Chicago fishing: Spring fishing builds toward Memorial Day weekend, even with the floods

Even with the floods and high waters, spring fishing builds ahead of the Memorial Day weekend for this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

SHARE Chicago fishing: Spring fishing builds toward Memorial Day weekend, even with the floods
Jake Marczuk caught a 7.8-pound hybrid striper while crappie fishing at Shabbona Lake. Provided photo

Jake Marczuk caught a 7.8-pound hybrid striper while crappie fishing at Shabbona Lake.


Even with the flood waters, there is a building spring bite for this sprawling raw-fie Midwest Fishing Report.

Jake Marczuk messaged the photo at the top from Thursday and this:

Hey Dale, Check out this 7.8lb hybrid striper I caught on a leech while bobber fishing for crappie at Lake Shabonna

I love it. One of my quests in life is to get a hybrid on a topwater at Shabbona.


If you have a valid Indiana 2019-20 license and/or stamps, they are now good through June 4. If not, you need a 2020-21 license.

Here is the note from the Indiana DNR last week:

Hunting and fishing licenses All 2019-2020 basic hunting, basic fishing, hunt/fish combo, youth licenses and stamps set to expire March 31, 2020, are valid until Thursday, June 4, 2020. Keep a printed or electronic copy with you while hunting/fishing. If you do not have a valid 2019-2020 annual license or stamp, a new 2020-2021 annual license is required. Licenses can be purchased by visiting the Indiana Fish & Wildlife Online License System, open authorized license vendors, or calling the Indiana DNR Customer Service Center at 877-463-6367, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Most forest preserve and park district lakes are open, with some exceptions. Of note, Forest Preserves of Cook County have added some parking closures for the Memorial Day weekend. Click here for the updated list. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage opened up its trout waters gradually. Trout lakes in FPCC remain closed.

Pete Lamar emailed:

Hi Dale, I’ve got a brief, but encouraging report. I only fished around here on Sunday afternoon in some pretty heavy rain. I wasn’t targeting any species in particular, just seeing what would cooperate. Largemouth bass, as it turned out. I probably caught seven or eight bass for every bluegill. All fish came on a fur leech. Strangely enough, if I did a long cast and stripped the fly back, nothing. Fish were only interested in a fast constant movement retrieve. I was casting-or more accurately, flipping-the leader and a couple of feet of fly line out and then sweeping the rod tip low to move the fly. Strikes were aggressive. Days had been in the 60s and 70s leading up to Sunday, so the warmer water may be causing more activity. I’m glad to see this because stillwater fishing may be the only option for awhile; it’s going to be more than a few days before smallmouth streams are fishable. The only reason I stopped fishing in the rain was because of lightning in the distance. . . . Pete

At least by the weather, the waters should be receding greatly and warming quickly by the Memorial Day weekend.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a suburban largemouth. Provided photo

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a suburban largemouth.


Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed the photo above and this:

Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past week’s fishing. Area lakes- the heavy rains this past week have produced opportunities for some excellent bass fishing. Focus efforts on in-flows during breaks in passing storms. Bass are setting up on current seams looking for an easy meal. XPS lipless crankbaits in brighter colors have been the best bait for bass to hone in on. More consistent weather patterns will have bass moving up shallow later in the week. TTYL


The flooded Kankakee River Monday at Aroma Park. Credit: Dale Bowman

The flooded Kankakee River Monday at Aroma Park.

Dale Bowman

As of midday Tuesday, the Des Plaines, DuPage, Fox and Kankakee rivers were closed to boating. The Illinois River is near record flood. Check updates on river closures by clicking here. The Chicago River was in its own special flood and the Riverwalk remains closed.

FOX: Right before the flood, there were a bunch of good flathead catches.

Christ Horvath with a Fox River flathead. Photo provided

Christ Horvath with a Fox River flathead.


Chris Horvath messaged the photo above and this from Saturday night:

Hi dale. I caught my personal best flathead catfish last night 24 lb on the upper Fox caught on a live bluegill

Ricky Sjurset messaged from Saturday night:

These are from the guys in my group. They’ve been putting in a lot of work to show that these flathead are ready.


As of midday Tuesday, the Chain was no-wake, while the upper and lower river was closed. Check updates at or (847) 587-8540. No-wake is one of the best times to fish the Chain.

Brad Irving at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said that walleye are good on the main lake areas, but shallow; there’s some good catfish and flatheads on Marie, especially if you can find the old river channel; still some good muskies (See FOTW), but overall action has slowed; bluegill and crappie are tight against the seawalls.


Braidwood, LaSalle and Mazonia remain closed.

Heidecke is open and the primary catches are crappie and walleye. A good number of anglers are fishing there. Have not heard back yet, but I assume getting under the bridge might be a challenge now.


Dave Duwe emailed:

Delavan Lake 5/18/20 through 5/25/20 Last week fishing on Delavan was hit or miss, you could catch fish all week if you weren’t particular about the species. Largemouth bass and bluegills were the most consistent bite this week. Walleyes were very spotty. Largemouth bass are preparing to spawn, they are in 2-3 ft. of water. I have yet to see them start building nests but within the next week the spawn preparation will begin. My best success came on nightcrawlers fished on a split shot rig. The fish seem to prefer a cleaner bottom with none of the green slimy weeds. The best location was by the outlet, near the rocks by Lake Lawn, and in the channels. Some success last week was also seen on Senkos, Texas rigged. Smoke or blue/black were the best colors. The smallmouth bass that I caught last week were on the main lake points, such as Willow Point, the Yacht Club and near the Village Supper club. The smallies were caught on fathead minnows fished on a lindy rig. I used a 1/8 oz walking sinker and a small hook. The key to the presentation was keeping the sinker slightly off bottom to avoid the green weeds. In windy conditions, it’s better to use a larger sinker for more control. The best depth was in 14-15 ft. of water on the drop offs. A few walleyes were caught this week but it was pretty slow. Most of the success was on a white twister tail fished on a 1/8 oz jighead. Most of the fish were caught on the main lake points. I tried lindy rigging for a few hours on Friday but didn’t have any success. I think the water needs to warm up a few degrees before the fish will really become active. Bluegills have been a guaranteed bite for the last week. Some of them were in excess of 10 inches. You had to weed through lots of small ones to catch a good dinner. The best depth was in the shallow weeds in 3-4 ft. of water. I caught all of my fish on an ice jig and a small red worms fished on a bobber. Crappies were very sporadic. I spoke with several people who caught limits in 14-16 ft. of water on the west end of the lake. The bait of choice for them was small tube jigs fishing for suspended crappies. When I tried for them, they moved out of the area. The crappies will bite but it may take some searching and patience before you find an active school. With some warmer water, they too will begin spawning. Good luck and I hope to see you on the water. For guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 262-728-8063


Many Downstate sites, more than originally posted, reopened across the state. Click here to check list.

EMIQUON: Basically, go to launch. For general information, go to

POWERTON: Remains closed. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed, but may reopen later in the season. Click here for an update. SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide ServiceSOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.


Dave Duwe emailed:

Lake Geneva 5/18/2020 through 5/25/2020 Fishing still remains difficult. The water temperature has only risen a few degrees this week. With the strong winds later in the week, the water was stirred up a bit. Most of the action is very shallow around the boat docks. Largemouth bass have been caught while they have been cruising the shallow waters (3-4 ft.) The best bait has been spider grubs or nightcrawlers fished on a split shot rig. Some of the best success has come from the Abbey Harbor. The best location is around the outwash from the outboard motors of the docked boats. A lot of fish have been in the 2-3 pound range. The largemouth bass on the main lake are more difficult to locate, some of the best luck has been around the docks in Williams Bay and by Knollwood. Smallmouth bass are still in a pre-spawn pattern. They have been more sporadic last week. During my trips on the lake, I didn’t notice any surfacing fish. Several others had luck casting to schooling fish with small stick baits like a Yozuri minnow bait. The bites were not aggressive at all they merely hung onto the bait for a second and you had to set the hook hard. Within the next week the fish should be starting to move closer to the spawning flats. I would look for them next week in 12-15 ft. of water. They are still following the shiners so when you find the bait fish you should find the bass. Perch are being caught on the main lake points in 6-7 ft. of water. Small leaf worms and shiners are producing all the fish. The best locations are by Coleman’s Point, Black Point and Rainbow Point. Some of the fish are reaching 12 inches in length. Fishing a slip bobber seems the easiest approach. Northern Pike are still cruising the shallow water in 5-8 ft of water. They can be caught on white spinner baits or husky jerk baits. Emerging weeds seem to be holding most of the fish. Some small Bluegills can be caught around the boat dock in Geneva Bay. The best bait is leaf worms fished on a slip bobber. Within the next few weeks, the bluegills will be in very thick as they begin to spawn. Hopefully with some warm stable weather, fishing will become more consistent on Geneva. Good luck and I hope to see you on the water. For guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 262-728-8063.


Pike action on Fox Lake in Dodge County, Wisconsin, is excellent right now. Provided by Mike Norris

Pike action on Fox Lake in Dodge County, Wisconsin, is excellent right now.

Provided by Mike Norris

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

Fishing Report – 5/17/2020 Mike Norris Fox Lake – Northern Pike action is excellent on blade baits. They are not giants but will keep you busy. Expect to catch 50 or more a day. If pike are not your thing look to catch walleyes up to 22 inches long trolling spinners with crawlers over emerging weed growth in the Government area. Other anglers are either casting or trolling Flicker Shads. Crappies and bluegills should become active this week. Big Green Lake - Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are scattered throughout various depths due to the instability created with high winds and rain which plagued south central Wisconsin last weekend. Water temperature on the main section of the lake remains in the mid to upper 40’s. Finding the warmest water in the lake is the key to catching the bigger bass. It took at 20 lb. bag to win a local bass tournament on Big Green last weekend. Bunches of bass should be heading for the shallows to spawn with warmer weather moving into the area mid-week. Little Green Lake – Walleye and muskie action has been consistent. Three muskies over 45 inches each were caught within the last ten days. Lake temperature is currently 52 degrees. Warmer weather will bring panfish into the shallows. Largemouth bass will become active by this coming weekend as they move shallow to spawn. Fishing in south central Wisconsin is heating up and I am now open for business and accepting reservations. For more information about my guide service phone me at 630-842-8199 or contact me through my website at


Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay emailed this:

Good morning, Here is a quick update on the fishing Bass fishing has been fantastic and will only continue to get better as the water warms and the weather finally takes a turn for the better. There have been good reports coming in pretty much from up and down the whole peninsula, it really all depends on the winds. Waters less than 15 feet have been the best depths and Howie’s shorty tubes, paddle tails, hair and marabou jigs, ned rigs along with jerk baits like MegaBass and Lucky Crafts have been the best baits Walleye fishing is still going pretty good throughout the county both during the day and at night. Again, pending on the wind! During the day, the best bite has been from Henderson’s Point south past Chaudoir’s Dock trolling in that 14 to 25 foot range with Flicker Shads and Flicker Minnows. And at night, which may be a bit better than day time fishing right now, both boat and shore fishermen are really getting into a bunch of fish both trolling and casting. Suspending crank baits have been the best for the trollers and for the casters….Hair jigs, paddle tails, suspending jerk baits and shorty tubes have been the best Pike fishing still going fantastic throughout the county as those fish are really putting on their post spawn feed bag right now. Sturgeon Bay, Little Sturgeon, Riley’s Bay and Sawyer Harbor are just a few of the better areas to concentrate your efforts. Large crank baits, spoons, plastics and some sucker minnows are all good options right now A few lake reports are starting to trickle in from our area from the small handful of fishermen that have ventured out there. Mainly Lake Trout right now, but there has been a few Kings getting caught. That fishing will start to kick in as soon as the water warms a bit Thanks; Lance LaVine Howie’s Tackle 1309 Green Bay Rd Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235 Ph: 920-746-9916


Ohio resumed the sale of nonresident licenses.


Chicago harbors, the Riverwalk and lakefront remain closed. North Point Marina is officially closed, but daily launch passes are being issued. Waukegan harbor area is open for fishing and launching.

Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan texted that she is not opening the lakefront shop this year.

Capt. Scott Wolfe emailed:

Hi Dale Fishing in the Waukegan area was fair this past week. East and Northeast winds predominated, usually not good for fishing our area of the lake. The coho were scattered and the shallow water was dirty most days. Most trollers went for quality over quantity and targeted kings and big trout rather than smaller coho. The bigger fish are just starting to show up in the area. Nice kings from 12 to 35 pounds were taken this week in water from 30 to 90 feet. Hot lures were bright green flies trolled on short copper lines, under 200 feet of copper, meat rigs on wire divers and spoons on downriggers. All of these in the blue-green-aqua spectrum of colors seemed effective. Bright green and Aqua flies from Jimmy Flys and Smokin Fish Tackle and Warrior and smaller size spoons in Blue Dolphin, Green Dolphin and Hey Babe (aqua) worked. The huge king, 35 pounds, came on a wire diver with Musselhead flasher and meat rig combo. Not huge number of fish, but many over 10 pounds. Looking at the coming week East and Northeast winds are predicted literally every day this week. They are finally supposed to turn South Saturday night. Very likely this will mean rough conditions and more dirty water. I’d encourage trollers to continue targeting big kings and browns in relatively shallow water. The coho usually scatter and become difficult to catch in this weather pattern. The kings are coming in by us and in the past few years late-May and June have given us the best king fishing of the year. This weekend we finally had several calls, texts and charter bookings for June 1 onward. This was the most inquiries I’ve had since last season. It’s nice to see people planning on going about their lives again. With kids activities like summer camps and sports cancelled, it looks like we will have a lot of family charters and we can’t wait to see them. Capt. Scott Wolfe School Of Fish Charters 630-341-0550


Click here for the update from D&S Bait.


Kurt Justice at Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua emailed:

The promised (forecasted) warm up is coming at a crawl. Cool, clouds and lots of wind are raising water temps ever so slightly. What should have been a Crappie weekend was decent, but not fantastic, maybe this coming one? Crappie: Very Good-Good – Been hard to get an overall fix on the bite. As always, different sized lakes warm at different rates. Reports of Crappies in 2’ of pencil reeds as well as staging in 5-8’ of cabbage and even been found in 14’ breaks. Minnows the best bet when Crappies are being reluctant. Small leeches stay on hooks better. With water temps slowly making their way into the upper 50’s by late week (we hope) tiny tubes, Mini-Mites and small twister tails will start working better. Walleye: Good – Post spawn action in weeds of 6-10’. Jig and minnow/leech combos, as well as, shallow running stick baits (Jr. Thundersticks, Rattlin Rouges) and 1/8 oz jig and twister or snap jigging 3 swim baits. Northern Pike: Good – Artificial bite a little slower at times. If you can’t get hit on spinner baits or #3 Mepps, switch to a weedless jig and chub to coax light biters. Use a light wire leader to prevent bite offs of jigs and a jaw spreader and pliers to prevent bite offs of fingers! (tip-o-the-week!) Smallmouth Bass: Good – Staging outside spawning areas, Smallies hitting lipless cranks banged on rocks in 6-12’ of water. X-Raps suspended over same areas also effective as is Ned rigging along same spots. Some dandy fish of over 5#’s reported. Catch & Release only until June 20th! Largemouth Bass: Good – Cruising shallows on warming days. Pitch 3 Wacky worms unweighted or twitch #5 or #7 Floating Rapalas. Large leeches on a light wire hook around any trees/brush in water. Yellow Perch: Good – Shallow weeds of 4-8’. Thunderbugs, small leeches, minnows under small floats. Bluegill: Fair-Good – Not being targeted with all the wind, but work extreme shallows of 1-5’ as Gills cruising looking for bugs and warmest water. A good # of incidental reports of Musky cruising the shallows and being hooked by anglers targeting other species. With surface temps probably moving to upper 50’s, low 60’s watch for more of this. Looks to be a good weekend, maybe some evening clouds/rain, but temps should be good and the Crappie spawn should stretch out on most of the large lakes to give anglers plenty of opportunity. Thank you, Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop Like us on FaceBook


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

Some coho and kings and lake trout being caught in 45 to 60 ft from east Chicago to Michigan city Lots of lake trout in 70 to 100 ft of water straight out of the ditch east towards Michigan city Willow slough giving up lots of fish and lots of people fishing jumbo reds crickets and beemoth best baits Rivers really high will be down and ready to fish for the holiday weekend


Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said the best action on Lake Michigan is six miles north of St. Joseph and north to South Haven in 80-100 feet. River and piers are blown out.


See the photo at the top for indication of some of the fishing.

Lake is open sunrise to sunset. 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Lakeside remains closed


William W. Powers SRA remains closed, but the Indiana side is open, including the Hammond launch.

Wolf Lake crappie. Photo provided by BoRabb Williams.

Wolf Lake crappie.

Photo provided by BoRabb Williams.

BoRabb Williams posted the photo above and this:

BoRabb Akbar Muhammad Dale Bowman..... We Assassinated the crappie Yesterday at Wolf Lake Indiana side..... unbelievable..... but everyone wasn’t getting them LIKE ME....the LIMITS Daily!!!.... but they’re biting.... weather PENDING.

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Indiana side of wolf lake. Excellent reports


Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted on Monday:

After a somewhat disappointing weekend in the Fremont area , the lilacs must be blooming somewhere. Water temp was 56.9 this morning, and the white bass are moving into the shallows. Had over 140 this morning , all on rigs, fighting a 25 mph NE wind. Wasn’t comfortable, but it was fun.

It may be late, but the white bass appear ready to go.

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