Building ice, ice fishing and ongoing lakefront perch

Building ice going into the holidays leads this sprawling, raw-file Midwest Fishing Report, but there’s also ongoing perch fishing on the Chicago lakefront.

SHARE Building ice, ice fishing and ongoing lakefront perch
Michael Dornfeld, 6, of Glen Ellyn, caught his first norther pike while ice fishing on Lake Puckaway in Wisconsin with his dad Courtney. Provided by Mike Norris

Michael Dornfeld, 6, of Glen Ellyn, caught his first norther pike while ice fishing on Lake Puckaway in Wisconsin with his dad Courtney.

Provided by Mike Norris

Building ice going into the holidays leads this sprawling, raw-file Midwest Fishing Report, but there’s also ongoing perch fishing on the Chicago lakefront.

Mike Norris sent the photo at the top and this:

6 yr old Michael Dornfeld and his dad Courtney from Glen Ellen, IL had two tip-up flags fly on Lake Puckaway this afternoon. Michael told his dad I’ll get this one and pulled in his first ever northern pike on a tip-up!

His full report is in the GREEN LAKE, WISCONSIN report


To the north, ice fishing is ongoing. It started on the Chain O’Lakes and the backwaters or the Fox River on Monday. I suspect over the rest of this week, we should see ice fishing become nearly universal. Unless of course, we end up with a foot and a half of snow on top of the ice.

Ice conditions at a protected lake Tuesday. Provided by Pete Lamar

Ice conditions at a protected lake Tuesday.

Provided by Pete Lamar

Pete Lamar emailed the photo above and this midday Tuesday:

Hi Dale,

I didn’t get wet, but I’m going to wait a few days before going back out on the ice, it wasn’t much more than a couple of inches thick. That was an unpleasant surprise after several days below freezing. This particular pond has several things in its favor as far as ice formation: as can be seen in the attached image, the pond is located at the bottom of a depression, so it’s out of the wind; it’s small; there are neither beavers nor waterfowl. If this place is barely two inches thick, I wouldn’t want to be out on bigger water or a lake with a lot of waterfowl activity.

I cut half a dozen holes and fished by jigging a Swedish pimple and suspending a Mini Mite tipped with a Berkeley Powerbait under a float. Neither tactics was productive.


On Monday, the updated ice-fishing regulations for public sites around Chicago were posted here.

Otherwise, there are ice updates in most reports.


For the 23rd year, Fran Connelly is sharpening of auger blades. Find “Ice Auger Sharpening” on Facebook or drop off blades at either Lee’s Bait & Tackle (Elk Grove Village or Carol Stream).


A good catch of good perch from the Calumet River. Credit: Derek Brownewell

A good catch of good perch from the Calumet River.

Derek Brownewell

Derek Brownewell emailed the photo above and this:

Hi Dale, enjoy reading the column, keep up the great work, wanted to share some info on the Calumet system for perch. Fishing has been decent depending on the day, caught a ton of little ones plus some keepers today, as well as some fish lost and missed bites. We were in the river by boat. I’ll attach a pic of my share of the catch. . . . Hope all is well and Happy Holidays! Derek

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

Still lots of perch being caught from shore and boat fisherman seems like 87th and way up river best but action here and there at other spots

Wish I had a clue what the incoming weather will do to perch fishing.


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


Chicago Park District’s parking passes ($20 for two months) for the anglers’ parking lots at DuSable and Burnham harbors are on sale at the Northerly Island Visitor Center (credit card only, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday), but call (312) 745-2910 first to make sure someone is there.

My column from Nov. 30, 2022, on parking the length of the Chicago lakefront is posted at


The $10 pier passes, which allow legal access to select piers at Jackson Park, Burnham, DuSable, Diversey, Belmont and Montrose harbors, may be bought at Northerly Island Visitor Center (credit-card only, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday), but call (312) 745-2910 first to make sure someone is there.


Waiting on ice fishing.

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

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this past weeks fishing

Area lakes- waiting

Here is an updated ice report for IL. Ponds and backwater areas wind protected locked up Saturday night into Sunday. Smaller lakes locked up last night into this morning. Ice will continue to build with this weeks forecast.

The wildcard will be Thursday and Friday and whether that storm hits us. Fingers crossed on that one.

**Use extreme caution when checking first ice**


Ken Husker O’Malley

Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team


Perch fishing is going in the river.


On Monday, staff at Hermann’s Rest-A-While on Nielsen’s Channel off the Fox River in Port Barrington said three guys were on the back section.

Art Frisell at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said still pretty iffy on the ice conditions Tuesday morning, but it should change rapidly. “We’re almost there. Once we get more ice, the bluegills will be in thick. Crappie will be right in there with them. First ice is the time for big walleye.”

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

NOTE 2: Stratton Lock and Dam is closed through April 30, 2023.

ICE-FISHING ACCESS: Here are the options I’ve confirmed so far for accessing ice fishing on the Chain: Choppers Bar and Grill (Channel), $5, taken off bill if you patronize; Sandbar Bar & Grille (Marie), $10 or patronize; The Boatyard (Marie), $5, dropbox or online, call ahead for bait and/or snacks; Hermann’s Rest-A-While (Nielsen’s Channel), $5, food, drink; Lily Bug Acres (channel between Bluff and Spring), $5, bait shop, maybe a shuttle service later in the season.


Heidecke, LaSalle, Braidwood and Mazonia (except Monster Lake is open all year) are closed.


POWERTON: Bank fishing reopens Sunday, Dec. 25. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

EMIQUON PRESERVE: Randy Smith, Illinois River Project Manager for The Nature Conservancy, emailed;

Anglers can access the lake after 12:00 PM during duck season (ends 12/27 in the Central Zone).

We don’t offer public goose hunting at Emiquon, so anglers can begin accessing the lake sunrise to sunset beginning on 12/28.

As a reminder, anglers and other users need an access permit. These are available at Dickson Mounds Museum during their normal hours of operation, and expire on 12/31, thus, users will need a new permit for access in 2023.

There are still a couple blow-holes being used by geese and swans on the lake right now, but I expect the forecast lows the next couple nights will add significant ice.

SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.

SPRING LAKE: Site superintendent Thad Cook emailed:

Bank fishing and boat fishing at Spring Lake after 1:00 during the late Canada Goose season.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season.


Guide Mike Norris texted the photo above and emailed this:

Fishing Report – 12/19/2021

Mike Norris

Big Green Lake – Frigid air arrived in central Wisconsin last weekend but brisk winds that accompanied the colder temperatures kept many of the area lakes from freezing over. With lighter winds predicted for the early part of this week we should see firm ice form in Beyer’s Cover and in Dartmouth Bay. Both areas are known for big bluegills at first ice up. The main lake on Big Green is still wide open and should remain that way into January. A major snowstorm predicted for later this week may shut down the boat launches though and if heavy snow falls upon the thin ice, it will hamper additional ice formation.

Fox Lake – The main body of the lake froze over last Sunday evening and hard water anglers are venturing into Wedges Bay to target northern pike with medium shiners hung beneath tip ups. Bluegill anglers will venture into the area known as The Jug with jigs tipped with spikes.

Lake Puckaway – There is four inches of ice close to shore, but exercise caution when out because the middle of the lake just froze over Sunday evening. Ice anglers are catching walleyes and northern pike with medium shiners hung beneath tip ups.


Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.


See perch report at the top.

Park Bait at Montrose Harbor is closed for the season, but Stacey Greene at texted:

If you want to add that guys that can’t get to northerly island for pure passes or parking passes they Can message me through Facebook and I can try to set something up with meeting them

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).


There is ice fishing going. Click here for the update from D&S Bait, Tackle & Fly Shop .


Closed, except Monster Lake is open all year. Other lakes will reopen after duck season, so reopening on the Dec. 28th.

Hours are 6 a.m. to sunset.


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

If we’d had our choice, we would rather have had this week’s weather last week. We could have used some real cold to build our ice base up to support the weight of last week’s rain/snow storm. As it is, we don’t get to choose, so while we didn’t lose ice (still avg 5-9 as of this writing 12/19). We now have to cope with 4-6 of water and slush atop the ice with a couple inches of snow on top for good measure. Ice still accessible, by foot, but not without some effort. While snowmobiles and ATVs have been out on the ice in places, slush tough on tracked vehicles.

Northern Pike: Good – The preferred targeted species this week as setting a few tip-ups and waiting preferred to drilling a bunch of holes, wandering through the slush searching for panfish. Suckers and shiners, the bigger the better. Reports of a better early afternoon bite, probably picked up after the lull of the storm

Crappie: Good – Bite slowed day after storm, yet improved as time passed thru the weekend. Still holding in tall, green weeds of 8-12’. Location in the weeds dependent of barometer. High or very low – Crappies holding tight to bottom. As pressure changes, watch for movement 3 to as much as 8’ off bottom. Crappie minnows on dead sticks or tip-downs. Slow dropping jigs tipped with white, pink, yellow or silver plastic when wind allows.

Walleye: Good – Not like earlier, but still decent. Best on 2-3 suckers or wild golden shiners. Jigging the new Euro Tackle Z-Darters, Clam Tikka Mino and Northland Puppet Minnows tipped with a minnow head (center hook) have also been worth spending time using. Most evening activity in 8-12’, yet a shift to somewhat deeper water of 14-20’ is also occurring.

Perch: Good – Scattered Perch in cabbage flats of 6-8’ taking Vinglas tipped with waxies. Outside weed edges of 12-14’ use VMC Bull Spoons tipped with spikes.

Bluegill: Good-Fair – Most not willing to punch a lot of holes in the slop until it freezes. Till then, use small 2.5-3mm tungsten jigs tipped with waxies or spikes to tempt mid-morning bites from Gills in 6-10’ weeds. Late afternoons have offered up a nice, but short bite window also.

Largemouth Bass: Fair – Hadn’t had many reports. Few targeting. Most caught accidentally jigging for Perch or Gills or on tip-ups for Pike.

We do have some cold nights ahead this week. Hopefully, the sub-zero temps will get down and firm up the layer of slush laying over the ice. Single digit highs for Fri/Sat/Sun should also help. Ice conditions have held at the 5-9 range. Walking is recommended, though there has been some ATV and UTV use out there.

To all of our loyal followers, we hope this Christmas Season finds everyone happy, safe and healthy.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop - Like us on Facebook


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

Still lots of perch being caught from shore and boat fisherman seems like 87th and way up river best but action here and there at other spots

Steelhead picking up In nwi tributaries voodoo jigs tipped with waxworms best but some on spawn saks

Lots of groups waiting on ice fishing around here to start up

Slez’s Bait Shop will be open 5am till noon on Christmas Day. Ice stuff loaded in bait shop come take a look.


Site winter hours—through Jan. 31—are 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Boondocks is closed


Proprietor Phil Schuman at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said there’s good steelhead in the St. Joseph River midway to Berrien Springs; but water levels remain very low.

Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.


Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

Fishermen are still walking out on area bayous and lakes. Very cold temps and near blizzard conditions predicted for Thursday and Friday. Should be better after

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