Chicago fishing: Crappie fishing is ‘on fire’

The improving crappie fishing leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

SHARE Chicago fishing: Crappie fishing is ‘on fire’
A largemouth bass caught from a golf-course pond.

A largemouth bass caught from a golf-course pond.

Peter Chung

Crappie fishing improving leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report, but there’s lots of other options both inland and on Lake Michigan.

Peter Chung emailed the photo at the top and this:

Love your columns, always wanted to send a picture. Captured a perfect moment in the storms last week, bass plus a double rainbow! Private golf course ponds are the best, especially when you have permission and get to watch your son play while you fish!

Have a great weekend, I’ll be chasing smallies on the Fox.

Peter

That is a great combination all around.

Plus, I like the photo.

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 Park Bait at Montrose Harbor (cash only) and 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

AREA LAKES

Chicagoan Brett Kellam holds a pair of good crappie from a forest preserve lake. Provided photo

Chicagoan Brett Kellam holds a pair of good crappie from a forest preserve lake.

Provided

Brett Kellam messaged the photo above and this:

. . . I’m a lifelong resident of Chicago. I’m 38 years old and have been bass fishing since I can remember. About two years ago I became highly interested in crappie fishing and have trying to find crappie throughout the year. Yesterday I found them. The males were shallow spawning with the females coming in and out. Here are two 13.5 crappie I caught from a Cook County Forest Preserve lake. I caught them jig and plastic under a float in 2ft of water. Maybe it’s worthy of your column.

Crappie being caught in Shorewood. Provided phooto

Crappie being caught in Shorewood.

Provided

Bill Buchhaas messaged the photo above and this from Shorewood:

Dale... switched over to crappie tubes...mixed bag this evening in Shorewood...Now just gotta hit the Du Page river nearby...Bill Buchhaas...

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:

Warm weather and the full moon on Friday have the bass in full blown spawn mode. If you do fish for them try to get them back in the water quickly so the bluegills don’t eat all the eggs. Catfishing on the Fox River is very good right now below every dam. Cut bait, night crawlers or stink bait will work. Crappie seem to be having a second wave of spawning, it depends on the water temperature. Live fatheads or gulp minnows will work for them.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a crappie from suburban waters. Provided photo

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with a crappie from suburban waters.

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- Finally we are having above average temps. Best bite for bass seemed to coincide with the minor evening times and around moon rise.

Started out going old school with a spinner bait worked along the weedline in 10 fow. That produced good numbers. An All-Terrain Tackle swim jig picked off a few more.

I moved shallow early evening as moon rise approached. There were a good number of bass that moved up into the reeds. A biffle bug rigged with a Vector Hooks mayhem flipping hook took a few better quality fish.

The warmup over the last few days have the male crappie in shallow and getting ready to spawn. Surprisingly the spawn is ahead by over a week from last year. The quiver minnow by IJO Plastics worked under a slip float took willing participants along with a few nice bluegill.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley’s nature photo with a muskrat. Provided photo

Ken “Husker” O’Malley’s nature photo with a muskrat.

Provided

Here is the nature pic of the week. Enjoying some time out of water.

TTYL

Ken Husker O’Malley

Husker Outdoors Waterwerks fishing team

Pete Lamar with a big panfish from a forest preserve water. Provided photo

Pete Lamar with a big panfish from a forest preserve water.

Provided

Pete Lamar emailed the photo above and this:

Hi Dale,

. . .

I got the first big bluegill or some kind of hybrid panfish of the year on a Kane Co. FP pond over the weekend. I also got my first fish on a topwater fly this past week. Surprisingly, none of the fish were in shallow; all required long casts to beyond the drop off to deeper water. I didn’t see a hint of spawning activity as recently as Saturday. Of course, on ponds and small lakes, that may have already changed by now. A few hours of warm weather can make all the difference. Frogs and tadpoles were warming themselves in sunlit areas; largemouths should begin taking notice of that very soon.

Pete

Adessta Mccluskey with a bluegill from Islnd Lake. Provided photo

Adessta Mccluskey with a bluegill from Islnd Lake.

Provided

Rob Abouchar emailed the photo above and this:

Hi Dale

My Leyden bass team did great at sectionals inmproving on last years cacth rate from one to 4 bass. Good for 8th out of 16.

The bass are on the beds on island lake. I left them alone and tried for some bluegill. Some big gills were going on red trout worms on a Gapen fly/bug under a bobber. Also my great Niece Adessta Mccluskey caught a nice bluegill on a rod i gave her purchased at the Rolling meadows swap meet on a rat finkie . Its off to Millelacs lake in a few short weeks to chast the state record smallmouth bass.

On the music front it was a nice set with midnite mile on Friday in Mundelein as always. Last nights rehearsal in Milwaukee was productive and more to come this Saturday. Ready to start running the set . Becks Bolero into broken hearts to open the show and muffin man to close it will be something else. Shows start in June. Tight lines

Well, my morning was made, not only a music report but a sectional story.

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

The IHSA sectonal on Thursday showed the quality of bass fishing at Braidwood.

Open daily 6 a.m.-sunset.

District fisheries biologist Seth Love would like to hear from anglers on catches at Braidwood. You can email him at seth.love@illinois.gov.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Kyle Tepper at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said crappie are very good, real black and real shallow, mostly on minnows; white bass are going for weeks in the river and now starting in the lakes, spinners, bladebaits and anything white and shiny; walleye are good, post-spawn now but still shallow, best on plastics, leeches or crawlers shallow, smaller eaters in 8-10 feet trolling small crankbaits; bass are spawning, flip shallow docks or work Senkos; bluegill are good, too, little fatheads for bigger ones; catfish going well on cutbait or crawlers shallow; flatheads just starting; muskies are post-spawn and fairly shallow on bass-sized jerkbaits.

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

NOTE 2: Stratton Lock and Dam is open 8 a.m. to midnight through Sept. 30

CHICAGO RIVER

Jeffrey Williams with his first of the year smallmouth bass from the Chicago River. Provided photo

Jeffrey Williams with his first of the year smallmouth bass from the Chicago River.

Provided

Jeffrey Williams messaged the photo above and this:

Chicago River update

Went out on Sunday(post bday fishing day) and went with low expections, that day in total, 10 carp for a day total of 114.5 pounds with the biggest being 16 lbs on the dot, added a cherry by catching a small 1.03 pound Smallmouth, weird i never thought i catch a Smallie on the river before i catch one on lake Michigan, fun and very tiring day

DELAVAN LAKE, WISCONSIN

Capt. Dave Duwe emailed:

Delavan Lake 5/06/23 through 5/15/23

The yo-yo weather has been a constant factor this past week, it looks like stable weather is coming this week which will help the fishing tremendously.

Largemouth bass are in the shallows in 3-4 ft of water. The best location is in the west end in Viewcrest or Highlands Bay. The fish are being caught on a green pumpkin or root beer colored Senko. The water is pretty cold for the largemouth to spawn, with the warm weather predicted for this week the spawn is still probably a week to 10 days away.

Walleye Pike fishing has been average. Saturday when I was fishing there were a few people that I spoke to that caught them in 23 ft of water. They were lindy rigging small suckers. Look for the fish on the main lake points. The few fish that I heard about were more than 25 inches.

Bluegill fishing has been good near the outlet dam or in the channels, such as Browns, Viewcrest and the Highland. The best approach is red worms fished beneath a bobber in 2-3 ft of water.

Crappie fishing has been good in the mid range weeds. You want to fish them in 6-10 ft of water. The best location is by Browns Channel. You want to look for scattered weeds. With the water clarity, you need to make long casts, so you don’t spook the fish. Small fathead minnows on bobbers have been producing most of the fish. They can also be caught on small plastics.

Northern pike action has been in the shallows. I’ve been fishing for them in 6-10 ft of water. I’ve been getting them on medium suckers fished beneath a Thill slip bobber. The best location was the buoy line in Viewcrest Bay or the Highlands Bay.

Good luck and I hope to see you on the water. For guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 262-728-8063

DOWNSTATE

SHELBYVILLE: Jim Shell emailed the video and the photo below of a trip with son Casey on Lake Shelbyville:

Hi Dale,

Fished Shelbyville this past weekend. The crappie bite is on fire now! It should last for at least the next week or so. Casey and I got a late start Saturday and didn’t get on the water til 4:00pm. (we arrived at 2:30pm, but had to wait for some storms to clear). We had the crappies dialed in by 4:30! The crappies are still pre-spawn, and very active. We found most of our fish a bit deeper, 8 to 12ft. No live bait needed, they were crushing them on soft plastic baits only. Water temps were averaging 60 degrees and teh lake level has been holding at 3ft below normal pool. Anyone thinking of going, the next 10 days should be prime!

JIm Shell

Link to our trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhRgaVmH1DE

Casey Shell with a pair of good crappies from Lake Shelbyville. Provided photo

Casey Shell with a pair of good crappies from Lake Shelbyville.

Provided

For a lake report, check with Ken Wilson of Lithia Guide Service.

POWERTON: Summer hours—6 a.m.-8 p.m.—run through Sept. 30.

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

HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Open through Sept. 4, sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Check regulations at http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/dixon-paddling-fishing.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing.

FOX RIVER

Vince Oppedisano with a muskie from the Fox River. Provided photo

Vince Oppedisano with a muskie from the Fox River.

Provided

Vince Oppedisano emailed the photo above and this:

Hey Dale,

Fished the Fox River heavy again over the weekend, covering a lot of ground in several spots. On Saturday a buddy & I got out at sunrise and fished 7-8 hours with mostly ned rigs, soft plastics & crankbaits, caught about 25 total. Smallmouth, largemouth, a few quillback, & a mirror carp. Levels were fairly low. Headed back out this evening, bass fishing over a shallow flat when another nice musky hit the lure & somehow managed not to break 12 lb mono on the way to shore. On May 7 my fishing year has already been made! Hoping others are having good starts to the year as well.

Pete Lamar with a smallmouth bass on a fly from the Fox River system. Provided photo

Pete Lamar with a smallmouth bass on a fly from the Fox River system.

Provided

Pete Lamar emailed the photo above and this:

Hi Dale,

Warmer water is-slowly-having an effect. The smallmouth came out of Fox trib north of Aurora, which was running clear and already dropped back to normal levels after recent rains. A lot of small bass around, as well as a few respectable ones. Some suckers too, but fewer than in other tributaries I’ve seen recently.

. . .

Pete

GENEVA LAKE, WISCONSIN

Capt. Dave Duwe emailed:

Lake Geneva 5/06/23 through 5/15/23

With the up and down temperatures, the lake remains pretty cold which is causing some inconsistent fishing. The best bite on the lake is perch and largemouth bass. Stable weather is predicted and that will help turn on the smallmouth bass and bluegills.

Largemouth bass have been biting in the shallows in 3-4 ft of water. The best location has been Trinkes or Abbey Harbor. They can be caught on a split shot rigged nightcrawler or a green pumpkin Senko. With the chilly weather over the weekend, you need to fish really slow to get the bite.

Yellow perch were biting in 6-10 ft of water. Small minnows fished beneath a slip bobber were the best approach. The best location was Belvidere Park or Rainbow Point. Overall, the fish have been on the small size at 6-7 inches. You needed to catch a bunch to sort through to find decent keepers.

Smallmouth bass have been spotty. Most of the fish are caught in 15-20 ft of water suspended about 5-10 ft of water. The fish are near their spawning flats. Look for the fish at the Elgin Club, the Military Academy or Crawfords Bar. The best approach is a white hair jig swam just underneath the surface of the water. The fish are chasing the pods of minnows so once you find the minnows the bass are sure to follow.

Bluegill action has been slow. They are being caught in the shallows on leaf worms. The best location has been the Abbey Harbor and Trinkes or down in Geneva Bay by the Riviera. Look for the fish in 3-4 ft of water.

Some northern pike and muskies are being caught in the weeds in 6-10 ft of water. The fish are being caught on slip bobber rigged suckers. The best location was Williams Bay or the beach in Fontana. I’ve been putting out quite a few rods to try and catch them. The best presentation is to anchor your boat and fan cast the area.

Good luck and I hope to see you on the water. For guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 262-728-8063

GREEN LAKE AREA, WISCONSIN

Guide Mike Norris emailed:

Fishing Report – May 8, 2023

Mike Norris

Puckaway Lake: Fishing for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass remains good at Puckaway Lake, but walleye fishing remains slow. Fish the lower and upper portions of the Fox River, where it enters and exits the lake, with black and blue jigs tipped with creature-style baits.

Fox Lake: The Fox River, which empties into Beaver Dam Lake from Fox Lake, offers excellent walleye fishing right now. Try jigging with an eighth-ounce jig and chartreuse curly-tail worm from shore below the dam south of Highway 33. Largemouth bass fishing is on and off. The water temperature is still in the upper 40s, and bass should start seeking beds out soon. One muskie angler did land a 49 3/4 fish during last Saturday’s gamefish opener.

Petenwell Lake: Walleye fishing is good right now in the lake and river. Work jigs and minnows along shoreline breaks in the lake and vertical jig with a jig and minnow while drifting the dropoffs in the river.

GREEN/STURGEON BAYS, WISCONSIN

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR weekly report.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Bob Johnson showing walleye are going good before releasing them at Heidecke Lake. Provided photo

Bob Johnson showing walleye are going good before releasing them at Heidecke Lake.

Provided

Bob Johnson emailed the photo above and this;

Hi Dale - Line at Heidecke at day break Saturday with locals along with high school tournament anglers. Lake is in good shape water temps at 58. Walleye bite still going, catching the them on jerk baits shad colors but finesse bite a bit slow. Bass were doing good for those fishing them. Lake should be peaking after next weeks warm weather. Walleye made it back to lake.

Open 6 a.m. (6:30 bank fishing) to sunset.

KANKAKEE RIVER

Jesse Gonzalez with a smallmouth bass from the Kankakee River. Provided by Jeffrey Williams

Jesse Gonzalez with a smallmouth bass from the Kankakee River.

Provided by Jeffrey Williams

Jeffrey Williams messaged the photo above and this on Thursday:

So we went wading on the kakankee for the 1st and while doing so, we found a stream thts only accessible through wading, it was a honey hole, lots of rock bass, a few LMBs and T hooked in a small walleye, but back out to the main part of kakankee and my brother managed a decent 1.5 lb smallmouth and his new PB Pike, both caught on a jerkbait while wading

LAKE ERIE

Click here for the Ohio DNR Report.

LAKEFRONT

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor texted:

Hi Dale,As the water is starting to warm up the Coho are slowing down but there are still some being caught. Horseshoe has been the best area. A few big Browns and a few Kings caught out there also. Still using live bait as well as artificial. No Smallmouth reports lately. Have a great week!

Capt. Bob Poteshman of Confusion Charters said fishing is awesome, though bait fish are disapating some from Chicago to North Point. By, Montrose coho are moving aroound but most remain shallow 15-25 feet on Dogers and peanut flies on about everything; some coho, browns and lakers by Wilmette; near the shoreline is best up and down the Illinois shoreline for coho; though there are lakers out deeper but few trying for them.

Capt. Dan Leslie at the Salmon Stop in Waukegan said still pier fishing for coho; boaters coming as shallow as 10-15; some kings, try in 30-50 feet; hitting about everything; minnows still working for shore anglers.

REMINDER: Perch season is closed through June 15 on Illinois’ Lake Michigan.

LaSALLE LAKE

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 (815) 640-8099.

MADISON LAKES, WISCONSIN

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

MAZONIA

Hours are 6 a.m. to sunset.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

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

It Happened!!!

We had an opener! 2023 Walleye opener and it was a good one! With ice still at a few landings, even opening morning, plenty of opportunities to launch and get out on the water.

Walleye: - Excellent to Very Good – With the late ice out, Walleyes were ready to spawn. Anglers who headed out early in the morning (pre-dawn) reported great action shallow in 2-3’ of water. As morning progressed, Walleyes moved out to 5-8’ depths, and deeper, on many lakes to ready for the next evening’s spawn. Rip N Raps, Rattle Traps, Husky Jerks and Rattlin Rouges from shore for the midnight crowd. Big girls to 28 reported. For daytime, 1/16 oz Jacks Weedless jigs and Invasion jigs tipped with Tuffy minnows (redtails and dace not available) were the ticket for second shift. Lots of action, lots of keepers and lots of released slot and big females! With water temps ranging 38 degrees (Trout) to 52 degrees (Willow) lots of opportunity for similar action and some great post-spawn action to come.

Crappie: Very Good – Not much attention paid to this weekend, but for the few who did, good reports. Finding the warmest water on the lake, with standing weeds in 4-8’. Crappies and Largemouth Bass staging in the warmest water (usually 2-3 degrees above rest of lake). These Crappies are skittish. Small, heavy floats for long cast so you don’t spook fish. Try using no weight. Let tail hooked minnows swim naturally to attract bites.

Northern Pike: Good – Not targeted much, but some incidentals by anglers jigging for Walleyes.

Yellow Perch: Good to Fair – Most by accident. Those that have been are ripe with spawn as they will be next in line.

Largemouth Bass: Fair – Rarely targeted, but anglers reporting some catches while working soft bottom bays for Walleyes.

Smallmouth Bass: Fair – Ditto as in Largemouth, yet on rocks instead of soft bottoms.

Increasingly warming temps will accelerate the Walleye spawn this week. Once spawn bite dies down, look for Eyes to move to weeks to feed up, should be good for next couple weeks. Crappies, Gills and Bass will continue to herd up where the warmest water can be found. Lots of anglers out for the opener, but pressure will lessen as the week goes on.

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop - Like us on Facebook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Coho action with few kings mixed in and a steelhead here and there being caught by trollers fishing burns ditch to Michigan city in 25 to 50ft of water.

Few steelhead and a coho here and there being caught off of Michigan city pier using shrimp under a float.

Panfish action was pretty good over the last warm weather spell at area ponds and lakes. Red wigglers, beemoth and minnows are the hot sellers.

Slez’s Bait Shop is now on summer hours. Open 5am to 6pm daily.

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

Hi, Dale! We had absolutely beautiful weather this past weekend, & there’s more like it to come in the upcoming days. Fishing is doing just as fine as the outside conditions:

Trolling on Lake Michigan has slowed down some, but anglers are still able to catch Coho, just having to work a little harder for them. Most are having success using small spoons.

Walleye in the rivers & Wolf Lake are picking up pretty good on night crawlers & leeches-first batch of the season in this week! Inland fishing has been very good for Crappie, Bluegills, & Perch on jumbo red worms, spikes, & beemoths.

Catfishing is starting with a bang! Dowling Park, the Kankakee, & Wolf Lake are all seeing nice catches, mostly in nightcrawlers, cutbait, & liver. Those fish are hungry after a long winter!

ROCK RIVER

Juan Macias with a crappie from the Rock River.  Provided

Juan Macias with a crappie from the Rock River.

Provided

Juan Macias messaged the photo above and this:

Hello Dale, today with the warmer temperatures the crappies were baiting very good on the rock river fishing for about two hours after 4 o’clock and catch around 7 crappies jigs plastics and minows rock river holds very decent size for crappies the same for smallmouth bass they’re on fire .

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

Click here for the Wisconsin DNR’s report, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday.

SHABBONA LAKE

John Honiotes at Boondocks reported at least one big muskie caught recently; good crappie catches are coming on minnows or small jigs; hybrid stripers are being caught, especially on the dam face; catfish are hitting.

Site summer hours—6 a.m.-10 p.m.—run through Oct. 31.

Boondocks’ bait shop is open daily, 6 a.m.-7 p.m.; restaurant hours are 11-8.

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 kings are in 50-70, down 35; for coho and lakers, it’s 150; catfish going in the river.

Paddle and Pole hosts the Berrien Springs Fish Ladder Camera.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

The bounty of white bass from the Wolf River near Fremont. Provided photo

The bounty of white bass from the Wolf River near Fremont.

Provided

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

Water temp Monday morning 56.8. The white bass bite is picking up, 2 1/2 hrs, over 130 fish. Small jigs with minnows or plastic in 5-10 ft of water. Look for current breaks behind downed trees

Gary Bloom’s friend Gerald with two big walleye from good catches of white bass and walleye from the Wolf River at Winneconne. Provided

Gary Bloom’s friend Gerald with two big walleye from good catches of white bass and walleye from the Wolf River at Winneconne.

Provided

Gary Bloom messaged the photo fand this from Winnecone:

30 wh bass and 6 nice walleye. 15-18 inches. My bud Gerald holding the 2 biggest.

Arden Katz said on Tuesday-Thursday, averaging 30 a day, but had to move to find them at Fremont, pulling flies in the current on a long leader (6-7 feet) at Fremont.

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