IL: Unusual balmy December delays ice fishing on most lakes Issue: 26
The fishing and hunting report is compiled using reports from conservation officers, hunting guides, and sporting goods stores.
Lake Michigan: According to fishing reporter Cory Yarmuth, the harbors are starting to get some skim ice on them, but there is still some good opportunities for open water fishing. The browns and steelhead are in the harbors in full strength. Spawn sacks under a float are working well as well as the standard tinsel or white tube jig tipped with wax worms.
The steelhead bite is starting to increase in the downtown harbors with spawn being a primary choice of baits. Fishing with spawn sacs in a pink or chartreuse color under a float or on the bottom will offer a great opportunity for one of these tough fighters. Tinsel jigs as well as tube jigs under floats are also producing fish.
There has been some great reports of the brown trout and lake trout bite picking up in southern Wisconsin areas. Trolling silver/green spoons and casting rattletraps has been a very productive tactic. This time of year you can find the warm water discharges along the harbor areas and these will hold the baitfish that will bring the trout in. The discharge north of Waukegan has had some good reports of fish being caught, but you need to watch the weather conditions, and there are no piers in at the launch, so proceed with caution.
Navy Pier and the downtown harbors are producing some good catches of perch. The fish are ranging in size and a lot of sorting is required, but crappie rigs with fathead minnows seem to be producing the best. Also artificial plastics such as small minnow-style plastics rigged on double rigs and pulled along the weedbeds can produce some of the larger fish. Launching out of 95th Street and fishing the channel and surrounding lakefront has been producing some limits of perch. Also fishing in Indiana waters near the "hole-in-the wall" has been also showing some promise with the perch fishing. Fishing bottom rigs with minnows and feather tied hooks has been the top producer.
Chain: The water has started to freeze up in most areas, but if there are a few days of warmer weather then the ice may let you get out for a bit. Drifting the weedbeds with large suckers on quick-strike rigs has been producing some nice muskies. Look for the breaklines associated with decent weed growth. The fish are taking suckers drifted behind the boats over weedlines and breaklines.
The channels of the main lakes have started to freeze over, but there have not been reports of safe ice as of yet. Keep checking with local bait shops and websites for reports as it will only take a few days of sub-freezing temperatures to get these areas frozen over. Channels like "Nielsen's" or the "T" will be the first areas to freeze. The channels run about 4 feet deep and the fish are stacking up in there and feeding well. Fishing small plastics tipped with wax worms have been a top producer. Make sure you try to get a local report before venturing out on the ice as there are areas that have only recently frozen over, and the ice could be very thin.
Crab Orchard Lake: Wind and cold hampered anglers for most of December, but a warming helped bass fishermen get in some good catches right before Christmas. A report of a 6-pound largemouth was made in mid-December, caught on a spinnerbait. Otherwise, bluegills have slowed, although some fish are still being caught along the rip rap on crickets and wax worms. Catfish action is good on a variety of baits fished around shore.
Baldwin Lake: Bluegills are slow but will hit on meal worms or wax worms occasionally. This warm water lake is holding some large catfish, and fishing for them is expected to pick up next month. Bass slowed down right after Thanksgiving, and are expected to remain slow through January.
Carlyle Lake: Water levels have played havoc with anglers, but winter fishing is picking up. Bass caught near shore on spinners. Channel cats are good on the lake for anglers drifting or jug fishing with cut bait or leeches. Good catches reported near Keyesport and Boulder. Cut bait also working as are slab spoons thrown up along the wall. Crappies good below the dam.
Kinkaid Lake: Anglers continue to report good muskie action, though the fishing has slowed down as the water temperature drops. Spinnerbaits and shallow running baits are still the most effective. Crappies are rated fair. Anglers are taking fish are varied depths, from 2-18 feet. Minnows are the primary bait. Catfish and bluegills action has been slow. However, bass anglers are reporting good success on spinnerbaits.
Lake Murphysboro: Catfish action remains excellent, particularly in the morning and early evening. Most anglers are using chicken liver and night crawlers. Bass are also rated fair to good. Crappie anglers are finding fish are various depths. Minnows are the preferred bait. Bluegill action is slow.
Little Grassy: Catfish action remains steady throughout the lake. Night crawlers are the most effective bait. Crappies have slowed somewhat. Fish are still deep. A couple of nice fish were taken a week before Christmas, but numbers were down. Minnows are the primary bait. Bass action remains fair. Bass are expected to pick up again in late January, or if a warm spell hits sooner.
Rend Lake: Crappies are still rated good on minnows, chartreuse jigs, white jigs and pink/green jigs. Fish are being caught over Christmas tree sets and near bridge pillars in 6-10 feet of water. The Route 154 rip rap, Gun Creek bridge and the sailboat harbor wall have all been productive areas. Catfish action has also been good. Catfish anglers are working rip rap areas, Gun Creek, the subimpoundment dams and shallow areas. Shrimp, night crawlers, shiners, and stink baits have all been effective. Bass have been caught on live minnows and on spinners, mostly in midafternoon.
Lake Sangchris: Bass are fair near hot water ditch on jigs and crankbaits. Crappies are fair on minnows. The west and east arms of the lake and dam area are closed to boat traffic through the end of January. During this time, fishing boat traffic is permitted in the center hot arm only. The exception will be for hunting programs with restricted usage during this time. For more info, contact the site office at (217) 498-9208. Most area lakes have open water. Smaller shallow water bodies have skim ice forming every night but open areas during the day.
Lake Springfield: Catfish are fair near the warm-water discharge ditch. Crappies are fair in warm-water end of the lake on minnows around docks and brush. White and yellow bass are good, but many are small fish are near the warm-water area. Largemouth bass are slow.
Evergreen Lake: Lake and Comlara park will be closed for late-winter firearm antlerless deer season. Exceptions to the closings are: bank fishing will be allowed at the pumphouse, in the campground cove and Jone's Pond. Some anglers are reporting good crappie catches using minnow and jigs. Bass have slowed, as have catfish.
Mississippi River: Ice conditions are improving in backwaters. Small bodies of water are fishable, but larger areas dangerous. Bluegill fishing is fair. Most fish being caught are 7 to 9 inches. There are reports of good walleye fishing below Lock and Dam at Alton.
Fox River: The river is up with the recent rains and drawdown so it has made wading difficult and dangerous. The walleye bite has died down, and there are some fish being caught. There have been few reports of some large fish being caught on minnow- style stickbaits as well as jig and minnow combination. Look for the deeper holes surrounded by gravel bottoms and rocky structure. The bite has been best just after dark and prior to sunrise. These fish are moving around a lot so cover an area really well to trigger one of these big girls to strike.
The smallmouth action is slowing down. Fish can be caught, but now is the time to look for some of the warm- water discharges found along the river. Fish using live minnows with a small hook and a few split shot about 12 inches above the hook. Cast into the eddies. Also bouncing jigs with white or crawfish colored twister tails can produce some respectable fish. Work the jig slow and fish the current seams and slack water.
Illinois River: The river is flowing fast and hard with very low visibility and lots of debris. Fishing has been poor with very few reports of numbers of fish being caught. The saugers can be found, but until conditions improve getting them to bite will be difficult. If you do get out, the techniques that have been preferred have been: vertical jigging jigs with minnows or using a floater jig and lindy rigging minnows. Also casting or vertical jigging blade style baits.
The white bass bite is slow. White jig and twister combos with a minnow are quite productive. Using minnows is key as these fish are feeding up for the long winter months and often times a little meat on the hook is all it takes to get the fish to go. Look for some good current breaks around the islands as well as the mouth of tributary waters that are coming into the main river. These fish can be found chasing the small shad and there is a great chance of landing some really big fish.
Check the water conditions prior to heading out as the river at this stage can get dicey.
Des Plaines River: The walleyes have been found using jerkbaits and jointed minnow baits. They are being taken in the evening hours working the deeper holes that are adjacent to shallow water. Good numbers of northern pike are also to be found fishing live bait under a float or throwing inline spinners and jerkbaits.
Kankakee River: In the Momence area, smallmouth bass good around shoreline pools on spinners, crankbaits and minnows. Crappies good on minnows, pinkie jigs and small spinners.