Midwest Fishing Report: Rivers section

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The sauger bite on the Illinois River remains the top story for river fishing in this Midwest Fishing Report.


The team of B.J. Liebe and Brian Ernat weighed the big fish of the Masters Walleye Circuit tournament, a 5.96-pound walleye caught Sunday while they jigged the Peru flats.

This is the extended online version of the MFR, which appears on the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays.

Well, this is the rivers section for rivers around Chicago fishing. The lakes and areas MFR will follow shortly.

Normally, I post the online MFR, both the rivers and lakes/areas sections, by Wednesday morning.

I will probably separate out the rivers section like this until the fall.

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

Illinois River sauger and a license reminder are the top note, but I would also note a short note on the Mazon.


New fishing, hunting and trapping licenses are required Friday.


The MWC tournament out of Spring Valley on Saturday and Sunday lived up to promise, as did the sauger. Out of the 123 teams registered, 121 weighed limits Saturday, 120 did the same Sunday. Yes, the bite is that good. Many had their limit in under an hour, then started sorting.

What was interesting is that the field was evenly split whether to run upstream from Spring Valley to fish Starved Rock and Plum Island area or downstream toward Henry. And all methods–vertical jigging, trolling or handlining–were producing. My sense was jigging had a slight edge.

The weather and water conditions look good by spring standards for a good stretch. Biologist Ken Clodfelter thought the cold weather should keep the sauger in the peak of spawn into about next weekend.

That 2009 class of sauger–all those 10-13 inchers last year–are legal-sized now. It is an exciting time for sauger.


For an overview of nearby river conditions, click here.


Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass reported:

Chicago river fishing report ; South branch , very slow and cold a few small crappie and beware of the couple of big ice sheets floating by ping tom park water temp 45 a waste of time


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

Last week’s weather put a big hurtin? on the fish activity, as well as mine. The fishing can be presently rated as mediocre at best. However, the outlook heading into the weekend and next week is starting to look pretty good. Water temperatures in the main channel are between 42-44 degrees while backwater pools are holding steady at 43 degrees. It seems like it’s been taking forever for river water levels to recede. It’s currently at 1,500 CFS and gauge is 4.5. Water clarity is terrible. It’s still too high for safe wading, and comfortable boating, but if you stay on shore and fish the slackwater areas, creek mouths, and backwaters you should be fine. Northern pike are still the headliners for this week. Most of the fish are still being found close to shore, around the creek mouths, and in the backwaters. The cold weather has extended their spawn period as a good number of pike are still staging and waiting to drop eggs. Feeding windows are very quick and brief during the mid-afternoon to early evening hours, so take advantage of any short bites and followers you encounter. Spinnerbaits in an assortment of colors as well as #5 bladed inline spinners (Sims / Mepps / etc) are the frequent fare. I was able to get out just once since last week, and joined Dan Sims (godfather of the Sims Spinners), and our friend Nick Doumel on a Sunday afternoon wade. Only one fish was caught throughout the day. Before I arrived Dan and Nick had gone a quick 1 for 5, and Nick landed a nice 28 inch fish with a Sims Spinner. The brief feeding window lasted for 10 minutes at around the 2pm mark. For the remainder of the day nothing else was to be found. The fish were definitely around, but they were extremely uninterested in eating. They were in such a negative mood that nothing than other than warm weather would have gotten them to bite. By the end of the week we should be creeping back up to the mid to high 40?s/low 50’s with the aid of sunlight, so that might be just enough to get things going again. Meanwhile walleye and sauger are approaching their spawn. With the receding levels and water temperatures nearing the 45 degree mark (as well as the creeks), the fishing should be improving for them as well. Very few reports are out there, as well as success, but some anglers have been fishing pools with hard bottom and moderate current. Jigs with minnows and plastics, and minnowbaits (X-Raps and Husky Jerks). Try late afternoons and early evenings for better results. I’ll be sure to give it a shot this week.


Frank Macikas had his fishing limited by life, but sent this perspective of the potential:

Right now from what I can see on the gauges conditions should be back to where they were weekend before last which were great. We have had pretty steady weather and looks like this weekend we are supposed to warm up just a bit which will hopefully trigger the fish again. Things should get pretty steady here shortly; weather permitting of course.


Ken Gortowski sent this add Tuesday afternoon to his original report:

I was able to take that mental health break on a quarter mile of cold, clear creek after work on Tuesday. It was nice that the one hit I got in two hours of fishing turned out to be a 16 inch smallie. I would have settled for much less. The timing is a couple of weeks too soon for numbers on the creeks, but the timing for this one fish was perfect.

Here is his initial report:

I hang out along the Fox River by the Yorkville dam and the new kayak chute because it’s near my house and I have nothing better to do when smoking a cheap cigar. The river is flowing at just over 3700 cfs, which makes it high and fast. The clarity isn’t really all that bad. The kayak chute is raging like a little flooded river. I’ve been watching guys walk up to the chute and cast things across it, then reel back quickly. When I travel up and down the river, I see this same thing all over. Casting into the fastest water and retrieving as fast as possible. It’s the end of March. The water temps are in the low 40s’. I want to know who is telling anglers that fishing like that is a good idea. There’s not a single thing I’ve read anywhere, but then I don’t read the usual fishing rags, that even suggests fishing like that is a good idea under these conditions. Though flowing water mental health therapy was much in need the past week, I opted to not deal with the cold and wind that settled on the area. That doesn’t mean the fish weren’t biting. Shore lines, slack water eddies, behind in water obstructions, all of these things should be fished. The fish are there, patience is needed, along with the need to be out there under conditions that aren’t the best for us. Luckily the air temps will be going back to almost normal for awhile. But the river doesn’t look like it will be coming down all that quickly. I think Google will help. Type in Fox River High Water Fishing. Then read. Now if you were really paying attention you’d know that all the creeks are flowing at normal levels. Things spawn in creeks. Almost every thing that swims in the river. I know where I’ll be taking my mental health break, soon.


See top.


River is in very good shape for spring, best of our area rivers. Even heard a few catfish reports. Angelo’s reported some walleye, pike going around Wilmington with scattered crappie action and smallmouth just starting.

Ed Mullady sent this:

The Kankakee is in good fishing condition, but many fishermen are waiting for warmer temperatures. River is at about normal level and very, very clear(as of today!). INDIANA: Walleye fair close to shore along 10 mile road at Kankakee F&W Area on *jig and minnow *silver weedless Doctor Spoons. Good at Point north of English Lake *Rt. 49 to Davis Ditch. LaSalle F&W Area: Try for walleye along river shorelines with above baits. Black Oak Bayou good for largemouth bass near shorelines on *minnows *live and artificial worms *frog shaped baits. Croppie here on *pinkie jig & minnow *small spinners *streamer flies. ILLINOIS: Walleye fair. Best at Momence area *Ryan’s Pier near Aroma Park.* In Kankakee, try from Washington St. Bridge through Johnson’s Fisherman’s Park. *Kankakee River State Park near Willow and Langham Island on *jig and minnow *jig and crawler *jointed plugs. Catfish good throughout river. Best in evening into dark on *minnows *crawlers *catfish *cheese. In Wilmington, Island Park fair to good on walleye, bass, catfish.


Morris Wetlands opens on Friday for fishing that stretch of the Mazon. Hours will 6 a.m. to sunset.


OREGON: Jan Prose at TJ’s Bait/Tackle & Canoe Rental sent this:

Rock River has come down a bit, and the water is clearing up. Several nice fish have been caught the past week. A 40″ Northern and another one at 36″. Several nice walleye; a couple in the 8 1/2 pound range and others around 5 pounds. A lot of near keeper size males being caught. Good colors are chartreuse or pearl jig and a minnow and Berkley’s Swim Bait.


Click here for BJ Sports.










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