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Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report: Building ice, frigid weather, Chain tip, Green Bay whitefish

Despite the lengthy frigid weather, anglers are catching fish around the Chicago area, including some better whitefish action on Green Bay; and there is a good tip for Chain O’Lakes access.

Charles Zheng with a nice bluegill caught ice fishing in the brutal cold in Lake County. Provided photo
Charles Zheng with a nice bluegill caught ice fishing in the brutal cold in Lake County.
Provided

Despite the lengthy frigid and snowy weather, there is a good amount of ice fishing going on around Chicago area on building ice, including some deep-water action for whitefish on Green Bay, for this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

I know more than a few of us wondered if deep-water fishing for whitefish on Green Bay would even happen this year, especially after the dramatic rescue of anglers from an ice floe the wind broke off last week. The answer, with the extended cold snap, is yes.

Fraser Semple messaged this (a fuller report and a photo are in the Green Bay section):

Dale, Went out to Sturgeon Bay, fished near the crack that caused 66 fisherman to become stranded earlier in the week, fortunately all returned to land safely, the ice floe has since rejoined the shore ice, once the wind direction changed.

Charles Zheng emailed some photos, including the one at top, with his report on fishing Lake County ponds and lakes.

DERBY

The venerable Northern Illinois Conservation Club’s 61st annual Ice Fishing Derby is Saturday and Sunday on the Chain O’Lakes. It’s headquartered at Musky Tales. Click here for details.

CHAIN O’LAKES ACCESS HELP

Here is a great idea for those walking out to access the ice on the Chain. Brian Marcinkiewicz will tow people out on some popular lakes with his snowmobile. Here is explanation:

I’ve towed on Fox lake and channel the last week and since I live next to long lake I’ve had a few people reach out and I’ve gone to pull them on and off even when I wasn’t fishing since it’s close to home. I charge $5/ person each way, includes ride on the back of snowmobile and towing all gear behind in a sled or shack

Best way to reach him is on Messenger, which you can do even if not Facebook friends with him.

STURGEON

Spearing season for sturgeon (previous permits required) on the Winnebago system in Wisconsin opens Saturday, Feb. 13, and will run for a maximum of 16 days or until any of the pre-determined harvest caps are reached. Conditions look very favorable for a fast end to the season. Click here for details.

NEARBY PUBLIC ICE FISHING REGULATIONS

Ice fish at your own risk. Hours are generally sunrise to sunset, unless noted otherwise. Ice fishing is not permitted at the Chicago lagoons, FPD of Kendall County, FPD of Will County and Kankakee River Valley FPD.

FP COOK COUNTY: Ice-fishing lakes are Arrowhead, Axehead, Beck, Belleau, Big Bend, Bode South only, Bullfrog, Busse main and south, Flatfoot, Green, Horsetail, Ida, Maple, Papoose, Powderhorn, Saganashkee Slough, Sag Quarry, Tampier, Turtlehead and Wampum.

FPD DuPAGE COUNTY: Permitted most sites. No ice fishing at Spring Creek Reservoir. Late-night fishing allowed at Deep Quarry, must be out of preserve by 11 p.m.

FPD KANE COUNTY: Permitted only at Lake Patterson (Hampshire South FP), Oakhurst FP, two ponds within Paul Wolff Campground, and Grunwald Farms FP.

LAKE COUNTY FP: When conditions allow, ice fishing permitted 6:30 a.m. to sunset at Hastings Lake, Banana Lake, Independence Grove south bay and Lake Carina; 6:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset at Sterling Lake.

MAZONIA SFWA: Both units are open for open-water fishing or ice fishing.

McHENRY CCD: Ice fishing at The Hollows (West Lake only).

SILVER SPRINGS SFWA: As a general winter rule, enter through the east entrance.

WOLF LAKE: When conditions allow.

AREA LAKES

A bluegill and rod photo from ice fishing in Lake County. Credit: Charles Zheng
A bluegill and rod photo from ice fishing in Lake County.
Credit: Charles Zheng

Charles Zheng emailed the photo above and this:

Hey Dale,

Just wanted to update on what I saw last week and this week. With how cold it is out a lot less anglers are getting out, though the bite has slowed a bit for me. Pictured below was the biggest of the entire week, 8.5” male. Did well on Friday and Saturday at local subdivision ponds. Overall the snow that fell last Thursday made for great fishing, as the air temp was significantly higher along with a much lower barometric pressure. Now as of today air pressure has shot up back to 30.4, I anticipate fish to slow down. The rest of the week I’ll see what happens.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley holds a good largemouth bass caught while ice fishing. Provided photo
Ken “Husker” O’Malley holds a good largemouth bass caught while ice fishing.
Provided

Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed this report and the photos above and below:

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this past weeks fishing.

Area lakes-snowpack is making travel difficult. A foot of snow in places with slush under that will get you 6 inches of clear ice with another 4 of frozen slush. Ice is building slowly with the snow blanket on top. Going forward the rest of the ice season it will be critical to stay on top of the green weeds. Light penetration will be limited as the snow pack is not going away anytime soon.

Bass have been excellent despite the cold front that moved it. Best bait has been the 13 fishing bamf plastic jigged in 8-9 feet of water along the outside weed lines adjacent to the main basin drop. Bubblegum has been the most consistent color.

Bluegill have also been excellent in 7-8 feet of water holding in good weed clumps. Best bait has been a purple glow tungsten jig tipped with multiple spikes.

The bite has been consistent mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The frigid temps have not shut down the bite.

Here is the nature pic of the week [below]. I found this hawk taking time to chill. No pun intended.

TTYL

Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Husker Outdoors
Waterwerks fishing team

A hawk chilling while Ken “Husker” O’Malley ice fished. Provided photo
A hawk chilling while Ken “Husker” O’Malley ice fished.
Provided

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

Closed for the season. Reopens to fishing on March 1.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

See note at top for another way for walkers to access the ice.

Staff at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said it is mainly bluegills and some crappie with Channel and Marie being best; in most areas the slush from the snow cover firmed up with the cold.

ICE-FISHING ACCESS: Most places run some version of $5 parking or patronize the establishment. Here are some known access points: Hermann’s Rest-A-While (Nielsen’s Channel), Granny’s Lakeside Diner at Spring Lake Marina, Choppers Bar and Grill (Channel), Sandbar Bar & Grille (Marie, $10 or patronize, park in back), Oak Park Lounge (Pistakee Bay) and Barnacle Bob’s (Marie).

NOTE: Trevor James messaged:

Oak Park Lounge

. the best ice fishing parking in the chain! And they also have rental shacks from www.wetnwildoutfitters.com available

CHICAGO RIVER

Perch from an unusual spot on the Chicago River. Provided by Jeffrey Williams
Perch from an unusual spot on the Chicago River.
Provided by Jeffrey Williams

Jeffrey Williams messaged the photo above and this on Wednesday:

i would get done fishing when ur report comes out lol, heres is my catch for the day, i found a spot(sorry has to stay hidden) but pulled up 16 perch with 9 keepers, all over 9 inches

I am intrigued by the area where he caught the perch.

DOWNSTATE

POWERTON: Boat fishing reopens Sunday, Feb. 14. Shore fishing is already open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and some big blues being caught and released.

SPRING: Open to regular fishing.

EMIQUON: Basically, go to the launch. General information at http://experienceemiquon.com/sites/default/files/LakeAccessRules.pdf. Fishing is allowed sunrise to sunset.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the year.

SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.

GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN

Guide Mike Norris emailed:

Fishing Report 2/8/2021

Mike Norris

Last weekend’s frigid blast firmed up the ice on Fox Lake and Lake Puckaway but the 8 inches of snow which fell last Thursday is causing problems for anglers driving vehicles out on these lakes. Strong winds on both the day of the storm and the following day created numerous drifts on across area lakes and many anglers reported getting their vehicles stuck in the snow. Despite sub-zero temperatures and fierce winds last Saturday, 77 brave souls hit Fox Lake for the Fox Lake American Legion Fisheree. The bite was tough with reports of perch and bluegills under 8 inches and crappies under 13 inches.

Big Green Lake remains dangerous to negotiate with areas of thin ice. I personally know of four anglers walking and another angler on a four-wheeler who broke through the ice on Big Green last week while attempting to reach deeper water which holds ciscoes and lake trout. Fortunately, all five survived their harrowing experience. Ice thickness should improve with this week’s colder weather.

Ice floes broke off in three separate locations near Sturgeon Bay during last Thursday’s snowstorm, stranding more than 60 ice anglers. A rescue crew consisting of sheriff’s deputies, local fire-rescue units, and the U.S Coast Guard utilized helicopters and air boats for over 4 hours to get everyone safely back to shore.

More on that immediately below.

GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report.

Fraser Semple with a Sturgeon Bay whitefish. Provided photo
Fraser Semple with a Sturgeon Bay whitefish.
Provided

Fraser Semple messaged the photo above and this:

Dale, Went out to Sturgeon Bay, fished near the crack that caused 66 fisherman to become stranded earlier in the week, fortunately all returned to land safely, the ice floe has since rejoined the shore ice, once the wind direction changed. All shacks were removed, in fact some shacks were being pulled back out to that area. The crack limited us to to shallower depths managed 2-3 Whitefish one being 22”. Sub zero temperatures will provide optimal fishing opportunities soon. Fraser Semple

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

Good afternoon fellas

Here is a quick update on the ice fishing

Buckets of Whitefish are being brought in on a daily basis now that we finally have some relatively safe ice after the arctic blast of cold weather we are finally experiencing. Obviously, as most everyone in the word has heard, there was a recent ice rescue here in the county. It was not because the ice wasn’t thick enough, it was because of the wind which is probably the #1 thin that fishermen have to be aware of. If the ice is not totally locked in, it will separate!!! The best bite has been out in the big bay from Henderson’s Point north past the Stone Quarry. Howie Goby Head jigs tipped with plastics have been the best hands down

Perch fishing has been going very good. Little Sturgeon, Riley’s Bay and Sawyer Harbor all spots to try your luck. Rosy Reds, Shiners, Fatheads and Wax worms the best live baits

Walleye fishing is normal Walleye fishing this time of year. Some days you get a bite and some days you just go through the motion. Henderson’s Point, Sherwood Point and Larsens Reef still the go-to spots. Jigging Raps, Oddball Jigs and rippin rap style baits have been the best

Pike fishing is going well also. Downtown Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer Harbor, Pot Park shoreline,Flats, Little Sturgeon and Riley’s Bay all go-to spots. Large Golden Shiners and Sucker minnows suspended under tip ups and auto fishermen the method of choice there

Thanks;

Lance LaVine

Howie’s Tackle
1309 Green Bay Rd
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Ph: 920-746-9916

“Buckets of whitefish” is the phrase.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Closed for the season.

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

People are biking or walking in to fish. Fisherman’s parking passes and pier passes are not being sold while the lakefront remains officially closed.

Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said some are ice fishing or busting holes in the harbors; a few small perch at DuSable.

LaSALLE LAKE

Closed for the season.

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

Click here for the update from D&S Bait.

MAZONIA

Both units are open for open-water fishing or ice fishing.

MILLE LACS LAKE, MINNESOTA

Justin Lederer emailed this report and the photo below Tuesday from McQuoids Inn in Isle, Minn.:

Justin Lederer checking in from McQuoids Inn Lake Millie Lacs this weekends cold front has the fish tight to the bottom walleye are being picked up in deeper water 25-35 foot rattle reels and dead sticks 6” inches to a foot off the bottom tipped with either fatheads or medium suckers. Seeing a few big perch caught in the same areas on fatheads. Northern are scattered around expecting better bite coming in March for them. Fishing out of a house or ice castles has still been producing a night bite. Walleye season is coming to an end February 28 so if you want to get on some walleye fishing time is running out. Stay safe on the lakes.

A Mille Lacs walleye. Provided by McQuoid’s
A Mille Lacs walleye.
Provided by McQuoid’s

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

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

Severe cold weather (temps negative mid-teens to negative mid 20’s) has all but shut down most ice fishing in our area. The few anglers who have ventured out (bravely/foolishly…you pick) have had very little success.

With so few participants and such poor reports all we can really do is hunker down and wait for the cold to break, not worth risking frostbite or broken equipment.

I’ll just rate everything as “Poor” for now. The one positive is this cold should be building more ice, giving us a longer season into March. With ice thickness last reported at 17-20”, expect lots more once you get back out there. Truck travel should be very good. Snow depth may require tracked ATV/UTV or snowmobiles over wheeled ATV/UTV.

Deep basin bites for Crappie and Perch will improve as the thickening ice pushes fish out of the bays for a while.

Looks like we don’t get much of a break until Sunday (2/14) then highs back into the 20’s and better fishing ahead.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop
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NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Lots of groups on ice all over the place bite is best for panfish early morning or at dusk. Tip-up action best late morning thru the day.

Few coho being had on squid or jigs tipped with beemoth around 249 bridge in portage

Willow slough hit or miss everyday has been different long days of fishing for most out there to put a batch of fish on the ice

My wholesaler has been great keeping me in stock with ice gear. Plenty of augers, drill adapters and ice line etc, etc.. Bait delivery’s on the daily.

Christina Petrites at Stan’s Bait & Tackle Center in Hammond emailed:

Here’s what I have for this week. I certainly hope all of you are staying warm & safe! That includes you, too, Dale!

~Anglers have taken to the hard water where good numbers of bluegill and crappies are being caught. Some lakes are producing some nice pike on tip ups.

. . .

~The recent cold front thickened ice in most area lakes & ponds to safe enough thickness to allow prolonged ice fishing. Crappie, bluegills, & bass are being caught in nice numbers, very clean & good-sized.

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 the river froze, a bit of open water by the dam.

Christina Petrites at Stan’s Bait & Tackle Center in Hammond emailed:

Here’s what I have for this week. I certainly hope all of you are staying warm & safe! That includes you, too, Dale!

. . .

~Further east to St. Joseph, fishing has slowed down on the river; due to the ice on Lake Michigan & the river, the dam is the only place to fish is the dam.

SHABBONA LAKE

Site hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The concessionaires are looking for buyers.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT

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

WINNEBAGO SYSTEM, WISCONSIN

Spearing season (previous permits required) opens Saturday, Feb. 13, and will run for a maximum of 16 days or until any of the pre-determined harvest caps are reached. Click here for details.

WOLF LAKE

Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said small roaches are taking pike.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

They are driving out on both Poygan & Partridge now. Walleye action still good on Poygan. Some northern & panfish on Partridge & Partridge