Fox Chain Report

February on the Fox Chain is usually a little tougher. Thick ice (weather permitting) and fishing pressure will usually push the fish deeper and in key areas. This year has been unusually mild. With no ice fishing in December and thinner ice in January, this February could have a chance at being exceptional. With reduced fishing pressure and a higher oxygen content, the fish should be active and feeding. Shallow-water fishing should be productive until ice-out.

Crappies and bluegills should be good throughout the Chain. The population is at a high cycle, with a lot of above-average-sized fish.

On Channel Lake, fish the north and south end bays. Concentrate on the flats and look for thicker weed clumps to attract fish. Channel mouths are also a good area to target. The Lake Street Channel at the south end near the Thirsty Turtle and the mouth of the Lake Marie Channel are good spots that will hold fish.

On Lake Catherine, the north end bay near the Trevor Creek channel mouth is a key area for multiple species. The south end bay outside of Bob’s Marina is also a great spot for crappies and bluegills. Lake Catherine also has a unique breakline, with many points and turns that concentrate fish. As always, weeds will make a good spot better and concentrate the fish.

Lake Marie is an excellent crappie and bluegill lake. Stripers and walleyes are also common and exceptional fishing can be had. The main lake points are key to fishing Lake Marie. Concentrate on the shallow flats, and if there is a lot of pressure, drop down off the first breakline. Low light and nighttime is a great for targeting the crappies and walleyes on Lake Marie. Larger fish are also taken at this time.

Petite Lake is also good for crappies, bluegills and walleyes. The striper fishing on this lake can be explosive as well. For several years, access to this lake has been tough. The Cyprus Resort and Marine now has ice fishing access for a small fee. For crappies and bluegills, the channel mouths are good; the channel mouths attract walleyes and stripers too.

Fox Lake is a good lake for crappies, stripers and walleyes. The south side of Crabapple Island, Mineola Bay, and Lippincott Point are all popular. The Mineola Marina has parking access. Drilling lots of holes and covering water is the key to success on this lake.

Pistakee Lake is also an excellent ice fishing lake for above-average-sized crappies and bluegills. The shallow flats of Pistakee Bay hold nice fish. The area outside the Mud Lake Channel is a great bluegill area. Fish the breaks and subtle points for nice walleyes. The west side of Coon Island has a deeper hole that will also attract crappies, walleyes and stripers.

For crappies and bluegills, an ultralight combo spooled with 2-pound-test line is ideal. Small ice jigs baited with larva-type live bait or a small plastic tail is ideal. Waxworms, spikes and mousies are all good baits. Carry all three because the fish will usually have a preference. For crappies, carry some small fathead minnows. For stripers, red euro larvae and wigglers can be deadly if you can find them.

Carry both horizontal- and vertical-hanging jigs, as this can also make a difference. The new tungsten jigs are popular and extremely effective in deep-water fishing.

Catfishing is also popular on the Fox Chain in February. Concentrate on the basin areas of the lakes. Lake Marie and Channel and Pistakee lakes are the better for catfish. Red worms on ice jigs or tip-ups are a great bait; nightcrawlers and golden roach minnows are also good. Cover a lot of water to find the fish. Once you find them the fishing can be fast and furious. They put up a great tussle on a light rod; they also taste great on the table.

Tip-ups can also be used to catch walleyes, largemouth bass, pike and the occasional muskie. You can fish these in combination with a jigging rod for panfish. Each person can use two tip-ups and a jigging rod. That way you can target panfish and gamefish at the same time.