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Ice fishing the Chain O’Lakes: Many access options and parking details for the egalitarian pursuit

Some details on parking and where to access the Chain O’Lakes for ice fishing.

Bluegills on the Chain O’Lakes. Credit: Jason “Special One” Le
Bluegills on the Chain O’Lakes.
Jason “Special One” Le

Ice fishing sets up for good on the Chain O’Lakes.

The long-range forecast suggests it’s here for a long time on the longtime favorite ice-fishing destination around the Chicago area.

Ice fishing on the Chain is much more egalitarian for anglers. In the warmer months, those without boats are limited in spots to fish.

In ice fishing, those who are willing to walk or otherwise move around can access nearly the entire Chain. The keys are access points.

Here is an update of places to park and access the ice on the Chain:

Barnacle Bob’s was sold and became The Boatyard, but it remains a place to park and gain access to Lake Marie for $5. In a nod to the changing times, there is a dropbox for those my age and online options for the younger crowd.

Hermann’s Rest-A-While, on Nielsen’s Channel on the Fox River at Port Barrington, has its usual parking for $5 with food and drink right there.

One thing different this year — at least during the weekend — was some outstanding catches of yellow bass on Nielsen’s.

Arden Katz, who has been fishing Nielsen’s for decades, sorted through bluegills for keepers. But his big catch came with dozens of yellow bass, which were everything he could handle on 2-pound line. He used wax worms or red spikes on a small tungsten jig for bluegills, and regular spikes worked better for the yellow bass.

An ice angler on the Chain O’Lakes. Credit: Jason “Special One” Le
An ice angler on the Chain O’Lakes.
Jason “Special One” Le

At Chopper’s Bar and Grill on Channel Lake, it’s $5. Staff pointed out: ‘‘If they’d like their $5 back, they can come in and have a beer or some food, and the $5 will go toward the bill.’’

Personally, I think smart anglers would figure that out without being incentivized.

The details for Oak Park Lounge on Pistakee Bay are posted on Facebook as: ‘‘Parking is $5 and $10 with a trailer. You can pay in the bar or the Ramp Fee box by the boat launch. Ice fishing parking is on the top and middle lot. No ice fishing parking in main lot, as it is for bar customers.’’

There’s good ice on Lake Marie by the Sandbar Bar & Grille, where it is $10 to park or come in and eat.

One of the more popular options is parking at Musky Tales ($5, open 24 hours), the site of the former Mentone’s, to gain access to Channel Lake.

Pelican Bay Marina ($5 parking, dropbox) has a plowed lot and is a popular access point for Marie.

And one last thing, which I wish didn’t have to be reiterated, comes from the Oak Park Lounge’s posting: ‘‘Please respect the rules and throw your garbage in the dumpster. Tight lines.’’

Illinois hunting

The second part of the late-winter antlerless and CWD seasons are Friday through Sunday. Bowhunting for deer and turkey ends Sunday. I am curious what the final harvest numbers for deer will be.

Wild things

Nothing like snow cover and arctic cold to turn bird feeders into an avian crush, like it’s rush hour at Union Station.

Stray cast

If the Bears hire someone like Nick Saban, I will spend Sundays trying to spot my first least weasel in Illinois.