Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report: Ice fishing, thickening ice and waiting on storm impacts

Ice fishing and thickening ice around Chicago fishing, with eye on what the impending storm will do, lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

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The starkness of the ice before anglers ventured out on Shabbona Lake Sunday. Credit: Dale Bowman

The starkness of the ice before anglers ventured out on Shabbona Lake Sunday.

Dale Bowman

Ice fishing and thick ice around Chicago fishing lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report, with an eye on what the impending possible heavy snows will do.

ICE FISHING

I’m a weather nut, but not a prophet. That’s a roundabout way of saying I am not sure what impact the impending storm will have on local ice fishing. If things go as forecast, there will be significant impact, as in very poor travel on the ice, in the south suburbs and northwest Indiana while the Chain O’Lakes and the northern suburbs should experience little impact.

The updated ice-fishing regulations for public sites around Chicago are posted hereFlyer 2022 (3).pdf

ICE FISHING DERBY

The Island Lake Lions Club Ice Fishing Derby is Saturday at Eastway Park in Island Lake. For more info, contact liongeoff@sbcglobal.net. Here is the flyer islandlakederbyFlyer 2022 (3).pdf.

AUGER SHARPENING

After 22 years, Fran Connelly is still 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).

NAVY PIER ANGLING

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

LAKEFRONT PARKING

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 Northerly Island Visitor Center.

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

PIER PASSES

The $6 pier passes, which allow legal access to select piers at most Jackson Park, Burnham, DuSable, Diversey, Belmont and Montrose harbors, may be bought at Henry’s Sports and Bait (cash only) and Northerly Island Visitor Center (credit-card only). A number of additional piers were added this year to bring the total to 31 piers.

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

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a good bluegill.

Provided

AREA LAKES

As noted above, I think the south suburbs and northwest Indiana are going to have tough travel on ice after the storm.

While the forecast suggests north and west should see relatively little impact after the storm on ice fishing.

Dicky’s Bait Shop in Montgomery reported ice fishing picked up, but still sporadic and variable, try whole and at other times just minnow heads; shiners and roaches sold most of this week to give an indication; and the usual wax worms and spikes.

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

Hey Dale, Here is a recap of this past weeks fishing. Area lakes-ice continues to build with 8 inches south and about 4 inches of snow on top.Ice is thicker North and West. Let’s hope we don’t get all the snow forecasted this week. Fingers crossed. The afternoon bite continues to be the best bet for numbers. Work bluegill in shallow weed flats during the early afternoon hours and go deeper to the outside weed edge late afternoon for the crappie bite. . . . Here is the nature pic if the week [below]. An afternoon gathering. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with his weekly nature photo. Provided photo

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with his weekly nature photo.

Provided

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

Closed. Reopens March 1.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Arden Katz was with Les Goldstein on Monday, “killing them” (bluegill and crappie) in 5 feet on tungsten jigs and red spikes on the south end of Channel Lake; on Saturday, Katz caught perch to 11 inches, too.

Tucker Siminak at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said anglers are getting good perch with crappie on Channel; crappie are generally 10-11 inches, unless you hit the window for bigger ones; for walleye, Pistakee, Marie and north end of Channel have been best; catfish on any lake in less than 8 of water.

ICE-FISHING ACCESS: Hermann’s Rest-A-While (Nielsen’s Channel), $5, food, drink; Choppers Bar and Grill (Channel), $5, taken off bill if you patronize; Sandbar Bar & Grille (Marie), $10 or patronize; Oak Park Lounge (Pistakee Bay), $5 ($10 with trailer), park in top or middle lots; The Boatyard (Marie), $5, dropbox or online; Musky Tales (Channel), $5, open 24 hours; Pelican Bay Marina (Marie), $5, dropbox, plowed lot.

COOLING LAKES

Braidwood, Heidecke and LaSalle are closed for the season.

DES PLAINES RIVER

Sean Whippo with a northern pike on the Des Plaines River. Provided photo

Sean Whippo with a northern pike on the Des Plaines River.

Provided

Sean Whippo emailed the photo above and this:

Dale, Hope you’re keeping well, and staying warm! In regards to the Des Plaines River, the majority of the Northern Stretches (roughly Wadsworth to Lincolnshire) have frozen over aside from a patchwork assembly of holes in faster running areas, and even those areas are largely ringed by ice a good 10 feet from the banks in most areas. This makes casting difficult, and landing any decent sized fish over the ice edges, a very tenuous task on a good day. Near the dams in the the central stretches there is open water, but again, largely ringed by ice. The Southern stretches as well have ice on the edges, but much more open water than the central and especially vs the Northern Stretches which are 95% capped now. Nonetheless, the river Pike bite continues, loyal fish that they are - though a solid 2 hour fishing window now hardly produces more than one bite at best - and unfortunately most quality fish gave moved into deeper stretches and the Des Plaines feeder lakes into deeper, warmer water. Aside from one strike & miss from a 33-34 class fish, I have not seen any gators above 27-28 in almost 3 weeks now - even during the brief warmup we had, though I’ve seen a few had here and there by others. As with most fish this time of the year, when the bite does come, it’s very very inaccurate, almost in slow motion - so unsurprisingly, all bites (10 or so the past 2 weeks on 5 outings, with 5 small jacks landed) have come on very slow sinking jointed swimbaits (Mike Bucca style) twitched 5-6 times per minute- painfully slow. Even the loyal Husky Jerks and other normally good producing jerk baits have yielded no bites, nor glides, etc. The one note, is that ALL bites have been in sunny, south facing pools in 2-3 feet of water. I have managed 4 small jacks (small, similar to the photos attached) in 5 outings, so they are indeed out there- and missed a few others - but unless we get a warm stretch of three 40ish+ days, I suspect the bite will continue as such until proper ice out. I anticipate a brief pre- spawn bite window - but this is usually immensely fleeting as all the decent sized (females) will be high tailing it to the shallow spawning beds very very shortly after ice out as per usual. And at that time I’ll hopefully be Coho fishing until the spawn ends haha, weather cooperating of course. Aside from the DPR, this time of year I don’t ice fish tons, but I’m aware good Pike are being caught regularly in the Lake county lakes and the Chain, as well as some quality Musky (45) being taken at some of the few Northern Lake County Musky lakes as well. Bangs Lake in particular, has produced some beastly Pike as of late through the ice interestingly, as it is usually only decent Pike fishing at best in Summer and Fall. Other than that, 4 good sources have also reported MANY quality walleye still being caught on open water below the Montgomery Dam on the Fox, and I’ve seen these sentiments echoes elsewhere on social media as well. Great recent Outdoors articles as always too Dale. Kind Regards, Sean Whippo

DOWNSTATE

POWERTON: Bank fishing is open. Winter hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Boat fishing reopens Feb. 15.

EMIQUON PRESERVE: Hours are sunrise to sunset. Access permits and liability waivers are required. They are available Tuesday to Saturday at Dickson Mounts Museum, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season. Check regulations at http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/dixon-paddling-fishing.

GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN

Guide Mike Norris emailed this:

Fishing Report – 1/30/2022 Mike Norris Big Green Lake – The bluegill bite with jigs and plastic is excellent right now. Try fishing in 8 – 10 feet of water in Dartmouth Bay. Same for lake trout in 90 - 120 feet of water around Sandstone Point on jigging spoons tipped with strips of cisco meat. Fox Lake – Angler’s fishing in Government Marsh and the Jug and catching bluegills jigging and northern pike on with tip-ups. Crappies are everywhere out in the middle of the lake but running on the small side. Lake Puckaway – Northern pike and walleye remains exceptionally good with jigs and tip-ups. Access the lake from Miller’s Resort along the south shore and try fishing the center of the lake just west of the Dredge Bank.

GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN

Reports from friends and requests to come along on trips indicate that they are fishing for whitefish out deeper, catches vary.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Closed. Reopens April 1.

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN

Arden Katz said by Sunday the water had cleared up and he went 2-for-4 with an Automatic Fisherman for brown trout of about 7 pounds.

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

It’s ice fishing, primarily in the harbors.

Gary Bloom messaged this update, which nicely captures the variability of ice fishing:

Fished Sunday at Montrose Harbour. My buddy and me. Found perch in 21 ft water. Ended with both getting limits. Fish 8-11 inches. Went yesterday too much sun. Fished same area, lots of fish but not biting. Did see 1 brown caught. Took home nothing. Wind was opposite too. There’s always a current running . Good ice, 8-10 inches. Rain coming, will melt snow. But refreeze will make more ice.

I think that note about current is important if you are ice fishing the harbors.

LaSALLE LAKE

Closed. Reopens March 15.

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

Click here for the update from D&S Bait.

Gene Dellinger at D&S Bait said perch are being caught on most lakes, notably Waubesa, Monona and Mendota; some walleyes at night on Mendota; some day walleye on Kegonsa and Waubesa; bluegill, down overall, best in Mud Lake.

Kyle Lamm and buddies with bounty from the Northwoods. Provided photo

Kyle Lamm and buddies with bounty from the Northwoods.

Provided

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

Kyle Lamm tweeted the photo to the left and this from a trip north:

Great Week of Fishing in Hayward, WI area. We found a lake where we could limit out on good sized crappie in a few hours. They were hitting jigs and spoons with wax worms, full minnows, or minnow tails. Check limits on each Lake. Our best Lake was 5 a day so we were sorting when we found good schools of Crappie. Also ran into slush issues getting our ATVs out onto Teal Lake using private access. Teal does not have public launch. Didn’t think we would find slush with all sub zero temperatures, but we did. Local ice fishing guides up there are having trouble finding fish on the Chippewa Flowage, which is the go to tourist fishing destination. We didn’t fish the Chip this year. We have a rotation of Lakes we try within an hour from Hayward.

I love the photo. The guys look like they belong in the Northwoods.

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

Finally, a reprieve from the sub-zero cold of the past few weeks.Wind let up over the weekend and the thermometer finally read into upper teens and low 20’s.Anglers got out and enjoyed some more comfortable time on the ice and reports improved. Northern Pike:Fair-Very Good – As the weekend hit (1/28 – 1/30) Pike went on the prowl and flags started poppin!Tip-ups and Jaw Jackers baited with golden shiners, river shiners and suckers took a lot of abuse as the warm spell seemed to be a dinner bell to Pike.Lots of fish in the mid 20 to low 30 range reported. Yellow Perch:Fair-Very Good – Flats just outside heavy weeds with some scattered vegetation in 7–11’ of water is a good place to find lots of action Perch right now.Unfortunately, a lot of sorting needs to be done to weed out some keepers.Better to target deeper mud if a meal is your plan.Work Pinhead, Hali or Pimples tipped with wigglers or red spikes.Tip-downs with small rosies help 12-16 off bottom in 18-28’ also working. Crappie:Fair-Good – Best over deep basins.Anglers finding suspended schools 4-15’ off the bottom in 18-40’ of water.Tip-downs action good when wind and temps allow. Largemouth Bass:Fair-Good – Liking the warm up, Bass actively taking medium shiners on tip-ups. Bluegill:Fair-Good – Getting more attention this weekend.Weed Gills require sorting through to get eaters.Waxies and mousees best.Look outside coontail edges of 12-16’ to find nicer Gills suspended 2-4’ off bottom taking tungsten jigs tipped with waxies Walleye:Poor – A few anglers catching Walleye after dark, but as far as catching where you can keep (NOT the Lake Tomahawk/Minocqua Chain) Walleye fishing remains slow. Ice conditions fairly good throughout.Most lakes have an average of 15-18.There are areas of slush, some as deep as 10 on top of 14-16 of ice, so try to be aware.Watch for slightly darker patches of snow.Despite all the sub-teen temperatures we’ve had, snow drifts have insulated some areas from building more ice and freezing up slush. Forecast for 1/31 and 2/1 looks good before more cold mid-week.Looks like a warming trend, not much, but back into teens and low 20’s for weekend. Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop - Like us on Facebook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Valpo chain lakes Loomis and long gives up fish first light and sundown. . . . Willow slough good for gills some days. Tip up action for bass using golden roaches pretty steady.

SHABBONA LAKE

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

Hey Dale, . . . Shabbona Lake-ice is about a foot with not much snow on top. Perfect ice conditions for staying mobile. Focus on brush piles and cribs for both bluegill and crappie. The mid-morning to early afternoon hours will produced the active biters to take your presentation. Best bait has been a tungsten jig tipped with a C & N Custom Baits jester. Best color has been white or pink. . . . TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

I hardily agree with his report, since I was ice fishing with him.

Concessions are closed, reopening April 1. Site hours for February are 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT

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

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said they are still fishing the part of the St. Joseph below Berrien Springs, put in at the dam or at Jasper Dairy; bluegills are going good in most lakes, which generally have fishable ice.

Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.

WOLF LAKE

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

. . . Wolf lake Illinois side has been giving up a few pike using golden roaches on tip ups. . . .

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

About 16 or more of ice on all lakes now. Winnebago is giving up mixed bags of walleye, white bass, and perch. You may have to work a little harder on Poygan.The upper lakes are still good for gills and northerns.

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