Chicago fishing: Updates on access; and catching coho, bass and crappie

Some updates on fishing access (with the IDNR shutdowns in Illinois) come in this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report; there’s also spring action going on largemouth bass, coho and crappie.

SHARE Chicago fishing: Updates on access; and catching coho, bass and crappie
Adrian Medina sent this photo of hybrid striped bass caught at LaSalle Lake before the site was close. Provided by Adrian Medina

Adrian Medina sent this photo of hybrid striped bass caught at LaSalle Lake before the site was close.

Provided by Adrian Medina

For a few hours Sunday, it was a glorious opening day at LaSalle Lake, then came the IDNR shutdown of all sites.

Updates on fishing access around Chicago fishing lead this sprawling raw-fie Midwest Fishing Report, but there’s also salmon and trout reports on the lakefront when weather allows and lots of reports of largemouth bass action and building crappie reports inland.

Adrian Medina sent the photo at the top and this report, which I thought was germane to the weekend:

Hey dale we went up to Lasalle today and walked all the way to veterans point we did amazing ! We got over 20 , 17+ of course a lot of catch and release ! We did get kicked out by DNR due to report that all state parks are close due to Corona virus All on bladebait


Early catch-and-release trout season (originally known as catch-and-release fly fishing season) opens Saturday, March 21, but all except one (Morgan Lake at Nichols Park in Jacksonville) of the nine sites are within the now closed IDNR sites.

Click here for the statewide release and list of sites.


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).


The $10 parking passes (DuSable, Burnham fisherman’s lots) are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait, Park Bait or Northerly Island (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, credit card only).


As of the last check, area forest preserves waters were generally open; some boat rentals and bait shops are closed.

It’s spring and the crappie bite is starting.

Odd colored crappie in suburban pond. Provided by Pete Lamar

Odd colored crappie in suburban pond.

Provided by Pete Lamar

And Pete Lamar emailed the photo above and the report below:

Hi Dale, I’d planned on going to Braidwood Sunday but changed my mind when it didn’t warm up and the wind kept blowing. Of course, the DNR closures made it a moot point. It’s a hard decision to understand: once one leaves the parking area at Braidwood, LaSalle, Heidecke, etc., it’s unusual to see many other people. Let’s see if they find a way to keep the money from the turkey hunts that may not take place on public land. Thank God Wisconsin is so nearby. Instead of going to Braidwood, I fished close to home. I tried a good-sized forest preserve lake with no success. Maybe a smaller pond would warm up more quickly, so I continued at another nearby body of water dragging a marabou leech low and slow to see if any bass had woken up. Again, without success. But there was a sporadic hatch of something. At first I thought it was an aquatic beetle, but I got a closer look at one eventually and think it was a black fly. I never saw more than one on the water at the same time-this was no blanket hatch-but the fish noticed it. There would be a yellow swirl under the adult struggling in the surface film and then no more fly. I assumed it was bluegills from all the yellow. I switched to a small soft hackly fly- it vaguely imitates a lot of hatching aquatic insects-and got into fish right away. It turned out to be crappies with a yellow coloration that I’ve never seen before. Pete

That is a very interesting looking crappie, can’t say I’ve seen one with that shading.

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait said that crappie are starting to go Tampier, but have not picked up yet at Saganashkee Slough, which has had a couple slower years.

Bass apparently were starting to go in the last few days, because it is an orgy of big bass stories and photos below.

Frank Macikas with his personal best largemouth bass. Provided photo

Frank Macikas with his personal best largemouth bass.


From Frank Macikas:

Haven’t made it out on the river since the last report but hoping I can get a float in tomorrow. I did catch my new personal best yesterday at 6.54lbs in a subdivision pond on a Megabass dark sleeper; the pictures don’t do it justice. I’ll let you know if I get out on the river tomorrow.

Justin McGuffin with a largemouth bass on the fly. Provided photo

Justin McGuffin with a largemouth bass on the fly.


Justin McGuffin

Hey Dale, I was able to get out for a few hours today before the inevitable lockdown. The goal was to test out some fly patterns I’ve been working on and also hopefully get a few pre-spawn largemouth. I knew it was going to be an interesting session after I missed a huge blow-up on the third blind cast. This particular water has very spooky fish so I moved and began covering water again. This bass are spooky, but also very aggressive so something I figure-eight close to the bank before starting a new cast. Sure enough, another big seafoam chrome flash and a boil over that flipped the fly around on the eight. Another missed opportunity, but some good field work. I kept working that area and the next fish hit the fly so hard that they both popped up two feet into the air. My time was running out, but anpther move to a different swim proved successful. I saw some nervous water about sixty feet out. Started to false cast and haul and landed it on the edge of a generous strike zone. I worked the fly slowly and let it dip and pop and glide from side to side. I notice a shadow trailing and it’s growing. I strip the line hard and let the fly Jack knife and skip to a stop. The shadow hovers below and sips the fly from the subsurface.

I love that last line, that’s writing. “The shadow hovers below and sips the fly”

Scott Oglanian with a 6-pound largemouth bass Provided

Scott Oglanian with a 6-pound largemouth bass.


Scott Oglanian sent the photo above and this report

6lb largemouth. used a rapala shadow rap. she was on a shallow flat that the sun had been beating all day. with wind blowing Big females are moving up shallow now!

That’s good stuff.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed the report below:

Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past week’s fishing. Area lakes- cold front that passed through late in the week slowed the bite. Slowly retrieving a white grub on a 1/4 oz jig caught a few bass. The passing sandhill cranes kept the day entertaining. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

The sandhills made another weekend special.

Rob Abouchar emailed this report and the photo below:

Hi Dale

The Spring break angling plans will have to be changed with the closures of State Park Fishing Sites. People will need to find smaller lakes and rivers as the weather slowly changes. On a tip From my guy Joe Schatz that bass were going in Palatine at Donut Lake by Twin Lakes Recreation area. The info was right on and some nice pre-spawn bass were landed in the cold water. The bass were slowly slurping an in-line Mepps Black Fury #5 in Chartreuse and black. Moving the bait slowly was key. Also had some fish on the Chrome colored Rapala Shadow Rap Shad as the sun came out. It was as if the fish were following the bait until it was about to be lifted from the water I am looking to try Belleau lake and hit Twin Lakes again. Possibly a trip To Merrill but will need to check Wisconsin for Virus restrictions. 

On the Music front the next Reggae performance will be with Vital Vibes Reggae band on April 11 but i think this one will be cancelled... More time for writing and arranging at home.

Tight lines and good health


Vital Vibes Reggae band. Provided

Vital Vibes Reggae band.


I like the tight lines and good health. I thought with all the big bass photos above, a photo of Vital Vibes Reggae band would be better.


A 31-inch walleye was caught Tuesday on Marie. Provided by Triangle Sports and Marine

A 31-inch walleye was caught Tuesday on Marie.

Provided by Triangle Sports and Marie

Brad Irving at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said bluegill moved into the channels, best is afternoons when sun warms the water up; some crappie are going in the channels, too; some walleye coming from deep on Marie, such as the 31-incher caught Tuesday and pictured above.

I don’t think the rains will be enough to impact boating access, but just in case, check updates on water conditions at or (847) 587-8540.


Jeffrey Williams got out fishing, Green River or no Green River, and got into fish, including the pictured one below over the weekend:

He was bout 9 10 inches max

Jeffrey Williams with one of the crappies he caught from the Chicago River. Provided by Jeffrey Williams

Jeffrey Williams with one of the crappies he caught from the Chicago River.

Provided by Jeffrey Williams


Braidwood and LaSalle are closed, as are all IDNR sites. Date of Heidecke reopening is uncertain.


IDNR sites are closed. Dustin Perkins caught the ambuigity of that with this report on Newton just before the closure on Sunday

Dale Got this 5lb. 5oz bass out of Newton lake Sunday just in time before the IDNR closure of lakes. Water temps where 48 degrees on the whole lake. Plant is under maintenance so no pumping going on. Dustin Perkins Crestwood IL

Dustin Perkins with a big largemouth bass, caught Sunday from Newton Lake just before the closure on Sunday. Provided

Dustin Perkins with a big largemouth bass, caught just before the closure Sunday on Newton Lake.



Doug Blodgett emailed:

Currently our only change is implementing a self-service for boaters/fishers to get permits and sign the waivers at our boat launch because Dickson Mounds Museum is closed.

SHELBYVILLE: Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service said as of Monday morning, there were places to launch on the lake.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing said that Army Corps of Engineers launches remain open on Rend Lake and the crappie are going; launching is available on Lake Of Egypt with crappie are OK and bass good; you can launch from the back of Kinkaid Lake from Johnson Creek Recreation Areas, crappie are about ready to bust out there.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season.


Frank Macikas just emailed the photo and report below:

This is probably too late but I was able to get out for a bit this afternoon. Water is around 450cfs fairly clear and about 46 degrees. I only managed 5 today. FIrst one was mid-river on a small swimbait, second on a Jackhammer Chatterbait in a backwater area and the other three all came on a 1.5 craw colored squarebill. THe bigger fish all came on the squarebill right in front of small creek mouths. Best one went 18.75 and 3.4lbs. Couldn’t really get a good pattern going but I’ll take it before the rain comes. Frank

Frank Macikas with a smallmouth bass from the DuPage River. Provided by Frank Macikas

Frank Macikas with a smallmouth bass from the DuPage River.

Provided by Frank Macikas


Guide Mike Norris emailed the report below:

Fishing Report – 03/16/2020 Mike Norris The ice is dangerously thin or completely gone on all the lakes in south central Wisconsin, so anglers are concentrating on the area’s rivers where walleyes and northern pike seasons remain open. If river fishing isn’t your thing this is a good time to start checking out bays and marina’s off the main lakes for early season bluegills and crappies. Lake Puckaway – The ice is all but gone and boaters are working the Fox River at the west end of the lake for walleye. Try locating deeper holes upriver and drifting downstream while dragging a 1/8-ounce jig tipped with half a nightcrawler. Walleyes must be 15 inches long to keep with a daily bag limit of five. . . . Contact Mike Norris, Wacky Worm Guide Service, at 630-842-8199 for Big Green Lake and other south-central Wisconsin guided fishing trips.


Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report.


Plenty of sauger were being caught in prefishing. Question will be what the heavy rains mean later in the week to water levels.


Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.


When weather allows, coho are being caught, especially by powerliners.

As Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait put it, “Coho are going up and down the lakefront.” Powerliners are doing better (minnows and crawlers), but casters catching some on spoons and crankbaits, too.

Tim Adkins at Henry’s Sports and Bait in Bridgeport texted:

Customer at Henry’s said they got 30 coho around Hyde park a few days ago

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor texted:

We are open and up and running until otherwise notified. Taking the precautions that are necessary washing and cleaning . Coho very good. Large minnows and crawlers. It’s back and forth on the minnows and crawlers about a 50/50. Of course power liners are doing better because they have more hooks but the rod and reel guys in the harbor have been doing okay also. Our guy Phil had a 10 lb Northern in the harbor the other day. There’s also some nice Browns and a few steelhead have started to be caught.

Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan said some jumbo perch were caught off the Johnson Motors pier Wednesday and Thursday, then waves came; over the weekend several boats were out trying for salmon and trout, as were a couple kayakers; some effort came on Government Pier for a few browns and steelhead.

“So it is starting,” Ralph said. “I know the fish are out there. Just have to get the customers out there.”

Like those words, “So it is starting.”


Click here for the update from D&S Bait.


Kurt Justice at Kurt’s Island Sport Shop emailed:

After losing a couple of inches of ice to the warmth of the previous weekend, then to Thursday’s rain, colder temps have locked up the remaining ice well (16-20 on average). This gives ice anglers reason to keep those jig poles and tip-downs out for a couple more weeks. Crappies: Good-Very Good – Deep basin Crappies on glow jigs/spoons (pimples, Kastmasters, Cavier drops) with waxies or minnow heads over 18-24’ mud flats. Tip-downs with rosie reds also producing well. On the local flowages, which have seen water levels drop 3 ½’ since the first of March, river channels are key. Jigs that glow and tip-downs with rosies also key. For anglers working cabbage beds in bays, #8:#10 rockers tipped with white, pink, yellow or chartreus plastic. On warm days, with melt, start under ice with presentation. Tip-downs with Crappie minnows also producing very well when bite is ON! Yellow Perch: Good – Best #’s over mud flats of 18-28’ using Hali, Venom on Flasch Champs to get wigglers and red spikes over mud. Lake shiners producing larger fish over sandgrass on large, deep lakes. In weedy lakes, stick to small Bluegill imitation lures (Forage Minnows or K-Rips) tipped with waxies. Bluegills: Good – Best on warmer days with melt. #3 tungsten Fiskas tipped with piece of Beaver Tail or mousee best. Dark colored plastics of red, black, purple, motor oil – though one angler reported a nice catch of eaters on green. With forecasted highs for the next week running low 30’s to low 40’s providing nice ice fishing weather, yet overnights of low teens to low 20’s, safe ice fishing should extend for a couple more weeks. Great activity, outdoors and not overly crowded! Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop Like us on FaceBook


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

For the groups that made it on lake trolling around Gary light area and around ship canel cal park area did good on coho and few browns thinfish and j9 rapalas in a variety of colors did best but any small crankbaits in a variety of colors took fish Michigan city from light house to draw bridge fish wer had from shore guys skein and squid best but shrimp crawlers and casting spoons took fish too Portage riverwalk up the river to underneath 249 bridge gave coho up not as crazy as it has been but still a lot of fish caught squid on white twister tail and jigs tipped with beemoth or shrimp took fish along with spawn saks and skein fished on near bottom Crappie starting lake George in Hobart and marina dock areas in cedar lake fishing cedar lake We are open 5 to 5 everyday we are staying open virus can’t stop the fisherman Fresh load of musky suckers in stock


Mike Norris emailed the report below

Fishing Report – 03/16/2020 Mike Norris . . . Rock River – Walleye fishing is excellent right now in Jefferson County on the Rock River from the mouth of Lake Koshkonong northeast to just above the Hwy 26 bridge. Anglers trolling upstream on the river are doing well catching walleyes on hair fly rigs set up on a three-way rig with a pencil weight. The daily bag limit for walleye on the Rock River is three with a minimum size limit of 18 inches. Contact Mike Norris, Wacky Worm Guide Service, at 630-842-8199 for Big Green Lake and other south-central Wisconsin guided fishing trips.


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


Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said lot coho off the pier, plenty of boaters out on the weekend.




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


Erik Brztowski shows what fishing on the Wisconsin River has been like. Provided

Erik Brztowski shows what fishing on the Wisconsin River has been like.


Erik Brztowski messaged the photo above and the report below:

Water is still cold, around 36-38 degrees. Still lots of short fish (not legal) but bigger ones are coming as the river gets higher and higher. Bigger fish are in the mix with some 28+ fish being caught all over the river. Don’t be surprised to see the river being a zoo due to the walleye run but don’t let it intimidate you. Fishing is great! There’s a report.

Mike Norris emailed the report below:

Fishing Report – 03/16/2020 Mike Norris . . . Wisconsin Dells – There are plenty of walleyes to be caught in the Wisconsin River below the dam at the Wisconsin Dells, but you’ll have to sort through several small ones. The river is high so anchor in eddies below the dam and cast 3/8 oz jig and plastic combos upriver and work the jig back downstream with short lifts and pauses. Try finding eddies one to three miles downstream from the dam if you’d like to avoid the crowds. The daily limit on this stretch of the Wisconsin River is one walleye and sauger from 15 inches but less than 20 inches and only one fish over 28 inches. . . . Contact Mike Norris, Wacky Worm Guide Service, at 630-842-8199 for Big Green Lake and other south-central Wisconsin guided fishing trips.


Gary Bloom messaged from Winneconne:

Made a trip to Winneconne . River is open, lake Winneconne 80 percent open. Flooding in upper wolf, not sure if from ice dams, they had low snow and rain this winter.

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

With rain and melting snow, water levels are up over 3 feet since ice out. Good news, the walleye are also coming up. Most fish are taken early mornings and late afternoon on sand bars, or current break areas. Jig and minnow, or river rigs working best. Water temp is in the mid 30’s, and will only get better as it warms up.

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