Warming waters bring crappies out of winter storage

The fishing and hunting report is compiled using reports from
conservation officers, hunting guides and fishing guides.

North

Lake Michigan: According to fishing reporter Cory Yarmuth, the
south end has been still locked up with ice. However, with a few
days of south winds and some warmer weather, anglers should be
prepared to get out and chase some browns and perch. Browns and
coho will be starting to get active on the lakefront from boats.
There is also some shorefishing opportunities on the south half as
well. Fish the warm-water discharges with jigs and twisters tipped
with a piece of squid or crank baits like a J-9 in chart/white or
orange/gold. Long-lining body baits have also been working well for
the coho there. Mix it up a bit and use live bait like golden
roaches or spawn under a float.

People have been launching out of 95th Street and fishing the
river area for perch and have been very successful in putting
multiple limits in the boat. A lot of sorting is needed to get the
bigger fish, but they are out there.

Waukegan is starting to heat up. Government Pier or Johnson’s
Pier have been starting to show some signs of life. With a good few
days of north, northwest winds you will see some warm water pushed
up against Johnson’s pier and the brown trout will start feeding
heavily. There can be a good brown trout bite fishing bottom rigs
with dead minnows or spawn. Also casting small spoons will produce
some big fish.

The downtown harbors have not been producing fish as well as
early season. With the ice deteriorating, the fishing has been
spotty. Browns and rainbows are being taken in the open areas. Jigs
tipped with minnows as well as dead sticking spawn sacks near the
bottom will produce browns. Golden roaches or spawn sacks under a
float have been taking rainbows. The perch in the harbor are small,
and there have been little reports of sizable fish or limits taken
through the iced areas.

Belmont, Montrose, and Diversey are all reporting about the
same. The perch have been great in numbers, however their size is
quite small. The best bite seems to be on plastics fished slowly.
Burnham Harbor has been made quite dangerous by the ice breaker
that constantly moves in and out of the harbor. 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. Artificial plastics such as small minnow-style plastics
rigged on double rigs and pulled along the weedbeds can produce
some of the larger fish.

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Chain: The action on the Chain has been quite slow the last few
weeks. With the warmer days coming, the fish are starting to move
up to the shallows to take advantage of fresh water runoff.
Horizontal style jigs with spikes and jigs and plastics seem to be
producing quite well. Black has seemed to be the ticket for color.
The bite changes from day to day so be prepared to move and change
baits. Dead sticking bait has been a productive technique as the
fish are starting to get picky. The bays seem to be producing quite
well. Find the newer weeds in 8 feet of water or less and the gills
will be there, but look for deeper water for the white bass and
crappies. 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 in 10 to 14 feet of water, near
deeper water. The fish have been most active in the evening hours.
Fishing jig and plastics have been doing better than minnows, but
this can vary from day to day. The north end of Channel Lake has
been producing some good-sized panfish. The weeds are still green
and are holding some good quality fish. The ice conditions are
changing so be sure to talk with local baitshops to get the updated
conditions as the ice conditions can change.

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Braidwood: This cooling lake offers anglers an opportunity to
get out in the early spring when most other lakes are frozen or are
just too cold and not producing fish. The lake is open and the
shore fishermen are seeing quite a few catfish and bluegills. Fish
are being caught on ice jigs under a float or on bottom rigs tipped
with crawlers or other cut bait. The largemouth can be caught
fishing the secondary drop-offs with large profile bait like a jig
and pig or by fishing the shallower areas bouncing a crank bait or
spoon plug off of the rocks and the bottom. Always keep an eye on
the flags at the launch, as they will give you an indication if it
is safe to be on the water and when you should take caution. Green
is good, yellow is caution, and red is dangerous.

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Bangs Lake: The bite remains steady on this body of water. There
has been some consistent panfish action in 13-15 feet of water. The
crappies are suspending in the mid water column as well as some of
the larger gills. It seems like the key is to downsize your jigs.
Use small teardrops with one or two spikes. Glow-style jigs tipped
with spikes have also been a good producer. The bite tends to be
best in the late afternoon into the evening. Some big bass and good
northerns have been taken on tip-ups baited with medium roaches.
Set your traps up in the shallow areas that are holding in the 8
feet of water range.

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 the 7 to 9 feet of water.
Keepers that can be found sorting thru 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.

Diamond Lake: This lake has been producing some good catches of
perch and bluegills. The key is to find the clumps of weeds and
fish the edges. Jigging plastics tipped with wax worms in orange or
purple have been putting several fish on the ice. Bass and northern
pike are starting give a good show on tip-ups baited with medium
golden roaches. Set up your traps near the shallower flats that top
off in the 6 feet of water range.

South

Lake of Egypt: Bass biting good on spinner baits and jigs or
soft rubbers. Crappies are biting in 6 feet of water at the
weedlines with jigs.

Crab Orchard Lake: Crappie fishing is fair on minnows. Bass
action has picked up, but still slow near shorelines. Bluegills
being caught on worms.

Baldwin Lake: Warm-water areas good for catfish, though those
being caught are small. Anglers are tossing crank baits around rip
rap and catching a few bass. Bluegills are slow but will hit on
meal worms or wax worms occasionally.

Carlyle Lake: Reports of heavy sauger action in the spillway
between the dam and the suspension bridge. Best baits have been
jigs tipped with minnows. Flatheads are being caught on cut shad
and cheese bait. White bass action has been active along rocks.
Crappies are fair on tube jigs and minnows in 8 to 10 feet of
water.

Kinkaid Lake: Muskies are being caught on spinner baits and
shallow running baits. Catfish and bluegill action has been slow.
However, bass anglers are reporting good success on spinner
baits.

Rend Lake: Bass slow. Crappies biting in 5-10 feet of water on
jigs. Channel catfish being caught on night crawlers.

Central

Sangchris Lake: Crappies have been biting good near the dam.
Bass picking up, with channel catfish being caught on liver and
stinkbaits.

Lake Bloomington: Crappies have been fair on jigs in 10-20 feet
of water over logs and brush.

Clinton Lake: Catfish biting is decent on shad guts and cut
shad. Walleyes, white bass and crappies also are being caught in
hot-water areas around bridges. Bass fishing is slow, but expected
to pick up near points.

Spring Lake: Muskie fishing is getting hot and heavy. Crappies
are biting on the north end on minnows. Bass fishing has slowed.
Catfish are biting on crawlers and cut baits.

Evergreen Lake: Crappies and bluegills are being caught in about
10 feet of water. For the best crappie fishing, use minnows.

Lake Shelbyville: Crappies have been biting fair in the northern
river portions of the lake, with a few shore anglers catching
fish.

Lake Storey: This lake is city-owned and only allows trolling
motors. Crappies have been biting fair on jigs or minnows. Walleyes
are biting good on jigs tipped with minnows.

Newton Lake: Bass are fair but mostly smaller fish on spinners
or crank baits on main lake ledges. Catfish have been slow to fair
in warmer water areas. Crappies have been slow.

Rivers

Rock River (Dixon): Catfish have been biting good on worms and
liver. Walleyes also are being caught on this stretch of the river.
Fish in 6 to 8 feet of water on jigs with minnows.

Fox River: With the recent rains and warmer weather there has
been a good meltoff that has brought the levels up. 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. There have been some reports of
walleyes being taken near the McHenry Dam. The walleyes are on the
move and are being taken on jig and minnows in the warming hours of
the day. Structure is key. Look for the bridge pilings or wood that
would warm up first. Fish are being taken near the dams as well on
jig and minnow combinations.

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Illinois River: The Ottowa pool has started to produce a decent
sauger bite. Fish are being caught on jig and minnows as well as
pulling three-way rigs with stick baits. Take caution this time of
year as the rivers flow can change quickly with the melting snow
and rains.

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