Northern Illinois Fishing Report – February 19th, 2016
Lake Michigan: Fishermen have been catching a lot of small perch through the ice near the docks in harbors and in open water spots where access can be had. 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, really safe ice. Fishermen have been careful walking out onto the ice and that is wise. There have been very few reports of trout being caught. 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.
There are some good opportunities for some perch in this area as well as around the lighthouse.
Some walleyes being caught on minnows and reports of nice bass, too.
Chain: Ice has been thickening, and there should be some solid offerings. Open water spots producing bass and walleyes.
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.
Keep checking with local bait shops and websites for reports as it will only take a few days of sub-freezing temperatures to get these areas frozen over. Channels like “Nielsen’s” or the “T” channel are good. 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 in past years. Make sure you try to get a local report before venturing out.
Once on the lake, fishing with ice jigs under a slip-float can produce some exceptional catches this time of year. Live bait for most species is key this time of year. Floating minnows off the bottom on three-way rigs or suspended from a slip float can put some fair catches of walleyes in the livewell.
Crystal Lake: This is a private lake during the summer, but during the winter, ice fishermen can access the lake from the beach areas. 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: 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.