Fox River: The river has been slow as of late, but if you can find the warm water discharges you have a good chance of catching some fish.
Ice fishermen have been up in the Elgin area around Otto and the Boat with some luck, but the ice is unpredictable.
Bass, especially smallmouth, are hanging in shallow areas where there is open water. Look for them in some of the warm-water discharges found along the river. Minnows work well with a small hook and a few split shot about 12 inches above the hook.
Cast into eddies. Bounce jigs with white or crawfish-colored twister tails to produce consistent action. Work the jig slow and fish the current seams and slack water.
At the dams, walleyes are bunching up and are biting on a number of presentations.
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 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.
Illinois River: There have been very few reports from the river as the cold weather has kept most off the open water. This time of year the sauger bite can really 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. Check the water conditions prior to heading out as the river at this stage can get dicey.
There continues to be a good sauger bite at Ottawa. Reports indicate that fish are being caught on jig and minnows as well as pulling three-way rigs with stickbaits. Take caution this time of year as the river’s flow can change quickly with the melting snow and rains. This can be a very productive time but you will want to keep an eye on the flows and levels prior to your trip.
Des Plaines River: The pike are starting to get aggressive. There have been some reported catches of northern pike on in-line spinners. Find the open water areas with good current nearby. The fish are feeding well, and you may be able to entice one or two into hitting a natural presentation.
A few bass are being caught on spinnerbaits. There have been reports of catfish being caught on nightcrawlers.
Mackinaw: Smallmouth bass activity is stepping up. A few large catfish have been reported, mostly via cut baits.
Vermilion: There has been an abundance of smallmouth bass activity, though fish have been smaller than those caught in spring. Minnows have worked best.
Ohio River (Smithland Pool): Crappie action has picked up in most of the creeks, particularly farther upstream where water is shallower and cooler. Catfish action is picking up in both the river and creeks. The best action has been on worms and stinkbaits.
Mississippi River (Alton): Channel and flathead catfish have been biting on shad and stinkbaits. Bluegills have been hitting on crickets in the shallows. Largemouth bass are hitting plastic worms and topwaters during cool parts of the day.