card only).

AREA LAKES

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Lucas is one of the young people that Kyle Miller took ice fishing with some success.
Provided

Kyle Miller messaged:

Tried to mimic last weekend adventures by putting some young guns on a few fish. Much slower weekend then last with just 6 bass and two northern caught on flags while catching some bluegills But all in a days fun

Lucas is the kid, who just celebrated his birthday.

Erik Brztowski messaged the photos below from a small lake in Will County. Both were caught on shiners.

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Erik Brztowski found some big largemouth in Will County while ice fishing.
Provided
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Dave Chester with a good largemouth bass caught ice fishing in Will County.
Provided

Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed:

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this past week’s fishing.

Area lakes-ice continues to deteriorate across the southern region. Time to work on getting the long rods ready and the boat. Open water season will be upon us shortly.

On a side note. Lincoln-Way East will have a fishing team competing in the IHSA for the first time. My son will be part of it as he will be an incoming freshman this fall. Exciting times ahead.

TTYL

Ken “Husker” O’Malley
Husker Outdoors
Waterwerks fishing team

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Brad Irving at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said that bluegill and crappie remain good on the south end of Channel; there’s lots of catfish on Petite; bluegill and crappie are being caught on the very south end of Pistakee Bay; pike are active mornings and evenings around Loon and other lakes; ice is holding up pretty well and shorelines should firm up with the cold snap.

COOLING LAKES

Braidwood reopens Sunday, March 1 (see preview at top); LaSalle reopens on March 15 and Heidecke on April 1.

DOWNSTATE

POWERTON: Both bank and boat fishing are open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. EMIQUON: Go to http://experienceemiquon.com/sites/default/files/LakeAccessRules.pdf. SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season.

GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN

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Mike Norris with a lake trout caught on Big GreenLake on a #5 Jigging Rap.
Provided

Guide Mike Norris texted the photo above and emailed the report below:

Fishing Report – 02/24/2020

Mike Norris

Big Green Lake - I went out on Big Green for a morning trip late last week and did well for lake trout on a #5 Jigging Rapala. Jig this lure close to the bottom. Half-ounce Northland Buckshot Rattle Spoons also work well for trout. Enter the lake from Sunset Park on the east end of the lake. Head straight west from the park and fish around the shacks set out over 90 ft of water.

Beaver Dam Lake – Walleyes are migrating north towards Hickory Point and anglers are catching them with small shiners set beneath tip-ups. Perch are active on small tungsten micro jigs and plastics. Bluegills and crappies are showing up also. Try fishing north of “The Narrows”.

Little Green Lake – Perch had been elusive most of the winter on Little Green and other area lakes but are they are now showing up in shallow weeds areas. Micro jigs and plastics are your best choice for catching these tasty panfish. You can still catch a bunch of crappies in deeper water with a minnow on a split shot rig. Walleye fishing remains good with both eating size and trophies in the mix.

Fox Lake (Dodge County) – Walleyes over 8 lbs., largemouth bass pushing 5 lbs., and northern pike up to 43 inches were registered in the Lion’s Club Fisheree just over a week ago. Walleyes are best on tip-ups in “The Government Marsh”. Fish this area after nightfall. Set your tip-ups in pockets surrounded by weeds. “The Jug”, located just north of the golf course, remains the best bet to fish for both bluegill and northern pike.

Contact Mike Norris, Wacky Worm Guide Service, at 630-842-8199 for Big Green Lake and other south-central Wisconsin guided fishing trips.

GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN

A number of readers have indicated good trips for whitefish on Green Bay.

On Friday, Jeff Norris texted a photo of a pile of whitefish, caught in 70 feet of water, and later this report on a trip I could not make last week to Green Bay for whitefish:

Fishing didn’t suck.

I froze 20 lb of filet this afternoon

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report.

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

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Sey Jay with a 35-inch lakefront laker.
Provided

There’s been some lake trout, some steelhead and even a couple reports of coho. But the weather has made fishing the lakefront tough or iffy. But the weekend was gorgeous.

Sey Jay emailed the photo above and the report below about a Saturday outing from the outside at Diversey Harbor:

There was no action from 7:00 to 8:30. I had practically given up hope when I notice a couple of raps on the fillet rod. I picked up the rod and gave the fish some slack. The line straightened out and I set the hook into a heavy fish. This fish was obviously not a burbot from the fight. After a bunch of zig zagging bulldogging runs, I was able to net a 35” 14.6lb laker. After taking a few photos, she was released. That was the only fish yesterday AM.

Enjoy the pics.

Sey Jay

I did enjoy the photos.

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor texted that, pending weather and the Chicago Park District, they are hoping to be open by March 6 or 7.

Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan texted:

Sounds like browns and a few steelies of the rocks and some reports from the pier, things are looking good!!!

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

Click here for the update from D&S Bait.

MAZONIA

Lakes are open daily for fishing. If ice fishing comes, it will be at your own risk.

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What one Mazonia lake looked like over the weekend.
Ed Schmitt

Ed Schmitt posted the photos above and below and the report below:

Spent some time out on the ice in Grundy County over the weekend. Mazonia/Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area to be exact. Unfortunately, the warm weather Sunday has taken its toll on the ice and there is not much left that is fishable. This may end up the last local excursion of my hardwater season... Dale Bowman

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One nice keeper perch in the mix of catches over the weekend at Mazonia.
Ed Schmitt

I just really like that perch photo.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

Gamefish season ends Sunday, March 1.

Kurt Justice at Kurt’s Island Sport Shop emailed:

Warm temps (Yes! 40’s is warm up here this time of year) created some great weather to get out on the lakes. Past cold temps added ice thickness and firmed things up (at least until the warm up).

With more anglers and access comes more reports. Some areas anglers still struggled for catches, but those who got on, or stayed on, the ice during peak times were rewarded.

Crappies: Good-Very Good – Deeper bite picked up as anglers using tip-downs and rosies scored well over 18-28’ mud. Jigging using Z-vibes, Majic-Mans and K-rips tipped with waxies produced some big slabs to 14”. Anglers slow dropping in weeds of 10-12’ produced catches on Lethal Cecils tipped with waxies or #8 rockers tipped with white, yellow or pink plastics.

Yellow Perch: Good-Very Good – Mud flat bite using wigglers on Halis, Pimples or Clam Bombs. Ply the soft mud of 18-28’, Red spikes a decent second choice, but loving the mayfly larvae

Northern Pike: Good-Very Good – Smaller lakes slow, but bays off of larger lakes produced some big Pike to 38” this weekend. Go big (shiners, suckers) swing for the bleachers, it’s the final week!

Bluegills: Good – Best during early morning or late afternoon. Gills taking mousses, waxies and Beaver Tail on #3:#4 tungsten jigs. Start low, 1’ off bottom, but watch locator as fish moving up off bottom at times.

Walleye: Good – Evening best, last hour prior to dark and first hour after. Suckers preferred by tip-up anglers. Warm temps helped improve action for jig anglers using Slab Raps, Jigging Raps and Chubby Darters. While off shore humps preferred, some good bites along weed edges of 10-12’ and even up in heavy weeds of 6-8’ from Walleyes probably feeding on little Perch.

Largemouth Bass: Fair-Good – Best on medium shiners or large fatheads on tip-ups or tip-downs.

This coming weekend is the last for the inland gamefish season in the Northwoods. Cold temps mid-week look to give way to nice warm temps for Sat/Sunday. While you’ll hear reports of trucks on the lakes (ice thickness avg 20-24”+) be reminded that this is NOT solid ice. The top 6-12” on many lakes is white ice, very porous. Still use caution when traveling. We can’t recommend truck travel, though UTV, ATV and snowmobile travel has been good.

Kurt Justice
Kurt’s Island Sport Shop
Like us on FaceBook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Over weekend good coho fishing boats at gary light trolling did easy limits trolling just about anything honestly

Guys lined up from portage riverwalk all the way up to bass pro area of river skein and spawn on bottom jigs tipped with butterworms and squid best lots of fish caught

Some crappie action already below 249 bridge near izzak Walton building on crappie minnows

Michigan city ice was gone Sunday but fishing was slow there

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR’s report, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday.

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said there are some good steelhead in the lower section of the St. Joseph, but steelhead slowed some at Berrien Springs; weather is probably going to shut things down.

SHABBONA LAKE

Larry Green tagged me on a Facebook post by Eddie Valenzuela at Allen Outboard and Bait on Sunday fishing:

Fish that where caught this past weekend crappies are doing very good and I was surprised muskie was caught yesterday

He posted that there was 7-8 inches of ice.

Lakeside is closed until re-opening on April 1, though Clint Sands said sometimes you can catch them in the shop. Park hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT

Click here for the southern Lake Michigan reports from the Wisconsin DNR.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

Getting into that time of year. The bite has been slow all over. People who are catching some walleye on Poygan and Partridge, are finding it hard to catch fish over 13”. Saw a robin yesterday, hopefully open water soon

Robins, open water? Hmmm.