Quad Cities & Beyond

With an unseasonably warm December and days with above-average temperatures in January, ice fishing got a very late start. We were into “showtime” before there was ice thick enough to auger. One advantage of the late ice is that the fish taken will be plumper than when the season started, around Thanksgiving. The bad thing is that many of us fished on those 40-degree winter days and caught a lot of the hard-water fish. It was an unusual season.

ILLINOIS

Carbon Cliff
When the boats can launch and get upriver there will be both walleyes and saugers below the dams at Davenport and LeClaire. Minnows tipped jigs seem to be best for anchored boats, while Rapala’s jigging Rap or Shad Rap has been effective for trolling.

Dixon
Walleyes will be active below the dam. Larger fish seem to be coming on minnow-tipped jigs. Bright-colored jig heads with eyes will work better than unpainted or black. Bluegills and crappies will still be active on farm ponds where the ice is safe to fish. These panfish seem to like waxworms either on a tiny jig or suspended below a bobber.

Milan
The ice on the Hennepin behind the shop, and on west of Milan, should be solid enough to fish for the month. It held some really nice crappies in the fall, so there should be good ones taken all season. They seem to bite best midday when the sun is bright and on the ice. The ice fishing at Lake George in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, in Andalusia, Ill., has been limited to panfish this year.

Rock Island
The ice in Andalusia Harbor has been a really good spot for the late season. Much of this hard water is protected and (usually) safe to fish when other spots are “iffy.” Bluegills and crappies in Sunset Harbor, Rock Island, will continue to hold in the west end around the structure of the boat docks. There are a couple of large trees with roots that extend out into the water, and on bright days these will hold fish. This harbor tends to hold a variety of fish all winter, but panfish will predominate. Don Jensen, of Rock Island, likes to use Rat Finkies, fishing close to the boat docks and off the point just inside the channel to the river. You cannot fish off any of the docks, put your equipment on them or use the docks in any way; this is a private facility. However, all of the launch sites and any fishing piers left in are maintained by the Rock Island Park System and you can use any at the east end.

IOWA

Clinton
Below the dam you will find a great walleye bite if you can get out of the boat launch. For anchored boats, minnow- or waxworm-tipped jigs work best, and for trolling, the smaller-jointed Rapalas or similar baits work well. The ponds will be good for panfish as long as the ice is thick enough to be safe.

Davenport
The ice off the Iowa shore of Credit Island and on along the river road holds panfish later in the year than off the riverside of the island, but check the ice, because there is a good undercurrent here and it thins fast in the spring. When boats can get up to the dam, the walleyes will be biting. Some can be taken in the open water off the wall below the rollers, but sometimes access is limited here due to construction. There were no reports from the Wapsi this month.

Dubuque
Any time you can get out to the dam you will catch walleyes. Local fishermen took a lot of nice walleye on jigs and minnows and trolling smaller rattle baits. In the backwaters, the panfish bit best on waxworms on very small blade-type baits with eyes. Red hooks have done well through the ice.

Muscatine
The boat launch should be free of ice later this month, and since the walleye fishing was so good late in the fall, it should be good all season. Farm ponds haven’t been doing so well.

It’s showtime
Take advantage of all of the bargains. This is a real opportunity to restock the tackle box, get that new reel at a great price or order a custom rod. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I would rather go to a good sports show than trek out on the ice. I learned long ago that at several of the regular shows I can get tackle boxes, reels, rods, line, and, of course, a car-full of terminal tackle at better prices than those same goodies that will sell for next spring. The bad thing about shows is that all of the “stuff” looks so great and I end up buying more than I will ever use. Shows are still fun, informative and something I look forward to every year. See you at the shows.

Have a fishing question for Bess Pierce? Email to: [email protected].