Fox River Deadfall
Fish the Fox
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Wondering where to fish? Fish the Fox!
This site contains everything you need to know in order to fish the Fox River. Check out my Fox River Guide for tips on access, planning, local bait and tackle stores, and types of lures to use. Enjoy the reports and photos.

October 1, 2016
DuPage River Fishing Report: Hadn't fished the Dupe since February 20, so was overdue for a visit. Phoned friend Mark K. and invited him to join me for an outing in my tandem kayak and kill a drizzly afternoon slingin' for smallmouth. I paddled us upstream about 2.5 miles and we tried various lures to see what would entice the smallies through the eel grass and murky, rising water. Mark stuck a few smallies on a Fat Ika and a small, walk-the-dog topwater. I primarily used short casts and worked a 3/8-ounce white swim jig with a white tail and also a 1/2-ounce white spinnerbait. We mainly targeted outside edges of logs and grass pile-ups in mild current. It was a really fun and relaxing paddle. We never encountered more than light drizzle and the sun even peeked out a few times. In all we boated somewhere around 12-15 bass with a smallmouth/largemouth mix. I caught six that were 14"-18"+, a few of which are pictured here. I left my camera at home due to the rain and Mark brought his iPhone in a waterproof case. We did the best we could for some quick pics during the float. It was nice to get back to the "Dupe" and catch a few. Fun time with Mark in the kayak with lots of BS'ing and laughs -- which means more to me than catching fish. USGS Shorewood 2.50' / 346 CFS+

September 30, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Took my friend Jim out in my tandem kayak to get him a birthday bass or two. Gave him dibs on the spots and had fun fishing and chatting. Ended up boating around 10, topping out in the 15"-16" range. We had our chances at a few larger bass but each had a few mishaps. I even had what appeared to be a nice walleye on a crankbait at one point, but it came unbuttoned. Bottom-bouncing crayfish imitation plastics and the swim jig were the lures that produced the most. Happy birthday Jim!

Jim Jozwiak and smallmouth bass

Later in the evening I shore fished solo for about 45 minutes. Nailed one on the swim jig right off the bat, then caught four on the small size Whopper Plopper working it downstream or cross-stream through a seam. Great way to round out the beautiful month of September. It was fantastic! USGS 11.33' / 833 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass on a Whopper Plopper

September 28, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade-fished solo after work. Stayed out about 1.5 hours and covered a few areas with topwater. Beautiful fall weather with a rare storm pattern coming in from the northeast. The sky turned from beautiful to ominous. Found four big ones that absolutely crushed big surface lures coming downstream. Topped out at 19.25" but all were thick, respectable smallmouth. Now is the time to get out. The cooler weather / water and an uptick in flow due to the rain are godsends. Whatever you do, don't squander October. If you've got a few vacation days to burn, make a plan and spend some time on our local rivers. This is your chance at some true monsters and possibly numbers of them. An 18.5" is pictured here. USGS 11.26' / 730 CFS+

Fox River smallmouth bass on a Megabass Dog-X Diamante

Fox River sunset with storm clouds

September 27, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Early evening solo outing. Started with a big swim jig, worked downstream along weed edges and logs in mild current. Lucked into a nice smallie within a dozen casts. Taped at 18.25". Felt satisfied even though I had the rest of the outing ahead of me. Only a few other smaller tail-pullers on the swim jig, so switched to a walk-the-dog topwater. Boated six on top over gravel / chunk rock. Switched back to the swim jig after it was too dark to safely mess with treble hooks. Boated one after dark. Totals: 18.25"; 17"; 16"; 7"; 14"; 14.25"; 13"; 13". Two largest pictured. USGS 11.21' / 659 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Beautiful Fox River sunset

September 26, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: 20.5" that slammed a big white swim jig at sunset. Tore out my drag, which is very rare. Awesome fight. What girth on this fish! Caught one other just over 14". Early morning caught three on the Whopper Plopper. Fun, but all small. USGS 11.25' / 715 CFS-

Beast Mode! 20.5" Fox River smallmouth bass HUGE

September 24, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Fun morning with perfect weather. Took my friend Ian in my tandem kayak. Spot-hopped and tried a lot of topwaters and a few plastics. Boated a combined 19. Four of mine were 16"-17". Bigger ones came on walk-the-dog topwater, which Ian had never seen fished before. Think he learned some new techniques and lures. Now he's pumped to go back. He did well on a small Senko and Slider Head, and loved the Whopper Plopper! I think he'll be ordering some ... and some topwater from Megabass. Good times. Fun to see the lights come on for a fellow angler / friend. USGS 11.27' / 744+

Fox River smallmouth bass on topwater

September 23, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Early morning from shore. Literally made five casts with a big white swim jig. Caught a solid 18" with a nice belly. Has been feeding well. Bit in mild current alongside a rock wall. Just slammed the lure. Great fight. Headed home after that. A five minutes well spent. USGS 11.25' / 715 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass on a Warrior Swim Jig from Jonn Graham

September 22, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out early evening, solo kayak. Met another two kayakers at the launch, preparing for a booze cruise. Said "hi", hit the river to fish. Water looked in horrible shape. Very scummy and bubbly in slower areas. A lot of grass and other plant debris piling up on logs, rock, etc. Feeling more and more like the DuPage River every time out. There was an uptick in flow from the recent rain. The current looks a bit faster in the main channels. That was nice to see.

I ended up dilly-dallying and exploring. Turned out to be a good idea. I boated five smallies just about instantly. Topwater was hot. Seemed like I could cast in any direction and get bit. Was working a very rattly Megabass "walk-the-dog" surface slider ... a Dog-X Diamante. The fish were mixed in size but it was rewarding to find and catch them areas I'd previously deemed "junk water" and never paid much attention to. Saw a bald eagle perched on a dead tree, watching me from across the river. I continued to explore and fish but never really found the big bite. Boated 8 total. I topped out at 17.5" with a 16.5" hitting near dark. All on topwater. And luckily, this night I had my bug spray to keep all the mosquitoes from feasting on me.

I headed back in the dark and could faintly make out the bubble trail of the two kayakers that had paddled back before me. They had finished their beer alright. I found their crushed Busch Light cans scattered here and there along the surface of the river on my paddle back. My heart sunk in disappointment. They seemed like decent guys just setting out to paddle and enjoy the evening. It's really a shame they weren't mature enough to properly dispose of their trash. It will be interesting if I run into them again. USGS 11.28' / 759 CFS-

Interesting cloud formation over the Fox River

Fox River smallmouth bass on a Megabass Dog-X Diamanete

Fox River smallmouth bass on topwater

September 20, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: More of that melancholy feeling. Set out to do some photography of the various types of aquatic plants that have taken hold in so many areas. I've been working with some local biologists to ID them. I don't think there's much cause for alarm, but it's curious to note them and understand what might be so different this year to allow their abundance. Like the day prior, I found a good topwater bite near sunset. And the mosquitoes found me. I dealt with it and boated nine smallmouth with a few beauties. My largest taped at 19.5" and was an absolute beast. The only way I can describe the hit on the topwater lure was "clobbered!" Again, stayed way too long after sunset, paddled back in the dark, but totally worth it. Was one of the most mellow and fulfilling paddles I've had in a long time. Glad to see the rain this morning. We need lots of it!

September 19, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Had the day off but spent the majority of it at a funeral and luncheon. Was a tough day. Hit the river solo late afternoon. Didn't care much about fishing, just kind of reflected on things. Nothing much biting until near dark, then I got into a groove with topwater. Ended up boating 11 with the largest at 18.5". Lots of smaller bass mixed in 10-13". Caught 2 @ 15". A walk-the-dog topwater steadily downstream over gravel / chunk rock in mild current was my mainstay. Paddled back about 1/2 hour after dark. Took out in the blackness and hoots from a great horned owl.

September 14, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: My good friend, smallmouth bass enthusiast, and fishing guide Jonn Graham has been tying swim jigs for quite a while now. He just got a new head design and tied some 3/8-ounce in my favorite pattern. We jokingly call it "money". When some arrived in the mail yesterday, I couldn't wait to try 'em out! After a quick photo shoot I launched the kayak and headed for some of my best seasonal "swim jig" water. I rigged it with a 4.7" Keitech Fat Swing Impact tail in "sight flash" color. The new heads are nice. The design is much more blunt-nosed than previous heads, and bounced off any rocks or logs I came in contact with while burning it downstream. Good-sized hook, shank barb to hold the tail in place, and pulsating skirt -- which I trimmed back about 1/4" to allow for more "waggle" of the tail. Overall, I think it's a hit! The fish did too! Ended up boating nine while spot-hopping: 17.25"; 12.5"; 19.5"; 12.25"; 15"; 11.25"; 13"; 18"; 15" USGS 11.17' / 605 CFS- If you're interested in some of Jonn's hand-tied swim jigs, you can reach him at

Warrior Jigs Swim Jig and Kietech Fat Swing Impact in Sight Flash

Warrior Jigs Swim Jig

My baitcasting setup for river fishing

Fox River smallmouth bass with a mouth full of swim jig

Big Fox River smallmouth bass on a swim jig

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass closeup

Big Fox River smallmouth bass caught while kayaking

Beautiful Fox River smallmouth bass caught while kayaking

September 10, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Dressed for the rain and on the water at first light. Fished through drizzle but mild temps. Was hoping for a stronger topwater bite, but not much luck in that department. The fish pictured is a 17.75" smallmouth bass that hit a Megabass Dog-X Diamante. Other than the one fish on top, boated seven more with a 4.5" Yamamoto Flapping Hawg on a 1/8-ounce Slider Head crawled along bottom. Lots of little smallmouth on the prowl today. Spotted a juvenile bald eagle again. Always nice to see eagles so close to home. USGS 11.15' / 715 CFS+

September 9, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Fished for about 1.5 hours in the solo kayak. Covered a bit more water and varied lures. Ended up with six smallies: 17"; 11.5"; 14.25"; 12.5"; 16.5"; 15.75". Fished a 4.5" Yamamoto Flapping Hawg on a 1/8-ounce Slider Head and crawled bottom. That did most of the damage. One on a swim jig and one on the Whopper Plopper. Had my biggest fish, a true Fox River beast, slam a spinnerbait. I foolishly tried to maneuver the kayak towards shore as I was playing the fish, and it tail-walked and tossed the lure. I'm blaming the cold medicine for my poor decision! :oops: Despite the loss, the cool thing was ... I hooked it in a spot where I have never caught anything previously. So I've got a new spot to check from now on! USGS 11.19' / 632 CFS

September 8, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Kayak-fished for an hour before sunset. Didn't cover a lot of water ... more/less dropped anchor and camped out downstream from an outside turn and worked topwater. Family (and I) all have head colds, so I was in a Theraflu-induced haze. It felt good to not think about how crappy I was feeling -- at least for an hour! Saw a juvenile bald eagle on patrol. Saw a few deer wade out through some shallow spots towards dark. Ended up with two smallies, 15.5" & 15.75". One hit a popper, one hit a Whopper Plopper.

September 7, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out solo after dinner and kayak-fished for about two hours. The warm breeze felt like I was in the Gulf of Mexico. Great night, free of mosquitoes and swarms of gnats. Had light drizzle here and there and gusty winds at times that spun the kayak out of position. Ended up boating 8 with some nice sizes mixed in: 18.75"; 17.5"; 13.5"; 15.75"; 17.5"; 13.75"; 19.5"; 12". The first two were on a big white swim jig and all others were on topwater. The popper was hot again, although with the wind and chop it was tough to hear it or really see it. A few on the walk-the-dog and one on a buzzbait. Paddled back after sunset in near darkness. USGS 11.09' / 502 CFS- An 18.75" is pictured

18.75" Fox River smallmouth bass caught on a Warrior Swim Jig

September 4, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Kayak fished with my brother-in-law early AM ... we were on the water in my tandem slightly before sunrise. We found a great topwater bite and had a blast, but the smallies did not want much commotion -- they wanted slow and subtle. I blanked on the Whopper Plopper and large walk-the-dog topwater. Joel was catching them on a slow-twitched Sammy, so I finally switched to a Megabass Pop Max and after a few initial "bloops", slow-twitched it all the way back and got blasted right next to the boat. After witnessing Joel just crush it with the Sammy, I was rewarded with the biggest, prettiest fish of the outing. Nice contrast and very barred when I first took it out of the water and taped a hair over 20". Gorgeous fish, but then again, big beautiful bronze on top was the theme of the morning ... as long as you were slow and subtle about it. Funny how fish change their moods so often. All these fish must be females!

I gave Joel dibs on the spots and he did great. We boated 11 in total and I think the majority of the catches were his. He hasn't gotten out in a long time so it was great to get him on some fish and see him take advantage of the situation and stick 'em. That Lucky Craft Sammy with the Gamakatsu's is tough for fish to escape from! Here's the body count in the order we boated 'em: 16.75"; 17.25"; 13.25"; 15.25"; 18.75"; 17"; 11.5"; 20"; 8.25"; 16.25"; 11.25". Most of the little ones are mine, picked up on an Erie Darter on a Slider Head when the areas went quiet. Pics are off my iPhone and lightly filtered. Took a ton but you get the idea. USGS 11.15' / 579 CFS-. The Pop Max' pattern is called Black Orochi.

Megabass Pop Max in Black Orochi

20-inch Fox River smallmouth bass

20" Fox River smallmouth bass

September 3, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Kayak fished solo late morning until about 1:15 PM. Seems to be par for the course lately ... picked up a big one on the swim jig right away. Then had to work for 'em. Couldn't get anything going on topwater today. Switched to a 4.5" Yamamoto Flapping Hawg (crayfish imitator) on a 1/8-ounce Slider Head and hopped and crawled bottom through a rocky current seam. Managed a decent haul, boating eight: 18.5"; 18.25"; 18"; 15.5"; 14"; 12.25"; 12"; 8" USGS 11.19' / 632 CFS- We need rain!

Nice Fox River smallmouth bass from the kayak

September 2, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Kayak fished mid-morning for a quick hit to try and find some topwater action. Would have been happy with a few fish but September magic started early. Think the cool nights have helped. Ended up boating 11 with some nice sizes. I kept a tally on my iPhone in between battles, taping fish, and grinning from ear to ear. Amazing outing. It doesn't get any better on the Fox than the month of September. A white swim jig took three, a Megabass Dog-X Diamante took three, and the rest came on the Whopper Plopper (buy it here). Seams over 2-3 FOW with gravel / chunk rock and mild current. It was patience fishing, especially when coaxing up big bronze in the bright sun. There is something special about the Whopper Plopper for sure. Neat lure. Once they were on it, I often got multiple hits. I had a big one blow up on it four times and miss! Followed up with a walk-the-dog lure and got crushed first cast. USGS 11.04' / 701 CFS-

18.5"; 18.25"; 18"; 17.75"; 17.25"; 15.25"; 14.5"; 13"; 12.5"; 11"; 7"

Fox River smallmouth bass on a swim jig

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

September 1, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished a Fox tributary late afternoon. Caught the biggie below on my third cast with a big white swim jig at a deep(er) pool in the shade. Only a few more pecks on the swim jig and I decided to go Whopper Plopper for the remainder of the wade. Picked up nine more bass consisting of two largemouth and seven smallmouth. Best others were two smallies in the 14"-15" range and a largemouth @ 16". A slow consistent gurgle right down Main Street drew the most strikes.

Creek smallmouth

August 13-16, 2016

Lake of the Woods, Ontario Fishing Report: Just returned from a quick impromptu Canada trip with my good friend Kevin. We fished four days. I've been up there with him about a half-dozen times and it's always a fun adventure. More recently we've been taking his boat, which makes spot-hopping a heck of a lot quicker! We mostly throw for musky but honestly, we just like fishing so we're happy with whatever bites. We catch a lot of smallmouth, northern pike, and even walleye while targeting musky. The scenery in Lake of the Woods is really pretty and it seems each spot looks better than the last. There is a lot of variety to fish but on this particular trip we found the musky holding near thick patches of pencil reeds and also beneath lily pads in shallow areas.

Kevin is more of a musky fishermen and likes to use a lot of the bigger gear and lures. I bought a Daiwa Tatula Type-HD200 and paired it with a 13 Fishing 7'-11" Omen Black casting rod for this trip. It was a blast to use! I had a lot of luck on my normal Fox River sized swim jig combos and buzzbaits.

My favorite memory of this trip is when fishing a shallow cove with lily pads in early morning, I decided to "frog it" and put on a larger Terminator bass frog. With a long cast, I started working the frog down the middle of the cove and soon a large wake appeared behind it. The musky slithered "Shamu-style" close to the frog and it looked like a good eight inches of water was bulging above the lure. I sped up and slowed down and this really pissed off the musky, who exploded on the lure and engulfed it. Great fight surging through the lily pads and other vegetation, walked it around the boat twice, and Kevin was waiting with the net. It was a long, skinny fish but man, was that a cool experience! It measured 47.5" and it was fun to watch that old gal slither off -- defeated, but in otherwise OK shape. You can imagine the high-five after my first musky to strike a frog lure!

47.5" LOTW musky

Second best was at the tail-end of a hot afternoon. The wind picked up, which was a welcome reprieve from the heat. We worked our way around a large island and there was a little unsuspecting patch of pencil reeds near about six feet of water. I had a 3/8-ounce white swim jig with 4.7" Keitech white flash "fat swing impact" tail tied on and chucked it out at the edge of the pencil reeds and let it flutter down. As it fluttered, I saw a big boil and red tail of a musky dive down after it. Boom!!! Game on! I could feel the massive head shakes of a big fish as it tried to run for deeper water. The wind whistled over my stretched mono but I was able to turn the fish back towards me, walk her around the boat and tire her out before Kevin scooped her into the net. Just awesome! It measured 45" and was THICK!

45" LOTW musky

In terms of musky, I ended up boating a 30"; 38"; 39"; 45"; 45"; 47.5". Kevin caught a 39" & 34.5". I caught a 39" northern pike and a bunch of others in the mid to upper 30s. I only caught one walleye, 20.5" and a bunch of smallmouth topping out around 18". All in all a heck of a fun four days fishing on Lake of the Woods and soaking it all in. We stayed at Duck Bay Lodge (enter Canada through Baudette, MN and drive about an hour to Morson, ON, then by boat to Hay Island)

Duck Bay Lodge Float Plane

Duck Bay Lodge Cabin 4

LOTW Pine Trees

Musky Cove

LOTW sunset

LOTW sunset

Duck Bay Lodge Cabin

Beautiful Island

Casting Rock

LOTW sunset

Casting the Reeds

Paige's Hole

LOTW trees

LOTW sky

Musky Release

Musky Release

Northern Pike Catch

Northern Pike Release

Northern Pike Release

Duck Bay Lodge

Ranger Bass Boat

May - August, 2016
I post Fox River fishing reports on Windy City Fishing. You can read reports from late May through August 2016 here. My user name is EAS.

May 20, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Early morning shoreline fishing at two spots. Spent about 1/2 hour and only fished topwater. Caught 5 smallies: 2 peewees; 1 @ 12"; 2 @ 15". Megabass Giant Dog X walked on top along current seams and shallows with gravel and sparse boulders. Smallies were spanking it, often launching the lure out of the water with multiple blasts.

If you're fishing topwaters or cranks, please bring hemos and be extra careful when unhooking. Take your time and figure out the best way to remove the treble hooks with minimal damage to the fish. This becomes a highly valuable skill over time and requires patience. The premium topwaters have very thin wire hooks -- good stickiness and penetration and are also easier to remove as the barbs are very small. Try some topwater this weekend. I'll be breaking out some bigger walk-the-dog surface sliders as well as some bigger buzzbaits.

May 18, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Early evening ... nice one on the Megabass Giant Dog X topwater. Slammed first cast walkin' the dog. Level has dropped nicely over the past few days. USGS 12.07' / 2,070 CFS-

Street bass

May 17, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out with friend Erik Olson after work to fish one of his northern (as in "up North") stretches of the Fox. We brought our solo kayaks and fished structure, seams and eddies. I fished the swim jig and boated 5, largest 16". Had my biggest jump off -- looked to be in the 18"-19" range and hit in Erik's go-to "money" seam. Erik boated 6 or 7 on cranks. Was a really fun outing ... nice to fish some new water (to me)!

Fox River kayak fishing

May 16, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Early morning hop before work. 1/4-ounce perch Mimic Minnow. Had to work to find 'em. Ended up with eight smallmouth in the 12"-14" range from very defined shoreline eddies off boulders. The river is shaping up nicely for some topwater as she slows and visibility improves. Starting to throw walk-the-dog lures again in select areas to scratch the itch. USGS 12.26' / 2,520 CFS-

May 15, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wasn't able to get out until around 7 PM so stuck to one town and quickly worked shoreline eddies to see what I could find before dark. Surprisingly, for a Sunday evening in a relatively popular area, there were some nice fish waiting for me. I ended up with seven smallmouth in the 12"-14" range on a perch Mimic Minnow and a fat 18" that absolutely wrekt the swim jig along a major current seam. I thought I had another flathead but it was just the fish's weight as it ran into the heavy current. Crummy arm's-length camera phone pic doesn't do it justice. Was a really satisfying "quick hit" outing with some decent results and not a lot of time invested. USGS 12.34' / 2,750 CFS-

May 14, 2016
Postcards from the Fox -- Had the itch to cover some ground and see what I could find, plus do some photography along the way for a bit of a "postcard study" to try to capture the essence of the river in each town. Tossed a 1/4-ounce Silver Shiner Northland Mimic Minnow the entire outing. Worked short casts and fluttered along shoreline structure in current. Quick hit at each town, trying a few spots from shore...

1 smallmouth. River not as high as I would have liked for shore fishing. Caught one little smallmouth off a bridge piling and moved on.

Fox River Postcard: Elgin, Illinois

South Elgin
2 smallmouth. Tough to find 'em but finally caught a chunky 16" and a very dark small one.

Fox River Postcard: South Elgin, Illinois

St. Charles
2 smallmouth; 1 flathead. A lot of shy tail-pullers in the regular areas -- probably sore-mouthed fish on the feed again. One small one and finally a nice one in the 16"-17" range. The flathead was a nice hit while bouncing bottom downstream. Just hammered it! Medium-sized in my book. Gave a nice fight.

Fox River Postcard: St. Charles, Illinois

10 smallmouth; 2 largemouth; 1 white bass; had a small musky on but lost it after a few headshakes. Spent the most time here over two different passes. Paused for breakfast with the family at a nearby diner. The musky was a heck of a surprise. Was fluttering the bait near the surface when it came out of the shadows and pounced. Really neat to see. Guessing around 30".

Fox River Postcard: Geneva, Illinois

1 smallmouth. Very tough to find one small one today. Spent way too much time for little return. Pride got the best of me there.

Fox River Postcard: Batavia, Illinois

North Aurora
6 smallmouth. Easy pickins. Mostly little ones but a few 12"-14".

Fox River Postcard: North Aurora, Illinois

2 largemouth. Lost a decent-sized smallmouth right off the bat and then followed it up with a 15" largemouth and one smaller one in the same spot!

Fox River Postcard: Aurora, Illinois

3 smallmouth. Three solid 17" from the same area in the course of 10 minutes. USGS 12.54' / 3,330 CFS-

Fox River Postcard: Montgomery, Illinois

That was it! A higher/faster flow would have yielded better results, but I didn't have a chunk of time to devote to a run like that during the week. Feeling the effects of the sun and wind. Pretty wiped out.

May 13, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick morning shore fishing, weather clear and crisp. Managed four smallies on the 3/8-ounce silver shiner Mimic Minnow fluttered alongside shoreline structure in current. Largest (pictured) taped at 17.75". River is dropping and clearing. Not as chocolaty as yesterday. USGS 12.63' / 3,640 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass

May 12, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Twenty inches is a magical and very elusive mark for a local river smallmouth and I can tell you without a doubt that fish of this size are rare and unless you're extremely lucky, they do not come easily. I fish nearly every day -- and while catching a decent share of 18" and 19" smallmouth, I tangle with only two or three 20" smallmouth per year.

Today was one of those lucky days. I took a half day and hoped for a bonanza day full of numbers and size, but I ended up working much later than planned and didn't get out until noon. I wore waders at my first spot just to shore fish -- tired of wet feet. I mainly fished a 3/8-ounce silver shiner Mimic Minnow and also tried a big swim jig around flooded shoreline structure. I blanked at my first area.

I switched towns and took off the waders. This was a very urban area so I was mostly able to stay on concrete. I checked on some of my good high-water areas but the conditions were actually too high and fast for them to be productive. Blanked again.

Spot three was a charm. I finally caught a scrapper on the Mimic Minnow fluttered along structure in an eddy. It was only 13", but at least it was a start! A dozen yards down was a big storm drain that had clear water mixing with the muddy river water. I could see quillback and suckers drifting around in the clear water and a few 4-5", almost jet-black smallmouth darting in and out of the drain. I bounced the Mimic Minnow around the area, sure there had to be a nice fish home. Finally, a strong bite and upon setting the hook, the fish took off for current. It had the tell-tale bounce of a cat and while running in current, remained close to the river bottom. You guessed it, flathead. It finally reached the main current and took the expressway downstream. All I could do was hold on and let it take drag. There was a huge cottonwood tree along shore and no way for me to get around it to get down the shore. Finally the hook came free and I lost the cat. I was bummed. It felt like a big one.

About a half block down there was another storm drain. I figured I'd toss the lure in there and perhaps get lucky again. I've caught smallies from there during high water before. First cast I tried fluttering the lure along the mouth of the drain, but oddly enough, instead of water draining out into the river, it was pulling water in, and therefore, pulled my lure in. I went on free-spool and hand-lined a few inches of line at a time and let the current take the lure deeper into the drain pipe. Sure enough ... THUMP!!! I set the hook and I could feel and hear a nice bass going crazy in the drain pipe. All of the sudden, it rocketed out and went straight for the current. It gave a nice fight but was no match for 14 lb mono on the 6-7" Omen Black. I had that, "holy shit" moment upon finally lipping it. I can never get tired of that feeling. What a freakin' beast!

I went from a "son of a bitch!" low of losing the cat to the high of hitting a 20" smallie in the span of five minutes. Called it quits after that and drove home. Not gonna top that one. USGS 12.93' / 4,680 CFS-

20-inch Fox River smallmouth bass

March 29, 2016
Got out with friend Erik O. and fished for smallies from my tandem kayak. I did the paddling and we slung swim jigs at rock, timber, and breaks. Nice day on the water (despite all the gnats). Ended up boating a combined 9 smallies and Erik scored his biggest so far this year. We had our share of bumps, boils, tail-walk-offs, etc., but overall when the smallmouth committed, they crushed it! Fun times. USGS 12.41' / 3,240 CFS-

Another big Fox River smallmouth bass!

March 26, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Late afternoon solo kayaking. Chose a wide, slower stretch. Methodical, upstream paddle, tucking the nose in eddies and slinging the swim jig at points, structure and seams. Took some work but found 'em. Ended up with six smallies: 13"; 13"; 14.5"; 16"; 18.5"; 19". Crushed it! Man, I needed that. USGS 12.45' / 3,360 CFS-

Trophy Fox River smallmouth bass

March 25, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report:Late afternoon shoreline spot hop. Dunked a soft-plastic minnow imitation inside current seams tight to structure. Popped three smallies in the 15"-16.5" range. Best two shown. USGS 12.55' / 3,670 CFS-

16" Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

March 22, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick hit on foot through a downtown area. Snapped a few pics as I went. Water is receding and decent clarity for the Fox. Eastern shore looked best with chunk concrete and rubble. Walls and bridges could use a bit more depth and flow for easier shore fishing. Caught one 16" smallie on the swim jig fluttered in current alongside a fallen log. USGS 12.10' / 2,430 CFS-

Downtown Batavia, IL

Windmill at Batavia, IL

Batavia, IL riverfront

Smallmouth bass detail - head

Smallmouth bass detail - skin

Smallmouth bass detail - fins

Smallmouth bass detail - tail

March 21, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Hadn't planned on getting out but the bright sun provided motivation. Took a late lunch, spent 35 minutes wading. Slow, methodical, targeted. Green pumpkin Erie Darter on a 1/8-ounce Keeper Hook, slow hops downstream among concrete and rubble, also tried a bit further out in the current seam. Scored two smallies, a 13.5" on the seam and a 19" in an eddy. Thought the 19" was a flathead. Nice "thump" and upon hookset, could not move the fish off bottom. Finally figured out it was wrapped on a log! Tried for sump'n different with a vertical shot but could not get the brute to uncurl. Oh well. Nice to be out there and bust a few, even if just a quick hit. USGS 12.13' / 2,500 CFS

19" Fox River smallmouth bass

March 20, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Late afternoon on the Fox. Only caught two smallies. Missed another. One bit the swim jig while casting from shore, one bit a white spinnerbait while kayaking. USGS 13.23' / 2,490 CFS-

March 19, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out with friend Erik Olsen and did a one-way downstream float in my tandem kayak. Only boated three smallmouth between the two of us. One on the Eerie Darter amidst boulders, and two on plastics in current seams. Sizes 14"-17" and hard fighters! Float started out sunny and calm and felt great. Ended overcast and chilly with wind and approaching drizzle. USGS 12.53' / 2,590 CFS+

Fox River smallmouth bass

March 18, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Slow, methodical upstream shoreline wade. Nearly waist-deep just inside a current seam. Tossed a 4" green pumpkin Erie Darter on a 1/8-ounce Keeper hook. Bounced bottom along rock and concrete. Hard hits. Caught four smallies: 13.5"; 18.5"; 16.75"; 14". Missed a few other hard strikes. Nice day to be on the water. Sunny and calm. Quite a bug hatch. Saw one bald eagle. USGS 12.13' / 2,500 CFS+. Pics off iPhone and D-SLR.

Fox River smallmouth bass 13 Fishing Concept A baitcasting reel

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

March 12, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Late afternoon solo paddle. Tossed a new 1/4-ounce hand-tied swim jig from Jonn Graham. Had it rigged with a 4.5" Shadalicious tail and worked the downstream edges of laydowns and along current seams. Picked up five smallies in the 12" to 15" range. Really enjoyed the mild weather and lack of wind (for once). Wasn't very impressed with the bite. In a "Hail Mary" move, I loaded up and quickly switched areas, re-launching at 5:55. Was losing light quickly but kept slingin' and finally got a massive strike and hard fight ... big smallmouth tail-walked across the surface and made all kinds of ruckus trying to free itself. Finally lipped it and said "screw it!" and hopped out in the shallows for a quick pic. Goretex Merrell hikers actually made it out OK! Girthy brute taped at 19.75". USGS 11.98' / 2,070

19.75" Fox River smallmouth bass

Swim Jig by Jonn Graham of Warrior Jigs

March 9, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out early AM for about ten minutes to try my luck with the swim jig from shore. Overnight temps weren't bad, and maybe the bite was still there. I fished several towns north of where I fished on March 8, and instead of working wood, I worked rock. I was on the upriver side of an island and reeled the swim jig around boulders in 1-2 FOW. Picked up two "cookie-cutter" smallies in 20 casts and missed another. Pic off iPhone with mild HDR filter and painting filter.

Fish were a bit tentative with a bump and a boil before committing a cast or two later. We don't have the strong sun like we did yesterday so my guess is a few degrees less in water temp would account for them being a bit more tentative. If I were out fishing today I'd be swinging for the fences and hitting every big fish spot I could access with the swim jig. Now is the time for brutes and racking up some numbers searching for them. USGS 11.93' / 1,970 CFS+

Fox River smallmouth bass

March 8, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Late afternoon solo paddle. Only tossed a swim jig. Found a great bite -- boated 13 smallies in the 14" to 17.5" range. Medium to fast retrieve downstream near rock and wood was best. The fish were just crushing it. What a difference a few days of warm weather made! It's GO time! USGS 11.87' / 1,840 CFS

March 7, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Did a solo paddle Sunday afternoon with high hopes of tying into a pre-spawn brute. Mojo was running high with the Erie Darter, had the river all to myself, and hit up some late-fall haunts where the smallies were seemingly stacked in cold weather. The gusty winds created a few anxious rollers mid-river, as my core always needs a couple outings to regain its confidence. I anchored a few areas and crawled bottom with the weighted darter but didn't feel any pickups. Despite a solid effort, I blanked. It wasn't without learning -- the clear water and bright sun allowed me to note structure that I normally cannot see in the Fox. Aside from logs and rocks, I spotted a resting channel cat and a sluggish red-ear slider turtle lumbering along the soft river bottom. Ended up getting some exercise, fresh air, and taking in a nice sunset. Always glad to have gotten out in the kayak, fish or no fish. 11.88' / 1,860 CFS-

Fox River kayaking sunset

Fox River shoreline sunset

March 6, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: On Monday I did a quick lunchtime wade. 64 degrees and sunny ... I'll take it! More working the Erie Darter along bottom. Got a nice pickup early on and played out a hard-fighting smallie in the clear water. Never did get a tape on it ... it shook and as its raspy teeth caught my already torn-up thumb, I had no choice than to free it quickly. Got a few other light pickups and got thumped and bit off by what I think was either a decent-sized walleye or a northern. It was a big-shouldered fish with teeth. USGS 11.87' / 1,840 CFS-

Fox River trophy smallmouth bass

March 5, 2016

Fox River Fishing Report: Got in the river about 9 AM. Slow, methodical shoreline wade. Water waist-deep with gravel, rubble, boulders and chunk concrete. Tossed a 4" green pumpkin Erie Darter on a 2/0 Keeper hook and crawled bottom downstream through slack areas. This was a Kamala-inspired bait choice ... after reading about all his K3 River success with the cold water smallies, I placed an order about a week ago. Maybe it was luck, increased mojo, etc., but I felt a strong "thump" about ten minutes into it, followed by a good tug on the line. I reared back and and it was great to feel the Omen Black casting rod load up with a sizeable bass! It headed straight for deeper water and then bulldogged on the surface as it swung around behind me for a few tense moments before I was able to lip it in mild current. A beauty ... taped near 18.5". Ended up with one more at 13.5" a bit further upstream before I waded back and car-hopped to another piece of water.

18.5" trophy Fox River smallmouth bass

Not long after I set foot in the river again, the sky got brighter and I could see bottom fairly clearly. I slowly waded upstream and around the eroded root ball of a shoreline tree I spotted a nice-sized flathead cat tucked in among the roots and debris. I had to tangle with this fish and see if I could get a quick pic. I backed up and set my gear on shore, rolled up my sleeve as far as I could, then quietly waded in alongside the cat and reached down and lipped it. Success! Well the cat awoke, curled its tail, and started to spin wildly. That as it clamped down on my thumb and I could feel its raspy teeth sawing around my knuckle as it thrashed. I could not hold onto it and had to let it go. It slithered out of sight in the mud cloud. I stood there excited but disappointed. Damn, that was a big cat! And damn, my thumb is bleeding! That cat deserved a bit more respect ... it was a two-hander.

19" Fox River smallmouth bass

The mud cloud washed away and there again I spotted the cat tucked in alongside some timber. What the hell ... my thumb is already raw. I'm going in again! As soon as my hand got near its head it spooked and darted off, but it only moved a few yards away. I waded over and the third time was a charm! I grabbed it and walked with it in the water as it rolled, using two hands to steady it. I brought it into the shallows and unclipped my tape measure. She taped a hair over 35" and was a beast. I took some video of the cat and the release. It was neat to see that fish and literally feel the power and weight of it. My thumb was bleeding pretty good even after I waded out (after about 1/2 hour more of smallie fishing with one nice bite, a swing and a miss). I sprayed it down with an antiseptic and am treating it with Neosporin. Should be just fine. USGS 11.89' / 1,880 CFS+

February 28, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Squeaked one out on the float-n-fly late afternoon. Taped at 16". Green and white hair jig suspended 20" deep amidst boulders in waist-deep water. USGS 11.81' / 1,700 CFS-

Beautiful Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River painting

Fox River painting

Fox River painting

February 25, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Did a quick yet targeted shoreline wade Thursday afternoon. Overcast, windy and chilly ... wore thin gloves to protect my hands. The rest of me was bundled in winter gear ... 5mm neoprenes, winter jacket, etc. Left the float-n-fly behind and fished a 3" white/green Senko on a Slider Head, casting upstream and crawling the lure downstream amidst boulders and rubble. The Fox is up a bit, and I could have used a heavier jig for better bottom contact.

The water is nice and clear. I could easily see my boots in waist-deep water. It's totally worth it to get out for an exploratory wade once the water comes down a bit. You'll be amazed at the rock and timber you can see along the bottom of your favorite haunts. If you can get out under bright sunlight on a calm day, so much the better.

About the area I expected to find some fish I got a mushy pickup and then a drop. A few casts later, hung up and had to wade up to retrieve it. Re-tied and started working the lure again, really slowing it down. About the time I hopped the lure over the boulder in front of me I happened to look down see a beautiful bronzeback right behind the Senko. The fish was hot and mouthing at it ... just about to inhale it. Seemed like we met eye-to-eye and the fish lost interest and drifted right beside me and downriver. The moment seemed like slow-motion and it was a nice confirmation that I had fished in the right area.

A car-hopped to one more area. Very similar, waist to chest deep with boulders. Same style of fishing. Got a nice pickup ... definitely a smallie. Reared back and expected the rod to load up with a nice fish, but only came back with a Senko bunched up on the Slider Head. Rats! Maybe some other day. USGS 11.91' / 1,920 CFS-

February 23, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Nothing much to report other than I put my roof rack on and busted out the kayak late afternoon on Tuesday. Hit the Fox close to home and had a rewarding paddle in the near 50 degree air temp. River was up a bit for my liking but tried the float-n-fly and Senko at a few decent eddies. Zip on the f-n-f and two mushy bites on the Senko. Didn't connect. Might have been walleye pulling at it. Nice and calm out and enjoyed seeing into the clear water in what was left of the afternoon sunlight. Spotted a few big carp and saw quite a few mergansers lit up in the sinking sun. Was therapeutic to be getting a bit of shoulder exercise and gliding through the water. Saw some leftover snow and ice on and around a few islands. Took out at dark. Felt good to snatch a float, even with a skunk, in February. USGS 11.92' / 1,940 CFS+

February 20, 2016
DuPage River Fishing Report: Quick AM wade. Focused on drifting a float-n-fly through a slow, waist-deep eddy with gravel / rubble. Tried various depths. Gave it a good 45 minutes but ultimately struck out. Plan B was a 4" Senko on a Slider Head crawled along bottom. Pickups were light and mushy. Ended up with four smallmouth and a rock bass. Had some nice bright sun for a few pics. First fish splashed my camera. Lens was wet for the second fish ... the biggest. Pic got blurred in the middle from lens fog.

DuPage River smallmouth bass closeup

DuPage River trophy smallmouth bass

Saw one other wader slingin' and wading upstream at the Dupe. Had to take a time out to get work under control. Headed back and waded the Fox a bit on my way home...

Fox River Fishing Report: The Fox had better clarity than the Dupe and I carefully looked for flatheads on the bottom as I worked my way upstream. Didn't spot any, but waded through hoards of roughfish as I came across any depressions with a dark bottom, rubble and timber. Blimp carp, quillback, suckers ... a cornucopia scattering in all directions. Finally I reached a few decent eddies and worked the float-n-fly. I blanked on the smallies and switched areas. Spot two was a long, slow eddy that had a distinct gravel / silt line. I tried the float-n-fly once again and saw the float get slowly dragged under and disappear. The culprit ended up being a longnosed gar! But it was foul-hooked. Still, a rare encounter and neat to see.

Same eddy, silty area ... spotted three nice-sized redear slider turtles lumbering along the bottom amidst the leaf litter and debris. They were moving very slowly and I grabbed the shallowest one ... who didn't mind a quick closeup in the warm sun.

February 16, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick wade with light snow falling. Not as much ice coming down river, relatively quiet out. Hopped in the river and slowly made my way upstream, keeping an eye on all the rough fish spooking ahead of me in the clear water. Saw quite a variety, even a nice sized gar! But the icing on the cake was when I spotted a flathead catfish resting alongside some timber in waist-deep water. I took my jacket off and tossed it on shore, rolled up the sleeve on my right arm, and with two attempts in freezing cold water up to my shoulder, noodled the cat. It was a healthy and feisty specimen, mid 20" range. I never even took it out of of the water, just admired it and let it swim off. Tried two good eddies with the float-n-fly and gave it an honest half hour at each. No bites today. Maybe later in the week. The cat was a neat find and about the fifth I've found in winter. They'll sit relatively shallow and are usually partially hidden near timber.

February 14, 2016

February 7, 2016
DuPage River Fishing Report: Wade fished the DuPage River for about 45 minutes with a small olive and white hair jig (float-n-fly) suspended and twitched through a waist-deep eddy with gravel. Stuck my first two river smallies of 2016 ... 17" and 16.5". USGS 5.72' / 232 CFS-

DuPage River trophy smallmouth bass

DuPage River float-n-fly smallmouth bass

January 30, 2016
DuPage River Fishing Report: Wade fished the Dupe for an hour with the float-n-fly. Low and cloudy. No ice. Tried a single, go-to eddy that has produced well in the past. Within 15 minutes I had my first dunk. Was a decent fish and I played it around half-way in when suddenly it came off! That rarely happens, as the hair jig's Owner hook is super-sticky. Kept telling myself maybe it was just a foul-hooked carp, but I know deep down it was a smallie and just bad mojo. After another half hour I was starting to get a few nibbles here and there and finally another float dunk. This time it was a smaller fish ... felt like a medium-sized smallie. Well wouldn't you know it ... the exact same thing happened! Just could not stick 'em! My feet were getting cold, as I hadn't moved from my waist-deep spot in a solid hour. Decided to wade back and take off.

Fox River Fishing Report: Hit the Fox on the way home. Again, targeted a single go-to eddy. CFS was around 1,500 and the clarity was amazing. I could see my feet clearly in waist-deep water. Saw rough fish everywhere. Mostly common carp and quillback. They were stacked behind any timber, slower areas, and along current seams. Finally made it to my eddy and gave it about 1/2 hour. Feet still a bit cold from the Dupe. No action at the Fox. Was nice to get out and be in the rivers. It has been since November for me.

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