Midwest Fishing Report: Helicopters, smallmouth & white bass

SHARE Midwest Fishing Report: Helicopters, smallmouth & white bass

So, Ken Gortowski called Tuesday afternoon with an updated fishing report and danced around what was floating down the Fox River. I finally asked, “You mean helicopters?”


Anybody who spent much time outside as a kid or youth knows helicopters, the seed pods from maples. Depending where you fish for smallmouth, their mass is an issue.

Helicopters as a path to talking about smallmouth on the Chicago-area rivers and the white bass run on the Wolf River lead this Midwest Fishing Report.

Smallmouth bass, as the double by Issom Beituni and Jason Monroe on a Kankakee tributary above shows, are a hot bite around Chicago outdoors. Remember, in Illinois, there’s a catch and release reg for rivers through June 15.

I would also like to welcome Frank Macikas, who has started sending some wonderful reports on the DuPage.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays. Normally, I post the online MFR by Wednesday morning.

If you have suggestions, post in the comments section or let me know at outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.


Right on schedule (Mother’s Day) the white bass run is underway. Fremont guide Bill Stoeger said, “Lilacs have to be blooming some place, because the fish are just about committing suicide.” He said about everything is working: spinners, river rigs, flies and minnows under bobbers. He said they started spawning several days ago. He figured 10-15 percent were spawning, while the rest were pretty hard. That suggests a couple more weeks of the peak run, depending how fast the water warms.


Bluegill are becoming the stronger bite as the water warms into the 60s. Bass are in all stages of prespawn, spawning and postspawn, depending on the lake or pond. A stable weather pattern should make this a decent week to take kids out in the evening for some dabbling time.


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here. Individual reports are posted below, including a new one in


For guide Mike Norton’s report, go to

www.nortonsfishingandhuntingadventures.com, then click on fishing, then lake report.


Triangle Sports reported good bluegill (waxies or small worms) and crappie (small minnows or waxies) in shallow with better weather. Walleye are picking up at the mouth of the river on leeches and minnows. Catfish are picking up with stinkbait and crawlers.

For more reports, see http://www.foxlakefishing.com/

More Chain info at www.foxwaterway.state.il.us.


BRAIDWOOD/MAZONIA: The Mazonia lakes would be one of my picks of the week. Catfish remain the top bite at Braidwood. HEIDECKE: Mac’s reported some excellent yellow bass on the center dike. Capt. John Mannerino, who is beginning to guide (click here (CORRECTED) for his site), said walleye and hybrids are picking up. LaSALLE: Lake opens at 6 a.m., and closes at sunset. Haven’t heard much, but the catfish and blues should be good.


DELAVAN: Guide Dave Duwe sent this:

Delavan Lake 5/1/10 through 5/9/10 Opening Day has arrived! The week and weekend coming into opening day was met with quite a bit of stable weather, however we’ve had non-stop west to southwest winds at 15-20 mph which made fishing a bit difficult. At least it wasn’t raining! The lake appears to be 2-3 weeks ahead of last year, if you recall, last year we had an extremely wet spring. Largemouth bass are beginning to spawn in 2-3 ft of water. On Sunday, I saw quite a few on beds. I think they saw my ugly face and would not bite. I caught several small 12- 14 inch ones on either a Texas rigged All Terrain Stik or a split shot rigged nightcrawler. In talking to people at the boat ramp, it appears that we had more success than most others. The best location was down in Viewcrest Bay or by Lake Lawn Lodge golf course. Bluegills are in 3-4 ft of water, preparing to spawn. They are very aggressive and can be caught easily on leaf worms or red worms. The best location is in Viewcrest Bay or Lake Lawn harbor. Use Lindy Fat Boys about 1 ft beneath a Thill bobber. The biggest problem has been the size, they’ve been relatively small. I noticed a lot of anglers keeping the 6-7 inch fish. Northern Pike are in the shallows and can be caught on golden shiners fished beneath a Thill slip float. Fish your slip bobber rig with a 1/0 hook and a split shot. I try to keep the golden shiners 1 ft above the weeds. The best location is by Ravenswood or Viewcrest bay. Other productive methods are casting small spinner baits. I prefer to oz white with tandem willow leaf or the new Lindy Shadling in perch color size #5. Crappies are really biting well in the 5-6 ft depth range. They can be caught on small plastics or on a slip bobber rig with a small fat head minnow. The best location is by the Oriental Boat house, the Yacht Club or in Lake Lawn Harbor. I’ve noticed this year that the average size of the crappies is about 1-2 inches larger than last years average. Remember to only keep what you are going to eat. I noticed on the first outing on the lake, that everyone seemed to be keeping everything they caught. As always, don’t be too busy to take your kids fishing. Good luck and I hope to see you on the water. For guide parties, please call Dave Duwe at 608-883-2050 or 262-728-8063 Daily Reports 5/2/2010 – Delavan Lake, water temp 52-63 degrees, wind were out of the west at 10-15 mph. Air temp 60-65 degrees. Caught 22 largemouth, 1 legal. Out of the 22 bass, there were only 4 over 15 inches. Most of the fish were in shallow but wouldn’t bite. Saw a lot of fish on beds in 2-3 ft of water. Most of the fish were caught on split shot rigged nightcrawlers. We fished most of the time with root beer, red flake All Terrain Stiks. 5/1/2010 – Whitewater Lake, water temp 60 degrees, wind out of the west at 10-15 mph, with 20 mph gusts. Air temp 60 degrees. Took an outdoor writer out to work on a story. Caught 5 legal largemouth, the biggest was 17 inches. All fish were caught on green pumpkin All-Terrain Stiks. The best depth was 3-4 ft of water. The fish were on hard sand bottom.

GENEVA: Duwe sent this:

Lake Geneva 5/1/10 through 5/9/10 The much anticipated Opening Day has arrived. We’ve had some great weather in April so expect the lake to be a week or two ahead of schedule, however, the lake is still pretty cold for any consistent fishing. The best bite this time of year is shallow. Largemouth bass are in the 3-4 ft range. They can be caught in Trinkes, Abbey Harbor or in Geneva Bay. The best presentation is a split shot rigged nightcrawler, a small jig worm – 4 inch black or purple preferred on a 1/8 inch jig head, or a watermelon seed All Terrain Stik fished Texas style. Due to the cooler water temperatures, remember any method you choose requires a slow presentation. Smallmouth bass have been spotty so far. They are suspended over 12-15 ft of water following the shiner minnow pods. They have been easily spooked due to the clear water this time of year. Long casts and 4 lb test are imperative. The best locations have been by Elgin Club, Bigfoot Beach and Belvidere Park. Use small hair jigs, 1/8 oz seem to work the best for me. I like the crayfish pattern or plain white. Some success can also be had by slowly cranking 3 inch Kahlin’s grubs, in avocado seed or smoke fished on a darter head. Bluegills, like the largemouth bass, are in the shallows. The best locations are similar to the largemouth bass, Geneva Bay, Williams Bay and the Abbey. Right now, you need to sort through quite a few of the small fish. It isn’t like mid- summer when the big fish are deep, they are all shallow right now. The best method is leaf worms or wax worms on a small ice jig. I’ve been finding most of the fish in 3-4 ft of water. Crappies are still in the outermost portion of the weeds in 10-12 ft of water. Look for the fish by Maytag Point, Covenant Harbor or Rainbow Point. Most of the fish are being caught on small plastic tubes or twisters. I fish them on a 1/32 oz Arkie Jig with a small 3/0 split shot one foot above the jig so you can cast it better. A slow retrieve with a lot of pauses, seems to excite the fish. The fish aren’t hitting very aggressive, most of the time it will feel just like a weed. Set the hook anytime it doesn’t feel normal.


From Andrew Ragas, Counsellor of the Fish Parliament www.fishing-headquarters.com:

May 03, 2010 It’s been a pretty good overall week of fishing for most anglers. Best bets at this writing are for Pike, Largemouth Bass, Crappies, and Channel Catfish. A lot of Pike anglers have been putting forth their focus on casting shoreline areas whether it be near shore or out in mid-river if the channels can be reached. Most fish are running 18 to 25 inches, and are taking a variety of baits such as Mepps spinners with #3, 4, and 5 blades. Gold and firetiger seem to attract more fish than other styles. In addition, a few are having success with jerkbaits, white and gold spinnerbaits, and the reliable live bait under the float method. At this writing, a lot of the fish are scattered and it takes some coverage of water in order to find multiple fish per outing. Best areas to look for are log jams, deep pools, current, and the newly emerging weedbeds (possibly the best option right now). Early mornings and late afternoons best for action and feeding activity. Mike Planthaber reports that small fish are extremely active up north in Lake County. Late last week he enjoyed a 20-fish outing with his partner as most fish fell victim to the spinnerbait. Meanwhile, some decent Largemouth Bass are being found accidentally while targeting Pike. Fish up to 18-inches are being caught from southern stretches of the river while smaller fish populate the north towards Lake County. Spinnerbaits and shallow diving crankbaits matching the profile of shad are working best. Don’t forget the jig and plastic either. Expect the rare and surprise Smallmouth Bass to be caught as well. Crappies are now in spawn mode, or almost there. Schools of fish are being found in wooded shoreline areas that provide some form of a current break. Fish up to 12-inches are being caught but most are in the 9-11 inch range. Live bait under float, and small jigs with plastic working best. Lastly, Channel Catfish up to 6-pounds are providing action for anglers who are trying during the nighttime hours. Cut baits on bottom rigs are the choice of many, but hook-up percentages have been low. At this writing, river flow rates are at 720 CFS with the gauge in Riverside at 3.6. River is perfect for wading and boating activities but water clarity is terrible at less than 6-inches. Creeks? Don’t expect much. They (Salt and Hickory) haven’t been producing.

Click here for extended report with photos.


SHELBYVILLE: Guide Ken Wilson–(217) 454-2672–out of Lithia Marina reported crappie are good, some are already shallow and he expects most to spawn in the next week; best is minnows under slip corks. Lake has warmed into 60s. White bass are good on the flats; there’s some evening walleye below the spillway. For info from the Corps, call (217) 774-2020.

EVERGREEN: From site staff:

Evergreen Lake Fishing Report – 5/4/2010 Water Conditions Level-Just above normal pool Clarity-6″ -1.5 feet Temps- Low to mid 60’s Just like last week the Crappie are biting the best. Average fish being caught are in the 8″ to 9″ range with many larger fish being reported. Hot baits right now are minnows and tube jigs. Fish are being caught in 2-5 ft. of water near structure. A 14″ 1 lb. 4 oz slab was caught on Monday near the shore on a minnow. Reports of Saugeye continue to trickle in. Most are being caught either early mornings or evenings off of points and drop offs near shallow flats. Med. minnows and crawlers tipped on a jig with green or white 2-3″ curly tail plastics seem to be working well. Bass reports are few and far between. Many smaller ones being caught, but no lunkers being reported. Catfishing has started to pick up a bit with some being caught by accident wile crappie fishing. Muskie reports continue to come in with mostly smaller ones being caught while Bass fishing on spinner baits. Right now is a good time to be out on the lake regardless of what you are catching. Get out and enjoy the spring weather. Good luck, Brad Just a reminder our bait shop is open 7 days a week. 8-4 Mon.-Thur. and 6-4 Fr.-Sun. We carry minnows, wax worms, night crawlers, and various tackle. Starting this weekend 5/8/2010 we will start to carry mud leeches.

Any updated fishing report will be posted here.

EMIQUON: Interested parties may request a permit and list of rules between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown. There is no fee. No gas powered motors are permitted, and bank fishing is not allowed. For more, call (309) 547-2730. POWERTON: Summer hours–6 a.m.-8 p.m.–are in effect.


From Macikas:

I was out in the Shorewood and Channahon areas Saturday and Sunday and picked up quite a few nice fish. Saturday I was in the Hammel Woods area; smallest fish was 13.5″ and the largest just over 17″. Sunday I fished off of Canal Rd. in Channohon for about an hour and picked up 4 fish most around 13″ and one around 16″ (I forgot my tape). Right now water levels are up slighty but still perfect for wading. Water on Saturday was gin clear but after the rains Saturday night have clouded up the water a little but still have a good 3 feet of clarity or more. Majority of fish right now are found either in slowmoving or slack water next to deeper water or still guarding nests. The fish that are not on the nests are very aggressive and willing to chase baits. The algae is REALLY bad all up and down the river so best bait lately are weedless rigged plastics; crawfish baits working best.


In his call Tuesday, Gortowski noted the river was in nearly perfect shape, other than the helicopters clogging the river surface, but fishing was very tough: Beforehand, he offered this report on weekend fishing:

April 2010 was officially the warmest April on record. It was a hair over 6 degrees above normal. With as little fishing as I think I did in April, I like to think I did all right. It seemed to me that the warmer temps turned on fish in areas that normally didn’t get active till some time in May. Since the whole spawning ritual is strictly temperature driven, I wonder if many of the fish species will be ending the process sooner. Usually there’s a dry spell when this happens and I hit that dry spell on the creeks I did get to fish the last few days. Friday after work I was able to make it out to Little Rock Creek. As I stood on the shore about 4 feet above the water I noticed that carp and suckers were moving around a bit still on their spawning ritual. Not a good sign when wanting smallies. Was only able to land one of those, but the creek chubs and a hand full of rock bass kept things interesting. The wind was brutal that day and even down in the creek valley there were times I wondered why I was even trying to fish. Sunday morning I found myself able to go out, but the over night rains were pretty heavy. I checked all the river gauges around 6:30 AM and they all shot straight up over night. It screwed up my initial exploring plans so I headed to Mill Creek instead. The level was good, but the clarity was less than a foot. Not the way I like it. I had to hang the jig and twister in the current to let the smallies find it. Landed 3 and missed 2 more that way, but it was far too much effort.


Sauger are outstanding, the problem is sorting through for keepers. It is about one in 20. The FLW tournament last week found the same thing. Thom Matejewski at Time on the Water Outdoors reported white bass are taking off at the mouths of tributaries and at the dam. Catfish are fair.


From Beituni:

Today I went out to a Trib of the Kankakee river. So my buddy and I went out today. We fished from 8-230. Water was slightly stained and up about 6 inches from last week. Today I must say was a great day one of the best I have had out on a creek. The fish are moving in for the spawn. Seen many beds being made, the fish on the beds are not interested in anything at all.. The fish that were caught were very aggressive and out to kill. We seen a few rock bass today a few gar cruising the flats.

Ed Mullady sent this:

Fishing right now on the Kankakee is good. River is around normal level and fairly clear. In Indiana…..bluegill, croppie in bayous, backwaters. Catfish good at Point, north of English Lake – Bass fishing good right now. Illinois: Smallmouth Bass good on *spinners *crankbaits*minnows Momence Area *Kankakee River State Park *Wilmington island Park. Remember all smallmouth bass have to be returned to the water in the Kankakee and its tributaries in Illinois until June 15. Catfish good on *cheesebait*minnows*crawlers.


For Ohio DNR report go to wildohio.com and or call (888) HOOKFISH.


CHICAGO: The hot bite has been smallmouth in the downtown and Burnham/Northerly Island areas. However, multiple fishermen report it is essential to fish plastics on the bottom and very slow. There have been some serious quality fish caught and released. (Keeping black bass on Lake Michigan is restricted to one of 21 inches or longer.) Henry’s reported spotty coho and browns around the harbors. Park Bait reported small perch around Montrose and consistent coho off the horseshoe. Mac’s reported some perch in Jackson Park and a smattering of browns and coho on crawlers and some steelhead on large minnows. WAUKEGAN/NORTH POINT: Capt. Bob Poteshman of Confusion Charters said there is a good salmon bite out of North Point in 130-200 feet. He said off Waukegan, the best has been early in 60-110. At Waukegan, the Salmon Stop reported, when the weather allows, some coho near shore in 15-40 feet. When weather allows, fishermen are taking good perch. Pier fishermen are picking up some perch, varies day to day; some coho off the piers on spoons or crawlers. RICHARD J. DALEY MEMORIAL FISHING TOURNAMENT: Fish may be weighed at Henry’s, Park Bait or Vet’s. In May, the eligible species are coho and perch. They had no entries yet when I checked Tuesday. CHICAGO’S FISHERMAN’S PARKING: The $10 parking passes for the small fishermen’s lots at Burnham and DuSable harbors are available at Henry’s.


For D&S Bait, go to dsbait.com


Guide Mike Mladenik of BigSmallmouthBass.com reported some nice smallmouth from opening weekend and sent this:

Even with the high winds, Mark Follett and I got into some nice smallmouth the past 2 days on the Menominee River. The water temp is 59 degrees and smallmouth are active. Most of the smallmouth we caught over the weekend hit Case Magic Sticks but a few smashed Hubs Chub Topwater baits. We would have caught more on the Hubs Chub but the high winds made topwater fishing tough. As far as the Magic Sticks go, both the 3 & 4 inch baits caught smallmouth. We also caught a few smallmouth on Case Tubes.


Guide Kurt Justice of Island Sports sent this:

An unusual opener, with lake temps closer to what we would normally see in mid/late May. The easy spawn and early post spawn bites are almost all but over.. To top things off high winds to 35 mph plus pounded anglers all weekend keeping catches down. Crappie: Good. Most staging in 6-8′ outside the reeds that they plan on using for spawning. Crappie minnows are hard to beat, but a lot of anglers this spring have had good success with tubes, tiny hair jigs (Gapens Freshwater Shrimp & Chippewa Charlies) and Gulp Alive 1″ minnows. Spawn is softening up and this species is ready to spawn if the cool nights weren’t keeping lake temps low. Walleye: Fair-Good. Look to the larger lakes where water temps are still in the high 40’s for the best action. Wind made fishing tough as locations were hard to hold. Redtails, black chubs and dace performed best on the larger lakes while large fats and dace seemed to be the ticket on mid sized lakes. A lot of anglers have been opting for medium fatheads on size exempt lakes and when hoping for a mixed bag of Walleyes, Perch and Crappies. Smallmouth Bass: Good. It’s catch and release only, but these fish have been active taking 3″ tubes. Work 5-8′ breaks. These fish are staging up in front of their favorite spawning areas. Largemouth Bass: Good. Seeking warm shallows, it’s catch and release but good action on senko style worms and tubes. Northern Pike: Fair – Good. Not a lot of anglers targeting, but nice incidental catches on live bait jig combos. Yellow Perch and Bluegill: Few reports. Mostly due to high winds. Things have calmed down (5/4), cool nights still keeping temps from climbing to high. Fishing with out wind should be easier this week. Crappies, Muskie, Smallies due to spawn soon.


Mik-Lurch staff reported with the southwest winds forecast there should be a good push of cold water and some good salmon action. There’s some coho inside of Gary Light and some kings off the Port. Smallmouth are going near shore. There’s still jumbo perch off Gary Light, but it takes work. Weather has been the limiting factor. Willow Slough is hot for bluegill and crappie.


Lake warmed into the 60s. Lakeside reported the crappie spawn starting, and some bass are heading toward the beds. Denny Sands said Baby-Minus-Ones and prerigged worms were best for the bass. Catfish and muskie (a 40.5-incher caught last Wednesday) are fair.

Guide Jay Angel sent this:

5/2/10 Water temperatures are in the low 60’s. Crappie fishing is fair with the fish staging in close to their spawning areas. Crappies are being caught over the campground cribs by anglers using minnows under small bobbers. Look for crappies to move shallow for their annual spawning run next week. One notable fact is that the average size is close to 10 inches long.

For more reports, click here.


From the Wisconsin DNR southern Lake Michigan report: Kenosha Co.

The Coho have arrived and trollers fishing out of Kenosha have had great success fishing anywhere from 20-60 feet of water just south of the harbor. Orange Dodgers and small flies, crank-baits, and spoons, fished high in the water column are all taking fish, a few kings have also been mixed in, coho are good size this year and are ranging from 1-6 lbs, fishing should improve as more and more fish move up the lake, early mornings have been best as the bite usually shuts down an hour or two after sunrise. The Pike river was flowing high and fast. Shore fishing in Kenosha remained slow.

Racine Co.

Root River: There are only a few steelhead remaining in the river. Mornings have been best for finding those fish, by the afternoon fish are extremely difficult to locate. Good news is that the numbers of anglers fishing the river are very small, so the few fishing have been able to cover large parts of the river searching. Most at least saw fish and a couple even hooked up. Fish have been in the faster gravel spawning in the mornings and due to the poor water clarity they have been spawning in shallower water and have been fairly easy to find at times Lincoln and Colonial park up to the golf course have been holding a few fish, Island has been very slow. Horlick dam has had action, but mostly from fish other than adult trout. A few carp, suckers, and even a nice 12 inch perch that was released, small trout that were stocked this spring are here in better numbers than anything else. Trollers in Racine had little to no action to report, rough conditions and bad weather made the lake un-fishable. Better stable weather should improve fishing out of Racine this week.

Milwaukee Co.

In Milwaukee trollers found a few browns and lakers off of the filtration plant before the high winds and storms moved in, trollers working 40-70 feet of water had decent action on spoons and crank baits fished off of either down-riggers or planer boards. Stable weather will be needed to calm the lake down and improve fishing. The Milwaukee River remains high and still a bit cloudy, anglers found a few Smallmouth Bass and suckers using flies around current areas. Over all, shore fishing remains slow. Smelt fishermen have been taken a few smelt from the Jones Island area when weather has been good.


There’s some largemouth throughout, and decent pike action on the Illinois side. Leeches are taking some walleye on the Indiana side.










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