Fox Chain Report February 2020

This has been one of the warmest winters in a while. There have been about two weeks of safe ice, followed by long warm spells. In January, you could still launch a boat. That is unheard of. When we finally get an extended period of safe ice, the fishing should be spectacular. The fish have seen no real pressure for several months. There is plenty of oxygen and green weeds in the shallows. Bays and channel mouths are key areas to target.

Starting from the north end, Channel Lake is a very good lake for multispecies throughout the ice fishing season. This February, the south bay should hold plenty of bluegills and crappies for some fast ice fishing action. Drill holes until active fish are located. When the bite slows down, change your lure, and experiment with different live baits and plastics. When the bite dies, keep mobile to locate another school of active fish.

In today’s modern ice fishing world, we have a lot of different baits and lures to experiment with. The tungsten jigs have really taken hold and have been a deadly presentation for great fish catches. They are denser then lead, so the same weight tungsten jig is smaller than the same weight lead jig. This makes the jig sink faster, which is great in a deep-water situation to keep a school of fish active and feeding, before they lose interest and move off. The fast drop of a tungsten jig also triggers strikes and is an aggressive bait.

However, don’t ever give up on the lead jig. Sometimes, a slow fall and super finesse presentation of the lead jig is exactly what the doctor ordered to put finicky fish on the ice. Experiment with horizontal swimmers and vertical hanging baits. Sometimes, one will be preferred over another.

The color of the bait is another factor that should be considered. For bluegills, black, brown and purple are top choices. For crappies, whites, pinks, chartreuses and a combination of them are good choices. Other colors that are very effective are glow, gold, and Wonderbread. Sometimes, a simple color change can put some additional fish on the ice.

Live bait can be a key element to your ice fishing success as well. Waxworms, spikes, mousies and small crappie minnows can all be effective. Wigglers for crappies and stripers, and red worms for catfish are also good. Bring a variety and bring a bunch. A key tactic is, after you catch a fish, rip off the bait and toss it down the hole. Rebait with fresh bait and get back down quickly. The bait you toss down the hole will sink slowly, and will be picked off by feeding fish, keeping them there longer. And sometimes, the fish will definitely prefer one bait over another. Keep experimenting and changing baits to maximize your fish catch.

If we get a long, cold stretch of weather, the north end bay of Channel Lake is great for nice-sized crappies and bluegills. Toward the end of February, the main-lake basin will hold schools of very large crappies. Drill lots of holes or use electronics with side scan or Panoptix to quickly locate the roving schools of fish.

The basin is also a great place to find some nice channel catfish. When found, these fish are great sport on light tackle and really put up a battle. Red worms on an ice fishing jig is a great bait for winter cats.

Lake Catherine is also a great ice fishing lake in February and receives considerably less pressure then Channel Lake. Caution must be used on this lake, as there are several underwater springs that can cause unsafe ice conditions. Carry a spud bar as you make your way across the ice.

The south bay has good weeds and a nice drop-off. The weeds will hold bluegills and crappies at low light. Crappies and stripers will be on the drop-off and suspended over the deeper water. When the lake is completely frozen over, the north shore at the mouth of Trevor Creek is a key area for nice crappies, the ever-present bluegills, and decent walleye action. You can also set tip-ups over the weed flats for largemouth bass, northern pike and muskies.

Lake Marie is an outstanding ice fishing lake. Concentrate on the main-lake points and the center bar for white bass, walleyes and nice crappies. Lake Marie is a great night lake for decent walleye action. Tip-ups with small sucker minnows, and jigging with spoons and Jigging Rapalas baited with a fathead minnow head are great presentations for icing walleyes.

Petite Lake has always been a great lake for white and yellow bass plus some really nice walleyes. Every year, walleyes pushing 8 pounds are taken through the ice. The shallow weed flats adjacent to the incoming channel and outgoing channel mouths are key. Target the low-light periods for the best chance at good numbers, plus some really large fish.

Points, drop offs and basin areas hold nice schools of stripers in both the white and yellow variety. Once you find the fish, the action can be fast and furious.

Fox Lake is another great lake for wintertime action. Mineola Bay and Lippencott Point are great areas for crappies and white bass. The back end of Mineola Bay has some nice bluegills. Find nice green weeds and fish the pockets or clumps. The south side of Crabapple Island also holds walleyes and white bass. Fish baits with rattles or baits that glow to attract fish. Sometimes, pounding the bottom with your bait is an excellent way to attract fish.

Pistakee Lake is the southernmost lake on the Fox Chain. There are several excellent areas to target this February. Pistakee Bay holds a variety of fish species in excellent numbers. White and black crappies, stripers, bluegills and walleyes can all be taken in the bay. The south-end weed flats hold some nice-sized bluegills. Fish the points, drop offs and basin areas for crappies and stripers. Pistakee Bay is also outstanding for channel catfish. Target the basin and drill lots of holes to locate fish.

The T-Channel is usually a great first-ice spot, but in a mild year, this area can hold fish well into the season. Find the deeper holes that concentrate nice bunches of bluegills and crappies.

For a complete selection of live bait, tackle and up-to-date fishing reports, check out Triangle Bait Shop in Antioch. Greg’s store is fully stocked for all your ice fishing needs. He can also place special orders if you need something that is not in stock. Greg also offers rod and reel repair, line winding, and has an excellent ice auger blade sharpening service. Greg has a state-of-the-art machine that professionally sharpens blades to a razor’s edge. You can purchase Illinois and Wisconsin fishing licenses here as well.

If you are fishing the north end of the Chain, you can stop in at Musky Tales off of 17,3 just west of route 59. Kurt has a selection of live bait and great ice fishing access across the street on Channel Lake. At the end of your trip, you can stop back at Musky Tales and the Time To Bite Bar and Grill. Get a burger, delicious beef sandwich or some great chicken wings. Along with a cold beverage, this is the perfect end to a great day.

This year Kurt is hosting a series of ice fishing tournaments. On one Thursday night a month, Kurt has various seminars given by his Pro Staff and local fishing guides. Check with Kurt for dates and times, as weather can affect the ice conditions. Attend a seminar and you will gain a lot of knowledge about where to go and how to catch a bunch of fish on the Fox Chain.

This February, come on out on the Fox Chain and get in on the excellent ice fishing action. By March, we could be back in our boats. Catch a bunch of fish and support the small businesses in the area. Until next month, see you on the ice.