Sometimes winter heat waves just bring fishermen out to enjoy the weather and they forget the air feels like May while the water is still February.

But this historic heat in February around Chicago is distinctive because the fishing nearly matched the temperatures.

It’s important enough to document.

Best overall was perch on the Chicago lakefront.perch02-18-19loriwhalenssslip

Hundreds of fishermen descended on the South Side slips around Steelworkers Park. Larry Jennings sent a photo from the water of fishermen lining the shore.

Bill Olson messaged about shore fishermen casting heavy weights at his boat when he attempted to come down the middle. I’ll tackle that another day.

fotw02-22-17brownThe main point is people were open-water fishing like never before in February. And catching, such as Lori Whalen catching a matching pair of jumbo perch from a South Side slip.

“It was a great weekend to be a bait-shop owner,’’ messaged Doyle Tunnat from Chicago Bait and Tackle in Romeoville.

“It was better than summer business,’’ said Capt. Rich Sleziak from Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind. “It was nonstop from 4:45 in the morning to 6 at night. I had to eat standing there.”

Staying on Lake Michigan, Tim Bob Vaught battled an 18-pound brown trout for 20 minutes. He caught it on an orange Fat Rap by the shipping channel in Indiana.fotw02-22-17

There was surprisingly good inland fishing, too.

“Muskie Ed’’ Potocki summed it up, “Had to get the boat out on this great weekend.’’

It paid off when he caught a muskie on a Figure 8 at Shabbona Lake.


At a quarry around Schaumburg, Peter Calderon tweeted about catching the 6-pound largemouth bass pictured at the top, one of eight bass he caught on the day, on a Rat-L-Trap.

fotw02-22-17smallmouthAlex Oquendo tweeted a photo of a big smallmouth bass he caught on the Kankakee River. Larry Green tweeted it was caught in Kankakee.

Andrew Ragas, web designer and guide in northern Wisconsin, was back to fish the spring walleye run in northern Illinois with jigs and big thumper plastics, and small crankbaits.

In the words a young man, Ragas emailed that he and John Barnes, of LaGrange, “experienced some epic bites from an area river that included musky, northern pike, some walleyes, and this gigantopithecus specimen of an northern Illinois river walleye.’’

That “gigantopithecus specimen’’ from Saturday night came with a story.

“At 5:40 p.m., John received call from his girlfriend, requesting his presence and demands to return home,’’ Ragas revealed. “After hanging up, disgruntled John, who didn’t want to leave, forcefully exclaimed, `I ain’t going till I get my last ten casts in.’

“A few quick casts later, Barnes hooked into a giant right at his footsteps, fight lasting no more than five seconds. As soon as I scooped the portly pre-spawn female into the wade net, John’s Rebel Minnow completely popped off. Upon seeing the giant white belly full of eggs and handing the fish off to him, I knew this was a special specimen.’’


After releasing the 27- to 28-inch walleye, “the newly legendary John Barnes happily returned home to his girlfriend afterwards, like a changed man.’’

It’s been that kind of historic stretch.

WILD THINGS: Other earlies in the record February heat: sandhill cranes moving, cacklers, woodcocks, red-winged blackbirds, territorial cardinals, moth (Robert France), turtle on a log (Kyle Danhausen), horsefly bite (Christian Howe) and crocuses popping. My wife found chives, tiger lilies, daffodils, tulips and Star of Bethlehem coming up.

“With the rain, you should be able to pick crawlers tomorrow night,’’ Ron Wozny emailed.

STRAY CAST: Never thought I would be re-imagining uses for the Swedish Pimple.