Midwest fishing report
Written by Chicago Sun-TImes   
Wednesday, 15 February 2006 12:29

Lake Winnebago (Wis.) sturgeon spearing: The strange winter drew this quip from Winnebago sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch after Saturday's opener: "Effort was substantially low for an opening day as many spearers opted to stay on shore patronizing local establishments and waiting to hear about ice conditions, water clarity and local spearer success."

Poor ice conditions have helped an algae bloom, which limits visibility in many areas to only a couple feet. The bloom and variable ice conditions (14 inches to open water) have led to less effort. Sunday's aerial survey counted only 3,434 shacks, compared to 4,567 on a typical opening weekend. As a result, daily harvest is low. The 39 on Saturday was lowest opening day total since 33 in 1994. Biggest fish on opening day was a 70-inch, 102-pound sturgeon speared by Tim Eldred of Menasha, Wis. On Sunday, that dropped to 24, then seven on Monday and five on Tuesday. At that rate, for the first time since 2002, the season will run the full 16 days.

Powerton boat opener: Boat fishing reopens today. Tom Grider of Riverside bait shop said it was 67 degrees at the discharge, 48 at the intake with mid-50's over most of the area open to boats. The mild forecast should draw a good number of fishermen. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Remember sand for any icing on the ramps with the colder mornings. Directions are I-55 south to Bloomington, I-74 west to I-474 west to Route 29 south. Just south of Pekin, turn right on Manito blacktop. Bait shop is (309) 347-3793.

Best bet: Northwest Indiana: Cohos and browns are good from Cal Park (most consistent) to Michigan City, Ind. (variable). Best is a orange 1/4-ounce jighead and a 3-inch white twistertail with squid, otherwise golden roaches under a float, Mik-Lurch reported. Action has been both good from shore and boat. Coho Harry reported good limits at the mouth of Ditch on Tuesday on crankbaits. Most boaters are launching at 95th, otherwise at Portage. Trail is the best creek with steelhead from the lakefront up. Wolf Lake has crappie going. Perch are slow.

NICC derby: Here are the large fish winners for the 46th annual Northern Illinois Conservation Club Ice Fishing Derby, the longest continuously run winter event in Illinois. Tom Stollins had the large northern pike, 33-3/4 inches from Petite Lake. Rich Cheterbok had the big bass (17 7/8, Petite). Walter Windorff had the large catfish (241/2, Petite). Stollins had the big crappie (11, Petite). Ryan Machnik had the biggest striped (yellow or white) bass (11 5/8, Petite). Cheterbok had the big perch (10 3/8, Pistakee). Len Schmieglitz had the biggest bluegill/sunfish/rock bass (8 7/8, Petite). Kyle Artus' 24 3/4-inch pike was largest entered at Channel; Stollins' pike the largest at Petite and Cheterbok's perch the biggest at Pistakee.

Area lakes: In between: Unsafe ice has reformed on most lakes. A few areas north and west may have safe ice by the weekend, but don't count on it.

Area rivers: Variable: The question for weekend fishing is the strength of the forecast Arctic cold. Guide Buster Culjan reports male sauger are decent around Mertel's in Peru with anglers both pulling and jigging. It will take a lot to freeze the launches at Starved Rock and Peru. On the Kankakee, there's been a few trying for pike east of Momence, at the mouth of Iroquois and below the dams in Illinois and the Point near English Lake and LaSalle FWA in Indiana; and a few smaller walleye, according to Ed Mullady.

Chain O'Lakes area: Variable: Triangle reports relatively good ice, but lots of open water. Small areas may be accessed to fish. The best bite is bluegills on the south end of Channel. Usual extreme caution, but more areas should firm up by the weekend, unless too much rain comes today.

Cooling lakes/strip pits: Waiting: The lakes of Mazonia and Mazonia South have partial ice cover. Braidwood reopens March 1. LaSalle reopens March 15 and will be open Wednesday through Sunday in March. Heidecke reopens April 1.

Downstate: Reforming shell ice is limiting activity, even across central Illinois. There's some crappie action in the coves at Evergreen, but sheet ice is reforming. Powerton has decent catfish action and reopens to boats today (see top).

Kenosha, Wis.: Good: Ed Shirley's staff call Kenosha harbor the hottest bite going in the area, and several MFR friends second that, with good browns and steelhead being caught on white tube jigs under a float or minnows under a float.

Lakefront: Fair: Perch continue to be variable around the harbors and Navy Pier. On a good day, there's keepers; on a tough day, it's sorting through dozens of small ones. Scattered browns continue at all harbors. "Jimmy T." Templin of Ed Shirley Sports gave a heads up that the Navy Pier site (navypier.com) has a $10 off parking coupon good through the end of the month. Considering some of the best perch fishing has been during the daytime, that's a good deal. Otherwise, fishermen who leave Navy Pier before 10 a.m. and show their fishing license pay only $5 for parking. In Waukegan, bait fishing (spawn sacs) are taking decent steelhead and some browns on frozen or live lake shiners; action was surprising good during some of the weekend snow. Note: Mayor Daley's Fishing Advisory Committee meets at McKinley Park at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Madison Lakes, Wis.: Decent: D&S Bait reports good ice with decent fishing on Waubesa and Monona Bay (some open water). The late week cold should dramatically increase ice coverage.

Mississippi River: Savanna: Variable: Miller's Sports Center reports there is ice in the backwaters over the weekend, but recent warmth made it iffier. Late week

Northern Wisconsin: As expected, the cold firmed up the slushy ice well. Most lakes are drivable with 12 to 18 inches of ice. Ice should continue to build with forecasts for nights around zero for the next week. Minocqua: Guide Kurt Justice reports a strong pre-dawn and early dawn walleye bite, mostly in shallow cabbage (4-8 feet). Pike are steady. Steadiest perch are in deep mud on wigglers.

St. Joseph area, Mich.: Decent: BJ's reports steady steelhead, primarily from Jasper Dairy launch to Berrien, most are coming on spawn. Some walleye on the deeper holes toward Berrien Springs (some up to 12 pounds in the last week). A few whitefish off the south pier when the weather allows; Saturday was a good day.

Shabbona Lake: Variable: Big Jim's said a few have been ice fishing the bays and coves; by the weekend much more area should be thicker and safe.

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