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Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report: Perch (longer to walk in than limit), lakers, ice fishing depends

Perch and lake trout on southern Lake Michigan lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report; plus ice-fishing updates to the north.

Bill Meyer with a  December flathead catfish from the DuPage River. Provided photo
Bill Meyer with a December flathead catfish from the DuPage River.
Provided

Perch and lake trout on southern Lake Michigan lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report; plus there’s ice-fishing updates to our north while we wait for fishable ice on some distant day.

I believe the photo of a flathead catfish at the top, sent by Bill Meyer during the warmth last week, is the smallest flathead to ever grace the top of the MFR.

LAKEFRONT PERCH

It looks like Christmas perch fishing will be a thing in Chicago, both at the South Side slips and at Navy Pier, where the bite is picking up a bit.

Arden Katz said the perch bite is very good at the South Side slips; “Guys with crappie rigs are even catching their limits.” He does so well because he uses a double Mini-Mite rig with spikes above a pencil weight on light line on a good sensitive rod. (He thought minnows might do better for bigger fish.) He limited out in 25 minutes over the weekend at the South Side slips, and said, “Took me longer to walk there than catch my fish.”

He also stopped at Navy Pier and said the best action was at the west end near the bus turnaround.

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Hi, yes still biting in the lake slip and lake trout reports at navy pier along w some perch. Christmas Eve 6am-2 pm closed Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

Tis the season. Feels like it snuck up on me, even though the kids are starting to arrive at home for the holidays.

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

Good steady perch action from shore and boat fisherman. Small fatheads, xl fatheads, baby golden roaches and white spikes best baits.

87th slip lots of fisherman lots of perch caught. Some boats are fishing as far as 106th st and doing well and fish here and there all thru the river.

. . .

Slez’s Bait Shop is open regular hours on Christmas Eve. 5 to 5 and open 5 till noon on Christmas Day.

NAVY PIER ANGLING

The north side of Navy Pier is open for anglers. The discounted parking for anglers is $9, if out by 10 a.m.

PIER PASSES

The $6 pier passes, which allow legal access to select piers at most Chicago harbors, may be bought at Henry’s Sports and Bait (cash only) and Northerly Island Visitor Center (credit-card only). A number of additional piers were added this year to bring the total to 31 piers.

LAKEFRONT PARKING

Chicago Park District’s parking passes for the fisherman’s parking lots at DuSable and Burnham harbors are on sale at Henry’s Sports and Bait in Bridgeport and Northerly Island Visitor Center.

Readers suggest SpotHero app downtown. Otherwise, here are some basics: Foster (free street parking or pay lot); Montrose (now a mix of metered and free street parking); Belmont (pay lots on north and south sides); Diversey (pay lot or street parking); DuSable Harbor (pay lot or fisherman’s lot); Northerly Island/Burnham Harbor (meters, pay lot or fisherman’s lot); 31st/Burnham (meter parking between McCormick Place and 31st Street Harbor); Oakwood/39th (meters); 63rd Street/Casino Pier (pay lot); Steelworkers Park (free street parking at east end of 87th); Cal Park (free parking).

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a beautifully marked crappie from a local lake. Provided photo
Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a beautifully marked crappie from a local lake.
Provided photo
Nature photo of the week. Credit: Ken “Husker” O’Malley
Nature photo of the week.
Ken “Husker” O’Malley

AREA LAKES

Ken “Husker” O’Malley of Husker Outdoors emailed the both photos to the left and this update on fishing local lakes:

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this past weeks fishing.

Area lakes-open water opportunities continue to exist. It should last through Christmas.

Crappie have been very good on Maki plastics worked under a slip float. Fish have been concentrated along the outside weedlines. Bluegill can also be found in the same area.

Bass have generally been slow.

Here is the nature pic of the week [right]. Still hanging around.

TTYL

Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Husker Outdoors
Waterwerks fishing team

I think all of us are better in the outdoors if we pay attention things like O’Malley’s nature photo each week.

Fly fishing for crappie in Kane County had some bonuses. Provided photo
Fly fishing for crappie in Kane County had some bonuses.
Provided photo

On Sunday, Pete Lamar emailed the photo to the right and this:

Hi Dale,

I’ll send this now as I have no plans to fish tomorrow. I did some prospecting for crappies on a Kane County FP lake Saturday afternoon. As is typical for this time of year, if I’m not fishing for salmon or trout, I’m using a streamer tied on a jig hook under a buoyant strike indicator. No crappies, but a small bass and a surprise musky of around 30 inches were the result. It looks as if it may be possible to fish without chopping a hole in ice for another week or two, maybe more.

We are seeing good numbers of raptors pairing up for the upcoming breeding season. I can’t get close enough to the ones just down the street to get a positive ID, even with binoculars, but I’d guess red tails.

I may get up to the Milwaukee on Tuesday for browns and steelhead. If I do, I’ll send you a report the moment I’m able.

Pete

Muskie on the fly is tough in the best conditions, to do it in winter deserves something special.

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

Closed. Reopens March 1.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Staff at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said no ice fishing now but check about the back channels later this week; otherwise, walleye are hit and miss in some in the deeper basins, as are white bass; water remains very low, use caution launching and navigating.

NOTE: Check updates on water conditions at foxwaterway.com or (847) 587-8540.

NOTE 2: The Stratton Lock and Dam is closed through April 30.

COOLING LAKES/STRIP PITS

Both units of Mazonia reopen—ice or open-water—on Dec. 29; Monster at Mazonia South is open year-round. Braidwood, Heidecke and LaSalle are closed for the season.

DOWNSTATE

POWERTON: Closed, bank fishing reopens Monday, Dec. 27, when winter hours will be 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

SPRING LAKE: Boat fishing is closed on the main lake; boat fishing is allowed from the Sky Ranch Road ramp to Maple Island buoy during waterfowl seasons. Bank fishing along South Lake Road is not allowed until after 1 p.m. during waterfowl season.

EMIQUON PRESERVE: During waterfowl season, non-waterfowl hunting boating (which includes fishing) is not allowed until noon. Access permits and liability waivers are required. They are available Tuesday to Saturday at Dickson Mounts Museum, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season. Check regulations at http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/dixon-paddling-fishing.

One of the many good rock bass that Bill Meyer caught last week during the warmup on the DuPage River. Provided photo
One of the many good rock bass that Bill Meyer caught last week during the warmup on the DuPage River.
Provided

DuPAGE RIVER

William Meyer emailed the photo to the left and this:

Dale,

You must be getting a slew of reports. Lotsa folks out fishing today.

Landed 54 fish today of 3 species on the DuPage River. Mostly big rock bass to 10” but some smallmouth bass and one surprise 21” flathead catfish. I was also visited by a curious mink. Unprecedented!

Cheers!

Bill

I am always taken by the seeming curiosity of mink.

GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN

Guide Mike Norris emailed:

Fishing Report – 12/20/2021

Mike Norris

Big Green Lake - Last week’s record heat afford me with a rare opportunity to comfortably catch walleyes troll crankbaits late into the evening on Big Green Lake. And though air temps are colder now, that is not stopping the diehards from continuing to pursue walleyes on Big Green Lake’s open waters on windless nights. Try trolling crankbaits in 12 – 20 feet of water along the outside edge of the weed line at the east end of the lake, or troll along the north side of the lake from Norwegian Bay to Monument Shoals. If fishing after dark is not your thing, then try smallmouth bass along rocky points using live bait rigs during the daylight hours.

Ice has reformed on Lake Puckaway and anglers are catching northern pike along the south shore with medium shiner minnows on tip ups. Beaver Dam Lake is producing a few crappies up to fourteen inches in the bays off Edgewater Park. Try tip downs with a split shot and a minnow.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Closed. Reopens April 1.

George Peters with a good smallmouth bass from the Kankakee River. Provided photo
George Peters with a good smallmouth bass from the Kankakee River.
Provided

KANKAKEE RIVER

George Peters emailed the photo to the right and this:

Dear Dale, took advantage of the warm spell. The river temperature went up to about 44 degrees and that prompted a smallmouth bite on jigs worked slowly in slack water. Got 5 nice fish and missed one that might have been larger. Return of cold could shut things down. G. Peters, Plainfield.

Now I am inspired to try for my first smallmouth bass from the Kankakee River on Christmas Day.

That’s something the late Ed Mullady often challenged, or encouraged, me to attempt.

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

It’s perch or lake trout primarily.

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Hi, yes still biting in the lake slip and lake trout reports at navy pier along w some perch. Christmas Eve 6am-2 pm closed Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

SALMON SNAGGING Here are the details from the IDNR:

4) Snagging for chinook and coho salmon only is permitted from the following Lake Michigan shoreline areas from October 1 through December 31; however, no snagging is allowed at any time within 200 feet of a moored watercraft or as posted: A) Lincoln Park Lagoon from the Fullerton Avenue Bridge to the southern end of the Lagoon. B) Waukegan Harbor (in North Harbor basin only). C) Winnetka Power Plant discharge area. D) Jackson Harbor (Inner and Outer Harbors).

d) Disposition of Snagged Salmon and Paddlefish. All snagged salmon and paddlefish must be removed from the area from which they are taken and disposed of properly, in accordance with Article 5, Section 5-5 of the Fish and Aquatic Life Code.

LaSALLE LAKE

Closed. Reopens March 15.

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

Click here for the update from D&S Bait.

Gene Dellinger at D&S Bait said no ice fishing as of Tuesday, check later in the week.

MAZONIA

Both units reopen—ice or open-water—on Dec. 29; Monster at Mazonia South is open year-round. Hours are 6 a.m. to sunset.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait said the reports of burbot are very strong from anglers heading north.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

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

WHEW! Last week’s “heat wave” (up to 54 degrees) came just in time to save us from certain DOOM! Following the 12” of heavy wet snow from 12/10, the “summer” breeze, rain and wind of 12/15-16 knocked down the slush and snow very nicely. The following cold firmed and built ice up making access to more fishing areas and improved the overall quality of anglers’ outings. While a few Big lakes only have a couple of inches of ice (Fence, Trout) most other lakes reporting 5-10” of ice. Slippery, cleats a necessity, chiseling still smart for untrespassed ice.

Walleye: Very Good – With improved access, anglers able to get out on more areas and do well jigging Rapalas, Tikkas, Rippin Raps as well as Flash Champs, Forage Minnow Spoons and Leech Flutter Spoons tipped with minnow heads, shiners on tip-ups at dusk and after in cabbage of 6-10’. Pre-dawn also offering another chance of action before sun gets too high.

Northern Pike: Very Good – Big shiners on tip-ups doing the trick as lots of nice reports of bigger Pike (tops 37½” on Sunday) in cabbage of 4-10’. Run rigs with blades for added attraction above tip-up bait. Set ups with rods & reels (I-Fish Pro, Jaw Jackers) very fun to fight these crazy fish from under the ice.

Crappie: Very Good – Great reports from anglers using small minnow (rosies, fats) or working small, thin spoons in 6-12’ of water. Good reports of eaters (10-12”) plus big slabs topped by a 15”er. Good bite at dusk!

Bluegill: Very Good-Good – Once wind subsided by Saturday (12/18), anglers reported Gills active in 4-8’ of water taking dark (black, purple, red) jigs tipped with similar colored plastics, beaver tail or red spikes. Nice “eaters” of 7½ - 8½“ with some big bulls to 11”+ reported.

Largemouth Bass: Good – Medium shiners on tip-ups rigged with flouro carbon leaders in 6-10’ cabbage. Anglers “dipping” for Crappies and Gills picking up occasional Bass on spoons tipped with waxies.

Yellow Perch: Good – Mostly #’s of smaller Perch in the shallows, but a few larger (9-11”) to make things interesting. Try baiting up with medium fatheads or small shiners to keep the little guys at bay.

Forecast for this coming week looks good. Below freezing temps except for Friday (12/24) Christmas Eve Day, with a chance of rain, but dropping overnight to the teens should only firm things up better. Expect good travel, but chains on your quad tires, chains on your feet or a pillow on your hinder) are advised.

Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the outdoors with your loved ones.

Kurt Justice
Kurt’s Island Sport Shop - Like us on Facebook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Good steady perch action from shore and boat fisherman. Small fatheads,xl fatheads, baby golden roaches and white spikes best baits.

87th slip lots of fisherman lots of perch caught. Some boats are fishing as far as 106th st and doing well and fish here and there all thru the river.

Few fresh steelhead being had in area tributaries floating the holes spawn sacks or voodoo jigs tipped with beemoth. Must move around cover some water.

Lakers outside the ditch trolling or jigging near the sunken reef and down the port of Indiana wall.

Slez’s Bait Shop is open regular hours on Christmas Eve. 5 to 5 and open 5 till noon on Christmas Day.

SHABBONA LAKE

Concessions are closed. Site hours through Jan. 31 are 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said there’s some steelhead in the river, including up to and past Berrien Springs; not much off the piers.

Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

A few anglers are making their way onto Lake Poygan and doing well on walleye. Partridge and Partridge Crop, along with the bayous , are giving up some northerns and bluegill. Walking or 4 wheelers for travel as the ice is still thin. And a Merry Christmas to you.

And to all of you.