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LaSalle opener, coho, rivers, late ice: Chicago fishing, Midwest Fishing Report

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A lot of us are hoping to see a sunrise like this over LaSalle Lake, when the cooling lake reopens Friday.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

This is the week when it breaks open. LaSalle reopens Friday, coho catches are becoming more widespread in southern Lake Michigan, reports on river fishing build and ice fishing begins winding in this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.

River reports start again. Kyle Lund is back on the Kankakee River, complete with a pithy quote to end, and Violetta Talley begins her reports on the Fox.

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.

LaSALLE OPENER

Like many others, I look forward, iffy weather or no iffy weather, to being in line early for the reopening of the cooling lake south of Seneca. LaSalle reopens Friday and will be open daily 6 a.m.-sunset.

Fisheries biologist David Wyffels said, “The outlook is good to catch a good mess of fish and take them home.” LaSalle is a “blue cat and hybrid fishery.” Blues maintain consistently good numbers up to 35-37 inches with reports to 73 pounds. Hybrid striped bass are going “to be a little better,” with numbers of fish in the 17- to 21-inch range. The dominant size in bluegills is in the 7s [inches]. Wyffels also said that guys fishing for blues should be prepared for some big flatheads, naturally occurring. They have surveyed some to 55 pounds. Channel cats, as in most power plant lakes, remain smaller and in poor condition. Wyffels is hoping that largemouth and smallmouth are coming out of the 10-year cycle on are on an “upswing.”

LAKEFRONT COHO

It’s coho time on southern Lake Michigan, or close to it. When weather and ice floes allow, anglers are catching coho in Indiana and powerliners are trying with a few being caught in Chicago. One issue remains pack ice, which can blow in depending on wind direction and speed.

Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said powerliners are takng a few coho at Montrose and Jackson Park; a few casters also trying.

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

Good coho action with some browns and steelhead mixed in lakefront from cal park to Michigan city

Ice blowing out good as of today skein and squid good and twister tails in white and pink tipped with waxworms or squid good
Port of Indiana giving up coho also
Portage park riverwalk gave up lots of fish over weekend fishing near bottom best
Boats are out some today out of ditch ice blew out small stuff floating around but big stuff gone and going out
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March coho in Indiana.
Provided by David Martin Repya.

On Monday, David Martin Repya sent the photo above and this report:

Today’s observation ..West wind locked up M.C. the Mouth of the Ditch and N.B. The port is open for now..The ditch and trail have Coho and some browns upstream..Everything’s day to day wind depending..The fish are here in decent #s..Still lots of pack ice around.

AREA LAKES

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Conditions are changing on local lakes and ponds.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

To the south, Ice fishing is over; north and west, it could hang on a bit longer.

As Ken “Husker” O’Malley noted in this report:

Hey Dale,

Here is a recap of this past week’s fishing.
Area lakes-before the rain on Saturday, ice was 5 inches on wind sheltered bodies of water. There were areas of bad ice, so spudding and drilling holes were absolutely necessary. After the rains, shorelines opened up as well as those areas of bad ice. Hard water fishing out south is officially over. Unfortunately, it seemed like it never really started. On to fishing. Bluegills were very good on small spoons tipped with multiple spikes. Focus on areas of remaining thick green weeds for the most active fish.
TTYL
Ken “Husker” O’Malley
Husker Outdoors
Waterwerks fishing team

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

Tim Baker sent this (he also sent along a shed-hunting report, but I will do something else with that):

Dale,

Unlike previous adventures, this weekends effort provided quite the outdoor thrills for my cronies and me.

Bonus Report
image.png
”The best ice fishing day I’ve ever had’ – The text reply from a friend of mine after he targeted late ice panfish on a small southern Wisconsin lake over the weekend. Apparently, the bite was just insane – He was targeting a piece of brush located in roughly 8 feet of water and the fish seemed to be jumping out of the hole.

AREA RIVERS

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

BRAIDWOOD LAKE

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Bass from shore at Braidwood in March.
Provided by Rob Abouchar

When weather allows, good bass fishing keeps going, especially for boaters. Open 6 a.m.-sunset daily.

Rob Abouchar sent the report below and the photo above:

Hi Dale

It was a beautiful sunrise on the way to Braidwood  on rte 55 but the conditions on shore were pretty extreme; especially the west rip rap.  The shore anglers were quickly thinned with the wind cold and seemingly non-existent bite.  You could almost feel the inactivity of the fish.  I somehow got one fish to react to a crank bait banged in tight to the rocks but it was a good one.  The color was again sexy shad.  I snagged a shad that matched my crankbait right down to the yellow line down the body.  The few anglers still around when I left at 11:30 after almost being blown off a rock into the drink reported little to no action.  Somehow there were a handful of boat trailers in the lot despite the red flag. Boaters should respect this lake as I have experienced a bad day there that I survived, and would like to; but never will forget.
The picture I sent was from Writers week at the School.  Faculty and former students speak about different topics or present pieces they have written.  I spoke about how I achieved my musical dream not once but twice.  I will include the story and piece for you to read.
Bass fishing club today after school today, better weather predicted and Spring break on the horizon.
Tight lines rob

CALUMET SYSTEM

No update.

CHAIN O’LAKES/FOX RIVER BACKWATERS

Art Frisell at Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch said ice conditions are still good, as of Tuesday, but check in later in the week for updated conditions. Fishing remains very good for this late in the season.  Crappie continue great, try glow Rat Finkees tipped with small fatheads or spikes, Channel north end is best; bluegill remain good, lean toward Widow Maker jigs (try gold or red) with waxworms, Channel north and south good; walleye are slow, but look around current areas (use caution), on large fatheads or roaches.

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.

CHICAGO RIVER

Capt. Pat Harrison at Pat Harrison Outdoors sent this:

Good Morning my laptop is down. I took it to Milwaukee last week and it wouldn’t turn on. It’s about ten years old. So I hope this works.         Chicago River Report,       Good News as I’m writing this Report Tuesday Morning the River is Open. I hope to get out Thursday to start checking spots. I was out of town last week at the Milwaukee Show with my show booth and doing seminars everyday. Had a Great Time I shared a room with Mike Maladnik one of the top Smallmouth guides in Northern Wisconsin. Saying that we traded a lot of info. There are a few new tools in the arsenal for this season for sure.  It looks like ice season may be over in the next few days Please Please be Careful out there.  Next weekend is the Chicago Boat Show at Schaumburg. I will have my booth there promoting my sponsors. Grandt Rods will Be there and Lake County Water Sports will have Boats on Display I will be in their displays if not in mine stop by say hi.

DELAVAN LAKE, WISCONSIN

No update.

DES PLAINES RIVER

Tim Baker sent this:

Dale,

Unlike previous adventures, this weekends effort provided quite the outdoor thrills for my cronies and me.

Des Plaines River

I spent time fishing a familiar area of the Desplaines River over the weekend with a technique that is completely unfamiliar to me, fly fishing. I’ve never been a ‘fly guy’ as it always came off a little pretentious to me,  however, after some convincing from my co-worker at Mystery Tackle Box I decided to join him on a fly pike mission this past weekend. The high winds on Saturday made casting a fly a challenge for a noob like myself but it was still a ton of fun. I haven’t had that much fun getting skunked in a long time.Each year I try to set a new fishing goal as I feel it helps me try things I would normally have not tried. Carp fishing, mastering a specific technique, or targeting a new species type are past examples. This year, I’ve decided to attempt to catch a Des Plaines River Pike on the fly, so stay tuned, it’s going to happen!

I like his idea a lot of trying to learn something new each year.

DOWNSTATE NOTES

POWERTON LAKE: Boat and shore fishing are open. Hours remain 8 a.m.-4 p.m. through April 30.

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.

DuPAGE RIVER

No update.

FOX RIVER: WESTERN SUBURBS

Reports from Violetta Talley start with this:

Hi Dale, just want to give you a report from the Fox River. It’s brief

Fox River water level is a little high and climbing steadily as the snow melts. I have a feeling it will rise quite a bit since we have rain in the forecast all week oh, so I would discourage any wading since it will be much too dangerous. Most of the slack water eddies are now free of ice between the Algonquin and Batavia dams. I don’t have any information about locations farther north or south since I didn’t get a chance to fish those areas.

It seems water temperature is still holding steadily because fish are still in their winter pattern and difficult to target, even at warm water discharges.

Their pattern will start changing as the temperature warms up shallow areas this week, so I would highly recommend targeting shallower eddies and rocky shorelines for Smallmouth.

A white Mr. Twister (curly tail grub) on a black, chartreuse or pink head is always a good bait on the river for smallies. Target the edge of the eddies where the current meets the slack water. Shallow diving crankbaits will also do the trick, but a slower presentation is pretty much mandatory for any bites.

That’s about all I have right now Dale, I hope I’m not too late. I meant to get you this before noon, but I got distracted by an appointment that went too long

FOX RIVER, WISCONSIN

No update.

GENEVA LAKE, WISCONSIN

No update.

GREEN BAY/STURGEON BAY

Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. sent this:

Good Morning fellas…this is what we have as far as the fishing is concerned

Perch fishing closes on March 15th.  Overall, Perch fishing was pretty good this season for the conditions that we had on top of the ice.  Lots of slush and lots of snow made ice travel very difficult this year so the searching part of the fishing was nearly impossible.  But, all in all a very good season for the Perch fishermen

Whitefish action continues to stay quite good overall, and we anticipate it to stay good right through the rest of the ice season whenever that may be. Better areas continue to be around the Henderson’s point area, Sherwood Point, Larsen’s Reef along with the vast shoreline and structure to the north of the Old Stone Quarry.  One thing that fishermen really have to watch out for and be aware of is the ice breaking that goes on here in the county so ships can get out of the ship yard.  And the breaking usually starts right after ice shanties have to be off the ice on March 17th.  For the Whitefish, a wide variety of jigs will work, but some of the main ones include….Howie’s Goby Head jig, Rapala Jigs, Jigging shad raps and Storm Wild Eye baits

Walleye fishing is starting to get better as it usually does as we push deeper into March.  Areas to try include…Henderson’s Point, the Riley’s Bay area, Sherwood Point and the Sawyer Harbor area.  Oddball Jigs, Rap jigs, Slab Raps and Euro Tackle’s assortment of jigs.  In most cases, tipping your jigs with full minnows or minnow heads is the method of choice

Pike action continues to get better and better as it usually does as those fish will feed heavy prior to their spawn also.  Look for staging areas around shallow bays and creek mouths to target those Pike as they will follow the Perch into those same spawning grounds

Brown Trout action is also going pretty darn good and that too will get better as we warm up and get more run-off flowing into the bays and out in front of the creek mouths.  Most ice fishermen will set up tip ups or automatic fishermen throughout the targeted bay they are fishing and spread out there sets to cover all of the water column.  Shiners and or spawn generally the bait of choice there.  And for the open water fishermen….when you can get your boat out, trolling or casting in front of creek mouths or look for stained warm water pockets

Thanks;

Lance LaVine

Howie’s Tackle
1309 Green Bay Rd
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Ph: 920-746-9916

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

HEIDECKE LAKE

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An opening day scene at Heidecke Lake in 2013.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Scheduled to reopen April 1.

ILLINOIS RIVER

Projected to likely be in flood stage later this week with the incoming rain and upstream snow melt.

Check with B&B Live Bait at (815) 433-0432.

INDIANA STREAMS (LAKE MICHIGAN TRIBUTARIES)

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:

Some good steelhead action around bass pro stretch of salt creek voodoo jigs tipped with butterworms or waxworms

KANKAKEE RIVER

Kyle Lund sent this:

Walleye Walleye Walleye! It is the beginning of that wonderful time of year. The ice is melting. Short rods and augers are being stored away. The long rods and terminal tackle are being organized and boats are coming out of storage. This can only mean one thing, the walleye run is approaching rapidly. Call it fait or luck but the Kankakeee River is in prime shape and everything is coming together for a very good spawn this season. The river has risen and is pretty muddy and will come up a bit more with coming rain this week but don’t panic. Anglers and fish alike can use this to benefit their very different interests. Lets start with the fish. High water moves bait around, usually up shallow out of the current. The muddy water will do a couple things. It will warm up much quicker than the clear water, especially the last hour or so of light. It will also the give the walleye a sense of security to come up shallow to feed throughout the day. If the current is very stong they may actually school up in these non current areas for a few days until it recedes some. For the angler this is also, contrary to popular belief, an advantage. Key in on these shallow little to no current areas. If they are close to a spawning area there will absolutely be fish there. Try a jig and twister tail or swimbait with a downstream presentation. Use the lightest jig you can get away with while still keeping slight bottom contact. Use a larger profile bait that puts out more vibration and thump from the action to really give the fish something that stands out in the dirty water to key in on. Stickbaits may also be productive but fishing them in a shallow part of a very rocky river could get expensive. Now we have the how and where lets cover the why. Walleye spawn in water temps between 42°-52° with optimal temperature being 46°. Current temps on the Kankakeee are around 40° during their peak and 36° as the sun is coming up in the morning. The fish have definitely started moving towards their spawning areas with 2 things in mind. Eat and make little fish. Forcasted temps should have water in the mid to upper 40’s by weeks end. Also on march 20th we have a full moon. Some people don’t buy into the moon phase but it is a proven experience that animal activity , especially bigger fish, increases a couple days before and a couple days after the full moon. Considering all things here we are setting up for a very good spawn for the walleye and a shot for anglers to be very successful as well. If you choose to keep walleye make sure to read the regulations. You are allowed 3 fish daily. One may be over 26″ or you can have 3 under 18″. 18″ -26″ fish are protected slot fish and are year round no keep. Sunday March 17th I will be doing a walleye seminar for the Kankakee River Rats at the Kankakee dam by the fishing peir. Start time is scheduled for 4pm and will run about and hour. All are welcome. We will cover rods, line selcetion, and rigging. As well as live bait under a slip bobber, lures and how to present them. We will finish with picking spots and reading the water. There is no required fee but we will have a donation bucket out . Funds will be used to buy fishing tackle for kids.

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions of hope.” John Buchan

There is a lot of stuff in there, including a seminar on Sunday. And I just like the quotes that Lund closes with.

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN

Arden Katz said ice is thinning.

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

LAKE ERIE

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

LAKEFRONT

Staff at Henry’s Sports and Bait said powerliners are takng a few coho at Montrose and Jackson Park; also some casters trying already. All hinges on what the ice floes are doing.

Stacey Greene at Park Bait at Montrose Harbor sent this update:

Good morning
Water got on yesterday bait coming in today will be around getting stuff ready tomorrow and should be ready by Thursday but just to be safe lets say reg hours will start Friday 5am to 6pm then starting April 1st we’ll stay open till 8pm
Far as I know by me fishing is slow the ice keeps coming in and out.

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.

LaSALLE LAKE

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“Biker Corner” at LaSalle Lake should be packed again opening when the cooling lake reopens to fishing on March 15.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Prospects are at the top. Scheduled to reopen Friday, March 15, then be open daily 6 a.m. to sunset.

MADISON CHAIN, WISCONSIN

D & S Bait can be followed on Facebook.

MAZONIA

Both units are open. I would call ice fishing done for the year.

MILWAUKEE HARBOR

Arden Katz said the ice is thick enough to make the extra drive worth it. He caught a whitefish ice fishing over the weekend.

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

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

Gamefish season is closed.

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

Still with the Winter??!!

Snow and bitter cold last week kept anglers off the ice.  A reprieve on Fri-Sat (3/8-3/9) gave a window of opportunity, though some didn’t take on Saturday with threat of more snow.

For those who ventured out (by foot, snowmobile or tracked UTV) fishing wasn’t half bad. Four teams of Highschool ice anglers found very good Bluegill and some Crappies.  Other anglers reported similar success in areas they could get to.

Bluegill:  Good-Very Good – Despite mobility being so hard, anglers found Gills on the mid-sized to larger lakes taking waxies and spikes.  Weeds of 7-10’ were key.  Nice Gills of 7-9” over the weekend.

Crappies:  Good – Jigging with small spoons (Lethal Cecils, #2 pimples or #8 rockers tipped with waxies or beaver tail baits best.  Minnows working, but putting out set of tip-downs tough.

Perch:  Fair – Anglers, for the most part, not getting to areas Perch holding (deep mud flats).  Those that do, catching nice eaters of 8-10” on Hali jigs tipped with wigglers.

Tough to predict what week will bring.  Warm up mid-week (40’s for three days) should knock down some snow, but rain could make things messy. 

With two feet of ice still on lakes covered by two feet plus of snow, temps back in 20’s-30’s next weekend, our ice will remain for a while. 

Kurt Justice
Kurt’s Island Sport Shop
Like us on FaceBook

NORTHWEST INDIANA

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

Good coho action with some browns and steelhead mixed in lakefront from cal park to Michigan city

Ice blowing out good as of today skein and squid good and twister tails in white and pink tipped with waxworms or squid good
Some good steelhead action around bass pro stretch of salt creek voodoo jigs tipped with butterworms or waxworms
Port of Indiana giving up coho also
Portage park riverwalk gave up lots of fish over weekend fishing near bottom best
Boats are out some today out of ditch ice blew out small stuff floating around but big stuff gone ang going out

ROCK RIVER, ILLINOIS

No update.

ROCK RIVER, WISCONSIN

No update.

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

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

ST. JOSEPH, MICHIGAN

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Stock photo of Berrien Springs dam from March 2018.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Walleye and pike season ends Friday, March 15. Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said walleye and some steelhead are going at Berrien Springs.

ST. JOSEPH RIVER, INDIANA

Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.

SHABBONA LAKE

I would suggest following on Facebook or calling Lakeside at (815) 824-2581. Lakeside is open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. while there is ice fishing, not sure what the updated hours will be when that ends.

Park hours in March are 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT

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.

WINNEBAGO SYSTEM, WISCONSIN

No update.

WISCONSIN DELLS

Check with River’s Edge.

WISCONSIN RIVER

No update.

WOLF LAKE

No update.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

No update.