Illinois Rivers Fishing Report – February 19th, 2016
Fox River: During the winter months, the fishing really tends to slow down on the river, however, there are still some good opportunities for quality fish. For smallmouths, 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 splitshot about 12 inches above the hook. Cast into eddies. Also bouncing 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.
The water temps have dropped quite a bit and the walleyes are up at the dams. There have been few 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.
Illinois River: There have been very few reports from the river as the cold weather has kept most off of 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.
The Ottawa 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. This can be a very productive time but you will want to keep an eye on the flows and levels prior to your trip.
Ohio River (Smithland Pool): Anglers in the past have had success fishing the Ohio River in winter. Channel catfish are always a popular species to catch this time of year. Try using chicken livers or nightcrawlers fished tight-line off the bottom. Target flathead catfish by using live shad. Some hybrid striped bass may also be caught. Try using white jigs with twisters tipped with a minnow.
Mississippi River (Alton): Channel catfish and flathead catfish are being caught below the dam tailwaters using shad fished tight on the bottom. The best time to fish for channel catfish and flathead catfish is during the nighttime.