Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report: Heidecke/smelt/inland trout openers, coho, browns, steelhead

Openers lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report with smelt netting in Chicago and Heidecke Lake opening on Friday, then inland trout opening on Saturday.

SHARE Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report: Heidecke/smelt/inland trout openers, coho, browns, steelhead
File photo of dawn at Heidecke Lake on opening day.

File photo of dawn at Heidecke Lake on opening day.

Dale Bowman

Openers lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report with smelt netting in Chicago and Heidecke Lake opening on Friday, April 1, then inland trout opening on Saturday, April 2.

A bonus report comes from Venice, Louisiana.

LICENSES

New fishing licenses are needed for the four Lake Michigan states—Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin—as of Friday, April 1.

ILLINOIS’ SPRING TROUT

Spring trout season for catchable rainbow trout opens Saturday, April 2. As usual, anglers 16 and older need an inland trout stamp and a fishing license. Daily bag is five trout.

The nearby sites included (Cook County): Axehead, Belleau, Green, Horsetail, Sag Quarry East, Wolf Lake at William Powers SRA; (DuPage): Silver, Pickerel, Grove; (Kankakee): Bird Park Quarry, Rock Creek; (Kendall): Big Lake at Silver Springs SFWA; (Lake): Sand Lake at Illinois Beach SP; (McHenry): Lake Atwood, Piscasaw Creek; (Will): Lake Milliken at Des Plaines SFWA.

Click here to read statewide information.

HEIDECKE LAKE

The former cooling lake near Morris reopens to fishing on Friday, April 1. District biologist Seth Love said overall he expects crappie, walleye, bluegill and muskie to be the prime species this spring. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are not stars, but they improved. Hybrids, especially the size, looked pretty good. Channel catfish continue to decline.

SMELT

Smelt season begins Friday and runs through April 30. Chicago Park District regulations remain the same—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. The park district’s informational card is available from Henry’s Sports and Bait, Park Bait and The Northerly Island Visitor Center. See the column Wednesday for a tiny wisp of hope on smelt in Lake Michigan.

NAVY PIER 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.

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, Park Bait at Montrose Harbor, and the 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

Pier passes are good through Thursday, March 31, then the gates are chained until boating season in May.

AREA LAKES

Weather has limited efforts, then this week the focus will be on the opening of spring trout (see above).

Ron Urick with a really big largemouth bass caught and released in northern Illinois Friday. Provided photo

Ron Urick with a really big largemouth bass caught and released in northern Illinois Friday.

Provided

Ron Urick texted the photo above and this:

The big girl in the photos was caught Friday March 25th, 2022 on the lake we fished together—I never reveal the lake location on my posts. She weighed 6.50 on my certified Major League Fishing scale. Bitsy Bug black blue 1/16 ounce w mini pork fooled her. Released immediately after photo.

His book, based on his teaching day, “Teaching with Heart,” is doing well on Amazon. The lake he mentioned is one we fished in the fall of 2019 when he was nearing finishing his book and I did a column on his tournament fishing and teaching life.

Rob Abouchar with a cold-weather largemouth bass from Island Lake. Provided photo

Rob Abouchar with a cold-weather largemouth bass from Island Lake.

Provided

Weather didn’t deter Rob Abouchar who sent the photo above and this Tuesday morning:

Hi Dale I’m out on island lake early and having a great morning.Water temps in low 40s have pre spawn largemouth hitting slowly retrieved hard baits in 5 feet of water around sparse grass. A shadow rap, shadow rap shad, and Arucu lipless crank are being engulfed by healthy largies.The ice freezing in the rod guides is tolerable when its dream day fishing . On the music front the April 16th gig is now a recording session for my original reggae music. The fact that I need to register with ASCAP is really hitting home things are getting real. Still the dream is out there! Tight line and good health! Rob

I love that the fishing report includes a musician who needs to be in the register with ASCAP.

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

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a spring crappie.

Provided

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-prior to the unseasonably cold temps hitting, crappie were starting to heat up. Active biters were moving up to the inside weedlines on sunny days. Best bait has been plastics worked under a slip float. Since the cold front hit, they have moved back into the main basin. A few active biters can be caught slowly working a minnow bait. Bass have generally been slow. A few smaller bass can be caught on lipless crankbaits. Here is the nature pic of the week [below]. Sunset travels courtesy of TJ O’Malley. TTYL — Ken Husker O’Malley Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team
Sunset while traveling, nature photo of the week. Credit: T. J. O’Malley

Sunset while traveling, nature photo of the week.

T. J. O’Malley

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

Open daily 6 a.m.-sunset.

District fisheries biologistSeth Lovewould like to hear from anglers on hybrid catches at Braidwood. You can email him atseth.love@illinois.gov.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Proprietor Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said the good news is the water came up; he said you probably could catch some walleye; for crappie, with the up-and-down weather, best to start deep and work shallow; some catfish on minnows.

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

CHICAGO RIVER

Jesse Gonzalez with a good carp from the Chicago River. Provided by Jeffrey Williams

Jesse Gonzalez with a good carp from the Chicago River.

Provided by Jeffrey Williams

Jeffrey Williams messaged the photo above and this on Thursday:

and of course me and my brother catch fish out of the river after ur report came out he caught 2 carp, i caught 2 carp and he caught 2 white bass

COOLING LAKES

Braidwood and LaSalle are open daily 6 a.m.-sunset.

Heidecke reopens Friday, April 1.

DOWNSTATE

EMIQUON PRESERVE: The site reopened Friday after being closed temporarily for possible avian influenza. 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.

POWERTON: Boat and bank fishing is open. Winter hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

SHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Reopens May 15. Check regulations at http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/dixon-paddling-fishing.

GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN

Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay emailed this:

Morning fellas.Here is a super quick update as we transition from ice to open water. The late season Walleye bite has been good as it usually is as the ice melts away.With that said, anglers that do venture out should use extreme caution and definitely be prepared for it.Little Sturgeon, Rileys Bay, Sandbay along with Sawyer Harbor are all favorite spots to target last ice Walleyes.Oddball jigs and Rapala jigs tipped with minnows definitely the go-to bait at this time There are still some near shore Whitefish opportunities throughout the county.Be 100% aware of wind direction at all times as that ice can separate and push away from shore which we say all the time.Goby style jig heads tipped with plastics are a must have for the Whitey’s The Pike fishing has been outstanding all year and will continue right through ice-out.The 3 shallow bays mentioned above are target areas as those Pike move shallow to spawn. There have been some decent Brown Trout reports both on the ice and open water.Fishermen are targeting Browns via ice on the Bayside of the peninsula and by boat on the Lakeside.Shiners under tip ups and auto fishermen via ice and trolling and casting the shallows on the lake.Look for warmer water pocket, stained water and creek mouths And there has been a decent early run of Steelhead in the Lake Michigan tributaries in recent days.And with more rain in the forecast, more fish should be following.Drifting spawn generally the main method there Thanks; Lance LaVine Howie’s Tackle 1309 Green Bay Rd Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235 Ph: 920-746-9916

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report, though I haven’t seen one recently.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Reopens Friday, April 1. See brief preview at top.

Hours are 6 a.m. to sunset daily.

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

An artful shot of the Chicago skyline with a powerline set-up. Credit: Jason “Special One” Le

An artful shot of the Chicago skyline with a powerline set-up.

Jason “Special One” Le

Jason “Special One” Le texted the photos above and below on Sunday, and this:

Everyone is catching now
Jason “Special One” Le with a coho on the Chicago lakefront Sunday. Provided photo

Jason “Special One” Le with a coho on the Chicago lakefront Sunday.

Provided

Arden Katz went to 89th over the weekend and “perch are still in there.” On Sunday, there were more small ones than on Saturday. He uses double Mini-Mites with spikes and a weight on the bottom.

Steve Palmisano at Henry’s Sports and Bait texted:

Sounds like coho picked up on the southside, not many perch reports as of late. Take care

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor texted:

Morning DaleThe last 3 days with those northerly winds have the coho doing really good. Lots of limits. Nightcrawlers and large minnows. A few Browns and Steelhead in the mix.Looks as though the weather is going to be a little up-and-down guys are just gonna have to keep an eye on those north/easterly windsNobody I know in my area is fishing for perch but I do know the South side is still active for perch.Our hours this week are still 5am to 5pm. Starting Friday April 1st we will stay open till 7pm. Not anticipating smelt but here’s to hoping.

Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan said the coho, despite the cold, are good, especially for powerliners. Shop will soon expand hours to six or seven days a week.

LaSALLE LAKE

Pete Riedesel with an early-season blue catfish from LaSalle Lake. Provided photo

Pete Riedesel with an early-season blue catfish from LaSalle Lake.

Provided

Pete Riedesel of Fishin Friend Guide Service texted the photo above of an early outing.

Site is open daily 6 a.m.-sunset. As a perched lake, boating is closed when winds top or will top 14 mph. Check daily updates on boating at a new number, (815) 640-8099.

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

Click here for the update from D&S Bait.

Pat Hasburgh at D&S Bait said lakes are basically ice free and launches open.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

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

With windy, cold temps this past weekend, few reports coming in.The ones we got reported quality fish.A warm up coming in the next few days should get some more anglers out. Yellow Perch:Good-Very Good – Lack of deep Perch being reported but fish being found in 8-12’ near weed edges.Medium fatheads and rosies best bet.Don’t be afraid to try wigglers as well. Bluegill:Good-Very Good – Weeds seeming to be key to finding Gills.Waxies, spikes best on jigs (Swedish, Pimples or Halis).Reports of shallow (4-8’) big Gills starting to come in. Crappie:Good – With fish hanging around shallow spots with weeds Crappies found in 6-10’ are being caught mixed in with Gills.Basin fishing still producing as well.A couple reports of 14+ fish.Shallow using jig tipped with waxie, spikes or plastics working best while action on rosies doing the trick for deep fish. Plenty of ice yet as much as 30.With cold nights and few warm up windows expect ice to stick around for a while longer With our fearless leader’s vacation coming to a quick end, the Boss is gone sale will be too.Only a couple days left for some great deals. Kurt Justice Kurt’s Island Sport Shop - Like us on Facebook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Ben Dickinson posted on Facebook Friday:

BIG numbers of steelhead moving into Indiana waters of the St Joe. 3000 last week alone, and 6000 in March so far. At this pace, might set the all time March record of 8,367 set in 2000!

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

Perch action still pretty good most days fishing the slips and parts of the river. Boat action for coho when weather allows up and down the wall in east Chicago and around Gary light. Must put the time in and cover some water. Crappie on lake George and hidden lake in Hobart. Crappie minnows and Rufus jr jigs tipped with beemoth best.

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

Hi, Dale! The fluctuating weather has proved challenging for anglers, but the warm-up seems steady & is happily anticipated. Here’s what’s been happening in the fishing world: Trolling on Lake Michigan for Coho has been very good, when anglers can get out. Coho shore line fishing in 6-20 FOW is the best bet. Nice catches have been had. Anglers are using ThinFish & jointed Rapalas. The Steelhead river fishing has slowed down & is about done. East to the St. Joseph River, anglers are having the best success by the Berrien Springs Dam. Some inland lakes are producing nice catches of Crappie on minnows & red worms. Catfish are starting up again. Dowling Park & Hammond Marina have been producing good catches as of late. Stinkbait & nightcrawlers are working well after the long winter.

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR’s report, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday; it should start soon.

SHABBONA LAKE

In March, site hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. On Friday, April 1, summer hours return: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Concessions reopen Friday, April 1.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT

Click here for the southern Lake Michigan reports from the Wisconsin DNR; they should start soon.

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said said boaters are doing best south of St. Joe for coho; pier is hit ad miss.

Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.

Art Costas and some good redfish in Venice, Louisiana.  Provided photo

Art Costas and some good redfish in Venice, Louisiana.

Provided

VENICE, LOUISIANA

Art Costas sent the photo above and this:

Catching some big Red Fish in Venice, Louisiana

I enjoy a report like that every now and then; and that happens to be a trip I want to take one of these years.

Plus Art Costas is a faithful reader.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted:

The walleye bite is getting better day to day. Water temp is still in the low 30’s with nighttime lows in the teens and low twenty’s. Next week should reallyget the fish going, with a promise of warm weather.

Later in the morning, he texted the photo below and this:

This morning 9 to 11
Guide Bill Stoeger (right) shows what he means about the walleye on the Wolf River. Provided photo

Guide Bill Stoeger (right) shows what he means about the walleye on the Wolf River.

Provided

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