Spring signs come on for this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report; though ice fishing hangs on to the north. But I would not that spring weather is on the way and even to our north there are questions about ice.

Gary Bloom, one of the premier fishermen on the Chicago lakefront, sent notes Saturday from opening day of sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago and the upriver lakes in Wisconsin. That included the photo above of his neighbor up in Winneconne, Wis., Sam Wiechman, with a 62-inch, 82-pound male sturgeon.

The MFR for Chicago fishing appears in a condensed form Wednesdays on the Sun-Times newspaper outdoors page. The sprawling raw-file report is posted here online on the Sun-Times outdoors page.

WINNEBAGO SYSTEM, WISCONSIN

First regular ice fishing, Arden Katz said that on Saturday, there was still 20 inches of ice, plenty of white bass and some perch in 18 feet.

One note on the ice, conditions are going to change dramatically by the weekend.

But the big story, and I mean big, is sturgeon spearing is going well. The upriver lakes will likely soon hit the closing trigger. There have been a number of truly large fish.

For example, here is the lead paragraph of Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist Ryan Koenigs’ daily report on Monday:

There were 98 sturgeon harvested on the Winnebago System today including 66 from Lake Winnebago and 32 from the Upriver Lakes (attached table). Today’s harvest included the largest fish of the season to date, both in length and weight.  Gerald Peterson’s 154.9 pound (83.4”) female just beat out Sandra Schumacher’s 154.7 pound fish from opening day.  Congratulations to Gerald on an impressive fish (photo included)!  A second 140+ pound fish (140.6 pounds, 72.5”) was registered at Payne’s Point today by Scott Lehl. Scott and Gerald’s fish bring the season total to 6 fish that have been harvested at 140+ pounds during this season.

AREA LAKES

In most of the area, I think ice fishing is done for the winter. Many lakes are completely open, or nearly so. Crappie fishing is beginning or will be going full bore by the weekend.

Hey Dale,

Break out the long rods as open water is back on area lakes. I started out slowly dragging a bitsy bug jig with a chigger craw, but that yielded no bites. Water clarity was not great with the high winds, so I switched to a lipless crank bait. Slowly retrieving the bait over what is left of green weeds triggered a few bass to bite. Ticking the bait on the weeds was key as it caused a slight pause. Bass were small but it was good to catch them on hard baits.

LAKEFRONT PERCH

Perch on the Chicago lakefront, especially around the South Side slips, continues to be one of the top fishing stories this winter. Takes some sorting, but some days lots of quality perch. Steve Palmisano at Henry’s texted that perch still being caught at Navy Pier, too.  Capt. Rich Sleziak  at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind., texted that green ice jigs with three spikes were best.

AREA WATER LEVELS

Again a good week to check water levels. Go to http://water.weather.gov//ahps2/index.php?wfo=lot to check area water levels and projection. To get to more specific gauges, even on creeks, in Illinois, go to http://waterdata.usgs.gov/il/nwis/current/?type=flow

BRAIDWOOD

Closed for the season.

CALUMET SYSTEM

No update.

CHAIN O’LAKES AREA

Art Frisell at Triangle Sports and Marine said time to look toward walleye below the McHenry dam or to shore fish open-water areas; still too early to put in boats, not that open yet.

For Chain updates, check with Fox Waterway Agency or call (847) 587-8540.

CHICAGO RIVER

No fishing update this week from Capt. Pat Harrison (click here for his site).

DELAVAN/LAKE GENEVA AREA, WISCONSIN

No update this week.

DES PLAINES RIVER

No update.

DOWNSTATE NOTES

POWERTON: Boat fishing reopens Wednesday, Feb. 15. Shore fishing is open already and there has been some good catches, see the Fish of the Week this week. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m.  LAKE OF EGYPT/REND: Check with Jason Johns of Boneyard FishingSHELBYVILLE: Check with Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson Guide Service.EVERGREEN: Bait shop and boat rental are closed for the season. HENNEPIN-HOPPER: Closed for season.

FOX RIVER: WESTERN SUBURBS

No update.

FOX RIVER: WISCONSIN

No update.

GREEN BAY/STURGEON BAY

Jeff Norris again reported outstanding whitefish action last week.

Lance LaVine at Howie’s Tackle in Sturgeon Bay sent this update Monday:

Good morning fellas

This is what I have as far as the ice fishing is concerned

Whitefish action continues to stay hot throughout the county.  Some of the so called “HotSpots” continue to be the Henderson’s Point shoreline in Little Sturgeon, the deeper water out in front of Riley’s Bay, the Sand Bay area and Larson’s Reef along with many areas to the north of the Old Stone Quarry where the spots are quite endless.  Look for rocky shorelines and deep structure and you will find plenty of Whitefish.  One hint…stay away from high traffic areas and big crowds and the fishing will be much better.  Sweedish pimples, Rapala jigs,  Forage minnows and Buckshot spoons are just a few of the top jigs to use.  And most fishermen run some kind of a slider hook above their main jig like a fly, single hook or treble hook.  Wax worms, spikes, minnow pieces and Gulp all work very well for the Whitefish

Walleye fishing is starting to pick up a bit more as it usually does as weove later into the ice season.  Now with that said, the fishing is not Hot and Heavy by any means, but they are starting to become a bit more active.  Rock to sand or mud transitions seem to be the bottom of choice and you can find those areas around Henderson’s Point, Riley’s Bay, Sand Bay along with the vast shoreline to the north which rarely sees any pressure.  Odd Ball jigs, Rapala Jigs and Shiver Minnows are a few of the most popular baits. Tip your jigs with medium and large lake shiners and work them within the bottom 2 feet of the water column

Pike fishing has been going fair, but should just continue to get better as it always does later in the season.  Little Sturgeon, Sawyer Harbor, the Sturgeon Bay Flats along with some areas right in downtown Sturgeon Bay always good options.  As we see some warmer weather and run-off, Pike will stage out in front of those areas to feed, so all those types of areas would be good spots to set up.  Sucker minnows and large golden shiners under tip-ups and auto fishermen is the best method

The Perch fishing has been a little slower the past 2 weeks, but we should see that pick up here just like it usually does at the end of February and into March.  Still, the best area continues to be the Little Sturgeon area in the inner bay.  There has been some catches being reported outside the bay and down towards Chaudoir’s dock also, so that has been one highlight.  Other areas to try are…Riley’s Bay, Sawyer Harbor and the Sturgeon Bay Flats.  Medium and Large lake shiners, rosy reds and wax worms have been the best live baits.  Both jig fishing and tip-up fishing has been effective.

The Brown Trout fishing is getting better.  Some areas have been Egg Harbor, Fish Creek and Sister bay.  Golden shiners and large lake shiners under tip-ups have been the best

Thanks;

Lance LaVine

Howie’s Tackle
1309 Green Bay Rd
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Ph: 920-746-9916

The Wisconsin DNR report is usually posted Tuesdays and includes reports from both the bay and lake sides.

HEIDECKE LAKE

Closed for the season.

ILLINOIS RIVER

Remember that Illinois Valley Outdoors is closed. Have bait and terminal tackle before going.

INDIANA STREAMS

Access points for Trail Creek can be found on the Trail Creek Access MapAccess points for Little Cal and Salt Creek, which are closer to Chicago than Trail Creek, may be found at littlecal_saltcreek_access.

KANKAKEE RIVER

No update.

LAKE ERIE

The Ohio DNR has general Lake Erie info and a fishing report.

LAKEFRONT

See perch at top. Steve Palmisano at Henry’s ice texted that powerliners are beginning at Montrose. Capt. Rich Sleziak  at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind., texted that coho slowed down from last week, lots of understsized ones. Lori Ralph at the Salmon Stop said some coho and browns being seen at Waukegan’s Government Pier, but few trying or catching.

NAVY PIER NOTE: The fisherman’s parking special is $6, if out by 10 a.m. Find an parking attendant after you pull in to get the special. PIER PASSES: The pier passes for legal access to fish select piers at Jackson, Burnham, DuSable, Diversey, Belmont and Montrose harbors in Chicago are available at Henry’s ($6 cash, one per valid fishing license). SHOP NOTE: Park Bait is closed for the winter.

LAKE VERMILION,  MINNESOTA

Check Jarek Wujkowski of Rodsbent Guide Service.

LaSALLE LAKE

Closed for season.

MADISON CHAIN, WISCONSIN

On Tuesday, Gene Dellinger at D & S Bait said, “I don’t know what to tell you, but we have ice now. I am thinking we will still have some by the weekend.” Otherwise, check the latest from D & S Bait on Facebook.

MAZONIA

North unit reopens to fishing on Thursday, Feb. 16. Hours are 6 a.m.-sunset daily. The South unit lakes are already open. Check with Jon Meder at Jon’s Bait Shop–(815) 237-2822–in South Wilmington.

MENOMINEE RIVER, WISCONSIN

Check with Mike Mladeik at Mike Mladenik Guide Service.

MILWAUKEE HARBOR

Check the Wisconsin DNR Lake Michigan Report, which generally comes out Tuesdays for updates.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN

MINOCQUA: Kurt Justice of Kurt’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua, Wis. sent this:

Ice conditions remain excellent for now throughout the Lakeland area.  Averages of 17-10” with very little snow cover (2-4”) made for great travel no matter the method.

Fishing overall was just fair.  Lots of varying reports, with some anglers struggling while others found windows of success during peak bite times.

Crappies:  Fair-Good – Best reports came from anglers using tip-downs on the Flowages.  Rosie reds top bait on this dark water.  On lakes, slow dropping plastics of white, pink and yellow tops in weeds of 10-12’.  Best bites this weekend occurred between 11am and 1pm.  A few true trophy crappies of 14-15” reported.

Yellow Perch:  Fair-Good – Small fish all over.  Better fish deep, 26-34’ over mud using wigglers on Hali jigs, Kastmaster & Flash Champ spoons.  A few larger perch taken on tip-downs baited with small-medium fatheads.

Northern Pike:  Fair-Good – Action got better Sunday in wind, unfortunately, few anglers out to benefit.  Standard fare of shiners on tip-ups.

Bluegills:  Fair-Good – Most reports of anglers who found gills were of smaller fish.  The few reports of larger gills (8+”) came from anglers plying deeper waters using #4 tungsten Fiska jigs tipped with a single red spike or a purple or black or red plastic wedgee.

Walleyes:  Poor – Few reports over the weekend. The couple decent reports came on Monday from anglers getting out early (pre-dawn) using suckers or chubs on tip-ups.

The coming forecast of temps hitting the mid 40’s for 5 straight days will make for great conditions to start, but could be the beginning of the end of our ice season.  With little snow to protect the 17-20” of ice (we should have 30+ by now on an average year).  We may see our ice season end by late March.  So better get out while the getting is good!

UPCOMING DERBY DATES
Feb 18th – Rob Lemmer Memorial
Lake Katherine
Feb 28th -Carrol Lake Ice Fishing Tournament
Carrol Lake

Kurt Justice
Kurt’s Island Sport Shop
www.kurtsislandsports.com

EAGLE RIVER: B+L, from reports from Colin Crawford of Colin Crawford Guide Service for the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, sent this:

Fishing Report

Northern Pike: We are finding fish on the weed edges and in the deeper weeds. On the edges, the set up should be tip ups set a foot or so off the bottom.  When fishing the deep weeds, set your tip ups so that your bait is just above the tops of the weeds.

Walleye: These fish are being caught in a couple of areas, in and around weeds.  Setting tip ups on the weed edges baited with walleye suckers or medium golden shiners in low light conditions seem to be best.  Also, jigging in the same areas with baits like the buckshot rattle spoon are producing fish.  The other good option is on the tops of rock humps for good spots in the early evening.

Panfish: Bluegills are being found in the weeds using small jigs tipped with waxies, spikes or tipped with plastic.  Perch are being caught on the deep weed edge where the mud meets.

NORTHWEST INDIANA

When weather allows, early coho and brown fishing begins. Capt. Rich Sleziak  at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station texted that some coho are being caught, but a lot of undersized ones, on cut squid, skein or shrimp. He also said the first crappie action begins in open water on local lakes. COHO NOTE: Be aware there is a bunch of small coho, as in 10 to 12 inches, around and the minimum is 14 inches.

No update.

ROOT RIVER, WISCONSIN

The Wisconsin DNR Lake Michigan Report is generally posted on Tuesday and includes a Root river section. Click here for the stream flow update, which can be really important for how good the fishing is.

ST. JOSEPH, MICHIGAN

Staff at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor said some steelhead are being caught at Berrien Springs; while sucker fishing is good in the lower river.

ST. JOSEPH RIVER, INDIANA

Click here for reports from the Indiana DNR.

SHABBONA LAKE

Clint Sands at Lakeside said from the road bed south was open as of Tuesday, while road bed north was iced. Both launches are iced in. If the main launch opens up, Lakeside will be open for the week. Sands will post an update by Thursday on Facebook. Lake hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The restaurant is closed for the season. For more information and reports from Lakeside, go to shabbonalake.com or call (815) 824-2581.

SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN LAKEFRONT

The Wisconsin DNR posts a report during open water at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/lakemichigan/OutdoorReport.html. It is usually posted by Tuesday afternoon. Stream flow info is at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/current?type=flow.

WISCONSIN RIVER

No update.

WOLF LAKE

No update.

WOLF RIVER, WISCONSIN

No update.