Illinois fishing report March 20-27

March 20, 2008 at 02:11 PM

This is the third week of our statewide fishing report. New this week are links to information for each lake or river listed. Simply click on the name of the lake to pull up additional information. We’ve also added a category called wall-hangers for big fish reports.

We remain open to suggestions and reader input. If you are a diehard angler who would like to submit fishing reports, please contact us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by calling (309) 686-3212. And if there are additional lakes you want to see on the report, pass that information on, as well.


• Steve Hagemann of Pekin (pictured below) caught an 8-pound bass on March 16, 2008 while fishing a private strip mine lake near Canton. He was using a black jig and a black pork trailer. Hagemann also caught and released a 6-12 lunker on the same day.

Illinois Outdoors

NORTHERN ILLINOIS North of Interstate 80

Ice remains through much of northern Illinois and ice fishing might hold out through the weekend in the northwest part of the state. Eastern lakes are opening and are unsafe to ice fish. Rivers are starting to yield channel catfish.

Apple Canyon Lake
Tom Calam at Freeport Car Care Center (815-232-3337) says there’s still about 10 inches of ice and ice fishing should continue for about another week. A few crappie are biting on minnows and waxorms. Bluegill taking same bait but bass starting to come alive and pick off bait.

Lake Carroll
Anglers using planks to get out on the ice, which is about 10 inches thick says Tom Calam at Freeport Car Care Center (815-232-3337). A few crappie taking minnows and waxorms. Bluegill and bass improving.

Forest Preserve Lakes
Cook County
DeKalb County
DuPage County
Kane County
Kendall County
Lake County
McHenry County
Will County

Few reports from anglers. Click here for a Cook County Forest Preserves lake fishing forum. Fishing is closed on Silver Lake, Deep Quarry and Grove lakes in DuPage County through the opening of spring trout season on April 5.

Fox Chain O’ Lakes
Ice fishing should hold out for the weekend, with an 8-9 inch cover. Bite is fair says Greg Dickson of Triangle Sports & Marine in Antioch (1-847-395-0813). Walleye most active on spoons and minnows in the edge of the current. Crappie biting with water up in Channel areas.

Lake Michigan
Henry’s (312-225-8538) reports perch biting around 92nd street bridge and Navy Pier. Cohos at Belmont and Montrose harbors. Browns and steelheads taking nightcrawlers in various spots around harbors and the lakefront. Stateline power plant a good bet. Vet’s (773-734-6720) says cohos good at Michigan City and Port of Indiana. Mayor Daley’s Spring Fling Coho Tourney is Saturday on the north seawall at the Adler Planetarium. Registration starts at 5 a.m., fishing is at 6 a.m.

Pierce Lake
Anglers still ice fishing says Pam Minihan at Dora’s Bait & Tackle in Rockford (815-963-1795). Walleye biting at dam and near Rock Cut.

Shabbona Lake
Thin, melting ice making it dangerous for fishing says Allen Outboard & Bait (815-739-4522). Park hours 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; April 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; May to October 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Wolf Lake
Action starting here says Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times. Small chartreuse or pink tube jigs have been taking good crappie and big largemouth on the Illinois side says Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575).

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

May be home to the best open-water fishing in Illinois this week, though the bite is not very strong and water temperatures are still low. But ice is gone and flooding problems have been relatively minor, particularly in the western part of the state. Channel catfish active and big bass are starting to bite.

Anderson Lake
Site manager Ed Oest says high waters and cold temps keeping anglers away. An Illinois River backwater lake that typically features good trot-line action for catfish. Bluegill and crappie down this year. Site office (309-759-4484).

Argyle Lake
This year should be good for crappie. Argyle also is home to a state-record saugeye and has decent fishing for bass. Site office (309-776-4715).

Banner Marsh
Muskie biting on bigger crankbaits, spinnerbaits says Merle Keefer of Pekin Bass & Bow (309-347-3334). Crappie slow. Some bass action starting on jigs says Adam Jaegle at Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville (309-697-1193).

Lake Bloomington
Water running over dam steadily early in the week, says Larry Dozard. Reports of some crappie biting.

Braidwood Lake
Henry’s (312-225-8538) reports catfish and bluegill biting.

Clinton Lake
Catfish taking shad guts around bridge but few anglers out yet says Joanne Lowe of Mike’s Tackle World in Decatur (217-423-0730). Some crappie reports also. Larry Dozard has reports of a few white bass and crappie being caught near bridges and along the Mascountin Peninsula.
• The hot eastern hot-water arm of the lake is closed between the DeWitt and Illinois Route 48 bridges until March 31.
• There is a no-wake speed limit from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.

Evergreen Lake
All ice gone and launches are open. One set of docks is in at the west launch and remaining docks should go in within the next two weeks. Water still just in the mid- to upper 30s says Mike Steffa, operations manager. Only good action is for crappie and bluegill in front of the boat rental facility and at the pump house. Small jigs and minnows or waxworms are working best.
• Boat rentals and bait and tackle sales start April 12 at the boat rental facility. Hours will likely be 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends (after 8:30 a.m. on weekdays) with extended hours starting Memorial Day weekend. Plans are to sell nightcrawlers, minnows, waxworms and possibly leeches and some basic tackle.

Click here for up-to-date lake reports.

Heidecke Lake
Opens to fishing April 1.

LaSalle Lake
Henry’s (312-225-8538) reports good striped bass action. Dale Bowman says stripers were excellent for last Saturday’s opener in the hot-water arm. Rat-L-Traps and jigs were best. Channel cats best for shore anglers. Water temps were 80 in the hot water and 50 on the south shore. Lake open Wednesday through Sunday in March. Channels of 2-7 pounds taking shad says Larry Dozard, with a few blue cats reported. Bluegill expected to be excellent this year.
Click here for a LaSalle Lake fishing forum.

Mazonia Lakes
Mazonia lakes likely will change from ice fishing to open-water this week.

Powerton Lake
Cooling lake still closed to boaters due to ongoing work on the discharge. Lake is open to bank anglers daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bank fishermen catching channel cats and blue cats on shad says Keefer at Pekin Bass & Bow (309-347-3334).

Snakeden Hollow SFWA
Crappie and bluegill biting in smaller lakes says Randy Hodges at Victoria Tackle Shop (309-879-2664). Best panfish action typically on west side. Crappie taking minnows and live bait, bluegill biting on waxworms. Redear also responding in smaller ponds.

Spring Lake
Larry Karnes of Larry’s Restaurant and Family Bar, Manito (309-968-9500) says a few nice crappie in 11-121/2 inch range being caught. Bluegills small on waxworms. With ice gone, catfish picking up on shad and nightcrawlers. Decent catches of 2-4 pounders. Best location on turnoffs at south end of park road. Two muskie caught during tournament last weekend. Biologists had nets out on the north end through Wednesday, so fish could be slow.

Lake Storey
Lake open but action slow, says Al Hayden at Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg (309-342-7776).

Strip Mines
Crappie best bet on minnows off banks and in brush. “Stained” water helping fish come up, says Presley. Bass still slow, with some taking black and blue jigs and a smaller fish biting on rattling baits and wide, slow-moving cranbaits. Crappie, bluegill biting in area farm ponds.

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

Crappie and bass reports picking up with open water warming. Water levels up south of Springfield and muddy water has turned on catfish in places on nightcrawlers and cut shad.

Coffeen Lake
Water is coming up and bass, catfish excellent all around lake says Scott Withers of Indian Grove Fish Camp (217-537-3001). Bass biting on spinners, waxworms. Cats taking stinkbait and worms. Crappie spotty. Big flathead reports. Water temperatures ranging from low 60s to 90s in hot water arm. David Williams of Bethalto caught 61-pound flathead on tube jigs using 12-foot bucks crappie pole with 6-pound test line, while crappie fishing March 15 in the main channel.

Lake Decatur
Water high and fishing slow says Joanne Lowe of Mike’s Tackle World in Decatur (217-423-0730). Crappie biting below dam.

Sangchris Lake
Crappie, white bass best says Trevor Miller of Big Red’s Bait and Tackle in Springfield (217-820-9674). Minnows, Bobby Garland jigs, plus electric chicken, yellow and white tube jigs also working well. Hot ditches best location. Plant off-line but 12 of 25 boats caught fish in last weekend’s Bass 25 Bloomington tournament. Winners Domenic Theison and tom Cassel had four bass weighing 8.95 pounds and big bass was 4.85 pounds.

Lake Shelbyville
High water keeping anglers away says guide Steve Welch. On sunny days crappie biting on jigs. Walleye, muskie can be found below spillway at night.

Lake Springfield
Anglers catching lots of fish but hit and miss on keepers says Trevor Miller of Big Red’s Bait and Tackle in Springfield (217-820-9674). Crappie, white bass best says. Minnows, Bobby Garland jigs, plus electric chicken, yellow and white tube jigs also working well. Hot ditches best location.

Lake Taylorville
Lindsey’s Bait & Tackle in Taylorville (217-287-7550) reports crappie biting on minnows.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS South of Interstate 70

Flooding a problem in many locations, with high water making travel difficult and water muddy.

Carlyle Lake
Crappie and catfish best says Buddy Langenhorst of Lavish’s Bait Shop in Carlyle (618-594-4413). Catfish taking cut shad and shad guts off rocks by Keysport. Crappie biting on minnows, jigs, tube jigs by Hazlet State Park. Sauger hit and miss, if they can be found.

Kinkaid Lake
About a foot of rain Wednesday and Thursday making fishing questionable says Janet Graeff of Top of the Hill Bait Shop in Muphysboro (618-684-2923). Before rainfall, anglers were catching crappie deep and muskie also fairing well. Guide Al Nutty (618-694-4897) reports crappie good in shallow coves near in flowing water. Muskie, bass and catfish also good in same areas. Water a foot and a half over spillway with 46-50 degree temp range in mid-basin and warmer in coves.

Mermet Lake
Flooding making fishing “horrible” says Shawnee Bait & Tackle, Creal Springs (618-996-3089).

Newton Lake
Bass good over the weekend, with a 7.2-pounder caught Sunday during a tournament. Top weight was five keepers of 25 pounds. But flooding has changed that says Ruth Rauch of Rauch’s Bait & Tackle (618-752-2151). Water clarity very murky. Few anglers out. Some white bass were also reported prior to the rains. Crappie a big question mark after a poor fall and few reports this winter so far. Catfish good.

Rend Lake
Crappie good on minnows in rip rap along Route 154, pillars around bridges and creeks near main channels. Channel catfish fair on stinkbait and cut shad.


Water levels up and clarity down in most rivers, particularly in southern and southeastern Illinois. Even so, catfish are biting in many locations on shad guts and nightcrawlers.

Click here for water level information.

Des Plaines
Click here for a Des Plaines River fishing forum.

Fox River
Click here for a Fox River fishing forum.

Illinois River
• Up river at Starved Rock, Darrel “Buster” Culjan at Cajun Sporting Goods in Utica (815-667-4222) says water is four feet above normal and 46 degrees. Clearing water leading to good reports on white bass, sauger and walleye all around Starved Rock area on 1/4 to 3/8-ounce jigs and Phillips floaters on Wolf River rigs. Anglers fishing in 16-19 feet. Sauger had started to move out of deep holes on Sunday during tournament action prior to rains. Sauger biting around Spring Valley on crankbaits, live bait and jigs says Baitshop Bob of River Marine Bait & Tackle in Spring Valley (815-663-1000). River clear to 12 inches and current fast. Some white bass being caught near St. Bede and Peru flats.

• Maryann Rilko of Riverfront Bait Shop (815-925-7186) says fishing very slow around Hennepin. Same is true around Chillicothe, says Wolf Hollow Archerry Bait & Tackle (309-274-9653).

• Marge Hankins at Hankins Riverview in Henry (309-364-3617) says sauger starting to hit but muddy waters, cold keeping most anglers away. Water temps reaching 40 degrees near Henry.

• In the Peoria area, river dropping but not much action yet with cool weather, says Tim Presley of Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville (309-968-9500).

• Near Beardstown, catfish about all that’s being caught says Tom of Tom’s Bait Shop in Beardstown (217-323-BAIT). Cats taking shad guts and ranging from 1-5 pounds.

Kankakee River
Mike of Frank’s Bait Shop In Momence (815-472-6638) says fishing decent for smallmouth, largemouth, northern pike, walleye and catfish on live bait and medium size minnows, golden roaches. Dale Bowman of Chicago’s Sun-Times reports good numbers of anglers out last week. Ed Mullady says walleye up to 7 pounds are being caught and smallmouth are improving in Illinois downstream of Kankakee. Pike bite good north of English Lake.

Mississippi River
On the Mississippi River, anglers still snagging for spoonbills until April 15 between Illinois and Iowa, says Hayden. Larry Monehan of Miller’s Sports says open water fishing began Sunday and some walleye being caught by locks near Clinton and Bellevue. Ice fishing finished. Lower river rising steadily with rains.

Ohio River
Flooding keeping many anglers off the water says Fort Massac Fish Market in Metropolis (618-524-3152).

Rock River
Action is really heating up on the Rock River now that ice is nearly all gone and ramps are open. Water temperatures have risen to near 36 degrees and the
water is high but has stabilized somewhat. Guide Matt Jones (815-537-5506 or 815-590-1469 cell) has enjoyed catches of 50 or more channel cats the last two days in the Erie area. Jones says the extended forecast keeps the channel cat outlook very bright. Walleyes are at the dams and and feeding. Catfish are taking redworms and fresh-killed minnows. Walleyes are falling to jigs tipped with minnows.Water level is at 8.8 feet at Como and forecast to slowly recede. Jon Bene of Iowa is pictured below with two catfish caught while fishing with Jones on March 18, 2008.

Click here for a Rock River fishing forum.

Illinois Outdoors

Spoon River
Catfish best off banks using redworms from London Mills south, says Al Hayden at Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg.