IL: December deep freeze has many anglers hitting the hard stuff Issue: 26
The fishing and hunting report is compiled using reports from
conservation officers, hunting guides, and the following sporting
Lake Michigan: According to Cory Yarmuth, of
www.legend-outdoors.com, the harbors are starting to ice, but there
are 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. Soon the harbors will
completely ice over and then there will be some great opportunities
for the trout through the ice. 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.
Navy Pier and the downtown Harbors are producing some good catches
of perch. The fish are small 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. 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.
Boaters are launching out of 95th Street and fishing the channel,
and surrounding lakefront has been producing many limits of 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. The lake trout bite has really slowed
down but some lakers are being caught trolling dodgers with
Spin-n-glows along the reef near the Port of Indiana. The hot
colors have been copper/chart and chart/orange dots. They are being
found in 20 to 40 feet of water around and on top of the reef.
Jigging gulp or white tubes near the bottom have also been
producing some good catches of lake trout.
Chain: The channels of the main lakes have frozen over and the
panfish action is hot, with 80- to 100-fish days not uncommon on
this first ice. Good bet is channels like “Nielsen’s” or the “T”
channel. The ice is ranging from 3-5 inches, however can be thin in
several areas. 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. The back bays and such as Pistakee and Mineola Bay have a
good 3 to 4 inches of ice on them, however some of the areas
further into the lakes are only showing 2 to 2½ inches of ice.
There have been some good reports of mixed bags of panfish being
caught with the occasional walleye. The best areas have been at the
south end of the bay in the 15 feet of water range. If you move out
to the deeper drops people are finding the white bass suspended
over the deeper water. Small jigging spoons tipped with spikes or
gulp minnows are catching most of the white bass and crappies.
Smaller jigs like a Slug-Bug are putting some really nice keeper
bluegills on the lake.
Shabbona: Crappies are being caught over the fish cribs. Search the
cribs that surround each of the land piers. The secret to success
this time of the year is to use a lively minnow. You will have to
continually change your minnow because they don’t last long. Perch
are still being caught along the deeper white bass. Use minnows
near the bottom for best results.
Crab Orchard Lake: Bluegill action has slowed somewhat, although
some fish are still being caught along the rip rap on crickets and
wax worms. Bass action is good on a variety of baits fished around
Baldwin Lake: Bluegills are slow in cold water but will hit on meal
worms or wax worms occasionally. Catfish are on the move and those
that are being caught are small. Anglers are tossing crankbaits
around rip rap and catching a few bass.
Kinkaid Lake: Muskie action has slowed. Anglers are picking up fish
trolling and casting. Spinner baits and shallow running baits are
the most effective. When the cold snap hit, crappie fishing slowed,
but is rated as fair. Anglers are taking fish at varied depths,
from 2 to 18 feet. Minnows are the primary bait. Catfish and
bluegill action has been slow. However, bass anglers are reporting
good success on spinner baits.
Lake of Egypt: Crappie action picked up, then slid during cold. Not
many anglers hitting the lake recently. Most fish are being located
in 8 to 10 feet in front of weedbeds. Bass are still rated fair on
soft plastics. Catfish action picked up recently, fishing shrimp in
Lake Murphysboro: Bass and panfish are rated fair to good. Crappie
anglers are finding fish at various depths. Minnows are the
Rend Lake: Tough and cold conditions in recent weeks have kept
fishing action to a minimum. 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.
Lake Sara (Effingham): The crappie bite has been fair. The bait
of choice is small jigs tipped with wax worms or spikes under
floats. Skipping under the deeper docks or finding the submerged
timber and green weeds is working.
Evergreen Lake: There is fishable ice in the coves but the main
lake may be spotty. Back in Mallard Cove the crappie are fair to
good. Around boat docks, the bluegills are fair but small as well
as some small bass.
Lake Shelbyville: The Corps of Engineers has started its annual
draw down, meaning it could be a good time to target muskies and
walleyes in the tailwaters below the spillway.
Fox River: The water temps have dropped quite a bit, and the
walleyes are on the move up to the dams. There have been good
reports of some large fish being caught on minnow-style stick baits
as well as jig and minnow combination. Look for the deeper holes
that are 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 1⁄8-ounce 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 sauger bite has really started to turn on in
the deeper wintering holes. 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. The white bass
bite has almost come to a complete halt. If you are able to get out
some of the better baits have been white jig and twister combos
with a minnow. Blade baits will put some of the larger more
aggressive fish in the boat. 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
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 minnowbaits. They are being taken in the evening hours
working the deeper holes that are adjacent to shallow water. It has
been a bit since any reports of northern pike being caught, but
this is a great time of year to find some of the larger fish.
Fishing live bait under a float or throwing inline spinners and
jerkbaits can really be productive.
Kankakee River: In the Momence area, smallmouth bass fishing is
good around shoreline pools on spinners, crankbaits and minnows.
Crappies are coming on minnows, pinkie jigs and small
In the Aroma Park area, try around remains of the old dam for some
walleyes on jigs and minnows.
At the Kankakee dam through Johnson Fisherman’s Park, smallmouth
bass are being caught on minnows, spinners and crankbaits. Rock
bass good on minnows. At Kankakee River State Park, smallmouth bass
good on Rattlin’ Rogue Countdowns and minnows. Catfish good on
cheese baits. Walleyes fair on minnows.