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Illinois fishing report 3-5-09

March 05, 2009 at 02:49 PM


It’s early. There’s still ice in some lakes and water is cold. Fish are sluggish. Slowly but surely, though, the bite is improving. Warm afternoons should yield more and more crappie in the days to come. As always at this time of year, there are some keys to succes:

  • 1. Head south.
  • 2. Fish the north ends of lakes.
  • 3. Fish shallow lakes that warm faster.
  • 4. Be very careful in picking which days you fish. Stable weather and warm afternoonts mean everything right now.

With that in mind…


Give us our choice of anywhere to fish in Illinois right now and we’d pick…
• The Lake Shelbyville spillway. Walleye have been running strong and large this year.
• Dams on the Rock River. Reports of 27-inch walleye at the Oregon dam earlier in February are indicative of the kind of fish that could be caught right now.
• Powerton Lake for hybrid stripers, channel catfish or flathead catfish. A big flathead is going to bite soon.
• Sangchris Lake, Lake Springfield or the south end of Spring Lake for crappie.


• Billy Loftus of Oswego caught and released his 40-inch muskie out of the Fox River on Feb. 18 and shared Chicago Sun-Times Fish of the Week honors.
Illinois hunting and fishing
• Bob Steflin caught this 43-inch muskie on Feb. 15 near the Montgomery Dam on the Fox River and shared Chicago Sun-Times Fish of the Week honors.
Illinois hunting and fishing

NORTHERN ILLINOIS North of Interstate 80

Apple Canyon Lake
SOURCE: Tom Calam, Tom’s Bait & Tackle, Freeport (815-232-3337)
Ice fishing nearing an end up in north says Calam. There’s still an 8-10 inch cover on the lakes and about 5-6 inches on the river, but that may change with warmer weather this weekend. Apple Canyon producing some bass and bluegills but most spotty. Anglers are using rubber worms but have mixed in minnows and waxworms as well. Fishermen also finding similar luck at Lake Carroll and Lake Summerset, with an early morning and late evening bite best.

Fox Chain O’ Lakes
SOURCE: Greg Dickson, Triangle Sports & Marine, Antioch (1-847-395-0813).
There is still a 6-8 inch cover on most areas but that may change in the next few days with warmer weather expected sayd Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports & Marine in Antioch. About 3-4 more days of ice fishing before in between stage hits. Bluegill and crappie still biting on south and north ends of Channel Lake. South end of Catherine Lake and Pistakee also good for bluegill and crappie. Anglers using a variety of plastics, waxies and spikes.
Click here to check updates on no-wake status and water levels or call 847-587-8540 .

Lake Michigan
SOURCES: Henry’s (312-225-8583), Vet’s (773-734-6720) and Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times.
• On the Chicago lakefront Dale Bowman reports that weather has fishermen anticipating shoreline salmon by the weekend. Bowman said there are some perch at Navy Pier and in the river at 92nd. On the lakefront, nice-sized perch being caught around 95th Street and Navy Pier. Some browns and cohos biting in the discharge areas. Commonwealth Edison and Amoco warm water discharge area look to be good spots. Harbors currently locked up says Mik-Lurch.
SOURCE: The Salmon Stop (847-244-2525 or fishing hotline 847-244-9876)
• Near Waukegan west winds needed for open water fishing sayd The Salmon Stop. When west winds hit, anglers are catching brown trout and steel head trout off the goverment pier and south rocks. Baits of choice include spawn sacks, jumbo nighcrawlers and roach minnows.
SOURCE: Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575)
• Near Indiana Mike Jackson reports the spring coho run is an on-again, off-again situation. Gary anglers are taking a few small fish. Mik-Lurch said there’s still decent action at the stateline power plant with crawlers, Little Cleos and Rapalas, but you must come in from the Illinois side.

Shabbona Lake
SOURCES: Guide Jay Angel (815-739-7030) and Denny Sands, Shabbona Lakeside Bait & Tackle, Shabbona (815-824-2581).
About 70 percent of the lake is still covered in ice. The lake is not yet worth a trip.
Click here for a Shabbona Lake fishing forum

Wolf Lake
SOURCE: Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575)
Ice still lurking as lake remains in the in between phase where open ice fishing is unsafe and open water fishing to come later. A few crappie biting in the Maze-O Channel says Mik-Lurch. Steelheads can be found in creek areas.

NORTH-CENTRAL ILLINOIS South of Interstate 80 and North of Interstate 72/U.S. Route 36

Anderson Lake
SOURCE: Site manager Ed Oest (309-759-4484)
A few anglers have been out to the ditch and had a good day last week, catching some small crappie and bass. Action was slower on Wednesday.

Banner Marsh
SOURCE: Adam Jaegle, Presley’s Outdoors, Bartonville (309-697-1193)
No word from anglers who have been out.

Lake Bloomington
SOURCE: Larry Dozard
Larry Dozard reports that crappie were fair last week on jigs in 10-20 feet of water over logs and brush. Also, as of April 1 the lake limit will change to 25 bluegill or redear per day with no size restriction.

Braidwood Lake
SOURCE: Del Colvin, Bert’s Bait, Essex (815-365-2103)
Lots of catfish reported and a few bass. The bite has been slow, with soft plastics best for the bass anglers. Lots of Carolina rigs. North side produced the better catfish of 5-10 pounders. Chicken liver and shad are producing.

Clinton Lake
SOURCE: Joanne Lowe, Mike’s Tackle World, Decatur (217-423-0730)
Catfish have been biting good all winter but nothing real big says Joanne Lowe of Mike’s Tackle World in Decatur. Shad guts the bait of choice but shad and cut shad also working for anglers. Walleye, white bass and crappie also being caught in hot water areas around bridges.

Dawson Lake
SOURCE: Leon and Judy Gibson, Moraine View Concession (309-724-8295)
The good news is the park is open again and anglers can get out to wet a line. The concession stand won’t be open for a few weeks, though.

Evergreen Lake
SOURCE: Mike Steffa, operations supervisor, (309-726-2022) or Larry Dozard
Ice is going out Thursday and the few anglers who have been out did not stay long according to Steffa. “We still had ice on the entire lake this morning and it’s probably about halfway gone,” he said at lunch time Thursday.
Click here for up-to-date lake reports.

LaSalle Lake
Lake opens for fishing March 15. Mike Jackson predicts: “there will be quite a few large striped bass caught during the first week of operation. And anglers may get a chance to tie in to some hefty smallmouth bass as well.”

Mazonia Lakes
SOURCE: Del Colvin, Bert’s Bait, Essex (815-365-2103)
South units are not open yet and there’s still lingering ice in places.

Powerton Lake
SOURCE:Adam Jaegle, Presley’s Outdoors, Bartonville (309-697-1193); Merle Keefer, Keefer’s Bass & Bow, Pekin (309-347-3334)
Bass fishing has slowed for anglers in boats according to Jaegle. The better bet in the past few days has been to walk into the hot-water discharge to fish for hybrid stripers or channel catfish. Flatheads have been showing up with more regularity and it’s just a matter of time until somebody sticks a hog out there. Happens every year in late February or early March.

Spring Lake
SOURCES: Troy Galvin, Galvin’s Spring Lake Market (309-267-6538) and Larry Karnes, Larry’s Restaurant and Family Bar, Manito (309-968-9500)
Anglers were wall-to-wall in the Pike Hole on the south end according to Karnes. But fishing for crappie has been on and off. Waders are doing best by getting away from the crowds and targeting hard-to-reach structure. Karnes has not yet heard about a bass being caught at Spring Lake. Crappie should also be biting on the north end, which gets most of its traffic this time of year from muskie anglers. Among those is guide Dan Vinovich, who said he boated 36 toothy critters in his first six trips — the largest of which was Thad Hinshaw’s 44-incher.
“I lost one 46-incher the other day,” Vinovich said. Big baits have been the key according to Vinovich, who was purposefully vague.

Lake Storey
SOURCE: Al Hayden, Al’s Sporting Goods, Galesburg (309-342-7776)
Some open water, some ice on Thursday. While the lake should be open by Friday, few anglers have been trying their luck.

Strip Mines
SOURCE: Tim Presley, Presley’s Outdoors, Bartonville (309-697-1193); Larry Dozard
Scattered reports of crappie biting Wednesday and Thursday afternoons in the shallower, north ends of some Peoria County strip-mine lakes. Minnows working well with a few fish on jigs. Most ice was out by Thursday. Jigs should start producing lunker bass again this weekend.

SOUTH-CENTRAL ILLINOIS South of Interstate 72/U.S. Route 36 and North of Interstate 70

Charleston Side Channel Lake
SOURCE: Rick Cuddy, Prairie Outfitters, Charleston (217-348-6770)
Water still too cold for most anglers here says Cuddy.

Lake Decatur
SOURCE: Joanne Lowe, Mike’s Tackle World, Decatur (217-423-0730)
Nothing happening yet here says Joanne Lowe.

Lake Jacksonville
SOURCE: Tom Holmes, Military Surplus Outlet, Jacksonville (217-243-6161)
Lake does not open for fishing until April 15.

New Gillespie Lake
SOURCE: John ‘Pappy’ Knowles, Gillespie Lake Police (618-362-6363)
Very little fishing going on yet with 42 degree water temperatures says John ‘Pappy’ Knowles. Lake is at normal pool and water is murky.

Sangchris Lake
SOURCE: Trevor Miller, Big Red’s Bait and Tackle, Springfield (217-820-9674)
Crappie biting good in rocky areas around the dam says Trevor Miller of Big Red’s Bait and Tackle in Springfield.

Lake Shelbyville
SOURCE: Guide Ken Wilson (217-774-5756 or 217-454-2672) at Lithia Springs Guide Service; Margie Oliver, Marv and Kathy’s Bait & Tackle, Sullivan (217-728-4044); Steve Welch
Sauger and walleye action good around the spillway says Rick Cuddy, Prairie Outfitters, Charleston (217-348-6770). Some walleye being caught in 11-pound range. Muskie and crappie also biting below the spillway. Bank anglers finding crappie 7-8 feet deep with jigs says Marv and Kathy’s Bait & Tackle in Sullivan. Bo Woods area good for walleye
• For a daily report on Lake Shelbyville call (217-774-2020).

Lake Springfield
SOURCE: Trevor Miller, Big Red’s Bait and Tackle, Springfield (217-820-9674)
Crappie going strong here around hot ditches says Jim at Jim’s Live Bait & Tackle in Springfield.

Lake Taylorville
SOURCE: Lindsey’s Bait & Tackle, Taylorville (217-287-7550)
Anglers trying for crappie but not finding many keepers says Lindsey’s Bait & Tackle in Taylorville. High winds hampering most efforts.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS South of Interstate 70

Carlyle Lake
SOURCE: Buddy Langenhorst, Lavish’s Bait Shop , Carlyle (618-594-4413); Henkel’s (618-594-4818)
Steve Henkel reports some nice-sized sauger (20-22 inches) are being caught in the spillway between the dam and the suspension bridge on curly-tailed jigs tipped with a medium minnow or nightcrawler. Some catfish, particularly flatheads, are being caught on cut shad, nightcrawlers and cheese bait. Dragging the bottom with a curly-tailed jig also is an effective tactic. Plenty of white bass (Rooster tails) are being hauled in along the rocks. On Carlyle Lake, Henkel reports that catfish are good on nightcrawlers and cut shad, and crappie are fair on tube jigs and minnows in eight- to 10-feet of water.
• For the latest water level information call (618-594-4637).

Cedar Lake
SOURCE:Kyle Garner, Crappie Pro Shop, Carterville (618-985-8277)
Bass biting here on clown colored jerk baits says Kyle Garner at Crappie Pro Shop in Marion. Black and blue jigs also working.

Crab Orchard Lake
SOURCE: Ron Reed, Cooksey’s Bait, Marion (618-993-3366)
Fishing slow with muddy waters and high winds but should pick up in a week or so says Ron Reed of Cooksey’s Bait in Marion.

Devil’s Kitchen
SOURCE: Ron Reed, Cooksey’s Bait, Marion (618-993-3366)
High winds troublesome and finishing slow says Reed, who says another week should make a big difference.

Lake of Egypt
Bass going strong on slow spinnerbaits, jigs or soft rubbers says Bill Hudnall at Rend Lake Sporting Goods in Mount Vernon. Some bass in 5-7 pound range. Crappie biting in the weedlines in about 6 feet of water says Garner. Shad colored jigs or any bait that looks like shad should work.

Kinkaid Lake
SOURCE: Janet Graeff, Top of the Hill Bait Shop, Muphysboro (618-684-2923); Guide Al Nutty (618-694-4897)
Anglers losing battle with either cold temperatures or high winds says Janet Graeff of Top of the Hill Bait Shop in Murphysboro. Fishermen have started to look for crappie and muskie but no reports yet. If recent warming trend continues, look for favorable conditions in a week or two.

Newton Lake
SOURCE: Ruth Rauch, Rauch’s Bait & Tackle, Newton (618-752-2151)
Bass best bet here says Rick Cuddy at Prairie Outfitters in Charleston. Most anglers using jigs, shallow running crankbaits and chatterbaits. Recent catches include the 4-pound fish pictured below that was caught by Sam Groskreutz of Frankfort on President’s Day when he was out of school. The fish hit on a Senko.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Rend Lake
SOURCE: Todd Gessner; Bill Hudnall, Rend Lake Sporting Goods, Mount Vernon (618-242-2191)
Bass slow for now says Hudnall. Crappie biting anywhere from 5-15 feet deep with a jig says Todd Gessner. Chartreuse color good. Crappie up to 12 inches being caught. Winds up to 40 miles per hour making fishing tough on Thursday. Lake level at 407.18, up two feet from normal. Warmer water this weekend should move fish shallower near rocks, concrete pillars or walls.


Click here for water level information.

Fox River
Several 36- to 43-inch muskie were caught in February, but water has been fast and muddy of late, which has limited fishing.
Click here for a Fox River fishing forum.

Illinois River
SOURCE: Jim Hardy of Big Jim’s Bait & Tackle in Ottawa (815-434-3921)
• Above Starved Rock sauger had started biting well prior to last week’s rains as water temperatures rose to 37 degrees. But the downpours changed all that and sauger are currently slow due to dirty water conditions. The best bet right now is fishing above the Starved Rock Lock and Dam, since water there is “clearing nicely” according to Jim Hardy of Big Jim’s Bait in Ottawa.
“If we don’t get any rain it should be decent for this weekend,” Hardy said.
SOURCE: Darrell Culjan at Cajun Sporting Goods in Utica (815-667-4222)
• Below Starved Rock, action should start picking up Tuesday or Wednesday according to Darrell “Buster” Culjan at Culjan’s Sporting Goods in Utica.
“The boat ramps are all open but the water is just dirty,” Culjan said.

Kankakee River
SOURCE: Ed Mullady, Sportsman’s Letter (815-932-7285)
If the weather holds as predicted this should be a great weekend for Kankakee River fishing. In Indiana, some nice walleye have been caught. This includes one I just tracked down today from Joe and Penny Bosivert at Greenwood Bait Shop, on south side of river near English Lake. This was a 10 pound, 4-ounce walleye caught on a Jig Grub by Josh Chamber. The fish was 29 inches long and was caught from the Point part of the Kankakee in late February. Smaller walleye have been caught in both Indiana and Illinois throughout the river, mostly on jig and minnow, jig and grub, jig and twister tails. Smallmouth bass should be hitting good on top water baits if water clears, crankbaits, spinners, imitation crawfish and frogs, live minnows. Pike should be caught now in both states on minnows, Doctor Spoons and large spinners.
Click here for a Kankakee River fishing forum.

Mississippi River
SOURCE: Iowa Department of Conservation
Pools 13-14:
With the warm temperatures and rain expected this weekend, the safe ice fishing period may be ending soon. Anglers are advised to use caution when heading out. Although thick ice remains on most backwater areas, caution should be used around edges and anywhere there may be current. Typically on the Upper Mississippi, the bite picks up toward the late ice period, but this must always be balanced with caution for safe ice conditions. 
Pools 15-16:
River levels have fallen over the past week but water clarity remains poor. In Pool 16, tailwater stage at Lock and Dam 15 is 6.51 feet. Walleye and sauger fishing in the tailwaters has been slow. A few anglers have been targeting channel catfish with dead shad and crawlers around Sunset Marina.   
Pools 17-19
In Pool 17, tailwater stage at Lock and Dam 16 is 5.28 feet. Walleye and sauger fishing in the tailwaters has been slow. In Pool 18, tailwater stage at Lock and Dam 17 is 6.58 feet. Tailwater fishing for walleyes and saugers has been slow. In Pool 19, tailwater stage at Lock and Dam 18 is 3.81 feet. Walleye and sauger fishing in the tailwaters has been slow. A few anglers have been targeting channel catfish with dead shad and night crawlers.
Pools 20-24
In Pool 20, tailwater stage at Lock and Dam 19 is 5.37 feet.  No fishing report.

Rock River
SOURCE: Jan Prose at TJ’s Bait/Tackle & Canoe Rental in Oregon (815-732-4516)
• Near Oregon the river has come back down since last Thursday but is still muddy. Anglers are catching a few walleye on the west side. Three weeks ago a 27-incher was caught. Chartreuse has been a good color tipped with a minnow. Anglers need to use quarter-ounce weights Catfish are also biting. Red worms and stinkbait have been best.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

You tell the one guy who kept the muskie really isn’t a muskie fisherman.  If he was, he would have released it. 

Kudos ot Billy Loftus of Oswego for releasing that beauty!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/05 at 05:09 PM

give me a break bubby. so is the guy who kept a crappie not really a crappie fisherman? i am tired of folks who are stuck on catch and release like a religion. that muskie has killed a lot more fish than the dude did who kept just 1.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/05 at 08:46 PM

Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day,
Teach a man to fish and he will get chastised for keepin em.

Posted by illin on 03/05 at 08:54 PM

I didn’t say fish should not be kept.  Certain fish are almost iconic.  Ask most any muskie fisherman what they do with em.  Catch, picture, release. He probaby wasn’t even fishin for muskie. BTW, crappie are pretty tasty.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/05 at 09:59 PM

and the yearly debate begins on keeping Musky.If we say see a kid that shoots a small spike should we condemn him since Most may not have shot him? Crappie are important to those who fish for them as well as any other species.just because he didnt do what most say they would doesnt make it wrong.isn’t there something better to worry about these days?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/06 at 05:32 PM

I think that Wisconsin has it right.  In a lot of lakes, particularly “up north”, you can’t keep a muskie under 50”.  It kind of takes away this debate.  In Illinois that is a great muskie and congrats on the catch.  It will make a great mount.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/06 at 07:17 PM

Fish of a lifetime unless you are a muskie fisherman, then it’s just a junior.
Great mount? Meh.
10 to 1 odds the Steflin muskie is already in a landfill.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/07 at 07:28 AM

My guess it is probably in a landfill too.  Not sure why he couldn’t have taken a picture of it by the place where it was caught like Loftus did and released it.  My guess is Steflin wasn’t fishing for muskie and lucked up on it. 
I was just reading the outdoor notebook.  Check out those massive fish in those pictures.  Check out something else…..they were released.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/07 at 09:31 AM


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/07 at 10:45 AM

Let me clear this forum up here a little bit so we can stop the arguement. Legally Steflin had all rights to keep and not release his musky, it was over the 36’ limit for that particular pool of the fox river. But without hurting anyones feelings (actually i dont really care) keeping a 43’ musky is ignorant and automatically disqualifies you from being a fisherman. Anyone who compares keeping musky and crappie, not a fisherman. The 36’ musky limit needs to be changed. A large majority of all lake and river are 48’ (but that besides the point). And now to clear the rest of it up. I was at the river fishing when BOTH of the muskys were caught. So lets compare the two and decide who is the fisherman. Fisherman 1. Billy who caught his on a large swim bait( i wonder what he was fishing for?) caught, photoed, and released. Fisherman 2. Folks i can honestly say i am not making this up was fishing a rapala using his girlfriends pink pole (because his was broke, trust me i asked why he was using a pink pole) catches the musky, drags it home, and then proceeds to take pictures in front of his house and send it in to the sun-times so everyone knows he kept it. I think this should end all debates, if not let me know.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/07 at 10:46 AM

The last comment does not end the argument. Not by a longshot. The legal side of the argument ends at this: Keeping the fish was legal.

Beyond that are many more arguments. And Sean’s statements are every bit as incendiary as if someone had said, “I plan to publish a muskie cookbook.” Not that anyone would dare propose such a thing.

What makes me cringe is realizing that even if the limit was 48 inches and the fish had been 49 inches, this fellow would almost surely have been criticized.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on 03/07 at 04:18 PM

FYI, i have caught 3 muskie in my life, and all 3 were over 40 inches. And aside from that, they all have one thing in common. They are ALL now DEAD! I got one mounted, and the other 2 I gutted because contrary to your expert opinion, there are people who think muskie do a lot more damage to other fish species than they are worth. muskie are only considered a valuable fish because you assign a value to them.  they have no inherent value.
also, since you now know i have caught 3 and killed 3, your muskie fishing has not suffered has it?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/07 at 09:08 PM

Considering a muskie bad for the fishery is nonsense.  If muskie were so bad for the fishery, every lake that was stocked with muskie would be overrun with them.  Muskie grow and reproduce very slowly.  Not surprised Steflin caught it by accident.  Sound like Lungbuster is worried the muskie might eat all of those bass and bluegills he fills his 5 gallon bucket with.  Good post Gonefishin.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/07 at 09:58 PM

It was his catch and what he does with it is his choice. Whether I or you agree his choice makes no difference other than we may need to look at ourselves. He wasn’t breaking any law. I keep 7 inch bluegill to fillet and there are those who judge me and think i should release them so they can grow. Go fishin.

Posted by fishinpals on 03/07 at 10:08 PM

you are right bubby. i do fill a 5 gallon bucket with bass and bluegill, pretty much everytime i go fishing. eating them is my favorite part.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/08 at 12:34 PM

I can definately tell everyone to not waste your time in the spillway at Shelbyville right now. Walleye action is extremely slow contrary to what everyone is being told. I made 2 trips the past 2 weeks and caught 1 buffalo on a curly tail. As a matter of fact, there are far more buffalos being caught on jigs than anything else. My estimate is it will be closer to April before the walleye fishing gets better. I tried above the lake, as well, and had no hits.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/08 at 10:38 PM

Lungbuster.  I was just kidding when I said you fill up a five gallon bucket when you go fishing, I meant maybe one gallon and this is if someone gave you some fish.  I guess I was right, muskies aren’t a danger to the fishery, it’s people like you.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/08 at 11:33 PM

Not true. I go fishing in the summer maybe once a week. Keep about 15 or 20 each time out. The last muskie i caught had 6 fish in it. 4 bass and 2 walleye.  Thats only 1 days feast.  I’m one person. Theres a heck of a lot more muskie throughout a lake than me. Id like to get the reputation amongst my friends as a bass assassin, so i hope this conversation continues smile

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/09 at 06:49 PM

Well after reading all the posts i think gonefishing is right, you do sound like u and your “buddies” get along a little to well. Sick!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/10 at 12:46 AM

As far as I’m concerned, he should have eaten the stupid thing.  They taste great!

Posted by DANO on 03/10 at 12:41 PM

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