Fox River Deadfall
Fish the Fox
A PERSONAL JOURNAL CHRONICLING FISHING ADVENTURES AT THE FOX RIVER AND BEYOND.
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July 10, 2014

Fox River fishing report: We tried it again on Thursday. Got an earlier start and fished longer. Conditions were sunny and calm, fading to a clear sunset and gorgeous moonrise. Targeted the same types of locations with the white spinnerbaits in search of pike. The action was not fast and furious and finding and connecting with fish took a lot more work. This seemed to hurt Grant mentally and he was off his game. Think he checked out after the first hour and a half, when our go-to areas didn't give it up easily. I kept coaching him and telling him the only way his luck was going to change is if he had a bait in the water. As I paddled us upriver, I suggested he troll his spinnerbait next to the kayak and I'd take us along a weed line. Sure enough, a smallmouth nailed it and he was finally on board. Despite his efforts (and several encounters with northern) this would be his only catch for the evening.

Having been through my fair share of "grinds" before, I knew I'd squeak out some fish. I switched it up and tossed lures in all kinds of crazy locations, looking for active fish. I ended up with three northern (spinnerbait, Zara Spook, black buzzbait) and three smallmouth (white spinnerbait). Nothing very big. I too had a few chances at larger northern and couldn't manage to get a solid hookset. Sometimes when kayaking in a tandem, you get a bite at the most in opportune time and can't really get a monster hookset. Either the angle is all wrong, you risk hitting your partner should you miss, or a combination of things. It happens. We'll give it a rest for a while and perhaps hit it again after the next round of heavy rains. USGS 12.95' / 1,360 CFS

(Note: I really missed having a swim jig and was kicking myself for not bringing some!)

July 8, 2014

Fox River fishing report: My son and I found a few pike on the Fox during a float trip a few weeks ago. Since the water has receded to manageable levels, I decided that Tuesday night should be our night to try to find them again. This was a rare float trip for us, as we'd be targeting pike and any bass would be by accident. We launched around 5:30 PM and set out with our baitcasters spooled with fresh line and rigged up with brand spankin' new Eric Baits. Grant fished a 3/8-ounce model on 6' medium gear and I fished a 1/2-ounce model on 7' medium-heavy gear. We looked for inside bends with little to no current, sparse vegetation and timber. Grant seemed to have the right cadence dialed in and worked a bit deeper, while I tend to work higher and burn or bulge my lure.

Oh what a night! We boated seven northern and two smallmouth. Grant nailed three northern taping at 28", 28" and 32", plus the two smallies, one at 12" and one at 17". He was thrilled and said it was the best night of fishing he has ever had close to home.

I had good action and caught two decent sized pike (upper 20s / low 30s) and two "hammer handles". I botched three large fish, losing two large pike and an even larger musky ... which made an initial power run under the kayak and tested the limits of how far my rod could bend before breaking my line!

We stuck with the Eric Baits the entire time. (and mangled a few of them) Grant commented on how the pike seemed to "materialize" out of nowhere and take down the lure. He had one that went for his lure just as he was taking it out of the water and the tail-slap soaked him. I considered switching to a buzzbait to see some topwater explosions, but couldn't bring myself to deviate from a bait that was already drawing so many strikes. The water was very murky and I think the thump and flash of the spinnerbait really got those pike going!

On the ride home, I told Grant that timing is everything and we happened to hit it just right -- the fish were bunched up and on the feed. We were also rigged properly and luck played a part too! We might never see that kind of action in one night again ... especially so close to home. It will forever be known as the "Night of the Northern!" USGS 13.02' / 1,510 CFS

June 30 - July 2, 2014

Green Lake, Wisconsin fishing report: Took the family for a long weekend on Green Lake and did some dock fishing around the resort. Within hours of arriving I was slingin' a hula grub and working the break between the cabbage and sand along a rocky point. Couldn't have been but five casts and I hooked into a dandy of a smallmouth that gave one heck of a fight. Nobody around, no camera, nothing. Had to lay down on the dock and reach way down to lip it. A real lake fattie that taped at 19" and had a huge girth. Would have loved a pic of this one. Let her go and considered calling it a day and going swimming. But kept casting and got hit again. Another biggie but this time the hook came free during the fight. Reeled in fast out of frustration and had followers hit hula grub as it burned along the surface. Quite an exciting opening!

Had gorgeous weather the entire three days. Warm with a steady lake breeze to keep the bugs away. This allowed for late nights of fishing and outdoor dinning. Yes, enjoyed some Spotted Cows (local craft beer).

My kids did quite a bit of fishing. They used a small feather jig + a wax worm under a float and caught rock bass, bluegill, perch and the occasional medium-sized smallmouth that always took their drag and gave them a thrill. The rollers were coming in and crashing right near the docks so there was plenty of churn + baitfish + bigger fish.

I mainly used the hula grub and Senkos, but tried an occasional topwater and even a white spinnerbait ... got a pike on the later.

My oldest son and I broke for a trip to nearby Montello. We rented solo kayaks at Rendezvous Paddle & Sports and floated and fished for a few hours. The Montello River is nice -- like the Dupe or Kish. Clear and plentiful. It converges with the Fox River, which comes out of nearby Buffalo Lake. It flows southeast to Lake Puckaway. There are lots of bass and pike in this river. It's fun to float and fish but it also gets a lot of tuber and other float traffic on weekends. We didn't encounter anyone else out, but the river was up quite a bit and more stained than what I'm used to. My son had a few opportunities working a weedless frog through slop and pads on some of the backwaters. He blanked. I mostly fished a buzzbait and caught a nice smallie, two northern and a largemouth. That is very slow for this river! But the scenery was nice and it was good for my son to practice float fishing and more time with a baitcaster. He is learning and loving it.

Back at the resort he finally nailed a respectable smallie on the baitcaster while working a hula grub along the docks. He was thrilled! All in all a great trip and enjoyed Green Lake once again. It's a nice lake / town within easy reach of the Chicagoland area. Most of the folks you run into up there are from our area.

Oh yeah, ran into Chicago area fishing personality Mike Norris. He spotted me in the tackle store and came up and said hello. Mike used to write for local papers and have his own radio show, plus guide around Chicagoland and Lake Geneva. Now he's pretty much retired and splitting time between Aurora and Lake Puckaway, where he has a place. He was saying that he really loves the smallie action on Green Lake and was taking a break for lunch before going out to try for lake trout. Small world!

June 22, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore fished solo mid to late afternoon. Fox high and dirty. Air temp reached 87 degrees and it was muggy! Tried good high water spots at several towns and could not get the mojo going with the smallies. Ended up with a 24" flathead catfish and a near 20" drum for my efforts, both on a 1/2-ounce 'silver shiner' Northland Mimic Minnow bottom-bounced through the same eddy, which was also a favorite of a cormorant that I spooked out of there twice! Lots of travel and fishing for little results. USGS 12.71' / 4,120 CFS

June 21, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Was nice to meet up with pals from the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance. After breakfast, Brent and I went north to try for smallies from shore. I caught a foot-long smallie on a pearl jig 'n twister at our first spot. Second spot we didn't even get started yet when Brent tripped and skinned both knees and one arm. We headed home and it was nurse mom to the rescue. After a few hours recovery we headed to the forest preserve lake to check on the ISA armada. I could not believe the amount of watercraft out on the lake! Have never seen it so busy. We tossed a popper and a buzzbait from shore for about 15 minutes in the blazing sun. Caught one small largemouth on the buzzbait along a weed edge and then headed to Geneva for the Swedish Days carnival. Stopped at the Fox once more on the way home and tried two good urban spots. Struck out at the first trying the buzzbait and swim jig. Second spot was just the ending I needed. Dunked the pearl jig 'n twister and got bit immediately. Big smallie just waiting in a swirling eddy behind a piling. Taped a hair under 19". Called it a day. USGS 12.37' / 3,050 CFS

June 19, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Took the boys shore fishing for cats and carp, plus some wading/exploring near a shallow creek mouth. I had them setup with mulberries on their push-button combos again and they did OK, each landing a few channel cats and a few carp.

A highlight was when my youngest spotted a "big snake!!!" sunning along some rocks near us as he was exploring the banks. It was cute to hear the excitement in his voice when he described it to us. He kept looking and spotted a second one further down, then I spotted two more. For some reason, the northern water snakes were very active.

Later on, we returned to the original spot where Brent spotted the "big gray snake that was THIS big" and sure enough, it was coiled along the rocks. I coaxed it into his folding River Monsters net that he had brought with and soon we were admiring the big northern water snake close up. It was quite large and faded and in need of a shed, which explained its "grey" appearance as it slithered away in Brent's initial sighting. We lowered the net and let it slither out about a dozen feet from where we caught it so the boys could get a good look at how it moved across land.

I tossed a buzzbait and swim jig along some nearby pilings, hoping to land a smallie or two in the rising water, but didn't have any luck. I returned to the river after dinner and hit a few different towns, landing a 16" and a foot-long smallie before a big storm rolled in and I had to head home. USGS 12.38' / 3,070 CFS^

June 17, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Took my youngest son kayak fishing for carp and catfish. It's our annual tradition of mulberry fishing, and Mother Nature has the berries a juicy purple and ready to go! We picked a bunch near shore and then set out in the kayak to drift fish them on a small circle hook + split shot. It didn't take long for Brent to hookup with feisty carp. In the hour or so he fished, he ended up with eight carp and two channel cats. I took a bunch of new video but the outing panned out much the same as last years. USGS 11.72' / 1,370 CFS

June 16, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Kayak-fished with my oldest son Grant in the late afternoon. We were excited to hunt some big fish waters. Grant was rigged with 14lb Sufix Siege on a medium weight baitcaster and tossing a white thumper spinnerbait (a Timmay's Tackle "Eric Bait") and I rotated between a black buzzbait, Zara Spook and a big swim jig on my heavier baitcaster with 20lb Sufix Elite. About the time we paddled down to our go-to spots, we noticed other people getting off the water and ominous-looking clouds building to our southwest. At that point it was tough to concentrate on fishing, but on how hard I'd have to bust-ass to get us safely back to the take-out before a storm hit.

I pulled up the radar on my iPhone and things weren't looking good. I paddled about halfway back and we paused to toss our baits and take a breather. The storm seemed to be staying south and we could still see the sun glowing through an overcast sky. We casually stopped near a tree and small inlet with gravel and joked how we were spooking carp as our baits rolled through the area.

Then Grant's spinnerbait got pounded and he pulled a nice-sized northern pike near the boat. The pike let go but it gave him quite a thrill! He cast the same area and got hit twice more! I took off my 'Spook and tied on a big swim jig and tossed far back into the inlet. Within a few cranks of the handle, ka-blam! Fish on! Then Grant got nailed. Double pike on! Both were nice-sized and that has never happened for us in Illinois waters, let alone the Fox River! We were so excited. Grant controlled his fish from the front of the kayak and I spun mine 'round back. Suddenly, Grant's pike rolled and cut his line. Gone. Mine was firmly hooked by the big single hook of the swim jig and held firm. I handed my rod to Grant and let him play it as I paddled us towards shore. I handed him the camera and hopped out for a photo. The pike was tired enough and I grabbed it for a few quick pics before letting it swim off, none the worse for wear. Later we checked the pics and they were blurry. We checked over the camera and found out that in the excitement, the slide switch had gotten hit from "auto" to "manual" and the camera was not focusing. Oh well! We'll be back to try for more...

Other notes from the outing were some decent smallmouth action. Caught 5 on a black buzzbait and 1 on a Zara Spook. Fish were in the 14"-17" range. Working pilings, eddies, and rocky shorelines. Bait making lots of noise coming downstream is getting noticed. Fished my buzzbait to death, gotta go buy a new $.99 special from Dick's Sporting Goods. USGS 11.89' / 1,760 CFS and falling. We never did get the rain.

June 15, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Wade-fished solo super-urban late afternoon. Was kind of a grind ... expected better. Picked up four smallies, all on a black buzzbait. Got a 13" and 14" as biggest. Kind of a lot of slow wading / picking apart areas for little return. Oh well. Did enjoy the neat cloud formations rolling in above the cityscape. USGS 11.94' / 1,870 CFS.

June 14, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Wade-fished solo late morning to early afternoon. Tried the hula grub, buzzbait and spinnerbait. Ended up with five smallies and one largemouth. Downstream through eddies in the shade was the ticket. Buzzbait produced the best. Largemouth was around 16" and biggest smallmouth was 15". USGS 12.06' / 2,180 CFS and falling.

Mulberries Fox Snake Boulder and Riffle Northern Green Frog Juvenile Snapping Turtle Underwater Juvenile Snapping Turtle Sunning Mossy Hillside

June 13, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Kayak-fished early evening until about a 1/2-hour before sunset. Worked a hula grub along natural rock ledges in moderate current. Picked up three smallies in the 13" to 15" range and lost a couple more boat-side. Quiet evening on the river. Saw an adult bald eagle. USGS 12.10' / 2,280 CFS and falling.

June 12, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Hit it again from shore for a few hours late afternoon with similar results. Nailed a 16.5" smallie on a 3/8-ounce black buzzbait clacked downstream alongside a wall, and a foot-long smallie on a pearl jig 'n twister fluttered through an eddy. Had several short strikes from timid, sore-mouthed smallies on a big swim jig and one haunting thrash-off from a big smallie on the buzzbait. Think it was a 19" that I've landed previously in the same spot. Water was up even more but has peaked and is now falling. USGS 12.16' / near 3,000 CFS.

June 11, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore fished briefly in the late afternoon. Water is up and dirty. Tried two spots, found two smallies. First was on a 1/4-ounce firetiger Mimic Minnow fluttered in the current alongside structure. Fish darted out and nailed it. Was a thick, healthy-looking specimen with no prior hook marks visible. This is rare for these parts and especially this time of year. Second was an 18" brute from a well-fished area. They've seen everything there. The trigger was a 3/4-ounce silver shiner Mimic Minnow burned downstream tight to an outside turn. Got pounced on and two subsequent jumps. Fish had that odd reddish hue that quickly turns to dark bronze out of the water. Taped at 18" and had plenty of battle scars. Temps cool and pleasant. Caddiflies plentiful. Light rain at times. Shoes got a bit wet from the grass. USGS 12.13' / 2,350 CFS^

May 25, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Hadn't really planned on fishing this weekend but opportunity knocked. Ran a few errands and took the heavy rod for some guerilla fishing. Went stupid-urban around 3 PM. First spot is seldom fished so I knew they'd be setup. Fired in a big swim jig and tore it through the shade tight to structure. It reached the sun/shade line and got pounded. 18" tail-dancer into the fast water and was quickly tamed on heavy mono. Considered a pic but only had iPhone on me so skipped it. Quick measure and off it swam. First-cast curse be damned!

Second cast, hit and miss. Caught a glimpse of it and was definitely another smallmouth. Third cast was a little tighter to cover and got bit close to me. Another big one, even bigger! Fought her into the eddy and lipped her. Was a long fish. Started thinking 20". Didn't have the girth of a typical 20" but maybe spawned out. Sure enough, layed the fish in the shallows and it taped an easy 20". First for me this year.

Switched spots and hung the swim jig off a high wall. The big Lunker City tail wagging in the current along structure is the dinner bell for smallies. Got a "just a taste" hit but it was all the evidence I needed. Switched to a 1/2-ounce Northland Mimic Minnow and burned it with the current through the same area. Bingo. The change in direction was the trigger. 15.5"

Urban fish see everything, and it's all typically coming from the same direction. (Most anglers are hanging baits in the current.) A faster, more natural presentation downstream and they can't resist. 14 minutes of shore fishing. Headed home. USGS 12.13' / 2,350 CFS and falling.

May 22, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Did a little creek fishing of my own. Tried to stick mostly to shore or in flooded shallows. (Spotted three nests in the murkiness but couldn't make out any occupants.) Worked a black buzzbait and picked up 5 smallies, biggest a tiger-striped 15". Later hit the main river and scored another 3 smallies on a firetiger Northland Mimic Minnow fluttered near current seams. Gorgeous weather and at one point found myself amidst a chorus of calling toads. Gonna be a zoo out there this holiday weekend! USGS 12.56' / 3,630 CFS and falling. Spotted several groups of blimp carp bunching up and spawning amidst roots and fallen trees. Quite a splashy affair.

Mill Creek Batavia Fox River lily pads

May 20, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Left my minnow trap out overnight at the pond down the street and had over 3 dozen fatheads this morning. My buddy Mike and I used 'em at the Fox. Hot and humid. Fishing was a grind. We squeaked out two largemouth and two smallmouth. Biggest smallie 15". Kinda disappointing results for live bait through a few decent spots. USGS 12.54' / 3,570 CFS and falling. Tried a pond near Mike's and squeaked out a bigger largemouth on a bright green Mimic Minnow through and outflow.

May 19, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Quick late afternoon spot hop from shore. Fished a 3/8-ounce Northland Mimic Minnow tight to structure alongside current. Landed six smallies in the 14-17" range and one dink largemouth. Largest smallie was the first one I plucked out, and was able to get a few nice closeups during a period of bright sun, then run a clarity and minor HDR filter on it. USGS 12,58' / 3,690 CFS and falling.

Fox River smallmouth bass closeup

May 18, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Took the family to mini golf at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. If you've never been there, it's a really nice park -- perfect for families, and right along the river. Another nice treat is to try the Forever Yogurt in St. Charles. It's about a 10 minute walk from the park, a block west of the river on Route 64. Amazing little franchise. My kids proclaimed it as their 'new favorite place.' Anyway, we stopped by the river for a few minutes to dunk some lures. Ended up catching a behemoth of a drum on a Northland Bucktail bounced off the bottom in a big eddy. Handed the rod to my son, who could barely keep hold of it. Thought we had a flathead, but the drum finally tired and spun out near shore. Guessing it was around 8lbs. A chunk! USGS 12.63' / 4,160 CFS

May 17, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Got my oldest son (14) out for a shoreline spot hop. He used a 1/2-ounce Northland Mimic Minnow on my heavier gear and I primarily short-leashed a swim jig on my medium baitcaster. Nothing fast and furious, but managed to catch a few nice fish here and there. Think we got about a half dozen. Beautiful day to be out. Nice to run into some familiar faces out there and BS about fishin' for a bit. Saw quite a few new batches of baby ducks and geese. USGS 12.71' / 4,450 CFS

Fox River white bass Fox River smallmouth bass

May 14, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore fished solo late afternoon. Did a multi-town run and gun. Didn't really spend much time at any particular place, just kept dunkin' and movin'. I had hoped for numbers but it was kind of a grind. The water is up even more, but I didn't have much mojo going. Early on, popped a largemouth that jumped off, then a decent sized smallie that tail-walked and thrashed off. Kept at it and finally landed four, including a really nice one (pictured) that gave a hell of a fight. Caught it on a pearl jig-n-twister dabbled behind a boulder with about two feet of line out. Luckily, was using my heavier rod and reel with 17lb Sufix Elite and was thumbing the line on free spool, so was ready for it. Other baits that produced were the white thumper spinnerbait along a rock wall, and the Northland Mimic Minnow dabbled near shore (x2). USGS 12.48' / 3,630. Forced myself to try and look with a photographic eye and take a few pics. Have been lugging the camera around every trip without using it much. Used my 10-24 wide, just playing around.

Hollywood Casino Aurora Fox River Fabyan Forest Preserve Fox River Union Pacific West Line Geneva Fox River Fox River smallmouth bass

May 13, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore fished solo late afternoon. Water is up from the rain. Not perfect levels for dabbling, but OK. Caught 7 smallies in the 13"-17" range while fluttering a 3/8-ounce Northland Mimic Minnow in current alongside shoreline structure. USGS 12.26' / 3,070 CFS and falling.

May 12, 2014
Fox River fishing report: Shore fished solo early afternoon. Quick urban outing. Water is up a little and dirty from last night's rain. Started out with a black buzzbait and clacked it alongside a piling. Was just about to re-cast and got hit. 18" smallie tailwalked into the current as I quickly freespooled and thumbed the line. Unhooked and swam off strong. No others in the area on top or with spinnerbait. Popped two mejum-sized bronze on a black and silver Northland bucktail in eddies near fast water. USGS 11.79' / 1,870 CFS and rising. Friggin' jet skier buzzing the area most of the outing. Noisy and annoying.

Fox River smallmouth bass

May 7, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore fished solo late afternoon. Everything urban. Water isn't really at a good level for dabbling, but I had the itch to get out and enjoy the weather anyway. I started off hanging a big Northland Mimic Minnow in eddies around wing dams and walls, but couldn't find any biters. My mojo was starting to run low and I remembered a long wall next to deep water / mild current that was reachable with a hard cast. I tied on one of Jonn Graham's swim jigs with big sparkly tail and went to work. Three nice smallies in three casts. They pounded it! Largest was 18" and all were big-bellied and had been on the feed. Popped one more, same style in another town before heading home. USGS 11.60' / 1,460 CFS. I was "schooled" by a passerby on how dirty the Fox River is and how he'd "be surprised if there were any fish left in there."

Fox River smallmouth bass

April 29, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore and wade fished solo over multiple towns in the late afternoon. From urban to a little more removed. The water is down and the "milk run" was nearly dry. I fished one of Jonn Graham's silver and white swim jigs and picked up four smallmouth and a largemouth. Three of the smallies were in the 15-16" range. USGS 1,800 CFS / 11.76'

April 22, 2014

Similar to previous report. Landed 9. Five taped in the 16"-18" range. Only spotted two other anglers across the river from me. Nice night. Fewer bugs. Chilly near dark. USGS 2,510 CFS / 12.05'. Bring on the rain!

Fox River historic Aurora

April 21, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Oh it's on!!! Got out with my youngest son for a multi-town urban milk run from shore. Fished a big fire-tiger Northland Mimic Minnow tight to structure near heavy current. Landed 12 smallies and averaged 16". Pigs were on the feed today. So much fun! USGS 12.06' / 2,530 CFS

April 18, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Fished for a few hours in the evening with my brother-in-law Joel. From shore, same style as mentioned in previous report. I scored two smallies, 14" and 18". My brother-in-law caught a largemouth and a smallmouth. We both used a Mimic Minnow and did a high water run-and-gun. I suspect most spots had already been fished heavily given the warm afternoon. USGS 12.09' / 2,610 CFS. We hit The Little Owl in Geneva for their tasty fish fry and a few beers -- a perfect end to the outing.

April 13, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Popped a 16" smallmouth this morning while figure-eighting a Northland Mimic Minnow near rock while shore fishing an urban area. Only had 15 minutes to fish and connected on my third dunk. Think it was the same fish I missed on Saturday after three strikes on a big hair jig. Fish had some nice fight to it.

April 12, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Skunked, but only did a quick shore run-and-gun for 1/2 hour. Nice to hear the frogs out again! March 31, 2014 Fox River fishing report: Blanked at the Fox this afternoon. Did a short, tight-to-shore wade. Tried a spinnerbait and a hula grub. Water is up (falling). USGS 12.11' / 2,660 CFS

March 30, 2014

DuPage River fishing report: Wade fished solo for a few hours in the afternoon. Bright sun -- glad I wore sunscreen! River is up a little (has been falling) but overall in great shape with excellent clarity. Tried a float-n-fly, white thumper spinnerbait and hula grub. Picked up one smallie on the hula grub dragged along bottom. Water still felt pretty darn cold. Spotted some carp cruising in the sun along a tapered bank. Saw a few other guys wading and even a few kayakers. Everyone itching to get out and enjoy the waters after the long winter. USGS 5.52' / 201 CFS

DuPage River smallmouth bass

March 21, 2014

DuPage River fishing report: Stopped by the Dupe to shore fish for about a half hour with my youngest son. The water was high, fast and muddy, but I had an area in mind that might be fishable. We both wore our slop boots, which was a big help. Brent had my camera and roamed the nearby park to take photos. He wasn't interested in fishin' but was happy to be outdoors in the mild weather. Just as well for him, I'd rather he kept back from the river's edge when it's cold and the water is up. I tried a float-n-fly, hula grub, and white spinnerbait -- working as tight to cover and slow water as I could manage. The wind made accurate casts tricky at times. The only "action" was when a curious muskrat popped up to check me out. No hits from the fish. We headed home and took to a 5-mile bike ride instead, seeing and hearing a group of sandhill cranes take flight from a thawing marsh southwest of our neighborhood.

March 10, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Despite having a cold, made it to the river to try my luck for a few hours in the afternoon. The areas I was fishing were about 90% ice-free, with occasional large chunks coming down the middle of the river. I concentrated on a section that has good depth plus a variety of timber and rock. Started out with the float-n-fly but no takers in the first half hour. Switched to a hula grub to work tighter to the rock and got a heck of a surprise as a good fish peeled off my line and headed out towards the middle of the river! Thought for sure I had somehow managed to tail-hook a big carp, but then again, on the weedless hula grub didn't make any sense! I was getting nervous that I was never gonna find out what I had on, when I managed to turn the fish back towards me and ultimately behind me, and walk it into a flat where I could see it. To my surprise, it was a nice-sized flathead catfish! I didn't think flatheads were supposed to bite in "winter" but I guess maybe I got lucky on the combination of timing and location. I finally was able to lip it and it immediately rolled and gave my thumb a big scrape, which started bleeding. I got one more chance and got a solid hold and let her calm down for a bit in the shallows. The hook popped out fairly easily and I set my camera on a nearby log for a wide-angle photo, which I cropped to what you see here. In my Thera-flu induced fog I could not believe what had just happened. I watched the cat lumber off, back to the depths. I re-tied the hula grub and continued banging bottom in the rocky area. Never did hookup with any smallies, but later put the float-n-fly back on and caught two carp from a big eddy further down river. Great to feel the sunshine and hear all the birds singing. Saw a juvenile and an adult bald eagle. Lots of mergansers, buffleheads, goldeneye and of course, Canada geese noisily staking their claims to the best nesting areas along the river and islands.

Fox River winter flathead catfish

March 8, 2014

Lake ice fishing report: A few pics from a Saturday trip with my oldest son and friend Eugene Collins. We fished for about eight hours. Caught mostly bluegill, yellow perch and a few bass. Not much of any size. Eugene caught the biggest largemouth. My son liked the ice shelter and could see the bluegill down about a dozen feet. He ended up with 34. It was great to hear the birds singing. We saw a bald eagle and tons of hawks. Heard some ring-neck pheasants in the late afternoon.

Eugene Collins ice fishing Gravel Pit 5 ice fishing Eugene Collins ice drilling

March 2, 2014

Lake ice fishing report: After all the fishing talk at the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance "Bronzeback Blowout" annual fundraising event I was itching to get out. I asked my youngest son if he'd like to go ice fishing on Sunday and he excitedly proclaimed, "Yes!" We loaded up our gear and planned on meeting friend Eugene Collins at a forest preserve lake to try our luck. It was only +10 degrees out and quite a chilly wind. There was no way I was gonna sit outside in that so we stopped by Gander Mountain and snagged a popup ice shelter. We were giddy setting it up and getting down to fishing. Eugene loaned us his flasher so we could see bottom and get a feel for where the fish were. My son lasted about two hours before we called it a day. We caught some nice 'gills and had some quality father-son time. Can't wait to do it again! We've got the shelter setup in the basement and the kids have been checking it out. No bites yet through the imaginary holes. I've already got my sights on a flasher for next Christmas...

Clam Nanook ice fishing shack

February 16, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Stopped by the river late afternoon to try the float-n-fly for smallies and ended up catching a needle-nose gar. Have never heard of or seen then in my neck of the woods. Barely hooked -- more tangled in the craft hair of a fly like gar typically are. Neat looking fish. River about 60% ice, crystal clear, flow moderate to slow. Spooked a lot of rough fish in the muddy flats. Only had my zoom lens on the big camera so improvised with a few iPhone pics...

Fox River gar Fox River gar

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