Report from the Dock
DNR biologists point out that fish need cover – either to seek protection from predators or to hide in so they can ambush prey. Here are some tips about what to look for when you get to your fishing destination:
Docks – Floating and permanent docks provide excellent fish habitat. The shade on the underside of docks offers fish a refuge to conceal themselves from predators. In turn, predators often lurk nearby, ambushing unsuspecting victims. Algal growth on dock posts and the docks themselves draw small baitfish that feed on the algae and in turn draw in larger fish.
Rocks – Many lakes and rivers in Illinois have man-made rock piles along stretches of shoreline to prevent erosion. This rocky habitat extends into the water, and the crevices provide excellent hiding places for small fish. Bigger fish roam the edges of the rocks looking for other fish and insects to feed on.
Wood – Branches, limbs, or even whole trees that fall into the water are tremendous fish habitat. The more complex the better. Little fish can dart in and out of the protection of small twigs protruding from branches, and bigger fish can conceal themselves amid the tangled branches to ambush prey.
Weeds – Aquatic vegetation (commonly referred to as weeds) serves many purposes, including providing structures for microscopic invertebrates to feed on, forming the base of the food web in many waterbodies.
The fishing and hunting report is compiled using reports from conservation officers, hunting guides and fishing guides.
LaSalle: The lake opened on March 15. Blue cats and hybrid striped bass are getting a lot of attention so far. Bass bite is good, while other fish are picking up. Trollers are finding great bass using spoonplugs and other lipped crankbaits pulled around any structure. Shore anglers have been doing well on catfish with chicken livers dropped to the bottom. Hybrid stripers are fair. A few panfish are being caught on worms.
Heidecke: The lake was scheduled to open April 1. DNR biologists have predicted a good year for walleye anglers, as DNR catch rates during the 2020 survey and 92% of adult walleyes captured were legal size (16 inches). Six percent were over 25 inches in that DNR survey.
Lake Michigan: Fish are being caught along the shorelines and harbors. Find the discharges on the south end of the lake and you will find browns and coho. Also the areas around the rock reefs as well as Burn’s ditch are producing good fish.
Shore anglers are finding limits of cohos. Casting spoons or inline spinners as well as white jigs has been productive. The power liner crowd has been getting bites on a consistent basis.
Perch are biting at Navy Pier. Reports have shown that a lot of smaller ones are being caught and getting limits of larger fish requires a lot of sorting.
Chain: The bass are starting to get into their early spring patterns and can be caught casting rattle baits and lipless cranks on the breaklines and near the newly forming weeds. If you get into the back bays and near the boat docks, you will find some good panfish action. The fish are holding tight to any wood or steel structure as this warms up first in the sun. Small jigs under a float or a plain hook with a chunk of nightcrawler have done well. Structure is key. Look for the bridge pilings or wood that would warm up first. Fish are being taken near the shores on worms, as well on jig and minnow combinations. There are good reports of crappies and bluegills being caught near the shallows and bridge pilings on small jigs or ice jigs under floats.
Crab Orchard Lake: Most crappies are holding over deeper cover on minnows and jigs. Some anglers also were taking some bluegills near the riprap on a variety of baits. Catfish action is still slow. Largemouth bass fishing has been good on plastic worms and spinnerbaits. Drop lures deep and crank slow, as bass begin to become more active as the water warms. Look for structure or signs of vegetation. Bass will be feeding heavily in coming weeks. Bluegills are biting on worms and even on some jigs and small blades. Fish are a little small, but bigger bluegills are expected to start biting soon.
Carlyle Lake: Crappies are rated fair and are being caught on top of structure and in the underwater brush piles. Most fish are holding in 3 to 5 feet of water. Minnows and jigs are the primary bait. White bass are rated good and should continue to bite through spring on tube jigs, minnows, and curlytails. Catfish action is improving on shad, shad guts, and nightcrawlers. Saugers are also rated good on curlytails tipped with minnows or nightcrawlers. Bluegills are fair.
Kinkaid Lake: Muskies have picked up and are expected to be plentiful this spring. Bluegills are being caught in 3 to 5 feet of water on wigglers and waxworms. Crappies are holding in 5 to 10 feet of water and have been good on minnows and jigs. Bass are fair on plastics and spinners. It’s a little early for topwaters, but worth a try during early evening. Catfish are being caught on stinkbaits and worms.
Rend Lake: Crappies are fair on jigs and minnows in water ranging from 5 to 10 feet along Route 154. Fish are holding in brush piles. Bass and bluegills are rated slow. A few bass are being caught on spinners, crankbaits, soft plastics, and Rat-L-Traps along the riprap or in weedbeds. Catfish remain steady and good on cut shad, shad guts, nightcrawlers, minnows, and stinkbaits.
Lake of Egypt: Bass are looking good in shallows and in coves. Crappie action has been good in 15 to 18 feet. Fish are holding over brush piles and near docks. Catfish are good on a variety of baits. Some good-sized channel cats are being pulled in on liver. Bluegills bite is good on worms and small blades.
Little Grassy: Bass good on plastics of all kinds and colors. Most are hitting in late evening, near structure or shorelines. Bluegills are fair on worms. A few catfish caught on worms and shad.
Sangchris Lake: Bass are good on spinnerbaits and chatterbaits. Try casting along shorelines with emerging vegetation, if available. Catfish are picking up on anything that smells: liver, shad, doughs. Crappies are biting on minnows and on jigs and are fairly shallow along rocks near the dam.
Lake Bloomington: Bluegills are biting good on worms. Crappies were excellent on minnows around shallow brush. Bass are biting good on plastic worms.
Newton Lake: Fishing is still very good with anglers catching bass, catfish, and white bass. Bass are taking zoom worms or crankbaits. Catfish are biting good on worms, large minnows, or shrimp. Small spinners seem to work well with white bass. Crappies are being caught off the banks using minnows.
Clinton Lake: Anglers are catching crappies from one end of the lake to the other. Still sticking with jigging anywhere from 10 to 15 feet deep.
Illinois River: The sauger and walleye bite has been really good. Fish are being caught vertical jigging jigs with minnows or using a floater jig and Lindy rigging minnows have been doing well. Pulling three-way rigs has also started to put some fish in the boats.
Rock River (Byron): Good-sized channel catfish are being taken from the creeks with cheesebait, chicken liver, minnows and cut bait.