Winter fishing opens with typical cold temps

Carlyle, Ill. – Winter fishing in Illinois continues to be a
“north and south” issue.

Northern anglers have spent recent days hunting for adequate ice
to drill through, while southerners have been stuck with cold air
but mostly open water.

On a 35-degree late December afternoon at ice-free Carlyle Lake,
Ben Knapp pulled in a dozen crappies ranging from 1 to 2
pounds.

“They are are active with the cooler weather here,” he said,
displaying the white curly tails he was using to land the hungry
fish. “I wouldn’t be out here if this was ice.”

Southern Illinois lakes like Carlyle also feature hard-biting
sauger and walleyes as the water cools. Farther south, at Crab
Orchard Lake and Lake of Egypt, largemouth bass have been biting as
the water cools but remains open.

“They bass are a little slower and lazier right now, but they
are catchable,” Dean Winter, of Marion, said.

A brief and unstable ice-over as the New Year arrived in
southern counties didn’t last long.

Meanwhile, reports from the state’s northern lakes and ponds
still are mixed, though popular spots like the Chain O’ Lakes, have
experienced a solid 4 to 5 inches of ice.

Even at that, Mother Nature is dictating conditions.

A hard freeze right before Christmas and another right around
the first of January helped thicken the ice on many waters.

At the Chain, ice anglers on Pistakee Bay have pulled lots of
bluegills and crappies out of holes.

On the Chicago lakefront, the harbors have been “iffy” at best,
though some areas have thickened. Angler and fishing Web site
producer Cory Yarmuth reported that the harbors were starting to
get some ice on them, “but there is still some good opportunities
for open water fishing.”

“Brown trout and steelhead are in the harbors in full strength,”
Yarmuth said, adding that spawn sacks under a float were working
well, along with tinsel or white tube jigs tipped with wax
worms.

Most lakes in DuPage are in good shape, while forest preserve
districts are warning ice anglers to “tread lightly.”

Out at Willow Slough, Yarmuth reported that panfish were biting
hard and several nice bass were being caught while jigging for the
panfish. The ice conditions, however, vary a lot through out the
lake.

“There have been reports of people breaking through in some
areas,” Yarmuth said.

Also, a pair of anglers in Du Page County took an unplanned swim
in late December, leading officials to start warning fish seekers
to take to the ice at their own risk.

Heidecke improvements

Water levels at one of the more popular northern Illinois lakes
will be easier to maintain thanks to a rip-rap project by Midwest
Generation.

The company has placed protective rip rap around a dewatering
structure on the former power plant cooling lake, reducing the need
to significantly lower the lake water level during winter months,
when ice threatens.

“As a result of the project, water levels can be maintained that
allow easy access to the popular lake,” a DNR announcement about
the project stated.

DNR has leased land and water at Heidecke since 1978.

Fishing at Heidecke opens on April 1 and closes prior to
waterfowl season each fall.

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