Hurry and get ice fishing in while you can

Coho starting on southern Lake Michigan and getting ice fishing in while you can around Chicago fishing lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

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An evening scene over the ice.

An evening scene over the ice.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley

Coho starting on southern Lake Michigan and getting ice fishing in while you can around Chicago lead this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley emailed the photo at the top and described it as “nearing closing time.” That title works on multiple levels as reports show this week.

STURGEON SPEARING, WINNEBAGO SYSTEM, WISCONSIN

Sturgeon spearing season on the Winnebago System opens Saturday, Feb. 11. Previous permits required. Ice conditions will impact how things go with truck travel off the board in many places, see Bill Stoeger’s report in the “WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN” report at the very bottom.

The Wisconsin DNR sent an update this morning that included this:

Season Predictions

The sturgeon spearing season length is usually dictated in part by water clarity of the Upriver Lakes and Lake Winnebago. Warmer temperatures this winter prevented biologists from safely conducting water clarity assessments until this week. There is an average of 13.0 feet of water clarity around Lake Winnebago with generally clearer water on the eastern shores as well as farther from shores along the west side of the lake.

With better water clarity this year, we should see a good harvest, though the warm weather could deteriorate ice conditions which may reduce spearing success. Recorded low chironomid densities (lake fly larvae/red worms) this year may also impact sturgeon distribution around Lake Winnebago.

Spearers can find the full water clarity report, season forecast and daily harvest updates on the Winnebago System sturgeon spearing webpage and by signing up for email updates.

ICE FISHING

Depending where you are ice fishing is over or about to be while to the north it goes on and will be for a good while. Updates are in the individual reports. The updated ice-fishing regulations for public sites around Chicago are posted here.

AUGER SHARPENING

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).

LAKEFRONT PERCH

Even with the challenge of having to bust holes some days, this is still the big thing around the South Side slips and the Calumet system.

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

Perch still steady most days at the slips even when you had to bust a hole thru the ice.

The average size in the perch has definitely went up some good perch being caught the last few days.

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 ($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 https://chicago.suntimes.com/2022/11/30/23485385/chicago-lakefront-parking-fishing

PIER PASSES

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.

AREA LAKES

Again wildly varying conditions of ice from north to south. South is done or about to be for ice fishing, while northern areas have enough ice to last even through some rain and warmth.

One of Dave’s Bait and Tackle employees on the ice Monday afternoon with 12 inches of ice. Provided by Dave Kranz

One of Dave’s Bait and Tackle employees on the ice Monday afternoon with 12 inches of ice.

Provided by Dave Kranz

Dave Kranz of Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake and with his You-Tube channel, Dave Kranz Living the wild outdoors, texted the photo above and this:

One of Dave’s Bait and Tackle employees on the ice Monday afternoon 2/6/238-12 of ice yesterday. I’m going out today after work for panfish and the early morning and afternoon bite continues to be good. Back channels and local lakes all reported 7 inches of ice or more.

He added this perspective for northern areas.

Screen shot of forecast for the coming days around Crystal Lake. Provided by Dave Kranz

Screen shot of forecast for the coming days around Crystal Lake.

Provided by Dave Kranz

Nothing that’s taking away 8-12 inches of ice.

Got that right. Different story south.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a largemouth bass caught while ice fishing south. Provided photo

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a largemouth bass from ice fishing south.

Provided

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

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap if this weeks fishing.

The second first ice season is upon us. Lakes south of I-80 have 5-6 inches of clear ice. Get out and fish as much as you can. Unfortunately it may not last very long based on this weeks forecast.

Bass have been decent on tip ups setup along the deep weed edges. A few can be taken by jigging a pinhead mino as well.

Bluegill and crappie have been excellent on a variety of plastics worked in the main basin. The new lil chubby by IJO plastics was hands down the best. Staying mobile and drilling as many holes as possible in order to move with the fish was key. The sunny high skies we had over the weekend called for a flip over shelter for added cover made all the difference in the bite as we lost the little snow cover the ice had.

. . .

TTYL

Ken Husker O’Malley

Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a crappie  while ice fishing south. Provided photo

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a crappie while ice fishing south.

Provided

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

Closed. Scheduled to reopen March 1.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Jason “Special One” Le texted the YouTube video above and this from Channel Lake over the weekend.

That’s spreading the word of ice fishing on the Chain.

Arden Katz reported very good bluegill Tuesday on the south end of Channel in 4-6 feet of water.

Proprietor Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said there will be ice fishing through the weekend, obviously use caution.

ICE-FISHING ACCESS: Some options: 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 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; Musky Tales (Channel), $5 includes trailers, open 24 hours, bait shop currently closed during renovations; Pelican Bay Marina (Marie), $5, dropbox, plowed and lighted lot; Oak Park Lounge (Pistakee Bay), $5 ($10 with trailer), park in top or middle lots.

COOLING LAKES

Heidecke, LaSalle and Braidwood are closed.

DOWNSTATE

POWERTON: Boat fishing reopens next Wednesday, Feb. 15. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Bank fishing is open daily.

EMIQUON PRESERVE: Fishing is sunrise to sunset. Remember you now need 2023 access permits and liability waivers.. 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.

SPRING LAKE: With close of Canada goose season, returned to normal hours.

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for the season.

DuPAGE RIVER

Capt. A.J. Cwiok with a good smallmouth bass in winter from the DuPage River. Provided photo

Capt. A.J. Cwiok with a good smallmouth bass in winter from the DuPage River.

Provided

Capt. A.J. Cwiok was apparently back patrolling home waters, he emailed the photo above and this on Thursday:

Dupage gold

FLORIDA

George Peters with a big largemouth bass from southern Florida. Provided photo

George Peters with a big largemouth bass from southern Florida.

Provided

George Peters emailed the photo above and this:

Greetings from so. Florida! Got this 24 [inch] 8-pound plus on a yum craw in a local pond. No ice down here! G. Peters

GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN

Mason Koerner of Slinger, WIsconsin, caught this 38-inch northern pike on Lake Puckaway last weekend. Provided by Mike Norris

Mason Koerner of Slinger, WIsconsin, caught this 38-inch northern pike on Lake Puckaway last weekend.

Provided by Mike Norris

Guide Mike Norris texted the photo above and emailed this:

Fishing Report – 2/6/2023

Mike Norris

Big Green – Lasts week’s frigid weather started to freeze over the main section of the lake, but warmer weather this week may put an end to that. The only safe areas to walk out on now are Dartmouth Bay, Beyers Cove and the very wet end of Quimby Bay. Each location has approximately five inches of ice. The bluegill bite is good in Dartmouth Bay, but it’s an early morning or dusk bite. Beyer’s Cove is full of small perch, but the bluegills have disappeared. Quimby Bay is good for northern pike and an occasional walleye.

Lake Puckaway – Northern pike and walleye continue to be the main attraction for ice anglers, several whom are now driving vehicles out on the ice which is ten inches thick. The most action is in the western basin of the lake, not too far off Good Old Days or the DNR boat launch. One angler caught a thirty-eight inch northern pike with a shiner on a tip-up last weekend.

Fox Lake – Fox Lake had thirteen inches of ice as of last weekend, and with fishing derbies taking place on the lake anglers were driving vehicles everywhere. Crappies up to thirteen inches, walleyes up to twenty-one inches, and northern pike to thirty-three inches where registered the in the derby.

GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN

Staff at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay said ice is not safe for fishing the usual spots for whitefish. Stay tuned.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Closed. Scheduled to reopen April 1.

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

Perch at the top. Some lake trout continue to be mixed in with the perch catches. Considering how relatively warm Lake Michigan in and the early coho report out of Indiana, might be worth trying off Chicago.

Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan texted:

Decent ice reports, but I’m sure you’ve heard that. I’ve talked to some friends, some trout off the pier.

LaSALLE LAKE

Closed. Scheduled to reopen March 15.

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

Click here for the update from D&S Bait, Tackle & Fly Shop .

MAZONIA

See the Fish of the Week, which Mark Kawa caught Saturday. He emailed, “Ice was 3.5 to 4.5 inches, but some areas much thinner due to geese.” That was two days ago and conditions continue to deteriorate.

Jon Meder at Jon’s Bait & Tackle Shop in East Brooklyn said they got lots of ice fishing on Saturday, but ice conditions deteriorated rapidly and ice fishing is likely not coming back this season.

Any ice fishing is at your own risk.

Hours are 6 a.m. to sunset.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

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

The arctic blast from last week and crazy winds of last Thursday were actually a blessing to ice anglers. The wind took a lot of top snow off ice and slush dried up very well on most lakes and ice thickness has increased!

Checking ice and travel conditions throughout parts of the Lakeland area saw much improved travel conditions. ATV/UTV travel, untracked, was good. Measurements of 17-19 of ice must be taken with a grain of sale. Some lakes showed good ice while others were layered with some having two layers of gray crumbly ice over 12-14 of good solid ice.

Yellow Perch: Good – Lots of activity over mud in 22-35’. #’s high, but size need sorting. Fast dropping Hali jigs tipped with wigglers or spikes. Larger Perch found cruising weed flats of 6-10’. Hungry for meat, these Perch more likely to take medium fatheads or rattle spoons with waxies.

Bluegill: Good – Responding well to warm up. Gills being caught using #3 Fiskas tipped with waxies or plastic tails in white, red, purple and motor oil. Fishing weeds and edges of 8-12’.

Crappie: Good – Two locations. Mixed in with Gills in 10-12’ taking small minnows below tip-downs or slow dropping Lethal Cecils or Shrimpos tipped with waxies. Also being caught suspended 4-8’ off the bottom over deep basins of 24-38’. Small glow rattle spoons tipped with waxies or tip-downs baited with small crappie minnows or rosies!

Northern Pike: Fair-Good – Some pick-ups along weed edges of 6-14’. Bite slower than it had been. Check tip-ups often, lifting then dropping bait to get shiners and suckers to move around and help entice strikes.

Walleye: Poor-Fair – Windows of activity seem small. First light and dusk. Smaller baits better as Walleyes in negative feeding moods not as likely to go big. Subtle and smaller. Weed edges at dawn as Walleyes moving out of shallows from night hunts taking smaller suckers.

Largemouth Bass: Poor-Fair – Though usually good at responding to warm ups like the past couple days, not a lot of reports. Small shiners meant for Walleyes scored a few over the weekend.

I’d really like to say the lakes are safe for truck travel, yet I’m still cautious (and haven’t paid off my truck yet). The gray ice (frozen slush) on top is what bothers me. While it seems like plenty of ice, caution still advised. Some bays with heavy traffic are seeing truck travel as these areas have had the snow and slush packed down and ice thickness is better than on untraveled lakes. Use caution. Forecast for highs in the 30’s with a chance of snow Thursday afternoon will add 1-2 on top, but should still be good for travel.

Upcoming Ice Fishing Tournaments

Feb 11th – Plum Lake Ice Fishing Tournament

Feb 18th – Lake Tomahawk Family Fisheree

Feb 18th – Mercer Lions Club Jamboree

Feb 25th – Northwoods Chapter of Muskies Inc. – Kids Ice Fishing Day

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop - Like us on Facebook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Perch still steady most days at the slips even when you had to bust a hole thru the ice.

The average size in the perch has definitely went up some good perch being caught the last few days.

Coho action started on Sunday at Portage Riverwalk and in Michigan city from the casino boat back to behind fish camp restaurant.

Boat action at Gary light for coho and browns from groups casting and some trolling.

Slez’s Bait has all the skein and squid strips in stock and ready for coho action.

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

Hi. Dale! I hope you & your loved ones are doing well & enjoying the beautiful current & upcoming weather. It looks like it’s gonna be an early season for fishing. To all you guys enjoying unexpectedly early fishing with the nicer temperatures, don’t forget to remember the special ladies in your life on Valentine’s Day this Tuesday. Here’s what’s been going on in our area:

River fishing for Steelhead has continued steadily with the warm weather; anglers have been out on the piers catching Coho & Whitefish. Skein for the Coho has been working well; single salmon eggs have been the baits of choice for the Whitefish.

Perch fishing in the slips along Lake Michigan & also in local lakes has been fairly steady, with smaller minnows, red worms, & spikes working rather nicely.

SHABBONA LAKE

My column for Wednesday is on ice fishing Monday. Catches were primarily crappie and some bluegill despite a finicky bite. We found 5 12 inches of ice and fishable ice should hold through the weekend, at least.

February hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Boondocks is closed

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said steelhead are going mid-river and on up upstream.

Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

Guide Bill Stoeger in Fremont texted the photo below and this:

The ice marginal, 8-14 on area lakes. With the opening of sturgeon spearing this weekend, ATV or UTV travel on Winnebago. There are a few trucks on Poygan and Partridge. Perch bite has been good on area lakes, along with some walleye and northern action.

A view through an ice hole in the ice around the Wolf River area in Wisconsin. Provided by Bill Stoeger

A view through an ice hole in the ice around the Wolf River area in Wisconsin.

Provided by Bill Stoeger

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