Opening day, Chicago fishing: Smelt, Heidecke, trout, licenses, crappie and coho in Midwest Fishing Report

It’s opening day around Chicago fishing and it shows in the sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report with Heidecke Lake reopening Thursday, smelt netting in Chicago beginning Thursday night, new licenses needed by Thursday and Illinois’ spring trout (other than FP of Cook County) opening Saturday.

SHARE Opening day, Chicago fishing: Smelt, Heidecke, trout, licenses, crappie and coho in Midwest Fishing Report
Jesus Arellano with his first smallmouth bass of the season. Provided photo

Jesus Arellano with his first smallmouth bass of the season.


Consider opening day as the theme for this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

Jesus Arellano messaged the photo at the top and this on Sunday from downtown:

First smallmouth bass of the season.


Opening day is Saturday, April 3, except at the five Forest Preserves of Cook County sites, which open April 7. Regulation are same: daily bag of five, those 16 and older needed a license and a stamp. Nearby sites opening Saturday, April 3: Wolf Lake (Cook County); Silver, Pickerel and Grove (DuPage); Bird Park Quarry and Rock Creek (Kankakee); Big Lake (Kendall); Sand (Lake); Piscasaw Creek and Atwood (McHnery); Milliken (Will). Remember: the FPCC sites—Axehead, Belleau, Green, Horsetail, Sag Quarry East—do not open until April 7.

Click here for general information on Illinois’ spring trout season. Click here for details on the delayed start of FPCC.


Nearby early catch-and-release sites (need trout stamp, fish must be released) are Rock Creek at Kankakee River State Park, Pine Creek at White Pines Forest State Park and Apple River at Apple River Canyon State Park. Early season opened March 20.

Click here for general information on Illinois’ spring trout season.


Reopens Thursday, April 1. See column for prospects. Open daily 6 a.m. (6:30 for bank anglers) to sunset.


New licenses are needed for the Lake Michigan states on Thursday, April 1.


Smelt netting opens the night of Thursday, April 1, in Chicago. Chicago Park District regulations: nets may go in at 7 p.m., must be out of the parks by 1 a.m., no open fires, no closed tents, no parking on grass or sidewalks, dispose of coals in appropriate trash receptacles. Click here for the preview of smelt prospects from last week.


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 Park Bait at Montrose Harbor.

Readers suggest SpotHero app downtown. Otherwise, here are some basics: Foster (free street parking or pay lot); Montrose (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).


Bluegill on the fly in the western suburbs. Provided by Pete Lamar

Bluegill on the fly in the western suburbs.

Provided by Pete Lamar

Pete Lamar emailed the photo above and this note on Friday:

Hi Dale, I’ll submit this now as I will not be doing any other fishing between now and Tuesday. I just stopped at a Kane Co. F. P. on the way home from work to make a few casts. Air was 42; water was 49; I was not optimistic. But fish were feeding. There was a hatch taking place-midges if I had to guess-and there were occasional dimples on the surface where insects were eaten before they were able to fly off. I used a tiny wet fly, intended for brook trout, and got into some big bluegills and a couple of small bass. The bluegill in the image was a legitimate nine inches plus. Enjoy the weekend. Pete

Steve Palmisanoat Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Same as last week. . . . Same crappie reports too. Take care happy Easter

Last week, he texted:

Licenses up and running. . . . and crappie interest is better. Wolf lake, tam pier, maybe try saganashkee. . . . Take care

Dicky’s Bait Shop in Montgomery reported that largemouth bass are picking up in warmer pools of ponds in the western suburbs.

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

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a catfish.


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

Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past weeks fishing. . . . Area lakes-bass continue to be good on lipless crankbaits during sunny afternoon hours. Focus on the outside weed lines for the most active fish. Crappie are still scattered with the up abs down temps. Search baits are best to pick off a few here and there. Consistent temps will get them staging. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

Pair of ducks. Provided by Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Pair of ducks.

Provided by Ken “Husker” O’Malley


Hybrid striped bass from Braidwood Lake. Provided by Jim Shell

Hybrid striped bass from Braidwood Lake.

Provided by Jim Shell

Jim Shell emailed the photo above and this:

Dale, Just a quick report on the hybrid stripers (wipers) at Braidwood. The state did not stock wipers in 2017 and 2018 due to what they thought was a low population of shad. After a two year break the shad population rebounded and stocking resumed again in 2019. I fished at Braidwood this past Saturday. I was expecting to catch largemouth and catfish, as I have done on many past trips. It didn’t dawn on me that in just under two years the wipers would be worth wild catching. I decided to hit my wiper spot from past years (a submerged roadbed) and give it a try. On my first trolling pass a nice wiper was caught. I quickly switched to a casting position to see if that wiper caught trolling was from a school. The first cast answered that question as one was hooked and landed. In the next 30 minutes another 7 wipers were hooked and boated. I was pleasantly surprised to see in two short years they have become very nice catchable size! Link for video of my day yesterday: Jim Shell

Open daily 6 a.m. to sunset. Click here for the preview.


Water levels were up very slightly on Tuesday, but levels are so low as to make launching and navigating problematic.

Arden Katz reported with the low water he is not boating but shore fishing for good bluegill in channels with enough water.

Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said crappie are geared to the deeper channels where there is enough water; otherwise, some are trying for walleye.

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


Thomas Jones and a big blue catfish from Clinton Lake. Provided photo

Thomas Jones and a big blue catfish from Clinton Lake.


CLINTON LAKE: Thomas Jones messaged the photo above and this from a week ago;

Monday’s catch 5 Blue catfish 105 lbs This was the largest 30 lb 35 inches clinton lake on Monday all on cut chicken breast with garlic powder and red kool aid

POWERTON: Shore and boat fishing is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SPRING: Open for fishing.

EMIQUON: Basically, go to the launch. General information at

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season.

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



Fox River catfish.

Fox River catfish. Provided by Dicky’s Bait.

Dicky’s Bait Shop in Montgomery emailed the photo above and reported that catfish are picking up, a 10-pounder weighed in from Aurora area; walleye are sporadic below the dam (higher water might help); water temperature Monday above the dam was 49.5 on Monday.


De Pere walleye by Jason Fox. Provided photo

De Pere walleye by Jason Fox.


Jason Fox emailed the photo above and this:

Hi Dale. Glad to see you’re on the mend, and doing your thing. I was able to get up to the legendary Fox river in DePeer. Fishing was awesome as usual this time of year. Was able to get my non Lake Erie pb walleye. The top one was 26 3/4 and close to 10lbs the other two are 22-23 jig and minnow and jig and swim bait got the big girl day before my birthday on a 7’ ultra lite my preferred walleye rod. Let’s hope that this madness of the past years is finally behind us and some smooth years are ahead.


Guide Mike Norris emailed:

Fishing Report 3/29/2012 Mike Norris Big Green Lake – Big Green is ice free now and anglers are getting out in boats and catching lake trout jigging with spoons in 90 feet of water. Minimum size for trout is 17 inches with a two fish limit. Beaver Dam Lake - Crappies continue to be the main attraction for shore anglers fishing neck down areas with a jig and minnow fished beneath a float. Castle Rock Flowage – Water clarity is good with a moderate current flow. Boaters are catching walleyes on jig and plastic combos casting to current seams on the edge of sandbars. I am now taking reservations for the 2021 guide season. For information on guide trips reach out to me via my Facebook page at mike.norris.7773 or email me through my website at


Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report.


Reopens Thursday, April 1. When the column on for Wednesday is posted, I will link to it. The column is a preview of Heidecke prospects.


Rob Abouchar emailed this catchup on life and music:

Hi Dale I Have not dropped you a line in a while. Announcing basketball and a first Football game to announce this Thursday have kept me home this Spring Break until Friday when I may venture up to the Wisconsin River to check for open water.I was hoping to have a report from Braidwood with the high school squad but had to cancel this past Saturday with Back spasms. I did see that there was a tournament with the Happy Hookers Bass Club out of Big Basin Marina on the Desplaines/Kankakee rivers last weekend. The Tournament had 25 boats brave the elements.9 of the 25 boats had 5 fish limits. It looked like some nice pre-spawn largemouth were going on the rivers. First place was won by Tom Ondras with18.18 lbs. 2nd place was won by Roy Minick and Bryant Bohlin 14.80 lbs. 3rd went to the team of Brad and Fred Krause with 14.75 lbs., and 4th went to Mike Lepper and Nick Defonzo. A nice photo of the winner with some nice river largies but the photo of the angler in the union suit spoke to me. Something inside still finds the tournament fishing exciting perhaps I may give it another go if time and schedule allows. On the music front i am continuing recording of my original reggae demos and have picked a studio for recording. Hopefully that will be scheduled soon. Menwhile i am continuing rehearsals once a month or so with the band for possible performances and the recording. I will try to send the songs for you to listen to at your leisure. Hopefully you can open the link. These are solo demos I recorded at home on the Mac-Book Pro another small miracle if you knew my computer history. At one of the Varsity boys games the head basketball coach came to the announcer table and said he has a request and asks for Chronic and Coffee one of my songs it gives a great sense of satisfaction. From a fishing perspective it’s like planning for an outing, picking a spot, and a bait and making the cast and hooking a nice 3lb smallie. Very very rewarding; almost like you know what you are doing. Tight lines Rob


Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.


Victor Blackful and Lake Michigan bounty at 95th. Provided photo

Victor Blackful and Lake Michigan bounty at 95th.


Victor Blackful emailed the photo above on Monday and this:

Hey Dale Cant wait to hit Hediakee this weekend but in the meantime despite all the wind there were some nice cohos around. Large minnows 4ft down with a bobber. About to have dinner Tight Lines

I am hoping to get a bit of time in on opening day Thursday at Heidecke.

Bob France and a Montrose coho. Provided photo

Bob France and a Montrose coho.


Robert France messaged the photo above and this on Wednesday:

I got one on the powerline with a worm. Missed two...

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Same as last week. Coho still doing well. . . . Take care happy Easter

Last week, he texted this:

Licenses up and running. Coho continue to hit well . . .

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor texted:

Hi DaleThe winds have been making fishing tricky but Coho are still being caught up and down the lakefront.I also had one of my regular customers who fishes rod and reel in the harbor come in yesterday with a two to three pound brown trout and about a 10-pound steelhead on medium roaches fishing toward the bottom. Also starting tomorrow April 1st store hours will be 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. 7 days a week

Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan texted:

Browns and steelies off the piers and the rocks , with a few cohos are showing up


Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed:

Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past weeks fishing. LaSalle Lake- water temps are always a key factor along with current at this cooler. At the ramp temps were 55 with pool A being 58. Pool B was 63-68 and the hot water discharge was 70 with just enough current. Bass were decent early morning on square bill and lipless cranks. Blue cats are excellent mid-afternoon hours on Berkley gulp. The average size was in the 4-5 pound range. . . . TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

Open daily 6 a.m. to sunset. Click here for the preview of prospects.


Click here for the update from D&S Bait.


Both units are open 6 a.m. to sunset.


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

Ice fishing is pretty much over. Shorelines are opening up; it won’t be long until open water. A few people are still taking waders and walking through water to get to ice but it is not recommended. Most of the fishing is being done down south on the rivers. A few fishermen are hitting the rivers nearby in search of Perch but with limited success. Strong winds now, and the past few days, along with temps pushing 60’s by next week, smaller to mid-size lakes should be accessible to get the boat out for some spring Crappies. Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop Like us on FaceBook


Andrew Beison and a fine Indiana crappie. Provided photo

Andrew Beison and a fine Indiana crappie.


Andrew Beison emailed the photo above and this:

Hello Dale, It has been a while since I’ve contributed. As I wait for the Coho on the southern end of the Lake to fatten up (I wait until about Easter by boat) I have been targeting small lakes here in NW Indiana on foot. I caught and released this nice slab the other day near home. Using a White/Pink Head vodo jig (Same jig I use in the creeks for Steelhead) with left over Behemoths from Ice fishing. Take Care! Andrew Beison

Interesting thought on waiting for coho after Easter. Oh, and a nice crappie, too.

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

Willow slough good for gills and crappie jigs tipped with waxworms best Crappie good at pine lake in the coves jigs and or crappie minnows best Coho action decent from cal park to burns ditch dodger flys and brads thinfish Crappie on the river burns ditch and deep river fishing log jams and bridge areas using crappie minnows Forgot to say they stocked the trout in lake county fairgrounds in crown point last week powerbait and beemoth best but some caught on lil money clip spoons and small rooster tails

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

Hi, Dale. Here what I have for this week if it’s not too late... Anglers are still catching good numbers of coho along the shore, trolling with thin fish and dodgers and coho flies. The rivers are very slow with just a few steelhead being caught. Inland lakes are starting to light up with nice catches of bluegill and crappie.


This afternoon, the Wisconsin DNR emailed this:

Root River Report The spring steelhead migration is in full swing, and our spawning facility on the Root River in Racine is up and running. Fish were processed on Monday, March 29 and 141 steelhead were passed upstream of the facility. Our creel survey clerk reports that anglers have been catching steelhead and brown trout on flies, spawn sacs, beads and tube jigs. Get all of the details from the Root River Steelhead Facility and the latest Root River fishing report by clicking the link below.

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


Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said that coho are being caught off pier and by boaters. Steelhead are slow for anglers, but some going up the Berrien Springs camera. Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.


On Thursday, April 1, summer hours (6 a.m.-10 p.m.) begin. March site hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


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


Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

Water temp came down with a few cool nights and snow. Temp 43.5 now. Walleye going both ways. Still picking up females full , and some spawned out

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