Midwest Fishing Report
Written by Chicago Sun-Times   
Wednesday, 01 February 2006 10:13

Ice fishing in December began as if it would be one of the greatest ice-fishing seasons in recent memory. Then we came to this: a rash of open water or unsafe ice in the heart of winter. A host of ice events were scheduled this week.

Oh, no. Here are the updates: Henry's Winter Derby, obviously, will be fished in open water on the lakefront Saturday. It's scheduled for Belmont Harbor but, if the perch bite is hotter at Montrose, it might be switched there; call (312) 225-8538. ... Rockfest at Shabbona Lake on Saturday will go on in a modified form. Starting at 8:30 a.m., volunteers will cut and drill logs to be placed along wind- and wave-beaten shorelines. . . . The Walk on Water Ice Benefit, scheduled for Channel Lake on Saturday, will go on as an open- water event at Waukegan Harbor from 7 a.m. to noon. Entry is a $15 donation to the American Cancer Society (those 12 and younger are free); go to icebenefit.com. ... Members of Wonder Lake Sportsman's Club, have faith -- they have rescheduled their 20th annual ice derby a third time. It's now on for Feb. 26.

Hot spot: northwest Indiana: The first coho reports -- shore and boat -- have started. Boaters at Gary Light on Tuesday caught some coho already 19 inches long. The water is holding around 39 degrees. Shore anglers have caught a few coho but more browns at the state-line power plant. The shipping canal has good browns in it. Mik-Lurch reports Gary Light was the hot spot on Tuesday with dozens of coho, browns and smallmouth. Continuing east, the doughnut east of the Port of Indiana has been producing coho and browns. Michigan City has been rich for coho, steelhead, browns and occasional walleye, including one 32-inch, 13-pound walleye over the weekend.

Area lakes: In between: A few are trying shore fishing in open water areas. It's worth trying February/ March ice-out tactics for crappie.

Chain O'Lakes area: In between: Triangle suggests going south on the river for open-water walleye. Be cautious of navigation because of the low water. There is no safe ice, and a slim chance of safe ice reforming.

Cooling lakes/strip pits: Update: Mazonia/Mazonia South: The lakes are open daily. There's open water, but very few trying. Braidwood: Set to reopen March 1. LaSalle: Set to reopen March 15. It will be open Wednesday through Sunday in March, then is scheduled to go to seven days in April. Heidecke: Set to reopen April 1.

Downstate: Shelbyville: Guide Mary Satterfield reports fair crappie, most coming in 8-12 feet with a jig 4-6 under a bobber around standing timber. Weekend rain brought the lake level up slightly; water holds around 40 degrees. Powerton: Riverside reports fair fishing; most consistent are channel and blue catfish. Boat fishing reopens Feb. 15.

Fox/DuPage rivers: western suburbs: Wading guide Ken Gortowski's reliable sources report fair walleye below many of the dams all over on jig and twister; most productive at least for smaller walleye is below Yorkville. He suggested trying below Millington as another hot spot. For something different, quillbacks have been the most dependable fish -- and this time of year, any caught fish is something. On the DuPage, sporadic smallmouth are coming on crayfish imitations.

Illinois River: Starved Rock area: Improved: Riverview Marine reports decent sauger catches from the Little Vermilion to Hennepin, mostly fish in the 1- to 2-pound range. Best is jigging (red or chartreuse jigs, or hair jigs) in 18-25 feet, though sporadically some are coming shallower. River is near normal pool and there's current, so fishing should hold fairly consistent. Water temperatures are seesawing in the 30s and 40s.

Kankakee River: Decent: Not many are trying, but Ed Mullady reports best bets for bigger walleye in Illinois are around Momence, the mouth of the Iroquois or downstream of both dams. In Indiana, best are the mouths of ditches and creeks, Grand Kankakee Marsh Park and Route 41 to the state line.

Lakefront: Decent: For sheer action, the lakefront may be the area's top choice. All harbors and Navy Pier have at least some smaller perch, though finding keepers takes sorting. Henry's reports some better-sized perch (9-inch range) came from Navy Pier over the weekend. Chicago harbors have had sporadic browns. At Waukegan, the Salmon Stop reports sporadic browns and steelhead on shiners and spawn sacs on the south rocks, Johnson and government piers; some perch off government pier.

Madison Lakes, Wisconsin: Shrinking: D&S Bait reports ice conditions are becoming more borderline. Waubesa continues to have decent ice fishing. There's still some out on Monona Bay, but open water, too. A good cool-down could restore more ice-fishing areas.

Mississippi River: Savanna: Decent/ good: Miller's Sports Center in Lanark reports boaters are catching walleye and sauger on the wing dams, and some on the rocky shorelines on jigs tipped with minnows.

St. Joseph area, Michigan: Fair: BJ's says river actually is above normal for the first time in a long time, and fresh steelhead have come in; some are being caught daily at Berrien Springs. Walleye are scattered through the river. Piers have been slow, a few whitefish.

Shabbona Lake: In between: Big Jim's says right now you could put a boat in. Back areas could refreeze if the cold nights come again.

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