Illinois fishing report 3-12-09

March 12, 2009 at 02:36 PM

Floody and muddy. And cold. Not a great combination, but that’s what anglers face right now across Illinois. Given all the rains, we’ve actually pulled the Rivers category out of this fishing report. A few might be catching catfish in rivers, but generally speaking the flooded conditions and debris make it fairly unwise to venture into most streams.

As for the lakes, warmer weather and no rain will help mightily. Crappie should be picking up soon and this remains a good time to fish slowly for big bass.

Beyond that, power-plant lakes remain a promising bet. In fact, they are probably the best bet until weather warms and temperatures stabilize.


Give us our choice of anywhere to fish in Illinois right now and we’d pick…
• Lake Springfield or Lake of Egypt for crappie.
• Powerton or LaSalle lakes for catfish. Powerton is already open and LaSalle will open on Sunday. Both have very good blue cat action and Powerton’s flatheads appear to be turning on.
• Braidwood Lake for bass on crankbaits.


• Jason Smavely of Mackinaw caught the 56-pound flathead catfish pictured below at Powerton Lake last Saturday using Asian carp for bait.

Illinois hunting and fishing

• OK, so it’s not really a wall hanger. But it’s a nice fish. Robert Metzger of Petersburg caught and released the 36-inch muskie pictured below on March 6, 2009 while trolling at Prairie Lake in Jim Edgar-Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Illinois hunting and fishing

NORTHERN ILLINOIS North of Interstate 80

Apple Canyon Lake
SOURCE: Tom Calam, Tom’s Bait & Tackle, Freeport (815-232-3337)
Anglers trying to fish off banks but not much to report yet says Tom Calam of Tom’s Bait & Tackle in Freeport. Reminder: crappie fishing is catch-and-release until June 15.

Lake Carroll
SOURCE: Tom Calam, Tom’s Bait & Tackle, Freeport (815-232-3337).
Anglers trying to fish off banks but not much to report yet says Tom Calam of Tom’s Bait & Tackle in Freeport. Reminder: crappie fishing is catch-and-release until June 15.

Forest Preserve Lakes
SOURCE: Lee’s Bait and Tackle of Carol Stream; Henry’s (312-225-8583)
Very little to report says Henry’s. There may be pockets of ice but not enough for safe ice fishing. Best bet in the days to come will be crappie at Wolf Lake, Tampier, Centennial, Saganashkee Slough and Busse.
Click here for a Cook County Forest Preserves lake fishing forum.
• Here are links to information on various forest preserve lakes. Cook County, DeKalb County, DuPage County, Kane County, Kendall County, Lake County, McHenry County and Will County

Fox Chain O’ Lakes
SOURCE: Greg Dickson, Triangle Sports & Marine, Antioch (1-847-395-0813).
Right in middle of inbetween time for ice anglers and open water fishermen says Greg Dickson at Triangle Sports & Marine in Antioch. Best bet to head to river with minnows and jigs to look for walleye.
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 chunk ice making it difficult for anglers says Henry’s. Fishing possible from the shore, if an open spot can be found. Some perch at 92 ndr and 95th and a few at Navy Pier. According to Vet’s, places to try for perch include Navy Pier, Montrose Harbor and Chicago River (between 95th Street and 92nd Street). Fathead minnows working for perch. Cohos are biting on 2-3 inch white tube tails with a squid teaser or spoons at Jackson Park, Gary Lighthouse and Commonwealth Edison says Vet’s.
SOURCE: The Salmon Stop (847-244-2525 or fishing hotline 847-244-9876)
• Near Waukegan, browns biting at the Government Pier and south rocks, with anglers using salmon eggs, shinners and golden roaches 2-4 feet from the bottom says the Salmon Stop.
SOURCE: Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575)
• Near Indiana, south winds should help stir up perch and clean up lake says Mik-Lurch. Good location 92nd Street inside the north slip. Still a few degrees too cold for salmon. Browns and cohos, but mostly browns, being caught with golden roaches on a bobber at Hammond Marina. Shipping canals also good location for lakers, browns and cohos using shad warps and rapalas. Dale Bowman reports anglers can launch at East Chicago Marina or Burns Ditch.

Pierce Lake
SOURCES: Pam Minihan, Dora’s Bait & Tackle, Rockford (815-963-1795) and Bob Rhodes, Rockford Bait (815-226-3515).
Skim ice and cold weather making nothing to report here says Bob Rhodes of Rockford Bait.

Shabbona Lake
SOURCES: Guide Jay Angel (815-739-7030) and Denny Sands, Shabbona Lakeside Bait & Tackle, Shabbona (815-824-2581).
Ice is gone but no open water fishing yet says guide Jay Angel.
• Park hours November to January 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; February to March 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.
Click here for a Shabbona Lake fishing forum

Wolf Lake
SOURCE: Mik-Lurch (219-989-0575)
Crappie bite good says Vet’s. Mik-Lurch says crappie and walleye are fair in the corn channel.

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)
The campground is closed, the lake is flooded and nobody has been fishing this week. Water could be up for awhile, too.

Argyle Lake
SOURCE:Site manager Robin Hinchee (309-776-3422); The Deck II Bait and Boat Rental shop (309-776-4275)
Water is stained and channel catfish are the best bet right now says Hinchee. A few anglers were catching crappie prior to the rains, but they have slowed markedly. Fishing below the spillway is not much of an option right now due to the high water.

Banner Marsh
SOURCE: Adam Jaegle, Presley’s Outdoors, Bartonville (309-697-1193); Merle Keefer, Pekin Bass & Bow (309-347-3334)
Bass had picked up heading into last weekend, with some nice catches on crankbaits and jerkbaits says Jaegle. One angler had four bass over 18 inches. But the bite has dropped off and few have been out since the cold weather rolled in. Crappie are still fair says Keefer, with good-sized fish coming from 10 feet deep on the Bell’s Landing side. Not lots of fish, but some nice ones. Keefer has also heard of some keeper walleye coming on jigs and minnows fished off the points early in the morning.

Lake Bloomington
SOURCE: Larry Dozard
Water is up and water was running 39-44 degrees this week says Dozard. Bass and bluegill are slow and crappie have been fair in 10 feet of water around brush on tinsel jigs.

Braidwood Lake
SOURCE: Del Colvin, Bert’s Bait, Essex (815-365-2103); Jon Meder, Jon’s Bait & Tackle, South Wilmington (815-237-2822)
Bass up to 5 pounds have been biting on the hot-water side says Colvin. Shad-imitating crankbaits are a good bet. Small channel catfish are biting very well. Water was up to 70 degrees at the ramp on Wednesday Colvin says. Guide Mike Lynch told Dale Bowman he caught six bass and two catfish in two hours of spoonplugging this week.
• Fishing hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Clinton Lake
SOURCE: Joanne Lowe, Mike’s Tackle World, Decatur (217-423-0730); Clinton Bait and Tackle, (217-935-3851)
White bass, crappie and a few walleye being caught. White bass biting on curly tails, Mepps, blue foxes, road runners says Joanne Lowe of Mike’s Tackle World in Decatur. Crappie taking mostly jigs and minnows. Baits for walleye include curly tails, lead heads and Cordell Spots. Catfish also biting on shad guts or shad. Angler Mike Griffin of Atwood said the white bass had been good until last weekend when they stopped. Griffin rates walleye as fair to poor in the main lake with the best action in the warm-water basin.

Evergreen Lake
SOURCE: Mike Steffa, operations supervisor, (309-726-2022) or Larry Dozard
Last Friday anglers were catching plenty of crappie off the docks, but muddy water and cold have slowed fishing. Water not likely to clear much by this weekend Steffa says.
Click here for up-to-date lake reports.

Heidecke Lake
SOURCE: Don Stephens, Greybeards (815-941-1504); Guide Greg Heath (815-258-9136)
Opens April 1.

LaSalle Lake
SOURCE:Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times; Guide Mike Lynch (708-655-7667)
Opens to fishing Sunday (6 a.m. to dusk) and will closed Monday and Tuesdays throughout March. Bowman has a preview of the opener and expects good fishing for blue catfish, bluegill and smallmouth bass and decent largemouth bass fishing.
Click here for a LaSalle Lake fishing forum.

Mazonia Lakes
SOURCE: Del Colvin, Bert’s Bait, Essex (815-365-2103)
High water has flooded boat ramps and closed Ponderosa and Monster lakes says Colvin.

Powerton Lake
SOURCE: Merle Keefer, Pekin Bass & Bow (309-347-3334)
As expected, flatheads are starting to show up. Two fish over 55 pounds have been caught in the past week, one a 65-pounder that Keefer saw Wednesday night by an unnamed angler and the other a 56-pounder caught by Jason Smavely of Mackinaw last Saturday afternoon on Asian carp. “That 65-pounder was huge, it was 50 inches long,” Keefer said. Hybrid stripers are also still biting well in the hot-water arm, as are channel catfish which are running small.

Snakeden Hollow SFWA
SOURCE: Victoria Tackle Shop (309-879-2664)
The good news is McMaster Lake is full for the first time in years and water is actually running out of the spillway. Anglers have been out, too, though the lake is not traditionally an early muskie destination. Anglers are reporting some crappie in 10-14 feet of water. The Illinois Natural History Survey will be running a creel survey for six months at McMaster Lake starting on Sunday.

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)
Hot crappie fishing on the south end has slowed off markedly says Karnes. Biologist Wayne Herndon says this should be a good crappie year at Spring Lake, though, as he netted “quite a few fish 8-9 inches long and quite a few that were over 9 inches” this week while collecting northern pike for spawning purposes at Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery. Herndon said big bass of 5-8 pounds were also more active than usual this spring. Keefer said numerous 25-fish crappie limits were reported last Friday and Saturday but most bass reported were smaller. Muskie are still biting on the north end but there’s plenty of pressyre. There were 51 boats in the parking lot on the north end last Friday. And biologists plan to set out the muskie nets on Sunday.

Lake Storey
SOURCE: Al Hayden, Al’s Sporting Goods, Galesburg (309-342-7776)
Fishing very slow for all species except channel catfish says Hayden. Channel cats were biting well following the rains here and in creeks flowing into nearby Oak Run. Redworms were the bait of choice. Cats have slowed. Crappie slow also.

Strip Mines
(Fulton, Knox, Peoria and Stark counties)

SOURCE: Presley’s Outdoors, Bartonville (309-697-1193); Dink’s, Lewistown (309-547-1094); and Larry Dozard
Some reports of bass last weekend prior to the cold and rain. Lake levels are generally up and some docks and ramps are flooded in places. Water is murky but fishable. Crappie have been slow to fair with best action in 10-12 feet of water.

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)
Anglers picking up crappie on tube jigs or various crappie baits (crappie nibbles, minnows) says Rick Cuddy at Prairie Outfitters in Charleston.

Lake Decatur
SOURCE: Joanne Lowe, Mike’s Tackle World, Decatur (217-423-0730)
Action still slow here as work continues on ramps. A few crappie biting says Joanne Lowe.

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

Lake Mattoon
SOURCE: Rick Cuddy, Prairie Outfitters, Charleston (217-348-6770); Joel Pittman, Mattoon Parks Department (217-254-6680)
Anglers were picking up crappie using minnows and jigs before cold spell hit says Joel Pittman.

Mill Creek Lake
SOURCE: Peggy Tingley, Mill Creek Lake Park (217-889-3901)
Nice size crappie being caught in back area trees north of the bridge. One report of 14-inch crappie caught. Some bass also biting, with biggest in 7-pound range.

New Gillespie Lake
SOURCE: John ‘Pappy’ Knowles, Gillespie Lake Police (618-362-6363)
Very little fishing going on yet with 40-41 degree water temperatures says John ‘Pappy’ Knowles. Lake water still murky.

Sangchris Lake
SOURCE: Trevor Miller, Big Red’s Bait and Tackle, Springfield (217-820-9674); Larry Dozard
Crappie biting but not many keepers says Trevor Miller of Big Red’s Bait and Tackle in Springfield. Dozard fished last weekend and found stained, high water with temperatures at the east access near 57 degrees. Bass were fair with many small fish and a few 17- to 20-inchers, including the fish pictured below which was caught by Linda Dozard (who outfished her husband). Wind-blown points were best in 6 feet of water on jerkbaits and small spinnerbaits. Crappie were slow to fair with most 7-9 inches and near timber.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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); Guide Steve Welch (217) 762-7257 or (217) 840-1221
Crappie picking up using tube jigs or various crappie baits (crappie nibbles, minnows) says Rick Cuddy. Some walleye being caught around the spillway. Crappie in about 12-14 feet of water around standing timber and brush piles says guide Ken Wilson. A few muskie also being caught using in-line spinner and big twister tails. North end good location for crappie says guide Steve Welch. Lake water level dropping. Angler Mike Griffin says the spillway had been slow with little water flowing. Buffalo had been the best bite on jigs. Griffin also found slow fishing on the Kaskaskia River above Shelbyville.
• 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 good in hot ditch areas using minnows says Jim at Jim’s Live Bait & Tackle in Springfield. White bass also biting in hot ditches on anything that flashes — rooster tails, spinners, blue foxes, crazy blades. A 39-pound blue catfish recently caught using cut shad.

Lake Taylorville
SOURCE: Lindsey’s Bait & Tackle, Taylorville (217-287-7550)
Anglers finding some crappie using minnows but not many keepers says Lindsey’s Bait & Tackle in Taylorville.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS South of Interstate 70

Carlyle Lake
SOURCE: Buddy Langenhorst, Lavish’s Bait Shop , Carlyle (618-594-4413); Henkel’s (618-594-4818)
Crappie bite good in 4-6 feet of water says Henkel’s. Walleye also being caught below the spillway says Lavish’s Bait Shop. In the Kaskaskia River, catfish, flatheads biting on the bottom says Henkel’s. Anglers vertical jigging for sauger, but finding success one day and not much the next around swining bridge area.
• For the latest water level information call (618-594-4637).

Cedar Lake
SOURCE: Ron Reed, Cooksey’s Bait, Marion (618-993-3366); Guide Matt Strobel (618-922-0354); Kyle Garner, Crappie Pro Shop, Carterville (618-985-8277)
Bass bite picking up in past week on jerk baits or jigs around rock bluffs or secondary points says Kyle Garner at Crappie Pro Shop in Marion. Shad patterns or clown patterns working.

Crab Orchard Lake
SOURCE: Ron Reed, Cooksey’s Bait, Marion (618-993-3366); Guide Matt Strobel (618-922-0354); Kyle Garner, Crappie Pro Shop, Carterville (618-985-8277)
Crappie biting shollow on jigs in four feet of water says Garner. Use red and chartreuse or black and chartreuse jigs. One report of a one-pound crappie caught.

Lake of Egypt
SOURCE: Guide Todd Gessner (618-513-0520); Guide Matt Strobel (618-922-0354)
The lake has been very good for crappie and bass says Gessner. He was finding crappie in 2 feet of water right up along the weeds. Minnows were best, but casting was working better than using long poles and setting right up on the fish. Don Dziedzina caught a 1-pound, 14-ounce crappie with Gessner. Water was up to 64 degrees in the warm-water end early in the week. Bass taking jerkbaits, crankbaits, shaky head jigs and Rat-L-Traps in shad and crawfish patterns says guide Matt Strobel. Bass were chasing shad in middle of lake but moving toward pre spawn mode. Look for pocket points and grassy patches 2-10 feet deep. Crappie bite good in 2-6 feet using 8 ounce jigs tipped with blue shad hot grubs. Chartreuse tube jigs also working says Kyle Garner of Crappie Pro Shop in Carterville.

Kinkaid Lake
SOURCE: Janet Graeff, Top of the Hill Bait Shop, Muphysboro (618-684-2923); Guide Al Nutty (618-694-4897)
Guide Al Nutty moving plenty of minnow twitch baits, shallow invaders, shallow raiders and Hell Hounds for muskie. Look for warmer waters along shoreline. Bass just getting started and bite fair. Crappie bite good in variable depths, as shallow as four feet but mostly in 8-12 foot range. Catfish good on nightcrawlers, with some using large minnows. Water temperatures between 45-48 degrees, with water clarity good. Nutty encourages anglers to work slow in cooler water.

Newton Lake
SOURCE: Ruth Rauch, Rauch’s Bait & Tackle, Newton (618-752-2151)
Top few teams at a tournament last weekend each had six bass. A few reports of crappie, which is big news. White bass still good and channel catfish as always are biting. Channel cats just fair. One unit of the plant is down so water is just in the 50s. Bass best bet here says Rick Cuddy at Prairie Outfitters in Charleston. Most anglers using jigs, shallow running crankbaits and chatterbaits.

Rend Lake
SOURCE: Guide Todd Gessner (618-513-0520); Bill Hudnall, Rend Lake Sporting Goods, Mount Vernon (618-242-2191)
If the wind doesn’t blow crappie fishing has been pretty good says Gessner. Last Sunday Gessner had 26 crappie that were 8-15 feet deep. Gessner found water that was already 54 degrees. All those fish were on jigs. “This lake is so shallow it cools fast but it also warms fast. Next week looks much better for us,” Gessner says. Dozard says the lake is closer to 40 degrees now and crappie are slow to fair off brush in 12 feet of water.