Illinois ice fishing heats up

December 18, 2008 at 03:23 PM

Cold weather has been good news for ice anglers in most of northern Illinois and even on smaller ponds in much of central Illinois.

The most reliable—and safest—action right now is in the northern third of Illinois.

And one of the traditional early hotspots is the Fox Chain O’ Lakes, which Stan Morris reports is still the best bet for ice fishing up north. Mineola Bay
and Lake Marie are good for stripers according to Triangle Sports & Marina in Antioch (1-847-395-0813). The south bay of Pistakee Lake and Channel Lake are also good for bluegill. Spikes and wigglers being used. Also try Dunns Lake, Ackerman Channel and T-channel of Pistakee. T-channel backwaters are good for bluegill and crappie. Bluegill are also good in south bay of Channel Lake, with crappie bite so-so. A fair bite being reported at Deep Lake and Loon Lake for bluegill and crappie. Anglers also finding some northern on roaches and a few small bass at Loon Lake. Crappie bite a little deeper than bluegills.

Dale Bowman of Chicago’s Sun-Times reports that “With ice setting up, ice fishing beginning across the area is the main story. The hot spot has been the Fox Chain O’Lakes, where even main lake areas are icing in.” Click here to read Bowman’s entire report.

Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575) reports Willow Slough producing about 20 bluegill per person, with 3-4 inch ice cover.

According to Henry’s, Lake Michigan still has just skim ice and is not safe yet.

Tom Calam of Tom’s Bait & Tackle in Freeport puts the ice fishing at average this week. Anglers are getting out on the Mississippi and in local ponds. Mickelson’s Landing, Potter’s and the causeway are good locations for perch and bluegill on the Mississippi. Reports of 6-inch cover in back bays at Apple Canyon, but middle of lake still open or has skim ice. Waxies and spikes the baits of choice in 5-6 feet of water. Some using teeter totters or jigs.

Here’s the Iowa fishing report for the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River Pools 9 to 15: In Pool 9, anglers are ice fishing off Army Road at Cordwood and Bear Paw Lakes near New Albin.  The Village Creek boat ramp and Shore Slough by Lansing are consistent producers of bluegills, but you will have to sort.

Pool 10 is good for bluegills in Joyce Lake and anglers are also catching a few largemouth bass and crappies.  Mud Hen Lake has produced some bluegills, but crossing Harpers Slough on foot should be done with caution!  Sturgeon Slough (aka Scrooges Lake area) has also had a lot of fishing pressure.  Bussey Lake, by Guttenberg, has been running hot and cold, but some real nice bluegills were caught during early ice conditions.

Pool 11 tailwaters by Guttenberg are fair to good for saugers and small walleyes.  The DNR boat ramp below the fish hatchery is still open and boats can be launched as of Thursday.  Parking is limited to four spaces and, if full, you must find a spot on the street to park.  Burtrom Lake, by Cassville, Wis., produced some crappies early and now people are mostly sorting bluegills.  Hayville Lake also has seen limited early season ice fishing.  Mud Lake and Sunfish Lake, just north of Dubuque, have yet to see a lot of ice fishing pressure, but fishing is expected to be decent as good quality panfish were surveyed in this area just prior to ice up.

Pools 12 and 13 had lower fishing pressure, but anglers were catching bluegills.  Walleye and sauger fishing closed December 1 below the dams at Dubuque, Bellevue and Clinton.  Walleye and sauger fishing will reopen in these areas March 16, 2009.

Mississippi River Pools 16 to 20:  In Pool 16, river stage at Lock and Dam 15 is 5.81 feet. Tailwater stage has risen close to a foot over the past couple of days. There are reports of ice at the Marquette St. boat ramp. Anglers are catching bluegills and an occasional crappie through the ice in Sunset Marina. In Pool 17, river stage at Lock and Dam 16 is 4.19 feet. There are no reports of ice anglers fishing in the backwaters due to poor ice conditions. In Pool 18, the river stage at Lock and Dam 17 is 5.86 feet. Tailwater stage has risen close to 2 feet over the past couple of days. There are no reports of ice anglers fishing in the backwaters. In Pool 19, the river stage at Lock and Dam 18 is 2.63 feet. No reports of ice anglers fishing in the backwaters due to poor ice conditions. In Pool 20, river stage at Lock and Dam 19 is 4.15 feet. Water levels are fluctuating daily due dam releases. No fishing report.

Al Hayden of Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg (217-443-4111) says anglers are getting out on Lake Storey and local ponds. About 4.5-inch cover is reported around the tower at Lake Storey. Bluegill and crappie biting, with jigs tipped with waxworms for bluegill and minnows for crappie. Night fishing is usually best at Lake Storey.

Site superintendent Jeff Harris thinks ice fishing still too risky at Fulton County Camping & Recreation (309-668-2931). Ice erosion from last weekend’s warm front makes Harris less than confident that good ice fishing could be found here.