The fishing and hunting report is compiled using reports from
conservation officers, hunting guides and fishing guides.
Lake Michigan: According to fishing correspondent Cory Yarmuth
(chitownangler.com), with the warmer weather in late January and
the south winds, the south end of the lake lost its ice and the
launches were accessible. A cold snap since then may have changed
the scene. The browns are starting to get active from the boats if
you can get out through some ice. Fish the warm-water discharges
with jigs tipped with squid or crankbaits. Trolling body baits has
been working well.
Ice fishing for trout in the harbors has remained slow. There
are fish to be had, but the bite is not very hot and heavy. Jigging
spoons tipped with minnow heads as well as dead sticking spawn
sacks near the bottom will produce browns. Golden roaches or spawn
sacks on a tip-up have been taking rainbows. The perch through the
ice have been great in numbers, however their size is quite small.
The best bite seems to be on plastics fished slowly. Make sure that
prior to venturing out on the ice, it is legal in the harbor you
are going to and that the ice is safe. The ice can have bad areas
due to underwater currents created by the main lake.
The perch action has been very consistent at Navy Pier with
larger fish starting to show up in good numbers. There is ice
forming around the pier, so if you plan on heading out, don’t
forget a heavy weight or anchor with a line to break open an area
to fish. Crappie rigs with shrimp or fathead minnows seem to be
producing the best. Some anglers are having good luck utilizing the
belly meat of the perch as well. Artificial plastics such as small
minnow-style plastics rigged on double rigs and pulled along the
weedbeds can produce some of the larger fish.
Chain: The action on the chain has been quite slow the last few
weeks. The upper lakes have good ice on them, including Channel.
There are fish to be caught, but with the changing weather
patterns, it has really put a damper on their appetites. Pistakee
bay has been producing some white bass fishing the 15-foot depths.
The crappie bite can be good but finding them is the hard part.
They have been suspending on the breaklines near deeper water. The
north end of Channel has been producing some good-sized panfish.
The weeds are still green and are holding some good quality fish.
The ice conditions were good with 6-8 inches of good ice, however,
be sure to talk with local bait shops to get the updated conditions
as the ice conditions can change.
Shabbona: Ice conditions were good. The bite is tough as there
is a lot of pressure and the water is still very cloudy and
stained. Smaller jigs with a single waxie or spike seem to be most
productive. Work the cribs and search the wood for suspended
crappies. Dead stick minnows along the creek bed for walleyes.
Conditions should improve.
Crystal Lake: This is a private lake during the summer, however
during the winter ice fishermen can access the lake from the beach
areas. The bluegill bite has been slow in 7 to 9 feet of water.
Keepers can be found sorting through the smaller ones. The tip-up
action for pike and bass can be very good in the shallower water
near the shorelines. Run your baits big and just below the ice for
good action. Crappies really start biting at sundown and can be
taken on minnows or small plastics fished just below the ice. This
is a two-pole restricted lake so make sure you follow the rules and
also clean up after yourself.
Willow Slough: The panfish bite has been really good. There also
have been several nice bass caught while jigging for the panfish.
Small plastics tipped with a wax worm seem to be producing quite
well. There are also some pike being taken on tip-ups and minnows.
Make sure to pay attention to any site-specific regulations and
watch where you are walking. The ice conditions, however, vary a
lot throughout the lake. There have been reports of people breaking
through in some areas. Make sure to use caution and do not tread on
areas that look suspicious.
Bangs Lake: The bite remains steady on this body of water. There
has been some consistant panfish action in 10-14 feet of water.
Make sure you find the weeds and work them really good. The
crappies are suspending in the middle water column as well as some
of the larger gills. Larger jigs tipped with waxies have been a
good producer. The bite tends to be best in the late afternoon into
Crab Orchard Lake: Bass action has slowed. Bluegills are being
caught on worms. Panfish, in general, are biting good on worms
under ice and in weedbeds.
Baldwin Lake: Warm-water areas good for catfish, though those
being caught are small. Anglers are tossing crankbaits around rip
rap and catching a few bass. Bluegills are slow but will hit on
meal worms or wax worms occasionally.
Carlyle Lake: Channel cats are good on the lake for anglers
drifting or jug fishing with cut bait or leeches. Crappies good
below the dam.
Kinkaid Lake: Muskie action has been picking up. Anglers expect
February to be good for muskies if temperatures stay above 30
degrees. Spinner baits and shallow running baits are the most
effective. Catfish and bluegill action has been slow. However, bass
anglers are reporting good success on spinner baits.
Lake of Egypt: Crappies and bluegills are being caught on
waxworms near structure. Bass are still rated fair on soft
plastics. Catfish action fair, fishing shrimp in shallow water.
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.
A few channel cats being caught along rip-rap on night crawlers.
Bass have slowed and are expected to pick up with warm water.
Dawson Lake: Bluegills are fair to good on waxworms. Catfish are
hitting waxworms in 8-12 foot of water. Crappies are fair in 8-12
feet of water.
Lake Springfield: Ice remains in most areas, but is unsafe.
Crappies are being caught in structure on minnows. A few catfish
caught on stinkbaits.
Evergreen Lake: Ice fishing has been good on Evergreen the last
few weeks. A lot of the ice fishing activity has been in the mouths
of coves, off points, and in the main creek channel. Wax worms have
been the bait of choice among most through the ice. Most fish
reported were being caught in deeper waters and mostly in the late
afternoon hours. A recent report from the weekend yielded hundreds
of crappies, with the majority being at least 9 inches.
Fox River: With the cold water and ice, the river can be
dangerous this time of year for wading. If you go out, check the
flows first. The smallmouth action can be very good this time of
year if you find some of the warm-water discharges that are up and
down the river. Fishing live minnows with a small hook and a few
split shot in the current can really produce some nice fish.
Remember to bundle up and be cautious when wading. Be careful out
there as the river is unpredictable.
Illinois River: The sauger bite has really started to turn on up
near the dams. Vertical jigging jigs with minnows or using a
floater jig and lindy rigging minnows have been doing well. Also
casting or vertical jigging blade style baits. Pulling three-way
rigs has also started to put some fish in the boats. Three-way rigs
with jigs and twisters or hair jigs seem to be producing the better
catches. 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 hair jigs.
The bite has been best in areas near warm-water discharges. There
have been some good catches of largemouth bass near these
discharges as well caught using crankbaits banged off rocks and
other structures. Good numbers of northern pike are also to be
found fishing live bait under a float or throwing inline spinners
Southern Illinois waterfowl count
DNR’s aerial survey conducted in late January indicated just
21,050 ducks – including only 100 at Rend Lake – remained in the
region, which is 46,013 fewer than the five-year average. The
Canada goose count continued to balloon, with a reported 127,750 in
the region. That figure is well above the five-year average of
Snow geese also continued to dominate the population, with all
but 1,200 of the total being that variety. Ballard County, Ky., had
50,000 snows, while Swan Lake, Ky., added 40,000; Horseshoe Lake
added 16,500 and Union County contributed 15,500.