Lake Michigan: Fishermen have been catching a lot of small perch through the ice near the docks in harbors. Fishing small jigging spoons tipped with spikes as well as smaller jigs with plastics have been producing very well. The reports on the perch have shown a lot of small fish, but if you keep at it, there are some keepers to be had. Don’t forget to stop at the local bait shops to pick up your “pier pass.”
Otherwise, the harbors have ice but there is little if any safe ice. Fishermen have been fishing from the docks instead of walking out onto the ice. There have been very few reports of trout being caught at this time. They are there; you just really need to work for them. Spawn sacks slowly jigged as well as the standard tinsel or white tube jig tipped with waxworms are both good. Belmont seems to be the best harbor in the
Chicago area. Racine Harbor in Wisconsin is producing some better catches of browns and steelhead.
Navy Pier is producing some 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 there is ice near the pier and you need to break open holes to be able to fish.
Fishermen have been catching perch off the bridge on 95th Street in the channel. If the winds are down and you can launch the boat, there are some good opportunities for some perch in this area as well as around the lighthouse.
Chain: There are some opportunities to find fish on the back channels and small inlets. When we do get some good ice, the crappie bite has been in 14 feet of water range during the dawn and pre-dawn hours as well as at sunset and after. The fish are suspending about 8 to 10 feet down and are looking for smaller jigs and plastics or jigs tipped with a couple of spikes.
For the white bass, look for the deeper holes in the 18 to 20 feet of water range you are likely to find some good schools. Often it takes a lot of changing of baits to get these fish to bite.
The back bays such as Pistakee and Mineola Bay have a been good as well as the south end of Channel Lake.
For bluegills, it seems that the best areas have been at the south end of the bay in the 4-6 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 the crappies.
The bluegill bite is on and off in the shallower areas. It seems that the 8-10 feet of water range has been best for some of these hard fighters. Find areas with some green weeds and fish the openings or edges. Smaller jigs like a Slug-Bug are putting some really nice keeper bluegills on the lake.
Crystal Lake: If you do venture out, make sure you fish with a buddy and use extreme caution. There have been poor reports of fish being caught. The crappies and bluegills are giving many fishermen trouble. They are there and can be seen on the graph as well as through the very clear water, but making them bite is a different story. Downsizing jigs and using minnows have been putting those specks on the ice, and smaller jigs and spikes have been putting the gills in the bucket as well. With the clear water, it really helps to have a shanty to block out the light and the fish are much less spooky than normal.
The guys fishing tip-ups have been doing very well on the bass, northern pikes and even walleyes in the shallow areas of the bays as well as the deep points.
Bangs Lake: Some people have been getting out, but extreme caution should be used and all your safety gear should be with you if you do venture out. The best thing to do is call up a local bait shop for ice conditions and always fish with a buddy.
There has been a good bite on the crappies and the pumpkinseeds as of late. The bluegills and pumpkinseeds are being found in 5-8 feet of water and the bite seems to be best early in the morning and then again later in the day. Vertical-style jigs with spikes or wigglers seem to be one of the better producers for these fine table fare.
The crappies are being found a bit deeper in the 10 to 12 feet of water range. You will see them suspended early in the day, however they are moving down to the bottom during the day. Horizontal jigs like gill pills with a single wax worm are working well. Dark colors seem to be producing better than lighter colors.
Busse Lake: Use caution if you head out. The solid ice has had reports of panfish being caught through the ice. The bluegills are really active, however, there are a lot of small ones to weed through to find the bigger fish. The bass and northern pike are active on tip-ups with medium and large golden roaches as well as on larger jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head. Make sure you follow the site-specific rules and the hours when fishing this area.
Shabbona: Fish being taken around the cribs and the timber. The water is still stained and with the snow cover, larger jigs with a bigger profile will attract more fish. Keep a rod with a small jig, deadsticked and jig a larger jig to attract fish in. The larger jig will get their attention, and they will likely take the jig that you have dead-sticked.
Willow Slough: Good reports of bluegills and redears being taken during the morning and afternoon hours. The areas near the shallow weeds and lily pads are producing. Hole hopping is a must on this lake as these fish will move around and you will need to keep changing things up. The fish will not move far so when you locate a few, pop some holes in a circular radius and work the area from hole to hole. Again the smaller jigs seem to be producing.