Report from the Dock
As the water temperature begins to cool down in the fall, catfish, like many other fish, can sense the impending winter approaching. Food sources the fish are accustomed to begin to disappear in some form or another. Catfish must eat enough to maintain their weight or, in some cases, the superior of the species get even bigger. Catfish by nature are the most efficient feeders – they eat almost anything, relying on physical characteristics such as taste buds on their underside and stomach.
During the autumn period, they move from shallow feeding flats to deeper weed edges. Cats make their final transition into the deep basin as winter approaches. Falling water temperatures trigger the annual migration of channel cats from shallow to deep water. As nights lengthen in early fall, water temperatures start their slow decline. This initial change doesn’t entirely chase catfish from the shallows. Provided there’s not a dramatic dip in the water temperature, catfish remain active during daylight and nighttime hours on weed flats where young-of-the-year panfish are abundant and serve as a primary food source. You can also find fish in soft-bottom areas that produce insect hatches until the first hard freeze and also along windblown shorelines that concentrate food. As severe cold fronts set in, water conditions in the shallows become less stable. Quick swings in temperature and water clarity occur as fall storms bring influxes of cold water. These conditions trigger the initial migration of catfish out of the shallows.
Chain: The walleye action is hot with the cooler weather. Reports show good catches in the river channels and mouths of the creeks throughout the day. Live bait is proving to be best.
The bass bite is slowing down. Live bait rigged on the breaks is producing some bites. Wooden boat docks are holding fish during the day as they warm the water faster. Wacky-rigged stick-style plastics are producing.
Panfish are hot right now as well. Jigs under slip floats or small spoons worked in the deeper areas. Live bait is working well, but plastics are still getting some of the larger fish to bite.
Muskie action is really starting to pick up. Some big fish are showing themselves on Channel and Petite lakes in the deeper water areas. Big suckers as well as bucktails are the baits of choice.
Lake Michigan (Chicago area): The boaters are finding some salmon out deep in the 140 feet of water range. Most fish are taken on full lead-core or downriggers with magnum spoons.
The lake trout bite is hot on the south end. Troll the reefs with smoke or clown dodgers with white or yellow spin-n-glows. Jigging with gulp or large white twisters has also been taking fish.
The kings are in full swing for the shore fishermen. The 4-year-olds are being found in the harbors. Spawn under a slip float is the best presentation as of late.
Crab Orchard Lake: Crappie action is improving. Fish are being found at varying depths, depending on cover. Minnows and jigs seem to be equally effective. Catfish action has slowed somewhat. Bluegills have slowed, although some fish are still being caught along the riprap on crickets and waxworms. Bass action is good on a variety of baits fished around shallow cover.
Baldwin Lake: Catfish are biting on nightcrawlers and stinkbaits. Bass are hitting plastics and crankbaits around riprap and in shallows. Bluegills are picking up on meal worms or waxworms.
Horseshoe Lake: Catfish remain steady. Anglers are catching fish by drift fishing nightcrawlers just off the bottom. Some crappies are being caught in brush piles at the outside edge of the tree line.
Carlyle Lake: White bass are biting well below the spillway, with a few fish coming from near the trestles and the silos. Whites are also biting on the main lake on the flats. Crappies fair on minnows below the dam. Channel cats are good on the lake for anglers drifting or jug fishing with cut bait or leeches. Good catches reported in late evening and early mornings. Flatheads are biting on cut bait and liver. Bass are hitting spinners and spoons thrown up along the rock wall.
Kinkaid Lake: Muskie action has been excellent. Anglers are picking up fish by trolling and casting. Spinnerbaits and shallow running baits are the most effective. Crappies are rated fair. Anglers are taking fish at varied depths, from two to 18 feet. Minnows are the primary bait. Catfish and bluegill action has been slow. However, bass anglers are reporting good success on spinnerbaits.
Lake of Egypt: Crappies good on minnows and light jigs. Bluegills fair on rooster tails and worms. Most fish are being located in six to eight feet in front of weedbeds. Bass are still rated good on topwaters and spinners, and some on soft plastics. Catfish good on shrimp and stinkbaits.
Lake Murphysboro: Catfish action remains excellent, particularly in the morning and early evening. Most anglers are using chicken liver and nightcrawlers. Bass are also rated fair to good. Crappie anglers are finding fish at various depths. Minnows are the preferred bait. Bluegill action is slow.
Little Grassy: Bluegills and redear are slow to fair. Channel catfish fair on shad or cut baits. Crappies picking up on minnows and jigs.
Rend Lake: 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 riprap, Gun Creek bridge, and the sailboat harbor wall have all been productive areas. Catfish action has also been good. Catfish anglers are working riprap areas, Gun Creek, the subimpoundment dams, and shallow areas. Shrimp, nightcrawlers, shiners, and stinkbaits have all been effective.
Devils Kitchen: Bass in fall patterns, biting on just about anything, especially plastics and spinners. Bluegill being caught on worms and crickets.
Coffeen Lake: Bass are good on topwater baits, crankbaits and plastics. Bluegills are fair on waxworms and fairly shallow catfish are good on dip baits, crawlers, and cut bait, with some big flatheads being landed. Stripers are fair on deep running crankbaits.
Newton Lake: Bass good. Some white bass were reported. Crappie fishing is a big question mark after a poor fall and few reports so far. Catfish good.
Lake Springfield: Bass slow. Crappies are biting on tube jigs at the south end bays. Channel cats also biting on shad and doughbaits.
Lake Bloomington: Bass fair on plastics, crankbaits, and jigs along weeds or timber. Crappies slow to fair and a little scattered but should improve on jigs and/or minnows. Catfish slow to fair on dipbaits, shad, and crawlers. Walleye action slow but should improve with cooler weather.
Evergreen Lake: Crappie fishing is fair to good. Best crappie fishing is found over structure just offshore. Minnows are best bet, with a few being caught on light jigs.
Clinton Lake: Catfish going strong on shrimp. Below the spillway, anglers are finding walleyes using Rapalas or sand blasters. Crappies are being caught with jigs or minnows. White bass fair on bladebaits.
Lake Decatur: Some catfish being taken on liver and stinkbaits. Bass good on plastic worms and some live baits. Bluegills good on worms.
Illinois River: The walleye and sauger bite has dropped off.
The bite shut down and fish are harder to find. Anglers who are catching fish are finding them here and there and nothing is showing up as a good pattern. Trolling lead core with stickbaits or three-way rigs with the bottom weight being a jig and minnow and an F-9 Rapala on the long line. Work the flats created on the current bends.
If you find active fish, you can switch up to vertical jigging with jig and minnows. The white bass are beginning to school up.
Kankakee River: Pike have been lively, and smallmouth bass have been biting near Momence on minnows and spinners. The catfish bite has slowed down, but a few caught on cut bait.
Rock River: Catfish being caught up and down the river, mostly on dough baits and stinkbaits.
Mississippi River (Alton): Blue cats being caught on shad and stinkbaits near shore near current flow areas.