Northern Illinois Fishing Reports – January 10th, 2014

Lake Michigan: The harbors have some ice starting to form, but there are still patches of open water. The trout bite in Illinois waters is slow. There have been few reports of trout being caught at this time. They are there; you just really need to work for them. Spawn sacks slowly jigged as well as the standard tinsel or white tube jig tipped with wax worms are both good.
Navy Pier is producing good catches of perch. The fish are small, and a lot of sorting is required, but crappie rigs with fathead minnows seem to be producing the best. Shrimp and even perch belly meat have also been good presentations on live bait rigs. Find the weedbeds, and you will find some of the bigger fish. Don’t forget to bring a heavy anchor or such on a long rope as the ice can form near the pier, and you may need to break open holes to be able to fish.
The harbor fishermen have been catching a lot of small perch through the thin ice near the docks. Fishing small jigging spoons tipped with spikes as well as smaller jigs with plastics have been producing very well. The reports on the perch have shown a lot of small fish, but if you keep at it, there are some keepers to be had. Don’t forget to stop at the local bait shops to pick up your “pier pass.”
Boaters are launching out of 95th Street, and fishing the channel and surrounding lakefront has been producing perch. They have also been moving out to the lighthouse and catching fish as well. Fishing bottom rigs with minnows and feather tied hooks has been the top producer. There is pack ice near shore so make sure you watch the weather and winds before making a journey out there.
Chain: The Chain has spotty ice on it, with the channels and back shallow bays showing 2 to 3 inches of ice. There are many spotty areas that can be very unsafe. Use caution if you are heading out. Call a local bait shop first to get ice conditions.
The back bays and channels that have ice have been good. There have been good reports of mixed bags of panfish being caught with the occasional walleye. Small jigging spoons tipped with spikes or gulp minnows are catching most of the white bass and crappies.
The bluegill bite is on and off in the shallower areas. It seems that the 4- to 6- feet of water range has been best for some of these hard fighters. Find areas with some green weeds and fish the openings or edges. Smaller jigs like a Slug-Bug are putting some really nice keeper bluegills on the lake.

Shabbona: The ice conditions are “iffy” on the lake with fish being taken around the cribs and the timber. The water is still stained, and jigs with a bigger profile will attract more fish. Keep a rod with a small jig, deadsticked and jig a larger jig to attract fish in. The larger jig will get their attention, and they will likely take the jig that you have dead-sticked.

Crystal Lake: This is a private lake during the summer, but during the winter, ice fishermen can access the lake from the beach areas. The bluegill bite is becoming difficult with fish being found in the 7 to 9 feet of water range, but patience is key. Because of a recent fishing derby, the fish have been very pressured so varied presentations are key. Wigglers on a plain hook or small jig have been doing well. The west end in the bay will have a good crappie bite in the evening. Start jigging just below the ice and work the entire water column. The crappies will be suspended and often take the jig on the fall. Good northern and walleyes are being taken on tip-ups as well as jigging spoons tipped with minnows. Look for the breaklines and any green weeds. There is a two-pole restriction on the lake, so make sure you follow the rules and also clean up after yourself.

Willow Slough: Good reports of bluegills and redears being taken during the morning and afternoon hours. The areas near the shallow weeds and lily pads are producing. Hole hopping is a must on this lake as these fish will move around and you will need to keep changing things up. The fish will not move far so when you locate a few, pop some holes in a circular radius and work the area from hole to hole. The smaller jigs seem to be producing.

Bangs Lake: The bluegill and crappie bite has been very slow. Fish have been found in 7 to 9 feet of water and will often suspend in 12 feet of water toward the evening. Smaller jigs with spikes have been doing well. A few small perch have been caught, but nothing of any substantial size. Moving around a lot is key. If one hole isn’t producing, move until you find them.

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