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Illinois ice conditions vary

January 01, 2009 at 03:18 PM

The past week proves a point regarding ice fishing in central Illinois: He who hesitates to drill might not drill at all. While Christmas week offered prime hard-water fishing, heavy rains and warm temperatures quickly made things unsafe.

In recent days brave anglers have been able to return to the ice, but caution is critical. Many edges have thin ice and most lakes have areas that are unsafe. Also, wear creepers or some form of extra traction since there is no snow cover and ice is extremely slick.

Best bets in the area include Lake Storey, which has better ice and has been yielding bluegill and crappie. Keefer said crappie have also been good at Banner Marsh.

Other strip mines are producing mostly bluegill according to Tim Presley at Presley’s Outdoors. He urges caution but said conditions should be safe by this weekend.

That’s not true everywhere. Evergreen Lake remained about 85 percent open on Wednesday and conditions at Fulton County Camping and Recreation area were ‘treacherous’ according to site manager Jeff Harris.

Mississippi River backwaters are a more sure thing, with Mickleson’s Landing and Potter’s Marsh hotspots for perch, crappie and bluegill in 5-6 feet of water.

Here’s a look at conditions around the state, courtesy of PSO reporter Stan Morris.

In the Chicago area, a few small sized perch being caught in Burnham Harbor, Navy Pier and Montrose says Vet’s (773-734-6720). The Southeast Sportsman’s Club is sponsoring an ice fishing tournament at Wolf Lake on Feb. 8. Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575) reports 5 inches of ice on Wolf Lake but warns anglers to be careful, bring someone with you and bring rope. “As long as you’re safe, you should be OK,” Mik-Lurch says. The first couple feet onto the lake are scary but the lake has ice cover further in. Brown trout just starting to come in by the discharges or warmer water areas, like the Edison power plant.

Heavy rains helped melt most of the snow cover, leading to clear conditions for ice fishing up north says Tom Calam at Tom’s Bait & Tackle in Freeport (815-232-3337). Calam reports 8-inch to a foot of ice cover on lakes and the Mississippi River. Upper pool of Galena, Mickelsons and Potters hot spots for 6-7 inch crappie and bluegill and 8-12 inch perch in 5-6 feet of water. Many anglers fishing in shallows along weed bed lines and using jigs — deep Demons, teeter totters, darts — tipped with waxworms or spikes. Lake Carroll producing 5-6 inch bluegill, crappie in 25-30 feet of water. The fish are suspended to 12 feet. Lake Summerset good for bluegill and crappie in 5-6 feet of water. Anglers getting bluegills about a pound in size and crappies in one pound to a pound and 3/4 about 20-22 feet deep. Fishermen looking in 40 foot range using darts, teeter totters with rubber tails on the jigs. Millers also good for crappie and bluegill in Pool 13 says Todd Baker at Todd’s Bait & Tackle (1-815-973-2378).

Triangle Sports and Marine in Antioch (1-847-395-0813) reports the south end of Channel Lake in the Fox Chain O Lakes good for panfish. Lake Maria producing good white bass and panfish, as well as crappie and walleye at night. Ice cover around 6-8 inches deep but the edges have melted to less than two inches. Take proper safety precautions.

Ice fishermen finding crappie and bluegill at Lake Storey says Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg (309-342-7776). Higher waters keeping some anglers away from Mississippi.

Anglers are getting out, using caution, in area strip mines and farm ponds says Tim Presley of Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville (309-697-1193). Mostly bluegills using waxworms. Presley says weekend should be safe as waters continue to freeze, with “great” catches expected soon. Banner Marsh producing good crappie says Merle Keefer at Pekin Bass & Bow (309-347-3334). Crappies also being caught in area strip mines says Keefer.

Recent rains making ice fishing too treacherous at Fulton County Camping and Recreation area says site superintendent Jeff Harris (309-668-2931).

Guide Jay Angel says there is about an eight-inch ice cover on Sabbona Lake but anglers are to use caution if going to the deep tree areas where there is only about a 2-3 inch cover. Crappies can be found in the brush piles and no motor zone areas. Fish have moved out of the weedlines as weeds have deteriorated. Catfish biting in deeper parts of the bays. Bluegills are fair on waxies in bays and over roadbed with a few crappie too. Night fishing scheduled for Jan. 31.

At Evergreen Lake, crappies and bluegills were best says Larry Dozard. Crappie were being caught in coves last week but the rain and mild weather has made for varying ice conditions. Mike Steffa, director of parks and operations, says the lake is 80 to 85 percent open now. Water is high and muddy.


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