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Illinois Outdoor News Fishing Report – December 23, 2022

Report from the Dock

These crappie ice-fishing tips and techniques are proven winners.

Crappies are undoubtedly one of the most sought-after ice fishing species. They’re fun to catch and great eating.

If you want to catch more crappies, the two most important keys are location and presentation. You could have the most appealing bait in the world, but if there aren’t any fish around, it’s going to be a long day. And, not catching a thing while everyone else around you is catching fish can be really frustrating. What you present to the fish is just as important as finding them.

Crappies can be ice-fished at any hour of the day or night, but changing light conditions in the morning and evening usually trigger more activity and feeding. Many crappie fishermen prefer to fish for crappies from an hour before sundown until a couple of hours after dark.

In early winter, crappies can be found in the same places they were just prior to ice-up. Look for them in shallow weeds and just off the weed line, especially when the weeds are combined with shoreline breaks and points. By mid-winter, the crappies will have moved off the structure, usually to the nearest deep basin. Start by looking for them suspended in the basin near the structure and at the same depth of the structure. 

Crappies follow food, so as the zooplankton and minnows move, so do the crappies.

Editor’s Note: A winter freeze bashed the state right before Christmas, changing fishing conditions on most lakes and rivers up and down our map. The fishing reports shared here are based on information gathered prior to the cold snap that hit. Ice fishing was expected to benefit from the below-zero temperatures predicted for the last week of December.

North

Lake Michigan: Perch are still hot on the lakefront, though slowing. The trout action in the harbors has slowed. 

Areas north of Waukegan have  had some good reports of fish being caught, but you need to watch the weather conditions.

Navy Pier and the downtown harbors are slow and cold but producing some good catches of perch. The fish are ranging in size and a lot of sorting is required, but crappie rigs with fathead minnows seem to be producing the best results. Also, artificial plastics such as small minnow-style plastics rigged on double rigs and pulled along the weedbeds can produce larger fish. 

Chain: Ice was beginning to build but still mixed with open water, but expected to form and become more solid. Meanwhile, white bass and sheepshead were caught in the
16- to 20-foot range on minnows and spikes.

Keep checking with local bait shops and websites for up-to-date ice reports as it will only take a few more days of sub-freezing temperatures to get these areas frozen over. Fishing small plastics tipped with wax worms have been a top producer in past years. Make sure to get a local ice 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 result in some fair catches of walleyes.

Crystal Lake: This is a private lake during the summer, but during the winter ice fishermen can access the lake from the beach areas. The bluegill bite is quite good in 7 to 9 feet of water, with keepers that can be found sorting through the smaller ones. The action for pike and bass can be very good in the shallower water near the shorelines. Crappies really start biting at sundown and can be taken on minnows or small plastics fished shallow. 

South

Crab Orchard Lake: Bass action has slowed. Bluegills are being caught on worms.

Baldwin Lake: Warm-water areas are good for catfish, though those being caught are small. Anglers are tossing crankbaits around riprap and catching a few bass. Bluegills are slow but will occasionally hit on meal worms or wax worms.

Carlyle Lake:  Those who did fish over the holidays found channel cats good on the lake for anglers drifting or jig fishing with cut bait or leeches. Crappies are good below the dam.

Kinkaid Lake: Muskie action is steady. Anglers expect February to be good for muskies if temperatures stay above 30 degrees. Spinnerbaits and shallow running baits are the most effective. Catfish and bluegill action has been slow. However, bass anglers are reporting good success on spinnerbaits.

Lake of Egypt: Bass are still rated fair on soft plastics. Catfish action is fair, fishing shrimp in shallow water.

Rend Lake: Largemouth bass has been excellent using worms, black/blue jigs, minnows and spinnerbaits. Fish in shallow bays near brush cover and bushes. Fish around bridges and along the rocks.

Silver Lake (Highland): Bass have been good using jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Crappies are excellent using minnows. Channel catfish bite has been excellent using Sonny’s Super Sticky Dip Bait. Bluegills ares good using crickets. The sauger bite is fair when using jigs.

Central

Sangchris Lake: Channel catfish bite is fair to good using most baits. Shore anglers doing OK near the spillway.

Lake Springfield: Bass are fair using plastics (worms and flukes), crankbaits and a few on swim jigs. Bluegills are fair. Channel catfish are fair to good using dip baits, liver and cut baits in the evening.

Lake Decatur: Channel catfish are fair. Some fish are being caught on trot lines baited with cut carp and skip jack. White bass are fair. Anglers are getting some bites using Mepps in the dredging area.

Evergreen Lake: Bass are fair to slow on plastics, jigs, and spinnerbaits around submerged timber or on points. Bluegills are fair on jigs and/or wax worms. Channel catfish are fair on cut baits, dip bait, or liver in evenings. Crappies have been fair with many small fish on minnows and some on jigs around or over brush.

Lake Bloomington: Bass are fair on plastic (flukes), spinnerbaits, and jigs around timber or submerged weed edges. Bluegills are fair on wax worms and nibbles. Channel catfish are fair on dip baits, cut baits and liver in evenings. Crappies have been fair on minnows with a few on jigs around and over brush.

Clinton Lake: Bluegill action is good. Anglers are finding some fish in the coves and near the docks and weed lines with red wigglers or wax worms. 

The largemouth bass bite has been fair off points and near shoreline stumps, and downed trees with Mepps, frogs, and swimbaits. White bass are hitting on spoons and twister tails. 

Striped bass are fair at the spillway. 

Lake Shelbyville: Walleyes are fair. Check out the area below the dam with spoons. Cooler weather temperatures have improved fish activity. 

Striped bass are fair using Mepps spinners during early or later hours. Watch for fish feeding. 

Rivers

Illinois River: The walleye and sauger bite has dropped off 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. Three-way rigs with the bottom weight being a jig and minnow and a F-9 Rapala on the long line are working the best. 

Rock–Byron-Dixon: Crappies are spotty, with some taken from area lakes and ponds, but few from the river with minnows. Bluegills and walleyes are good. Best action is downstream near Oregon.

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