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Illinois hunting and fishing

Danielle Hatch, left, and Gary Panetta of the Peoria Journal Star prove that ice fishing is not all that difficult during a recent outing during which they combined to catch a mess of panfish.

Prime time for ice fishing here

January 14, 2010 at 09:34 PM

As with most aspects of life, there is irony in ice fishing.

While you need sub-freezing temperatures to form hard water, you often need warmer weather for fish to really start biting well.

So it was Wednesday afternoon, on a day when the mercury inched well above freezing and driveways and sidewalks finally reemerged.

After several slow outings on the ice, we finally slammed the fish at a Peoria County strip-mine lake. And trust me, if Journal Star co-workers Danielle Hatch and Gary Panetta can catch fish, the bite must really be good.

Danielle is our entertainment editor and spends much of her time writing about movies and food. Gary is our fine arts columnist and is an expert on opera, symphonies and theater.

That’s not exactly on-the-job training for ice fishing. But the novice anglers fared well, as you can tell from their River City Roundup video below. In 1½ hours they hooked enough bluegill and crappie to keep me plenty busy with the filet knife.

The same thing is being reported by anglers across northern Illinois, as the last few days have delivered on expectations from earlier. On Wednesday, Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times said anglers were awaiting warmer weather. Click here to read that column. Well, it’s here.

And as if on cue, bluegill, crappie and bass are biting well in the last hour before sunset and after the sun sets. Of late, even midday fishing has been productive.

“It seems like any time we get down to the zero mark, the bite slows,” said Al Hayden of Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg. “Then when it warms up again the fish bite better.”

Tim “Head Worm” Presley said warmer weather also helps by melting off the blanket of snow covering many lakes. “That gets the fish livelier,” he said.

One drawback is that the resulting slick surface will make ice cleats or creepers a welcome addition to anyone fishing early mornings.

Myself, I’d rather wait for late afternoon, even if you likely have to wade through a slop of slush and water.

Don’t let that wet stuff worry you, yet. Most lakes have 6-8 inches of clear ice plus a few inches of slushy stuff on top.

Where to go?

Farm ponds are your best bet for panfish, bass and even channel catfish, which have turned on in recent days.

Strip-mine fishing has also improved in the past week, as has action at most area lakes.

Hayden said crappie are good at Lake Storey, with evenings best and minnows working well. Bluegill are not as strong.

Jason Grider of Riverside Bait in Pekin reports crappie have also been good at Spring Lake and said all species are good at Evergreen Lake, with saugeye the best bet. But Evergreen Lake and Comlara Park are closed today through Sunday during the late-winter deer season. Ice fishermen can fish only in
Campground Cove or Jone’s Pond.

Wherever you go, don’t wait too long to drill some holes. A continued warm spell and a forecast calling for rain could bring a hasty end to safe fishing.

And if you head to the Emiquon Preserve, be careful what you bring. Reader Dan Cebulko correctly notes that alcoholic beverages are not allowed at the Emiquon Preserve. He sent an e-mail following my column last Sunday referring to me bringing homemade wine for my next ice-fishing outing.
Surely Dan knew that I was referring to non-alcoholic homemade wine.



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

hopefully it will get cold before the ice gets unsafe, might want to post some ice fishing safety tips

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/15 at 08:00 AM

Yes indeed, the fishing is going well right now. I have went everyday this week. Each day was a success. I think I have around 200 bluegill in the freezer now. Got to sleep today, but I am hitting a good crappie and bass pond Saturday morning.

One thing I have noticed is they are hitting a yellow and orange jig more than any other color so far. I really like the chartruese (sp) and whites, but tried the yellow and orange and instantly had great success.

Site M had alot of people on Drake Lake Thursday. I didn’t stay long to see how they were doing. The 10 fish limit is a bummer there.

Remember to watch the ice really well with this extra water on it now. The air pockets will open up. Hopefully the temps will drop back into the teens at night and keep the ice safe for another two weeks.
Good luck everybody

Posted by archernut_ibs on 01/15 at 08:09 AM

sounds like youre on em ,but isnt the daily limit 25 fish? just looked at the regs cant find anything on possession yet, but dont ya think ya have enough yet?

Posted by trolloni on 01/19 at 08:51 PM

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