Lake Michigan Corner

The first half of the winter along the southern shores of Lake Michigan can be described in two words: El Niño. The National Weather Service and our ever-reliable WGN weather guru Tom Skilling have both been predicting it for months, saying it is destined to be one of the more stronger in history.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures have kept the waters on the “Big Lake” relatively ice-free and the fish have been on a nonstop feed. Everything from trout to salmon to perch has been hitting, and we only (hopefully) have a short time to go until spring makes its arrival.

The star of the show has been the perch. Although they have been moving around a lot chasing baitfish, it hasn’t taken a whole lot of effort to head home with a limit of these pallet-pleasing delicacies from Chicago to well into Indiana.

In Chicago, the action has been good at Diversey, Belmont and Montrose harbors, Navy Pier and DuSable and Burnham harbors.

If you want action, use Mini-Mites tipped with spikes or waxworms. You will catch a ton of fish, but it will take a lot of sorting to take a limit of keepers. You will be kept busy, though. If you want the bigger fish, switch to minnows. You won’t get the nonstop action, but the fish will be bigger.

The trick with fishing the Chicago harbors is to keep moving. The perch will be looking for minnows, so they will be on the move. If you don’t do any good in 10 or 15 minutes, pick up and move; eventually, you will find them.

When fishing the Chicago harbors, you will need a pier pass. They are available for $6 at Henry’s and it will enable you to fish designated piers at Montrose, Belmont, Diversey, DuSable and Burnham harbors.

Brown trout and steelhead have also been taken in Chicago’s harbors on spawn sacs fished under a Cast-Away slip bobber. White tube jigs tipped with waxworms have also been producing fish.

On the far southeast side of Chicago, Calumet Harbor has seen a very good perch bite on minnows drifted from the boats near the bottom. This area is covered under the reciprocal agreement and can be fished with either an Illinois or Indiana license.

Good action has also been had from boats, as well as the shore, in the 85th and 89th Street slips and in the Calumet River at 92nd and 95th streets. Please note though, that neither the slips nor the river fall under the reciprocal agreement and an Illinois fishing license will be needed to fish these waters.

Over in Indiana, there has been good perch fishing from the boats by the “Hole-in-the-Wall” in East Chicago, on the clay flats off the Gary Light and in Portage. Michigan City has seen a few whitefish coming on spawn or minnow pieces.

In the streams, the east branch of the Little Calumet River and Salt and Trail creeks, fresh steelhead have been coming in practically every day. They have been hitting on spawn, shrimp, nightcrawlers and brightly colored spinners.

On the Michigan side, there is steady steelhead action in the St. Joseph River in St. Joseph. There have been a few steelhead with some whitefish mixed in off the pier.

If you would rather enjoy fishing in the spring when the weather warms up, there is still plenty to do in the off-season. It’s a great time to rearrange your tackle boxes, polish up those lures, sharpen your dull hooks and replace the rusty ones. Give your rods and reels a good cleaning. It’s also a great time to put new line on your reels.

Late winter is also a great time to take in one of the sport fishing and outdoors shows. The Tinley Park Fishing Show will be held on February 13 and 14 at the Tinley Park High School in Tinley Park, Ill. The show is in its nineteenth year, so they must be doing something right. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for kids 7 to 13 years old and kids 6 and under are free. This is one of the top shows in the area and one I’m sure you won’t want to miss.