Fox River Deadfall
Fish the Fox
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August 24, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Took my oldest son Grant kayak-fishing at the Fox, figuring that the northern had probably reloaded in their typical haunts since the river has come up. We were spooled with fresh line, had 8" light steel leaders, and new Eric Baits (white spinnerbaits). Grant was armed with a 3/8-ounce model and I fished a 1/2-ounce. We targeted slower areas and tossed near lily pads, timber, submerged weed beds and along flooded grass. Grant got bit early and tied into a thick beauty that gave a few jumps and powerful surges before he tamed it boat-side. It taped near 33". His second fish came moments later and was only an inch or so smaller. Again, with several acrobatic leaps just after hook set. He was thrilled. He caught one more that was a small one, we didn't bother measuring it. That was all from our first spot and in the first 40 minutes. Grant was stoked. He needed that.

A few dozen yards down, we drifted and cast flooded grass. Finally, I got bit. It was at the beginning of a long cast and the fish broke water upon hook set and then surged towards mid river. I was thinking musky but soon I was able to battle it to the surface and it was indeed a pike. I wanted a nice photo of it so I had Grant hold the rod and I spun the kayak around so the sun would be in my face. I gilled the pike and carefully unhooked it. It gave a hard head shake at which point I decided to just let go and forget the picture. Well in those few seconds the pike managed to rake one of its teeth along my thumb and slice it deep. I was bleeding pretty bad -- immediately had blood running down to my elbow. I was thinking stitches to close the inch-long wound but selfishly, we were having such good action, I really didn't want to leave. I put pressure on the cut and tried not to use my thumb as much as possible. I palm-paddled us back to the car and had a clean rag in my trunk. I used hand-sanitizing wipes to clean a lot of the blood off my arm and hand and use the rag to further put pressure on it. In about 20 minutes, the bleeding subsided. We set out again in search of more toothy critters, or whatever else was biting.

The overcast sky cleared and it was blazing hot. We struggled under the sun. We tried all sorts of other areas. I was starting to think that we should have just called it a day, headed back home, and I could have cleaned and bandaged the wound.

We paddled back upstream and tried around our first area. Grant was kinda done so I was just bombing long casts ahead of us. Strike! He he ... turned out to be a nice channel cat that nailed the spinnerbait! A few casts later, caught my second decent sized nice northern pike! I was happy ... and was super careful unhooking it!

After releasing the northern, I paddled us back and we loaded up. We headed to the local gas station for some cold drinks and then home. Despite the injury, fun stuff and will be sure to remember to bring the Lucid grips next time!!! USGS 13.13' / 2,040 CFS

August 23, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Wade fished solo late afternoon when the rain stopped. Stuck to well-known shoreline routes and worked a soft-plastic crayfish imitator among rocks and concrete. Caught four smallies: 2 @ 14", 13" and 1 under 12". Challenging wade in the push. Had to keep the faith and use lots of patience. USGS 12.04' / 2,080 CFS-

August 22, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Checked on a few urban areas. Water isn't up that much but is very muddy. Seems clearer closer to the dams. There are some more defined current seams reachable from shore along with shoreline structure with more push around it. I started out swinging for the fences with a 3/8-ounce silver shiner Mimic Minnow. Scored a 17" early on bringing it downstream along a piling. After that, lots of shy tail-pullers. Scaled down to a pearl jig 'n twister. Got another six smallies 12" and under. Tried the buzzbait in a few spots and missed two blowups. Went back for them with the soft plastic craw but couldn't get 'em to hit. Urban stuff, fish can be pressured or recently sore-mouthed. USGS 12.26' / 2,690 CFS

On the minnow baits, a snap of the wrist to break cadence will often draw a strike and be the difference between a nip and commitment. A couple random shots from my outing:

August 19, 2014

DuPage River fishing report: Short evening Dupe float 'n fish with my oldest son Grant (14). Conditions were perfect. We tossed soft-plastic crayfish imitators and drifted 'em into grass pileups and timber. I scored an 18" early then Grant boated a 17" and 17.25". He starts his first day of high school today. iPhone pics ... was traveling light. USGS 4.86' / 45 CFS

August 15, 2014

Sugar Creek, Indiana fishing report: My family and I stayed at Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana (Parke County) from Thursday, August 14 to Sunday, August 17 -- about 185-mile drive from Sugar Grove. This was our first time visiting the park. It was a family gathering, including my wife's parents, sister and her family, brother, and four cousins. Most of us stayed in adjoining cabins, steps from the Turkey Run Inn and restaurant. A few others stayed at the nearby campground. Not having everyone in the same place and the lack of cell coverage sometimes made it difficult to all keep in sync and on time for plans. Lesson learned.

Our cabin accommodations were small and rustic, but sufficient for the short time we were there. I think they were only $90/night. The restaurant at the Inn was fine and offered a buffet plus a menu with a good variety. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, just fine for the 3.5 days we were on site.

The Inn had a gathering room, game room, gift shop, indoor pool, and small playground. There was also a nature center and horse stables a short walk away (still within the park).

A long suspension bridge spans high above Sugar Creek, which was just behind the Inn. Once on the other side of the creek, the hiking trails were spectacular. They ranged from easy to rugged, and offered a wide variety of terrain to explore. The geologic formations are mind-blowing. It feels like something out of Jurassic Park. You are dwarfed by the size of the caverns and foliage. You walk along creek beds, climb along seeping rock formations, roam through dense forests, and marvel at the steep drop-offs as you hug the hillsides and consider your peril, should you lose your footing. Needless to say, even on a very crowded weekend, we did not see many folks traversing the most rugged trails. Getting away from the crowds definitely made the more challenging hikes worth it.

Sugar Creek was flowing low and slow (a mere 46 CFS). I got the green light to spend all day on Friday fishing with my oldest son. We obtained a parking permit (free from the Turkey Run administrative office) for the public access next to the Coxford Road covered bridge, where we launched around 8:20 AM amidst a bright sun but some morning mist still over the water in shaded areas. Not a soul around. The sounds of water trickling over the riffles, the drumming of woodpeckers, and the occasional call of a blue jay set the scene.

We were eager to set out in search of smallmouth, though it was evident that the low water was going to be an issue. My plan was to take us upstream so that we could slowly pick apart areas and explore. Grant used my best baitcaster rigged with a hula grub on a Slider Head. I tossed a buzzbait but eventually switched to the hula grub. We worked logs, rocky outcrops, current seams and water willows. I also kept a sharp eye for any seepage coming in from the many ravines, where there was sure to be a nice dugout where smallies could sit in the cool water. Those proved productive areas to target -- but the best were the outside edges of water willows.

Fishing was fairly steady with smallies in the predictable places. The sizes were a bit disappointing, averaging around 10" to 12", but Grant was happy to be catching. As luck would have it, when we approached the suspension bridge mid-way through our upstream paddle, my wife and her family were passing overhead. She backtracked down to the river and had a box lunch and drink for us. Grant, my always-hungry 14 year old, happily ate lunch and that left me first dibs on spots for a change. Although in hindsight, I think he might have been enjoying the "bikini hatch" that was coming downriver just as much as the turkey sandwich.

The river got quite crowded with canoers, kayakers, and tubers, but we pressed on and fished all the way upstream to the Narrows covered bridge, and even beyond to the cool waters of Brush Creek. From Coxford to Narrows, I probably hopped out and pulled us upstream through shallow riffles over a dozen times. It was fine though, and kept me stretched and the blood circulating in my legs more so than always sitting and fishing.

We ended having boated 19 smallmouth, each getting a 17", which felt absolutely HUGE given the fact that most fish were small. Grant was thrilled by the entire experience. Both of the large fish bit hula grubs in textbook spots.

I think that given how heavily this stretch is floated, we did fairly well. I had talked to a park ranger the night before, and he was really trying to guide me away from that stretch, saying that I'd be disappointed by the lack of fish and all the people coming downriver. However, I wanted to see that stretch from the water myself and also keep close to the rest of my family. So all in all, things worked out.

Lastly, we saw quite a few neat critters. On our float we spotted many northern water snakes, a garter snake, a brown snake, leopard and pickerel frogs, map, softshell and painted turtles, a broad-headed skink, and many five-lined skinks. The skinks were all over the rocky outcroppings feeding on bugs and soaking up the sun's rays. On our hike we found a northern slimy salamander and a southern two-lined salamander. American and Fowler's toads were quite common throughout the park. Must have seen two dozen toads of various sizes and shades.

Everyone had a blast and are already talking of going back, perhaps in autumn. It's an easy drive with lots to explore.

August 12, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Kayak-fished with my oldest son Grant in hopes of tangling with a few northern, given the slightly higher, stained water. Our go-to areas only yielded one blowup on the Honey Buzz -- which seemed like a decent sized smallmouth and I missed it! The quiet evening on the river was turning into a grind, until as Grant would say, "Suddenly, northern!!!" My white spinnerbait got pounded and the fish turned the kayak into the current and made several powerful runs. Grant grabbed the iPhone for a pic and with one big boat-side headshake, the pike freed itself. The good news is that it drifted alongside the kayak and I reached down and gently put my hand beneath its belly and scooped it up. It was tired and fine for a pic before I returned it to the water to recover and swim off.

We later concentrated on running baits alongside some bridge pilings, which produced a 16" smallie that crushed the Honey Buzz. That was it for the night. We loaded up before sundown and tried a few other shoreline areas in other towns but no luck.

Grant has been a trooper. He has been skunked for the past four river trips but refuses to quit and is always willing to go for another adventure. Think he enjoys being on the water and exploring as much as I do.

August 7-9, 2014

Wisconsin River fishing report: My buddy Kevin and I did our annual float 'n fish in central Wisconsin. We fish the stretch below the Castle Rock dam, north of Route 82. It's $3 to put in near the dam (they have a small ramp / access for paddlers which comes out of a cold creek). Our route takes us about 10 miles downstream and we take out at Point Bluff, a restaurant with on-site camping and tube/kayak rentals. It's $5 to park and $5 to take out there. Along the way there are tons of sandy islands, timber, and some areas with riprap.

We mostly throw bigger baits for northern but they get hit by smallies, largemouth, walleye and even the occasional large white bass. The current is slow to mild and there aren't any big boulders to watch out for, just the occasional underwater logs and shallow spots. On this trip we didn't have numbers but caught some quality fish. We used my tandem and a lot of the time I just hung back and kept the kayak in position while Kevin worked an area. I probably made one cast for every ten of his but that's OK. It was fun nonetheless. As they say "you cannot fish the same river twice" and it was fun exploring and finding fish in new locations.

The northern were in the upper 20s to low 30s. Kevin caught a blimp of smallmouth, a wide-bodied 20" that is probably one of the biggest smallies I've ever seen in person. He also got a nice walleye. I caught smallies, largemouth and northern. I fished the hell out of a new Honey Buzz. Topwater all day for two days straight! (Addicted.)

(The word up there is that the better smallie fishing is a few miles downriver of where we were, where the Lemonweir River converges with the Wisconsin River. We haven't scouted out any access points yet, but heard tales of many 20+ smallies being caught near there.)

We also hit the town of Montello and fished the Montello River. It has changed quite a bit in the last year as there is more water coming into it out of Buffalo Lake and it's not as clear. We only boated 17 fish but we got caught amidst a swarm of drunk tubers and canoers so we were probably lucky to boat even that! The northern were small and the occasional smallie was small to medium sized. The largemouth were nice, with a few big ones. Kevin even got into some big bowfin towards the end, which was cool. The buzzbait and white spinnerbait were my go-to. Kevin switched between a spinnerbait and hula grub. He caught quite a few deeper on the grub.

Overall fun times with lots of laughs, wildlife and scenery. Great to be back up there and to take it all in. Tons of paddling for me and slept like a baby at night, ready to do it all again the next day.

July 29, 2014

DuPage River fishing report: Kayak-fished with my oldest son from 6:30 PM until about a half-hour after dark. We hit quite an expanse of the Dupe, paddling and fishing our way upstream and then floating and fishing back down. The Dupe is in as nice a shape as I've seen it. The eel grass was down low enough that baits were easy to work over it in most areas -- especially when bringing them downstream. The water was clear with a mild flow. Overall it looked like smallie heaven! Despite seeing a few very large smallies mid-river, I only connected with one (small) on a Zara Spook. No other hits on the hula grub or buzzbait. Grant blanked, sticking to a white spinnerbait the whole float (a comfort thing, as he is learning the baitcaster). Saw a beaver and a great-horned owl, plus the usual kingfisher and herons. Grant loved the clarity and commented that despite the lack of action, he had a good time peering into the clear water and that the eel grass was mesmerizing. We'll be back soon to try again. USGS 4.88' / 47 CFS

July 27, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Kayak-fished evening until sunset with my oldest son. We hoped to find some northern pike, but the water has receded so much, the weedbeds we had been fishing are very shallow and I think the pike have dispersed to deeper, cooler water. Grant tossed a 3/8-ounce white spinnerbait. I rotated between a big swim jig, a black buzzbait and a Zara Spook. We worked the edges. Ended up with a 17.5" smallmouth that hit a 1/2-ounce black buzzbait gurgled downriver. Lots of storm clouds around us. Some spotty light drizzle. A pretty orange sunset faded to dark gray-blue wispy rain clouds. Saw a beaver and the usual herons. USGS 12.37' / 444 CFS

July 26, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore-fished mid-morning with my youngest son. He tried a pearl jig 'n twister around some eddies next to swift water. I tried a swim jig along rock. Quick urban trip to check on a few spots. No takers. USGS 11.29' / 612 CFS

July 20-24, 2014

Lake Itasca, Minnesota fishing report: Recently returned from a week-long trip to Itasca State Park, Minnesota's oldest state park. It is home to Lake Itasca, the noted headwaters of the Mississippi River. The park contains numerous other lakes and hiking trails, enveloped by old-growth pine forests. It's a great "up north" vacation -- especially with kids. It's nice to hear the wind through the pines and smell the pine forests. Loon calls are frequent, as are bald eagle sightings. The lake is clean and clear. There are tons of weed edges and timber to cast. Each spot looks more promising than the last.

We stayed at Douglas Lodge, which was built in 1905 and is nestled in the heart of the park. It's like a small inn (10 rooms) and has a restaurant on site that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can also pack a sack lunch that you can take with you if hiking or boating. There are no TVs in the rooms but there is WiFi if you are so inclined. I did a "digital detox" and stayed off my iPhone. I consciously avoided all news to just let my thoughts wander and get lost in the north woods for a while. I bought a book on steamboating the Missouri River from one of the gift shops and it was fun to sit and read those old-time (often deadly) adventures in the evening until I got too tired and fell asleep.

Like any place, much of the stay depends on the type of guests that are staying around you. Luckily, we had many older, mature couples on site so there wasn't a lot of slamming doors or loud talking. People were generally very respectful. That made for a very relaxing time.

The weather was nice, with the first two days being hot and muggy. Then a big storm blew in at night. 70mph winds snapped several large pines and damaged two of the nearby cabins and a walking bridge. Our lodge fared OK. We had some power flickering but that was it. After the storm it cooled off to mid-to-upper 70s, which was great!

We hiked, kayaked and boated. And of course, did quite a bit of fishing. The white spinnerbaits got a lot of use and fooled northern pike, largemouth bass and even a few walleye. Jigs 'n twisters and small feather jigs found crappie and perch. When we got too hot we anchored and all jumped in off the pontoon. The cool water was a welcome break, especially when the flies became bothersome.

The lodge was very economical to stay in but required reservations well in advance. You pay for each meal as you go. Food added up quickly but we had budgeted for it. I rented the kayaks and the pontoon from Itasca Sports, which were very economical and super easy to deal with.

The park is around 600 miles northwest of Chicago. For our kids' sake, we split the drive into two days and stayed in Eau Claire, WI on the way up and on the way back.

On the way up, we spent about 1.5 hours in Minneapolis and treated the kids to a trip to Brickmania, which is set in an old WWII armaments factory in what is now the Minneapolis art district. Brickmania specializes in military Legos. My kids are super into them and have ordered kits from them for the last few years. My oldest son is into WWII tanks, both Axis and Allies. There are displays from WWII, Vietnam, and even Blackhawk Down (Somalia). It's actually pretty impressive to see the displays created entirely out of stock Legos. Some of them must have taken several hundred hours to create.

On the way back we stopped in Walker, Minnesota, which is set on the shores of Leech Lake. It's a touristy little town but pretty nice to visit. My wife likes all the shops there.

Overall a really fun trip and something we haven't done in a while. The kids were definitely ready for it! If we go back next year I'd probably get a pontoon for each day. That was the most fun for the entire family with opportunities to just cruise, fish, or swim.

July 15, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Shore fished solo early evening 'till sunset. Spot hopped over a few towns and tossed the swim jig, buzzbait and Zara Spook. Landed an 18" smallie early while hanging the swim jig in a current seam near some concrete / faster water. Was near the surface and the fish came up and hit with about a two feet of line out. Good thing I was on free-spool and thumbing the line. Quite a thrasher and almost got me with the swim jig hook as I was reaching to lip it.

Second fish was a feisty 16" that initially revealed its location with two strong tail pulls of the swim jig but wouldn't commit. Changed to a blue and clear Super 'Spook Junior and walked the bait downstream over it's territory (slower water / eddy beneath a bridge). Fish hit on the second cast and was quite a fighter. I had previously swapped out factory hooks with new Gamakatsu hooks and was glad I did. They seem to go in / come out much more easily. Their points seem smaller and sharper.

Had a few other half-hearted tail pulls and light hits on topwater from smaller bass. Overall a slow night but the cooler weather was a nice change. Very quiet along the river fishing-wise, didn't see anyone else out. USGS 12.01' / 2,060 CFS

Fox River Aurora Fox River smallmouth bass Smallmouth bass and Super Spook Jr. Bass Pro Qualifier baitcast reel Super Spook Jr. Fox River St. Charles

July 13, 2014

Fox River fishing report: Kayaked and fished the Fox River early evening on a whim. My wife tagged along. She didn't fish, just enjoyed the weather and took pics. I wanted to try for pike again. I figured with the recent rain, they may be active. I had some competition out there, but did catch a nice one on a Jonn Graham swim jig with Big Hammer Tail. The pike spun the kayak out of position so I handed the rod to my wife, who got to experience a few powerful surges until I got us to shore and could jump out for a quick pic. Nice healthy northern. I held it along the surface and let it get its strength back and it and it swam off strong. That was it for the evening. Lots of big storm clouds around and a few sprinkles. We took off early before the bugs came out.

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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