Fox River Deadfall
Fish the Fox
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December 26, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished for a few hours in the afternoon. Weather felt like late March. What a great break from the cold! River has come up and the great clarity is gone. Looked more like the "typical" Fox. Big chunks of ice floating downriver sporadically. I concentrated on two thigh- to waist-deep areas and mostly worked an Eerie Darter on a Slider Head slow along the bottom. Had three bites for my efforts ... the first was a definite "thump" and apparently only grabbed the tail. I set the hook and it felt like a decent fish and then let go. The second was a mushy pickup and I played the fish about half-way in and it thrashed on the surface and came off. Looked to be in the 14"-15" range and was a smallmouth. The third was textbook and about five casts into a new area. Was crawling the darter over rocks and it got thumped hard. I swept the rod high and connected with a heavy fighter that turned out to be a beautiful smallmouth. I was stoked!

I ended up calling it a day about 20 minutes later. The gusty winds were really wearing on me. It was nice to see all the eagles and hawks out, plus great blue herons, kingfishers, and lots of people out taking advantage of the mild afternoon. USGS 11.69' / 1,430 CFS+

Winter Fox River smallmouth bass caught on an Eerie Darter

December 23, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Short afternoon wade and tried the float-n-fly at a few spots. The river was amazingly clear. Spotted a few thick schools of carp and quillback, with a few large gizzard shad mixed in. Struck out on smallmouth. Caught a gar on the float-n-fly and lost a second one. Saw a dozen or so common mergansers and about half-dozen bald eagles during the 1.5 hours I explored and fished. It was a nice reprieve from the office. River has dropped considerably since the last time I waded! USGS 11.32' / 818 CFS-

Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for reading and best of luck to you in 2017!

Fox River longnose gar in winter

Fox River winter scenery while wading

December 11, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out solo Sunday afternoon. Mild air temp and warm clothes kept me toasty while slogging through the chilly Fox. Only fished the float-n-fly and didn't have any luck. Got a few fun pics with my iPhone. Was still nice to be out amidst the river in winter, which is turning into an icy soup.

Fox River in winter

Fox River in winter

December 10, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo late afternoon. Got one solid float dunk on the float-n-fly and missed the fish. Never even felt it. Those "mystery" dunks can be frustrating. Was probably a 20"+ smallmouth! While busting up some shoreline ice to open up an eddy, the water displacement sucked up this pretty little orange spotted sunfish from beneath. I also saw a nice sized largemouth sitting in about 12" of clear water, right near shore once the ice canopy drifted away. Of course hordes of quillback and other rough fish. Ended up with a skunk fishing-wise. Still had fun wading and exploring the frozen Fox. (The "snow bass" pictured is from the DuPage River earlier in the week.)

Fox River orangespotted sunfish

DuPage River snow bass

December 9, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo for about an hour late afternoon. Air temp was around 26 degrees. River is nice and clear in most areas and I could easily see my boots in thigh-deep water. Brought my ultralight spinning gear with 4 lb mono and only fished the float-n-fly. Used an unweighted foam float so splashdown was subtle. My first two guides iced up from time to time, but were manageable. Methodically worked a thigh- to waist-deep slow eddy, hoping for something to take interest in the hair jig! Finally got a dunk, which turned out to be a crappie. That was the only action I found. Despite the cold, the wade was a nice break from the office. The late afternoon sun was energizing. I saw a mink, two great egrets, a blue heron, a bald eagle, and some migrating diving ducks. I also heard the low hoot of a great-horned owl near sunset. All in all I was glad I had made the effort to get out and try. USGS 11.49' / 1,090 CFS

Fox River black crappie in winter

Fox River winter sunset

December 3, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo late afternoon, about 30 minutes after a great wade outing on the Dupe. Tried a large eddy with the float-n-fly and It felt like I was searching for a needle in a haystack. I stuck with it and finally got a float dunk around sunset. Turned out to be an 18" walleye. First one I've caught at the Fox in a while! Didn't get any smallmouth at the Fox today. Waded out shortly after sunset. A very quiet outing. Was really peaceful. Saw the resident juvenile bald eagle glide downriver twice. USGS 11.76' / 1,560 CFS-

Fox River walleye action shot

Fox River walleye on the float-n-fly

December 3, 2016
DuPage River Fishing Report: Had the afternoon free, so waded the Dupe solo and targeted a few deeper areas where I thought smallmouth might be holding. Was rigged up with the float-n-fly and got antsy as I approached my first area, so side-armed a mammoth cast which hit the top end of the eddy, just inside the current seam. A few jiggles and FLOAT DOWN! Could not believe it ... insta-fish ... and it was a big one! Fish had all sorts of weight behind it and surged upriver, downriver, sideways, you name it! There was a point where I thought to myself, "I just might break this fish off!" But luckily that didn't happen and I brought a gorgeous yellow-bronze smallmouth to hand. Just a blimp! I headed for the shoreline and got a few pics and a measurement before the 19.5" beauty slithered away to battle another day. I waded back into position, just shaking my head in disbelief. I mean, a 19.5" on the first cast in December is pretty much hitting the smallmouth lottery ... on ANY river. Well wouldn't you know it, on the very next cast, FLOAT DOWN! Wow, another big one with some weight behind it! Unfortunately this one came unhooked underwater about half-way back to me from where the float dunked. Honestly, it was hard to be disappointed because I knew the odds of getting anything bigger out of the hole were pretty slim. Kept working the float-n-fly and finally got a third float dunk. Fish was around 16" and a chunk. They are just gorgeous in the cold water. Their colors seem so much more pronounced whereas they are often very dark in the summer and fall. Three dunks were all that I could muster with the float-n-fly, but I was pretty sure there would be at least a couple more smallmouth milling around the hole that perhaps didn't want to come up for a suspended hair jig. So I switched to a black and blue Eerie Darter on a Slider Head and commenced creeping bottom. Sure enough, "thunk!!!" ... I swept the rod high and stuck another heavy fish. This one turned out to be a thick 18". Just gorgeous. All that in about an hour. I can tell you, I've done a fair amount of winter wading targeting smallmouth for the last ten years. It can be a GRIND. Sometimes you get lucky and hit it right. All photos below of different smallmouth:

DuPage River monster winter smallmouth

DuPage River winter smallmouth

DuPage River winter smallmouth on the float-n-fly

December 1, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo for an hour late afternoon. Squeaked out two smallmouth on the typical cold water presentations ... Eerie Darter and float-n-fly. River is dropping steadily. USGS 11.79' / 1,620 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass on the Eerie Darter and Slider Head

November 30, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out the last hour of light and slogged upstream to the waist-deep area I wanted to target. Ended up with three smallmouth, largest in the 15"-16" range and pictured. Two bit a 4" black & blue Eerie Darter on a Slider Head, one bit a suspended hair jig under a float. All in all, pleased with the action for basically 45 minutes of actual fishing on a late November day barely above 40 degrees. The new 5mm neoprenes kept me toasty warm. River still up. USGS 11.88' / 1,800 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass in winter

November 29, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Enjoyed a methodical waist-deep shoreline wade through a long eddy with gravel and chunk rock. Bounced bottom with an Eerie Darter on a Slider Head and found a strong bite late in the mild afternoon. Caught five smallmouth in the low- to mid-teens and hooked a sizable fish that surged towards me and revealed itself as a flathead cat with an explosive gator roll on the surface as it wrapped and snapped my 10 lb mono. Only fished an hour, waded out in the sunset's orange afterglow. Nice bump in flow from the rain but it's already dropping quickly. USGS 11.90' / 1,840 CFS

Fox River winter smallmouth bass on the Eerie Darter

November 24, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished for a few hours mid-morning 'till noon. Overall it was a grind and nearly turned out to be Skunksgiving. Tried two slow eddies, both around hip- to waist-deep with a mix of gravel and chunk rock. Had a small smallmouth on an Eerie Darter about 1/2 hour in that I lost a rod's-length away from me. Couldn't get anything else going in the area with a float-n-fly or Eerie Darter. Switched areas, more of the same ... nothing. Nicked a rough fish here and there and ended up catching a quillback by the dorsal. It was a tug on the line and I landed it but surely wasn't what I was hoping for. Headed back, pretty much beaten. Tried one more shoreline eddy with the float-n-fly and got snagged, so had to wade in and get my rig. Stayed put and tossed it around the eddy a bit more and finally got a dunk! Turned out to be a medium sized smallmouth with a hair jig already in its mouth! I had broken this fish off after it wrapped me around a branch about a week ago. So it was a catch and my other (rather faded) hair jig back! USGS 11.45' / 1,020 CFS-

November 22, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished the last hour of light. Overcast and gloomy. Had the vibe that it was gonna rain or snow. Settled in one spot, waist-deep with gravel and scattered chunk rock. Started off with the float-n-fly and got a dunk about 10 casts in. Was a respectable smallmouth in the 14"-15" range. It didn't get completely airborne but tail-walked for its reveal. Worked the float-n-fly for another 20 minutes without any more luck. Switched to an Eerie Darter and it didn't take long to feel a "thump" and then a tug on the line. Went for the monster hook set and felt a good fish! Nice smallie thrashed on the surface and ... came off! Drats! Think this is the second time that same fish has done that to me! A while later, another bite and this time connected with a twin of the first fish. A few more taps on the darter but no other connections. Waded back near sunset. Tried one more eddy from shore, this time back to the float-n-fly. Was a little seam coming off a fallen tree in waist-deep water. Had to be careful not to snag. Kept the fly set around 8" under the float. Didn't take long for a float dunk. Caught a 12" smallie and had two others shake off as I was lifting them out of the water. Was pretty happy with the action for only an hour of fishing. River dropping sharply. USGS 11.42' / 973-

Fox River smallmouth bass on the float-n-fly

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

November 21, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Sunny and calm. Standing on the riverbank, I'd have thought it was in the 70s. Even swatted at a few gnats that landed on my face. Beautiful afternoon to spend an hour plying the Fox River with an Eerie Darter in search of smallmouth. Spotted a few quillback milling around the shallows. Didn't get any bites. Even switched towns and hiked to a better area and still couldn't coax a bite. Oh well. The sun felt great and the hike was a nice way to stretch the legs. USGS 11.48' / 1,070 CFS

November 20, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Spent a few hours wade fishing in the 5mm neoprenes once again. Found smallmouth at a waist-deep cut with chunk rock and boulders. A black w blue metal flake Eerie Darter on a Slider Head did the trick. All hit hard and fought like tanks. Landed three in the 14"-17" range, one went completely airborne during the fight and I lost a fourth and larger bass after it bulldogged on the surface then came unhooked. No complaints though. Largest bass pictured. They are getting gorgeous markings and coloration as the river clears. Thanks for the props on past reports. USGS 11.51' / 1,120 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass in winter

November 19, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Fished the last hour of light. Waded most of it in 5mm neoprenes. Felt like I was in my own little "zone" free from the distractions of the outside world as I methodically worked an Eerie Darter on a Slider Head in knee- to waist-deep water with chunk rock and gravel, slow to mild current. Bites were sharp and typically the fish ran off with the lure and I had to catch up to them with a quick sweep of the rod and intense reeling. Ended up going three for five, topping out in the 15"-16" range. Lost the waders, switched areas and fished in the sunset's afterglow. Quickly caught one on the float-n-fly set shallow and swirled through the eddy of a fallen tree. River is on the rise slightly. USGS 11.47' / 1,060 CFS+

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

November 18, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Caught four peewee smallmouth while fluttering a 1/4-ounce Northland Mimic Minnow in silver shiner through a shoreline eddy.

November 15 & 16, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Here's a couple I caught on November 15 & 16, larger was on a hula grub on a slider head amidst gravel and rubble, smaller was first cast on a float-n-fly alongside a bridge piling.

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River scenery

Fox River smallmouth bass while wading in late fall

November 13, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Slow weekend for me. Skipped fishing on Saturday and only got out for a few brief shoreline hops on Sunday. Ended up with 4 smallies, all on the float-n-fly (all I tried). The river continues its steep decline ... USGS 11.55' / 1,190 CFS- Thoroughly washed my tandem kayak and put it away for the year. Solo stuff from here on out ... probably mostly short wades in 5mm neoprenes. These short days suck, but sure was a heck of a moonrise last night. Really bright!

November 11, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo for the last 1.5 hours of daylight. Was dressed for the chillier weather and it felt like I was in a wind tunnel at times. Glad to have my sunglasses on to help keep my eyes from tearing. Only brought a few Slider Heads and a handful of Eerie Darters with the intention of scaling it down / slowing it down and carefully probing a 75 yard stretch of thigh-deep, rocky shoreline in slow to mild current. Found a really good bite! Lots of taps, tail pulls and downright thumps. Landed eight smallmouth with the largest a pair of 16". Waded back to the car and switched to hiking shoes and the float-n-fly for a 15-minute dusk bite at a nearby shoreline eddy. Found a sweet spot and picked up four smallmouth on four consecutive drifts before breaking off on a fifth and larger smallmouth who wrapped me around a log.

November 10, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Fished for an hour from the solo kayak. Very windy. Nothing on the float-n-fly today. Boated one nice one on a 4.5" Yamamoto Flapping Hawg on a Slider Head (crayfish imitation) crawled along bottom over gravel and rubble in 3 FOW. Fish thumped it hard and fought like a tank. Barely moved it on hook set. Found two smaller bass, a 15" largemouth and 13.5" smallmouth, on a Live Target sunfish rattlebait (similar to a Rat-L-Trap). Sun set way too fast. Gorgeous night to be out there. USGS 11.78' / 1,600 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass

November 9, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Shore fished the last hour of daylight. Tried the float-n-fly through a shallow seam and eddy after bottom-bouncing a soft-plastic crayfish imitation and getting cleanly bit off (think it was a walleye). Picked up three smallmouth, largest 12". Glad to get a few float dunks without much effort. Nice and calm out, clear with an orange sunset and half-moon on the rise. These days are real gems. USGS 11.80' / 1,640 CFS-

November 8, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: 2016 Election Day - The "poles" have closed. Late afternoon results...

Float-n-fly: 8
Flapping Hawg / Slider Head: 2
Swim Jig: 1

All different fish shown. USGS 11.85' / 1,740 CFS-

Election Day Fox River smallmouth bass

November 6, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out in the tandem kayak with friend Erik O. and did a vigorous paddle through a lot of swift water in search of smallies. Spinnerbaits, swim jigs, and bottom-bouncing soft plastics put fish in the boat. We ended up with 16, all smallmouth. Sizes ranged from dinks to some respectable bass. Took a break and went out for a nice lunch. Had a lot of laughs! Great day to enjoy the outdoors. USGS 11.94' / 1,920 CFS-

Erik O. Fox River Smallmouth Bass

Eric O. Fox River smallmouth bass

November 5, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out in the solo kayak and fished late afternoon. Yamamoto Flapping Hawg on a Slider Head along the bottom put seven in the boat, although I got an eighth (and largest) on the float n fly. Olive and chartreuse hair jig courtesy of Erik Olson. Float dunk right next to the kayak. Topped out @ 17.75". Beautiful day out there!

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River sunset

November 3, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Fished for a few hours late afternoon with my buddy / neighbor Nick. He is new to the whole Fox River experience and I can say without a doubt, he was blown away. It was an outing of learning and of "firsts" for him. Nick has fished for smallmouth in Door County and in Canada, but never in Illinois. This was his first time kayaking, first time river fishing, and first time targeting smallies in our home state. He admitted that his expectations were very low. He said that despite driving over it hundreds of times, biking alongside it, and stopping to check it out, the Fox River just never "looked" fishy to him. I told him by the end of the outing he'd be kicking himself for not doing it sooner. That proved to be true! I have been keeping an eye on the USGS graphs and the bump in flow, especially since the Fox Chain 'O Lakes draw-down began on November 1. I knew we'd be in for a bit higher water, and sure enough, when we arrived at the launch, the Fox looked higher and faster and bit more "chocolatey" than in weeks past. This was all new to Nick. He just trusted that I knew what the heck I was doing! I instructed him on lures, boat position, speed, how to read the current, etc. He kept saying over and over, "Wow! I never would have thought of it that way!" Excitement built as we headed to our first spot. Nick fished a white spinnerbait and I tossed a swim jig. We blanked at our first two areas, which were near very fast water. No bites or boils on either lure as we worked the outside edge of a rock bar and fan-cast the current seam and eddy. I told him not to worry. With about eight of what I consider to be "high percentage" spots on the milk run, there wouldn't be fish home at all of them. But if we hit one or two just right, we'd have a decent day. We finally settled in at a slower area near a rock bar and tried Yamamoto Flapping Hawgs (crayfish imitations) on a 1/8-ounce Slider Head. Having brought a medium-action spinning setup, Nick liked working the slower water and bouncing bottom much more than slinging swimming lures and trying to keep up with the current downstream. As I pointed out which area to concentrate on and how to hop the lure, I got bit on my first cast. A girthy 17" smallmouth appeared boatside and Nick looked at me like, "You've got to be kidding ... FIRST CAST???!!!" Next is was his turn. I hung back and watched as Nick fan-cast the area. It took him a few minutes to settle in and distinguish a bite from his lure simply bouncing off a rock. He finally got the feel of it and nailed his first Fox River smallmouth (first smallmouth in Illinois)! It was a chunky 16" with a full belly. He was thrilled! He took the time to really admire the fish and I told him a 16" is a really respectable smallmouth and above average for the Fox. He held it in the water and it gave him a splash in the face as it kicked tail and surged away. To our elation, Nick repeated this feat four more times in this area, each fish as nice as the last! Everything he caught was 16" or larger. He could not believe it. I said, "Welcome to Canada!" to which he replied, "NO KIDDING!!!" From there we spot hopped a bit and I pointed out the features of each area and why we were targeting it with specific lures, angles, etc. In all we boated 16 smallmouth, each bringing 8 to hand. Half were 16" or larger, topping out at 18.25". On the small side, I got an 11" on the float-n-fly, but others were 13"-15". We couldn't have had a nicer day with bright blue skies, wispy clouds formations, gorgeous autumn colors, and jaw-dropping river smallmouth. Nick said he felt like he just took a mini vacation and was in awe of what he had just experienced fishing-wise. He said it made him want to run out and buy a kayak. Now he "gets it" that he sees me drive by with my kayak on the roof of my car at least half of the days each week. USGS 12.01' / 2,070 CFS+

November 1, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick wade after work. 3/8-ounce Raptor "green smallie special" spinnerbait was my scout. If it didn't come back with a fish, it gathered intel. Bumps or boils were followed with a Yamamoto Flapping Hawg (crayfish imitation) on a Slider Head. Struck bronze seven times with mixed sizes. Highlight of the night was a beast off the side of a bridge piling that pushed a lot of water upon hookset and tore out my drag on a two power runs. Very heavy fish, reeked of gizzard shad. Not a mark on her ... just a perfect Fox fattie! Taped at 20.25" before slithering off. Hardest part was getting the blimp to uncurl. USGS 11.78' / 1,600 CFS-

Monster Fox River smallmouth bass 20.25"

October 29, 2016
Got out in the tandem kayak with my bride to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather, a few cold ones, and hopefully catch a few bronzebacks. Perfect outing -- beautiful autumn colors, overcast and calm. The fish cooperated too! Boated seven with four big ones. All but one came on an Eerie Darter on a Slider Head crawled slow along the bottom. Only managed one on the float-n-fly. Fun time! USGS 11.83' / 1,700 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass and Three Floyd's Gumballhead beer while fishing

October 28, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick early AM shoreline hop. Stuck this fatty shortly after sunrise. Was fluttering a crank in a current seam and she hammered it three times but didn't get hooked. Ran back to the car and tied on a Mimic Minnow. She had tucked back into the concrete structure but I found her first flutter. A hell of a strike and weight on the line. What a pig! Left shortly after releasing the fish. USGS 11.93' / 1,900 CFS+

Pig smallmouth bass from the Fox River

Fox River smallmouth bass on a stick bait

Fox River smallmouth bass on a stickbait

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

October 27, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out in the tandem kayak with friend Erik O. and took it to the smallies late afternoon. The bump in flow had 'em setup on seams and pouncing on lures. Erik cleaned up on a Rapala X-Rap and I got 'em on a Cotton Cordell Ripplin' Redfin (crank) and occasionally a float-n-fly. We enjoyed a few cold ones on the water and had a blast boating 16 with three doubles of respectable smallies! The sun set way too fast ... wish we could have stayed out and fished a few more hours. Fun time. Thanks for the hair jigs E! USGS 11.82' / 1,640 CFS-

Three Floyd's Gumballhead wheat beer while fishing the Fox

Erik O. with a beast Fox River smallmouth

Erik O. and Eric S. with a double of Fox River smallmouth bass

Erik O. with a Fox River monster smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Eric S. with a double of Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River white bass on the float-n-fly

Fox River white bass

Fox River white bass

Erik O. with another monster Fox River smallmouth bass

October 26, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Bright lights, big city ... plus getting asked for money a lot, and that curious look when you answer smallmouth to, "Catch anything?" 3/8-ounce Northland Buckaroo Jig (deer hair jig) in silver shiner. Nice to see the rain and bump in flow.

Aurora Fox River smallmouth bass

October 24, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Had the day off and met my brother-in-law Andy at the Fox to try our luck for smallies. This was Andy's first time fishing out of a kayak and first time fishing for river smallies. A large bald eagle still in brown juvenile plumage flew right over us shortly after we launched. We fished fathead minnows on a small circle hook under a float and boated seven smallies. We only had a couple of hours on the water but Andy seemed to really enjoy the entire experience and we're already talking about doing it again. He's actually intrigued by all the blimp carp we spooked in the muddy shallows and wants to target them with light gear. USGS 11.32' / 818 CFS- Shout out to Greg at Freeman's in Yorkville for the fathead minnows!

Andy J. and Eric S. before a Fox River kayak trip

A beautiful barred Fox River smallmouth bass

Andy J. with a nice Fox River smallmouth bass

October 23, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Spot hopped a few different times over the course of the day. Started out with a quick morning solo wade, then a quick noon shoreline outing, then a longer evening solo wade. Ended up with 13 smallmouth. Eight bit an Eerie Darter on a Slider Head, three bit the float-n-fly, two bit a swim jig. Topped out at 18.25" but had a couple other nice ones mixed in. USGS 11.33' / 833 CSF-

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River autumn scenery

Fox River smallmouth bass silhouette

Fox River smallmouth bass skin detail

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

October 22, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Evening solo kayak outing, worked fast and swung for the fences with a big swim jig. Boated 10, mostly 12"-14" range ... finally popped a big one right at dusk. Was an 18.5" birthday bass. And those Cubs! Just crazy. USGS 11.35' / 863 CFS-

Fox River birthday bass

October 21, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Early morning shoreline spot hop and chilly. Definitely appreciate the bump in flow and current, as it better defines the breaks and eddies. A few tentative bites on the Mimic Minnow, switched to a hair jig (chartreuse and olive from Erik Olson) with and without a float and picked up six dinks. USGS 11.41' / 957 CFS-

October 20, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo late afternoon 'till dusk. Found a great swim jig bite once again. Caught seven smallies, biggest 18" and 19.25". Big white swim jig downstream alongside structure in current, through current breaks, etc. Took a bit of wading and spot hopping through junk water but they were setup where I expected them to be and pounced on the lure hard. Finally got a better pic of the baby tarpon tailing in the shallows :wink: USGS 11.41' / 957 CFS

Fox River gizzard shad

October 19, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: "Perfect storm" conditions ... time of year, mild, bump in flow, lunar cycle, shad bunching up = gift from the fishing Gods. Shore fished for 45 minutes. Worked fast but landed seven nice ones. Smallest 14", largest estimated at 20"+ ... think it was the same fish from my "Beast Mode" post a few weeks ago. Played around with a few iPhone pics and vids from my three largest bass. First fish was the biggest and bit a 3/8-ounce Northland Buckaroo Jig (black and white hair jig) fluttered in heavy current. Had a partially digested gizzard shad sticking out of its throat! All others bit a large white swim jig burned downstream. USGS 11.38' / 910 CFS+

Fox River smallmouth bass

Monster smallmouth bass from the Fox River

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

October 18, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick late afternoon solo wade. Saw a few swirling schools of gizzard shad in the shallows. Tossed a big white swim jig nearby and let it swing downstream through a seam and into the eddy. Nailed five nice smallmouth in short order. They clobbered the swim jig! Largest just over 18". Pics off iPhone 6. USGS 11.37' / 894 CFS-


Fox River gizzard shad

Fox River smallmouth bass cheek detail

October 17, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wow, gorgeous mid-October morning with mild temps. Quick shoreline hit ... tossed a big white swim jig and landed three smallies and lost a fourth to a jump-off. Biggest 15.75". Wish I could spend the whole day at the river. Perfect weather for smallie fishing! USGS 11.23' / 687 CFS+ Got out late afternoon in the solo kayak. As expected, it was a bonanza. The gusty winds had the rising river littered with leaves and the smallmouth feeding with reckless abandon. The float-n-fly was the most productive technique. I used a little chartreuse and olive hair jig given to me by friend Erik O. It easily punched through the leaves and suspended among them. I twitched the rig as it drifted downriver. I ended up boating 16 smallmouth: 9 on the float-n-fly; 3 on a white swim jig; 2 on a fire-tiger spinnerbait; and 2 on an old silver Cotton Cordell Ripplin Redfin crankbait. My largest bass were around 17.5". USGS 11.35' / 865 CFS+

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass


Kayak and Fox River sunset

Fox River sunset

October 16, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo forty minutes Sunday AM while my son was at confirmation class. I tried a few bridge pilings with the size 90 Whopper Plopper and also a big white swim jig. I started off with the 'Plopper and drew three nice strikes, then all went cold. I moved on and worked another piling, then returned and nailed the 14" culprit (smallie) on the 'Plopper on the way out. I had to work quickly but it was a beautiful morning on the river and got me thinking of spending the whole day fishing. I headed to the Dupe with a buddy and killed the afternoon.

October 15, 2016
DuPage River Fishing Report: Got my friend Mark (KankRat) out on the Dupe Sunday afternoon in my tandem kayak to sling for smallies. River was up and rising, a bit muddy, and full of vegetation washing downstream. We did a car drop-off and "point A to point B" downstream float. Gorgeous day with overcast skies and mild temps. Ran into one brave wader on the river and no other kayakers. I brought a light baitcasting combo and pretty much stuck to a 3/8-ounce white spinnerbait for the duration. The single thumping gold Colorado blade fared well in the grass. I boated around fifteen bass, with a smallmouth/largemouth mix, mostly small ones, topping out at around 17" on the smallmouth and 16" on the largemouth. Mark rotated between a spinnerbait, swim jig, soft-plastic crayfish imitation and buzzbait ... all depending on the location / current / amount of grass. His persistence paid off as he stuck big fish of the day, a wide-bodied brute pushing 19" on a big chartreuse and gold buzzbait. I got him setup on a cherry spot where I've caught big fish in the past, sometimes stacked in there after a good rain. Mark feathered in a perfect cast with his baitcaster and that fish just clobbered the buzzer! Just awesome! Lots of laughs and a good way to spend a mid-October afternoon. USGS Shorewood 2.65' / 445 CFS+

Mark K. and a beautiful DuPage River smallmouth bass

October 14, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Shore fished solo early morning. Started off with a big white swim jig urban and cracked a nice smallie about ten casts into it. Did a terrible job landing it, and it broke my line with a few massive head shakes ... taking my new Picasso swim jig with it. Grrr!!! I switched towns and tied the size 130 Whopper Plopper on my heavier casting combo and slung for 'ski for the next hour. No takers but sure enjoyed the crisp autumn morning. Later in the evening I returned to the urban area with a fresh swim jig and nailed three respectable smallies in about 10 minutes of shore fishing. Areas with mild current, rock, and a bit of depth held 'em (basically, TYPICAL smallmouth areas!)

October 13, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out with my oldest son (16) in the tandem kayak and did a short float-n-fish late in the day. We got about an hour's-worth of fishing in before dark. I started Grant out with a swim jig and he nailed a foot-long smallmouth coming downstream around a rocky point. Was glad to see him break the ice early! We tried a bunch more go-to areas without a sniff and right at sunset I put him on a good topwater area. I tied on the size 90 Whopper Plopper and he made a perfect cast alongside a gravel bar. It didn't take but a few second before a feisty smallmouth clobbered it! He was grinning from ear to ear reeling it in, as it's the first time he has experienced the magic of the Whopper Plopper! The bass was around 14". I rotated through various lures: swim jig; float-n-fly; walk-the-dog; and Flapping Hawg on a Slider Head. I blanked. Grant got one more smallmouth on a Flapping Hawg on a Slider Head. It was a beast. It surged upriver and towards deeper water and moved the kayak with it! Then it turned back towards him and he lost it boat-side. Oh well. We could see the bright moon rise through the trees and once it came over the treetops it was spectacular. It lit up the whole river and western shoreline. Just amazing. The paddle back was chilly and I could feel the kayak occasionally shudder from Grant shivering. He had a heavy jacket on and gloves. I was fine but doing all the paddling. All in all a great time and we heard the token great horned owls at dark. Although I was humbled, can't beat a quick outing for October smallies close to home! USGS 11.16' / 592 CFS-

October 10, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Big white swim jig along a bridge piling. Money. Great weather we've been having. As much as I've enjoyed the stability, sure would like some rain to bump up the level and flow. USGS 11.24' / 701 CFS- Off to Iowa to visit my uncle. Gonna try fishing somewhere!

Fox River smallmouth bass

October 9, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo late afternoon 'till dusk. Rotated between two lures depending on conditions: a big swim jig and a size 130 Whopper Plopper. Tried several areas and covered a lot of water wading and fishing. Couldn't get anything going on the Whopper Plopper aside from a few half-hearted strikes from smaller bass early on. Connected with three nice smallies on the swim jig. The first just downstream from a bridge piling, but lost it due to a jump off. The second, alongside the same piling. Slammed the swim jig first cast. The third came from a deep side channel around an island. The swim jig ticked a boulder coming downstream and then got pounded! The swim jig is a 3/8-ounce from Picasso paired with a 4.7" Keitech Fat Swing Impact in Sight Flash (white). Remember on the swim jigs ... forget the word "jig" ... use a straight retrieve with a steady cadence. It's a swimming lure, not a bottom-bouncing lure. I like to retrieve it fairly fast so bass need to make a split-second decision to commit. USGS 11.27' / 744 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

October 8, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Took a break from kayaking and did an early evening solo wade. Took my heavier casting gear and 130 Whopper Plopper to swing for the fences. Waded some areas of heavier current and chunk rock and worked long casts downstream and cross-stream. Could not believe how hard it got cracked about five minutes into it. Thought maybe a northern pike or musky but realistically was probably just a big smallmouth. Couldn't get it to go again, despite switching to a swim jig and re-working the area. Ended up landing five smallies with three on the big Whopper Plopper (biggest 16") and two on the white swim jig (biggest 17"). The Plopper worked best coming downstream through lift-type areas and the swim jig found 'em downstream along the outer edges of stream barbs. Great evening to be on (in) the water. Cool and clear with a big bright crescent moon. Fun wade.

October 7, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Got out after work for a scenic float and fish with my buddy Mark (KankRat). I paddled us around in my tandem kayak and we more/less spot-hopped in search of autumn bronze. We ended up boating about a dozen smallies, topping out at 18". We caught 'em on swim jigs, Flapping Hawg on a Slider Head (crayfish imitation), float-n-fly, and topwater. The largest bass cracked surface lures. I got a 17" on a Megabass walk-the-dog lure, and an 18" on a size 90 Whopper Plopper. Both were near lift areas with chunk rock and gravel. Mark nailed a nice smallie in the 16"-17" range on a walk-the-dog style surface lure right at dusk. It made an awesome sound smacking the lure coming cross-stream near a shallow gravel bar. Saw lots of wading birds, a great horned owl, and an eagle. Paddled back in the dark. Funny thing happened on the float-n-fly ... the little blue and white hair jig was dragging just a few inches under the surface alongside the kayak as we were switching spots and I caught a bonus white bass, unmanned! Upon getting home, I spotted a surprise envelope from WCF forum member mikeyd with some of his hand-tied hair jigs. Thank you!

October 4, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: Quick evening solo outing in the kayak. Gorgeous mild weather and dead-calm. Enjoyed a bright crescent moon in the clear sky and wore out a few smallies before sunset. Caught three on the float-n-fly while spot hopping, then settled in for the last 20 minutes of light and worked a topwater through a seam. Drew some fierce attacks with a Sixth Sense "Crush Dogma" walk-the-dog topwater. Boated two nice ones, 16" and 17". The Lucid grips have been a lifesaver getting control of thrashing bass with a mouth full of treble hooks. USGS 11.29' / 773 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River sunset

October 2, 2016
Fox River Fishing Report: The float-n-fly is a very simple finesse technique that will entice anything with fins. It's a small hair jig suspended under a foam float. When you twitch it, the craft hair pulses and fish think it's a minnow and snap it up. It's like putting an M&M in front of someone at a Weight Watcher's meeting. "Oh why not, it's just ONE M&M..." It's a great setup for kids for pond crappie, rock bass, largemouth bass, perch, etc. It's deadly on river smallmouth. Fly fishermen might liken this to "nymphing" and really dig tying their own hair jigs. I normally reserve the float-n-fly for late fall, winter, and early spring. When I saw my ultralight spinning gear sitting lonely in the corner of my garage, I decided to leave all other gear at home and go super-simple with the float-n-fly for an evening of kayak fishing. I was not disappointed. I use a 4.5' medium-action spinning rod, light spinning reel, and 4 lb Gamma copolymer line. I tie on the 1/16-ounce hair jig, clip the 1" foam float a foot or two above the jig, and cast it out over areas of gravel and chunk rock where I think the smallies are lurking. If they are home, it doesn't take but a few twitchy drifts for them to find the suspending meal. A lot of die-hard float-n-fly anglers favor long, whippy rods to get better casting distance and jiggle the float with more action. They will also use scent, either spray or paste. For me, the float-n-fly is a breath of fresh air. It's a nice break from slinging casting gear, and watching the little float is addicting. Every time I see it dunk down, it makes me feel like a kid again. I have friend, fishing guide and smallmouth enthusiast Jonn Graham to thank for getting me "hooked" on this technique. And he has graciously supplied me with his awesome hand-tied hair jigs over the years. I ended up boating nine smallies with some really nice ones that went airborne once hooked. It was a blast playing them on light tackle. The drag was set just right and they could take line as needed, but had to work for it. They mainly wore themselves out against the bend of my ultralight rod. The whole setup worked perfectly. I fished until about 1/2 hour after sunset and ended up taking the float off and just casting the hair jig through a seam off an outside turn. Even in the blackness a smallie still slammed the hair jig. That pic is on my camera in my car, so it'll have to wait until later. For now, these are just some from my iPhone that I took quickly. Some are multiples of the same fish, but the ones across the side of the kayak are all different bronze. USGS 11.32' / 818 CFS-

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass on the float-n-fly

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass

Fox River smallmouth bass fin detail

Fox River smallmouth bass head detail

Fox River smallmouth bass mouth detail

Fox River smallmouth bass on the hair jig

Fox River smallmouth bass

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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