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Ice fishing and back again, sorta: Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report


A wonderful northern pike in the dead of winter from the Des Plaines River.
Provided by Marcus Benesch.

Well, that was a quick into and out of a Polar Vortex. With the rain and warm-up, ice fishing has been variable, but still leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

Powerton, the cooling lake near Pekin, remains closed because of safety concerns with iced shorelines.

Marcus Benesch sent the photo at the top and made an interestingly informative observation/explanation on the nature of the Des Plaines River in his report, posted below in the Des Plaines River report.

The condensed Midwest Fishing Report appears Wednesdays on the outdoors page of the Sun-Times newspaper. The sprawling raw-file report is posted here online on the Sun-Times outdoors page.


* [Postponed, decision being made Monday]The LVVA Ice Fishing Derby, benefiting TLS Veterans Outdoors is Saturday, Feb. 9, on Bangs Lake in Wauconda.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Hard-Water Classic is Saturday at Silver Lake in Warrenville.

The Chain O’Lakes Ice Fishing Derby and Winter Festival, headquartered at Turtle Beach on Channel Lake, is a go no matter what the weather this weekend, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday


Click here for the updated regulations on ice fishing around public sites in Chicago fishing.



A typical scene on Monday morning, coming off of the radical change in weather.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Warmth and rain has impacted ice fishing conditions, but it is going. The kind of conditions where rubber boots and cleats are needed.

Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said there’s been some decent pike action at Powderhorn and Wampum.

Click here for the updated regulations on ice fishing around public sites in Chicago fishing.


Between ice jams, rains and melting snow, probably a good week to check on river conditions. Click here to find river closures listed by the Illinois DNR. Go to http://water.weather.gov//ahps2/index.php?wfo=lot to check area water levels and projection. To get to more specific gauges, even on creeks, in Illinois, go to http://waterdata.usgs.gov/il/nwis/current/?type=flow


Scheduled to reopen March 1.


No report.


Click here to see results from the NAIFC event Sunday on Channel Lake, most interesting thing is the winning team being anchored with a 2.16-pound fish.

Brad Irving at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said decent crappie are being caught from Pistakee on small ice jigs or Slender spoons; there’s been some white bass and a few walleye on Marie (use caution); small fatheads on bottom taking some walleye on Catherine; decent bluegill and crappie on south end of Channel, better toward evening; bigger bluegill on north corner of Deep; pike and bass going on Loon.

CHAIN/FOX BACKWATERS ICE-FISHING ACCESS: Most places run some version of $5 parking and usually take it off food drink orders if it applies. Hermann’s Rest-A-While (Nielsen’s Channel), Granny’s Lakeside Diner at Spring Lake Marina, Choppers Bar and Grill (Channel), Sandbar Bar & Grille (Marie), Oak Park Lounge (Pistakee Bay), Musky Tales Bait Shop (near the old Mentone’s), Famous Freddie’s Roadhouse (T-Channel), Barnacle Bob’s (Marie).

Check updates at Fox Waterway Agency or (847) 587-8540 for more information.

STRATTON LOCK AND DAM: The lock is closed through April 30. Click here for more info on the lock and dam.


Capt. Pat Harrison at Pat Harrison Outdoors sent this:

Chicago River and Lake Report,

As I’m writing this it’s 48 degrees out and climbing. The Chicago River is covered in ice and we just went through some of the coldest weather Chicago has had. Those that ice fish were searching for Safe ice and got in most places. Now with the snow cover on the ice for a few days and the thaw of the snow on land ice conditions are going to change again. Please be Safe out there what was good ice yesterday may not be today check very close. We also have some rain coming this week that won’t help ice conditions. There are guys doing well on the Chain the Pan fish bite is good. I guy was talking to me about Long Lake said the bite is decent there. Bangs has been starting to turn on to.

 A little weather watch tip wunderground.com is a free weather site where you can check past present and future weather for an area you want to fish.  Also check out your fishing destinations on Google Earth you can see weather conditions in real time right on your spot.

 This coming Weekend is the Tinley Park Fishing Show. I will have my booth there talking fishing and the expansion of the locations and services I am adding for the 2019 season. Stop by say hello and let’s talk about the upcoming season. I am offering a 10%show discount with a trip booked with a $100 Deposit. Hope to see you at the show have a Great week.

Thanks Captain Pat,


No update.


Marcus Benesch sent this mid-winter report:


I’ve been consistently hitting the river all winter.  As long as temperatures are north of 25 degrees, which is key for casting with out ice ups, I’m out there chasing pike for the most part.
One of the few pluses of fishing an urban river is you can always find some open water during the winter months.  With close to dozen wastewater treatment plants discharging into the river affecting flow and temperature, you can find these open water sections throughout Lake, Cook, and Will Counties.
In a low gradient, low flow stream such as the Des Plaines,  the effluent discharge from these plants make up a good percentage of the total flow in the stream.  Without those discharges we would see a Des Plaines the Native Americans knew, one that would dry up by fall to a small creek, even creating disconnected pools of stagnant water.  I’m not a discharge advocate, I’m only acknowledging how we’ve impacted the river not only with pollution, but by increasing its flow by upwards of 30% at certain times of the year.
Seasoned anglers know why fish congregate at these discharge areas.  The areas  offer warm temperatures, great water clarity, and green weeds in winter.  Most of these discharges on the Des Plaines release water into the stream between 60&70 degrees.  When the Chicago area plunges into a polar vortex,  you could imagine the heavenly oasis a section of 60 degree water can provide for wildlife and fish.  Often times this effluent discharge is cleaner water than the river water it’s being released in.
I remember once having a discussion with Norm (Minas), about whether certain game fish would make a habit of migrating to these areas surrounding the warm water discharges during the winter.  “Only the wise old fish”, was his first reply.   I find that to be more true as each winter goes by.  Its certainly helps explain why a lot of “good ones” are caught in the dead of winter.
A couple recent pictures of winter fishing on the Des Plaines River with my son Jackson.
Marcus Benesch

Marcus Benesch and son Jackson with a des Plaines River pike.

I truly enjoyed the observation and the reminder of the late Norm Minas.


Goose season ended last week in the central, south-central and central zone, so many Downstate lakes are more open to regular fishing.

POWERTON LAKE: Remains closed because of safety concerns with iced shorelines; might be a chance it reopens later this week. Boat fishing is scheduled to reopen Feb. 15.

LAKE SHELBYVILLE:  Check with Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson Guide ServiceREND LAKE: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Have not yet seen the opening day for spring/summer fishing to begin.


No update.


No update.


No update.


No update.


No update this week from Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay, but ice fishing for whitefish is going.

Click here to see the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report.


Scheduled to reopen April 1.


River is in flood, even moderate flood at Ottawa, and projected to remain so.


Access points for Trail Creek can be found on the Trail Creek Access Map. Access points for Little Cal and Salt Creek, which are closer to Chicago than Trail Creek, may be found at littlecal_saltcreek_access.

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

Steelhead action in salt and lil cal decent over weekend on voodoo jigs and waxworms or spawn saks move around decent numbers of fish in creeks
Some coho have showed also not a motherload but some in lower stretch’s of salt creek and around marinas catching them while steelhead fishing


No update, but be aware some areas remain in significant flood stages because of ice jams.


Click here to see the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report. It generally comes out Tuesday.


The Ohio DNR has general Lake Erie info and a fishing report.


Considering some coho are showing up in Indiana, might be worth trying to see if any are around. Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said some perch are being caught at Navy Pier again and steelhead and pike at Diversey.

PASSES: PIER: Selected piers in the Chicago harbors–Montrose, Belmont, Diversey, DuSable, Burnham, Jackson–are open to fishermen with a pier pass. The $6 passes are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait and Northerly Island (credit card only and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday). PARKING: Passes ($10 for two months) for parking at the two small fishermen’s lots at DuSable and Burnham harbors are available at Henry’s Sports and Bait and Northerly Island (credit card only and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday).

ACCESS/PARKING OPTIONS: Here are some parking and access notes for winter perch fishing. Information on parking passes and pier passes is below under separate headings. Several guys have said the parking app, Spot Hero, has been working well for them while trying to park downtown for fishing; otherwise find street parking or small lots. . . . Montrose Harbor has plenty of free parking within easy walking. . . . At Navy Pier, check in at the parking office in the east lot, then be out by 10 a.m. sharp for the reduced parking rate. . . . For DuSable Harbor, use the small fisherman’s lot. . . . At Burnham/Northerly Island, use the Burnham fishermen’s lot or meter parking north of the old terminal (on days with no events at Soldier Field or the music pavilion). . . . Only legal fishing at the slip north of 87th is on the east end at Steelworkers Park. Plenty of free street parking. The slip at 89th is private property.


Scheduled to reopen March 15.


D & S Bait can be followed on Facebook.


Because of an operational change, both units are now open for fishing. Any ice fishing is at your own risk. Ice-fishing reports have been variable.


Click here to see the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report. It is generally out Tuesdays.


Kurt Justice of Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua, Wis. emailed this:

A very nice break in the weather came over the weekend, just in time for a couple local ice derbys and before anyone got too much cabin fever.

With temps “soaring” into the 30’s Saturday (2/2) anglers headed out to the ice in force, seems the fish were glad to see the weather break also.

Crappies:  Very Good – Lots of great reports as above freezing temps made tip-downs very effective. Rosie red and small fatheads on #14 trebles on tip-downs fished 2-4’ off bottom, in some areas as shallow as 14’ to as deep as 28’.  Lots of slabs topped off by reports of fish to 15” this weekend. Jigging small #2 Raps, ultralight Rippin Raps (#3), Venom Inferno spoons and #2 pimples all working as fish very aggressive.

Yellow Perch:  Very Good – Best over deeper mud in 18-28’ using Halis, Venom Inferno spoons, Pimples or Northland Buckshot spoons tipped with wigglers or red spikes.  Tip-down anglers also reporting good success on rosie reds.  Some anglers finding nicer sized Perch roaming 12-14’ depth just outside of weed edges, catching larger (11-12”+) Perch on tumbler spoons.

Northern Pike:  Good-Very Good – Flags flying as Pike action picked up.  Tip-ups with big shiners or suckers.  Talk about town is hot dogs on quick-set rigs – verdict still out:  Oscar Meyer or Ball Park! Nice fish reported into mid 30’s.  Some anglers jigging #9 Raps reporting action.

Bluegill:  Good-Very Good – Fuzzy jigs (VMC, Tungsten Fly, Northland Tungsten, K:E Hackle jigs) tipped with waxie, spike or Beaver bait doing numbers.  Aggressive fish not needing much coaxing, could change as weather cools, so keep those #3 tungstens handy.

Walleye:  Good – For early February not bad.  Action for those jigging Leech spoons, Slender spoons and #5-#7 jigging Raps good.  Most tip-up anglers finding suckers and large fatheads over shiners in deeper sandgrass flats.  Move to shallower edges at dusk best action in 16-22’.

Largemouth Bass:  Good – Showing up on tip-ups with medium shiners.  Action will slow with cold by weekend.

Most lakes averaging 24’” of ice (21 to 26”), little snow as of this writing, but that could change mid-week.  Access has been excellent, though ice/rain on Monday (2/4) put crust on snow making walking a little more difficult (and a lot more noisy)

Just four weekends of the gamefish (Walleye, Pike, Bass) left, should see good ice well into March in our area, so plenty of time for panfish.


Feb 9th – 1st Annual KISS High School Ice Fishing Tournament (Highschool teams only) – Lake Minocqua

Feb 9th – 17th Annual Plum Lake Ice Fishing Tournament – Plum Lake in Sayner

Feb 16th – 3rd Annual Rob Lemmer Memorial Ice Fishing Tournament – Lake Katherine in Hazelhurst

Feb 23rd – 6th Annual Carrol Lake Ice Fishing Tournament – Carrol Lake in Woodruff

Feb 23rd – 13th Annual Lake Tomahawk Family Fun Fisheree – Lake Tomahawk

Feb 23rd – Annual Claus Kraetke Memorial Ice Fishing Jamboree – Donners Bay Resort

Kurt Justice

Kurt’s Island Sport Shop
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Capt. Rich Sleziak  at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind. texted:

Action over weekend at slough pretty good for a lot of groups tip up action for bass good with golden roachs and gills good front and back

Size on gills is down from years past but still some good ones and a lot of action beemoth and spikes variety of ice jigs
As of today front is open back is closed as someone went in near weeds slough that is
Steelhead action in salt and lil cal decent over weekend on voodoo jigs and waxworms or spawn saks move around decent numbers of fish in creeks
Some coho have showed also not a motherload but some in lower stretch’s of salt creek and around marinas catching them while steelhead fishing
Valpo area chain of lakes had a ton of fisherman on them some decent gills caught mainly in the 8 to 12 ft of water again some decent catch’s a lot of slow catch’s with as many people on the ice


No update.


No update.


The Wisconsin DNR’s Root River Report is usually out Tuesday or Wednesday. Click here to see it.


Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said the river and lake are iced.


Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.


Ken “Husker” O’Malley sent this:

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this week’s fishing.
Shabbona Lake- Fishing was excellent with the warmup this weekend. Cribs and brush piles in deeper water yielded very good numbers for bluegill and the occasion crappie. The bigger bluegill came off the brush piles with tungsten   jigs tipped with multiple spikes. Ice conditions were good as the average being 8-9 inches of clear ice with plenty of slush on top. Water clarity was slightly stained so go with brighter colored jigs.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley with success ice fishing at Shabbona.

Ken “Husker” O’Malley
Husker Outdoors
Waterwerks fishing team

Lakeside–(815) 824-2581–is open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. while there is ice fishing.

Park hours in February are 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.


For the Wisconsin DNR’s Lake Michigan Fishing Report, click here to see it. Streams flow info is at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/current?type=flow.


Sturgeon spearing season opens Saturday, Feb. 9. Click here for details.


Check with River’s Edge.


No update.


Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said there’s been some decent pike action by ice fishermen.


No update.