Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report: Big largemouth, big crappie, big weather change, big smallmouth
It’s May and that time of the year for big fish and big weather changes for Chicago fishing. That shows in this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report, which benefits much from reader contributions on a beautiful weekend.
It’s big-fish time for multiple species around Chicago fishing and the time of the year with big weather changes to lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.
Ken Gortowski sent the artful smallmouth photo at the top from a weekend outing on a Fox River tributary.
Perch fishing in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan is closed through June 15.
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).
Crappie and largemouth bass are starring, but bluegill are not far behind.
AJ Cwiok messaged the photo above and this:
The pre spawn bite is heating up in Bolingbrook Crushed a kvd crankbait, fought so hard I thought it was a bass
Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed the photo below and this:
Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past weeks Area lakes-Fishing was decent before the warmup but really has taken off. A few bass have been seen on beds and big bass are biting. Bass are excellent on chatterbaits and lipless cranks during morning, afternoon, and evening hours. Work the baits by just ticking the top of the weeds on large weed clumps that are holding the active fish. If the bait gets hung up, rip it to create a reaction bite. Crappie continue to be good by working small crankbaits on wind blows shorelines. Stay mobile to keep up with the schools. Bluegill are starting to move shallow. A variety of plastics worked under a float has been the best presentation. Let the fish tell you want they want. Each day is a different color. . . . TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team
Pete Lamar emailed:
Hi Dale, . . . I’d intended to fish the local streams both days, but the gale force winds on Saturday helped to change my mind. I opted for a local pond on Sunday that occupies low ground and is somewhat out of the wind. I was throwing a small leech pattern: not too small for bass and not too big for bluegill; it will catch just about anything that swims and eats minnows, leeches and large insects. Very few bluegills; bass were the vast majority of fish caught. Pete
Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed the photo below and this:
Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past weeks . . . Braidwood- water temps are 78-80 on the hot side and 70-73 on the cool side. Bass have been good on lipless and square bill crankbaits. Pitching plastics to shoreline cover has worked as well. While numbers are good, it takes a lot of sorting to get a legal fish. Here is the nature pic of the week. Sunrise at Braidwood lake. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team
Open daily 6 a.m. to sunset. Click here for the preview.
We have been killing the crappie at Willow Slough... Wolf and Calumet River
CHAIN O’LAKES AREA
Michael Pierce messaged the photo above and this:
After a week of battery issues, I finally got out on the Chain of Lakes! 4th cast, BOOM 44 inch muskie!! On Channel Lake
Art Frisell at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said catfish are good on stinkbait or crawlers; crappie are very good, moving in and out, fatheads on slip-bobber rigs are best; white bass are good, try in 8 feet with Mepps spinner, (not sinking enough, put on a split shot on); walleye are fair, better on crawlers and minnows on Lindy rigs or floating rigs, try the river or bridge areas, on main lake areas, try crankbaits (Flicker Shads).
NOTE: Check updates on water conditions at foxwaterway.com or (847) 587-8540.
NOTE 2: The Stratton Lock and Dam is open 8 a.m. to midnight through Sept. 30.
CHEROKEE LAKE, TENNESSEE
Bob Johnson emailed the photo above and this:
Had a chance to fish Cherokee Lake in Tennessee early this week with a good friend. Not sure if you ever heard of or fished this lake but what a beautiful body of water!! We caught 6 different species during our 3 day trip and sure to be back another time.
When I asked about the lake, Johnson emailed:
Cherokee lake is huge and truly a Smallmouth gem in the smoky mountains. Very similar to a fly in on a Canadian lake. Water and trees with little pressure on lake.
I have not fished it, but apparently I should put Cherokee Lake on my list.
Jeffrey Williams messaged the photo above (just minutes before I posted the report today) and this:
hope u didnt write out the fishing report yet, caught this Nice Cat from the Chicago river, 4 lbs even
DELAVAN LAKE, WISCONSIN
Dave Duwe emailed:
Delavan Lake 5/1/21 through 5/8/21 Opening Day has arrived. And we had WIND!! The best action continues to be the panfish. The bluegills are biting in the shallow water about 3-4 feet. The best locations are the boat launch channel, the outlet near the dam, and near Lake Lawn Lodge. The best approach is a single hook with a bobber, fishing red worms or leaf worms. The bluegills are a few weeks away from spawning due to the cool spring. Crappie fishing has been sporadic, some days they are biting well and the next day you’ll get skunked. The best success has been in front of Lake Lawn or near Township Park. The fish are suspended in 8-10 ft. of water. Two presentations have been producing the most fish. The first is a small 1/32 oz. Jig fished with a small Twister tail, white and yellow seem to be the best colors. The second is slip bobber fishing for them with small minnows. Walleye fishing was kind of slow. Some nice fish were being caught on slip bobbers in 8-9 ft. of water. The fish are just ending their spawn and will start to move out onto the weedlines. The best bait for this week are large fat head minnows. Some of the best reports for large fish were trolling stick baits, like Walleye Bandits and Rapala Husky Jerks in 6-8 ft of water. The best time is at night from about 3-5 a.m. Check locations such as Willow Point, the Yacht Club point and Browns Channel. Largemouth Bass can be readily found in a pre-spawn pattern. The best depth is 3-4 ft. There was a lot of fish activity in the outlet and in Lake Lawn Harbor. The fish could be seen cruising all over, however, they didn’t bite that well. Like the bluegills, the bass should be spawning in the next few weeks, so the sight fishermen should start having great success. Good Luck and I hope to see you on the water, for guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 608-883-2050
POWERTON: Hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Sept. 30.
EMIQUON: Access permits and liability waivers are again required. They are available Tuesday to Saturday at Dickson Mounts Museum, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Reopens May 15. Open through Sept. 6. Closed Mondays (except Labor Day). Check regulations at http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/dixon-paddling-fishing.
SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.
Dicky’s Bait Shop in Montgomery emailed the photos above and below and this:
Fishing has picked up on the Fox River as seen in the attached pictures. Catfish are biting from Geneva to Newark. The local ponds have been heating up as well.
Ken Gortowski emailed:
Hey Dale. Anyway… Bet you thought it would be a cold day in hell when you got another fishing report from me, eh? Just because I quit fishing years ago doesn’t mean I forgot how. Went on Sunday and picked up 7 creek smallies with more dinks playing with the lure. Biggest two were 16 and 18 inches. Take a look at the mouth of the 18 inch smallie in the picture I sent. Rubbed raw, obviously nesting. Never saw the nest otherwise I wouldn’t have made the cast. I’m sure she went back where she belonged. With no rain for weeks, the Fox River and the creeks that feed it are low. Hit a creek that was very low for this time of year and crystal clear. Large schools of River Redhorse were migrating upstream. In what was left of the deeper pools were smallies that wanted to play, even if it was just tug-of-war. Was interesting to be out, not sure how often that will happen. Was surprised though, I didn’t get bored.
Good to have a report from Gortowski again. And to have a photo from him, such as the one gracing the top of this report.
Pete Lamar emailed:
Hi Dale, Things improved significantly this past weekend, at least as far as numbers. I found water temperatures in the mid-60s at various locations on the Fox tribs. Smallmouth and rock bass were active. Most-but not all-were just average size. Even after the rain last week, water levels were still on the low side for this time of year; the rain we’re getting now will help. . . . Pete
GENEVA LAKE, WISCONSIN
Dave Duwe emailed:
Opening Day – Lake Geneva Unfortunately, just because May 1rd is almost here doesn’t mean that fishing season is in its prime on the big water. Being the largest and deepest lake in the county does have its disadvantages especially in early May. The water is still really cold and the fish are not very active. Most of the smallmouth bass are caught suspended, not associating with structure. They are actively chasing bait fish pods near their spawning flats. The best presentation is casting small hair jigs or throwing small jigs with twister tails. I like working the water depths of 12-15 ft of water. The best locations are by Knollwood, Elgin Club or over by Bigfoot beach. Most of the largemouth bass activity is related to shallow water, areas like Trinkes and Abbey Harbor are good choices. I like using All Terrain stiks (similar to Senkos) in green pumpkin color or a plastic worm Texas rigged. I work in depths of 4-5 ft of water. With the unusually cold spring, fishing for bass will really be tough for awhile. Pan fish are biting in the 4-6 ft of water depth. The yellow perch will be the most active and biting on small minnows or wax worms. I prefer using a slip bobber set up. The best location for the pan fish are by Knollwood or by Rainbow Point. Good Luck, I’ll see you on the water Opening Day! For guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 608-883-2050
GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN
Guide Mike Norris texted the photo above and emailed this:
Fishing Report 5/3/2021 Mike Norris Big Green Lake – Last Saturday’s gamefish opener was hampered by strong winds. Anglers who could make it into sheltered areas like Beyer’s Cove or the T-Channels had the best success. Big bluegills are lurking under piers at both locations, but you must get well beneath the pier to catch the bigger gills. Try casting upwind of the pier with a float with an ice jig tipped with waxworms. Let the wind push the float under the pier. Where you will find bluegills, expect largemouth bass to be nearby. Work the areas in between and just outside of the piers with a bladed jig for bass. Fox Lake – High winds over the weekend dirtied the water on this shallow lake but it should recover by mid-week. I expect largemouth bass to become active this week and will continue to work rocky points with swim jigs and bladed jigs. Northern pike are active now so try using a steel leader to save lures. Walleyes can be caught trolling worm harnesses in the Government Area. Lake Puckaway – Just about any species of fish can be caught in the river from the dam in Montello to the mouth of Lake Puckway. Try drifting downstream with the current while dragging 1/8 oz. jigs tipped with a half of a nightcrawler.
GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN
Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report.
Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay emailed this:
Good morning fellas. Here is a quick run-down on the fishing Bass fishing up in our neck of the woods is off to a pretty good start. The best areas up until this point have been from the Sturgeon Bay area south to Little Sturgeon where the water generally warms the quickest. Look for warm water pockets in whichever area you decide to fish along with sand to rock bottom transitions and fish those areas extremely slow. Best baits include….Howie’s Shorty tubes, Keitech paddle tails, Ned rigs along with suspending jerk baits like MegaBass and Lucky craft lures for example The Walleye fishing has been phenomenal in recent days/weeks and should continue to stay hot for the next few weeks if the weather pattern continues to hold. And once again, both shore fishermen and boat fishermen are getting in on the great fishing. And both the day and the night fishing has been good with the night fishing being classed as excellent right now. From Henderson’s Point south past Chaudoir’s Dock has been on fire especially for large quantities of Eater sized fish. And for the larger fish, fisherman generally concentrate their efforts from the Sandbay area north along the vast rocky shoreline of the Door peninsula. Casting and trolling suspending crank baits has been great along with casting Rippin Raps, large paddle tails, hair jigs and soaking/dragging medium and large sucker minnows Pike fishing has been great also. Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer Harbor, Riley’s Bay and Little Sturgeon all good spots to target Pike. Trolling and casting large crank baits, plastics and spoons along with soaking and dragging sucker minnows. Lake Trout fishing has also been outstanding from Sturgeon Bay south to Algoma. Fish are being caught as shallow as feet of water all way out to that 100 foot mark. A mix of crank baits, spoons and Howie Flies all taking their fair share of fish Thanks; Lance LaVine Howie’s Tackle 1309 Green Bay Rd Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235 Ph: 920-746-9916
Pete Riedesel (see Fishin Friend Guide Service on Facebook) texted on Wednesday:
Out on Heidecke. Nice conditions but can’t get bit
Then he followed it up with the photo below of his first fish on the first bite:
Open 6 a.m. (6:30 bank fishing) to sunset. Click here for the promising preview.
Victor Blackful emailed the photo below and this:
Hey Dale Well depending on how much rain we get the backwaters off the kankakee are still great fishing. Largemouth bass, crappie, and nice bluegill can be had on live and artificial baits. Always know there is a northern pike or two in the area as well. I will be out on the Fox this weekend and hopefully Hediakee will heat up by next week. Mr Blackful
Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.
Quinn Voss tweeted the photo above and this:
@BowmanOutside I know some fisherman who really wanted to get a scale on this Northern Island Smallie!
Yes, you could say that.
Jim Hall emailed the photo below and this:
Second picture is of me with my personal best smallmouth caught in Monroe Harbor on a soft plastic creature bait. She weighed 5lb on my digital scale. I caught only 3 fish in a few hours. One little chunk of a largemouth, one little smallie and then this pig!!
Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor texted:
Good morning DaleSalmon has been up and down it was pretty slow last week until Thursday and Friday when we got the northeast winds and few guys went out and they all got their limits. The weekend was really hard with those Southwest winds blowing so strong.I also heard there’s been some smallmouth being caught by the mouth of Diversey harbor.Have a great week.
Capt. Bob Poteshman of Confusion Charters said “crazy coho fishing up North (North Point)” slowed on Tuesday but coho are in 40-60 feet from Waukegan to North Point, some lakers from 30-200; very few coho from Chicago to Wilmette, but lakers are pretty good from 35-60, put out a smorgasbord for them.
Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan texted:
Cohos off the pier and on boats in 15 to 39 feet of water, a bit south of harbor. How ya feeling??
FYI, Salmon Stop’s lakefront bait shop is closed, the lease went to the deli.
Capt. Scott Wolfe emailed:
Hi Dale Waukegan boat fishing has been very good. Shallow waters are loaded with alewife in depths of less than 30 feet. Coho have dominated the catch, but some browns, chinook, lakers and steelhead have been taken as well. Our best fishing has been in 10 to 20 feet of water from Waukegan to Northpoint. We had brown trout in the teens to go with plenty of coho. 00 dodgers and flys have been the best on trolling boards. We didn’t see much of a preference for sizes or colors this week. It seemed like they were either eating or not and when they decided it was time to eat, they would hit just about anything. Very shallow downriggers 5 to 10 feet down with Warrior XL spoons in Orange and Pink patterns were taking the bonus fish. Trollers should check their lines for foul-hooked alewife, as that was happening a lot and killing action. Waukegan harbor saw coho and browns taken, with casters out producing the bait fishermen. There are plenty of alewife in the harbor for persons looking to catch them with Sabiki rigs for bait. Chicago and Wilmette had catches of mostly lake trout with a steelhead or coho here and there. Spoons were most effective in the patterns above and in larger blu/green patterns like Warrior UV Hey Babe. Capt. Scott Wolfe schooloffishcharters.com 630-341-0550
Open daily 6 a.m. to sunset. Click here for the preview of prospects.
MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN
Click here for the update from D&S Bait.
Both units are open for open-water fishing.
This morning Howard Bass emailed the photo above of conditions earlier last week that were much different for opening weekend, for which he emailed and is below:
A snowy April 26, mid 70s for the may 1st opener. Water temps 55.5°. Two days later and both air and water temps back to 49. (My favorite speed to drive and my favorite temperature ..Jim Harrisons Brown Dog). Walleye are definitely spawned out and the husky is chasing beat up musky out of five inches of water. Overnight temps still in the low to mid thirties with upper twenties in the overnight forecast for this week. Fry were filling the black bottom bays over the weekend. Bass, pike, panfish and walleye all biting jig and minnow until weather shifted yesterday.
Kurt Justice at Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua emailed:
A Nice Opener, that’s pretty much what the opinion has been about the start to the 2021 season. Overall good weather (sort of cool in the early AM, a bit windy) but warmed up and well attended! Lakes out performed Flowages to start the season. The very early ice out caused the Walleye spawn to finish early, with most of those who targeted spawning beds disappointed. On the subject of disappointment, despite the month of open water, weed growth is still sparse, Bad News/Good News – the Good News…it has a way to go, so lots of good May Walleye fishing still to come. Walleye: Good-Very Good – As earlier stated, some bodies of water, notably the Flowages, were poor. Anglers working lakes had very good success working 6-8’ depths with any type of new weed growth (as hard as it was to find). Using 1/16 oz weedless jigs tipped with Dace, large Fats and large Leeches action never seemed fast, but good catches brough in. On some larger lakes, a rock gravel bite was still going on. A bit larger minnow, black chubs or Walleye suckers were more effective. Crappies: Good – With air temps hitting upper 70’s, Crappie fishing got better and shallower by the afternoon/evening. Wind made afternoons a bit tough, but those out on the water able to hold did well in 3-5’ depths. Northern Pike: Good – Active bite on spinner baits, swim baits and jig and chubs. Not a lot of anglers targeting, but as Pike tend to do, they were willing to bite. Largemouth Bass: Good – Spinner baits worked well as water temps were on the rise Saturday. Still effective on Sunday, but a better bite on plastics such as Wacky Worms and jig/Sweet Beaver combos. Surface temps moved into the low to mid 50’s with Saturday’s temp. Forecast for more nights in the 30’s, highs in 50’s means temps will probably hover in the upper 40’s – low 50’s, delaying more weed growth, but spreading the bite out this month. Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop Like us on FaceBook
Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station texted the photo above and this: [More photos from recent fishing Triplecatch Charters on Facebook at] https://www.facebook.com/101988201418711/posts/304546711162858/?d=n Fishing Lake Michigan from burns ditch to Michigan city in 35 to 55ft of water gave up some good fish last week spoons and meat rigs being best baits Crappie bite at lake George in Hobart decent fishing around log jams and bridges using crappie minnows Willow slough for fisherman in boats moving around still doing good on gills and crappie jigs tipped with beemoth or redworms best using crickets for bait will get going real soon Valparaiso chain of lakes Loomis and long starting to give up decent catches of gills and red ears using jumbo red wigglers and beemoth must move around cover some water for a fair catch
BoRabb Williams messaged:
We have been killing the crappie at Willow Slough... Wolf and Calumet River
Christina Petrites at Stan’s Bait & Tackle Center in Hammond emailed:
Hi, Dale! Beautiful weather to enjoy & an extended report this week with local tournament results! Stay well... Fishing out on Lake Michigan from Hammond Marina up to St. Joseph is starting to get hot with more King Salmon showing up daily. Good catches of Coho & Lake Trout still remain strong. River fishermen are picking up a few Walleye while drifting nightcrawlers, using leeches, & trolling crankbaits. Inland lakes are still producing bluegill & crappie. Lake George is doing especially well, with consistently nice-sized catches. Catfish remain strong at local lakes & rivers, stinkbait, shrimp, & shad being the baits of choice. The big event took place in Michigan City this past weekend-The Hoosier Coho Club Classic-where 60+ boats took to Lake Michigan to try to win the tournament. It started on this past Friday’s shootout, with team Breaktime taking the win. This Saturday started out the two-day event, in which 40 amateur teams & 25 pro teams competed. The amateur event was won by team Underdog (Josh Wilson), followed by team Tangled Mess (Will Jun). The pro division was a slightly larger event where team Best Chance Too‘s Captain Dave Engel captured his 71st tournament win with teammate Charles Broadhurst, owner of the local Fishin’ Hole tackle shop in St. Joseph, MI; 2nd was team On Call (Claire Racine) followed by team Givin the Bird (Tom Early). One sad moment in the tournament occurred when team Charisma had boat troubles & the craft caught on fire & sank. All crew members were rescued by fellow anglers. Now the tournament trail is off to the port of St. Joseph.
ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN
Click here for the Wisconsin DNR’s report, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Proprietor Phil Schuman at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said boaters are catching lakers and small coho in 100-150 feet with an occasional king; walleye fishing begins in the river.
Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.
Site hours through Oct. 31 are 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Concessions are for sale and closed.
SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT
Click here for the southern Lake Michigan reports from the Wisconsin DNR.
WALWORTH COUNTY, WISCONSIN
Rob Abouchar emailed the photo above and this:
I was able to get to a bit of fishing paradise on Saturday at Farmer Bobs Farm in East Troy Wisconsin near good old Alpine Valley Music Theatre. Pulling off at the Bowers road exit brought back memories of the Grateful Dead concerts there in the 1980’s . The black cat running across the driveway,and Black cows as we entered the farm meant nothing to the fishing outcome. The action started fast and stayed steady, with an Aruku Shad, and continued with a Rapala Shadow Rap Jerk Bait in perch pattern. Other baits also landed bass with the best one coming on a green pumpkin Thunder Cricket with a white Seismic shad trailer. With the fish going I tried the ned rig and was successful landing Bass, Crappie, and a couple bluegills. Bubble gum pink was the color for the ned rig as well as a wacky rigged Senko. I landed several Crappie and one was a personal best without a doubt. The fish was hooked on a Shadow rap while trolling but the line was cut and lost so i thought.. As i was re-tieing my fishing partner landed his own fish and with it the line that was just broken by the trolling motor, and a giant Crappie was landed. Quite a double header. The bass were still prespawn and not on the beds yet. Tight lines and Good Health Rob
Alpine Valley, a memory I would expect from Rob.
WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN
Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:
Water temp is 59. Some white bass are moving shallow, and still a good walleye bite