The Outdoor Connection


Welcome to a normal Illinois spring—cool, wet, windy a touch of warmth, and then back to cold again creating cold hands and sniffles. With the weather we had in April, I’m still expecting water to warm up sooner with the air temperatures and make the fish more active.

Those saugers, walleyes and stripers on the Illinois River had a good start in April and then slowed with the high water, but these will improve in May. The walleyes and pike on Tampier Lake in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County were done spawning by early April, and they’re now looking for an easy meal. A few more pike have also been caught on flashy baits. In central and southern Illinois, the bass action is really good and the catfishing can be outstanding.

Lake Michigan, Winthrop Harbor
Yellow perch fishing is closed from May 1 through June 15 to improve the number of spawning fish and to allow the numbers to grow in the lake. While perch is closed, bluegills, rock bass, salmon and trout are open. Please refer to the Illinois fishing guide for all the rules. Weather fronts and wind direction can scatter fish in May, but the trick to catch these salmon is to locate the schools of baitfish. Don’t look for large fish on your electronics; look for the baitfish and the salmon close to them. Flies and dodgers on Yellow Bird planer boards or Dipsy Divers set from the surface to 10 feet down are good. Most boats will stay between Winthrop Harbor and Waukegan in 30 to 50 feet of water for cohos.

Lake Michigan, Chicago
Even with normal weather patterns and northeast spring winds, shore anglers will take cohos. Use small spoons, tinsel jigs or a nightcrawler under a bobber for cohos if you’re onshore. When the wind switches to the west or southwest, small boaters will find cohos feeding aggressively closer to shore and near the Chicago Light House and breakwalls along the Lakefront near downtown. Small flies or a tube jig on a small treble hook behind a red dodger can be good.

Cook County Forest Preserves
Our local forest preserves exploded with action for fishermen in late April and should continue into this month.

Busse Lake: Water can be muddy after a rain, but anglers using a very small crankbait will take bass out from shore at 10 to 15 feet. Bluegills are usually good on Mini-Mites tipped with a waxworm. A 44-plus-inch muskie was netted and checked out by the fisheries staff and later released into Busse Lake.

Skokie Lagoons: Crappies, small walleyes, largemouths and bluegills can all be taken on live bait or a small rattling or noisy surface bait. Catfish want meat, nightcrawlers or fatty hamburger on a treble hook.

Axehead: A couple of rainbow trout missed from the spring stocking can be taken on minnows. Bluegills like pieces of nightcrawlers under a small bobber.

Maple Lake: Weeds are coming up and holding fish. Look to fish the holes you can see in the weeds and along the weed edges. Largemouth bass will be hitting minnows fished close to shore.

Tampier: Crappies on small jigs and a waxworm can be taken along the west shoreline and near the boat ramp near the pier on the north side of the peninsula. Use a large minnow set about 6 inches above the bottom and you might just get one of those huge Tampier walleyes we see now.

Saganashkee Slough: With a few more days of warm weather, the catfish should move closer to shore along the south side of the lake near the dam. Small crappies are best for the person fishing closest to the spillway or along the southern shoreline near tree roots.

Joe’s Pond: Bullhead, small bass and bluegills on small live baits are popular with the young anglers. The shoreline is clear of shoreline plant growth and is perfect for kids.

DuPage Forest Preserve
In May, many DuPage lakes are reporting crappies and bluegills closer in toward the shore that are hitting minnows, Mini-Mites, twister tails and small hair jigs.

Largemouths have been hitting a variety of baits at several lakes including East Branch’s Rush Lake, Spring Creek Reservoir’s Reservoir and Meacham Grove’s Maple Lake. Successful baits have been spinnerbaits, rattle traps and bass jigs. The warmer weather is driving up the water temperatures, so look for a really aggressive bite.

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Du Page River
Watch the water levels, as smallmouth bass are active for as long as the river conditions stay or improve after a heavy rain.

Chain O’ Lakes
This is normally the last month we can really enjoy the lake without all the crazy jet skiers for the summer. You can still fish then, but go early in the morning for a more peaceful time on the water.

Walleyes are being taken drift-fishing a nightcrawler and minnow bounced along the bottom. Other anglers are using a crankbait and have picked up a walleye or a few small muskies. Weekend anglers should find bluegills ready and willing to hit a red worm or waxworm on a small jig. Fish are very close to the shoreline now and expected to only get better.

Late-May bluegill action is outstanding on warm afternoons.

Catfish will be hitting processed baits, nightcrawlers and chicken livers. Largemouths are hitting a spinnerbait or a tube jig worked near weeds. Crappies can be slow, but some are still available in the backwaters near wood. A great local fishing group for a fun tournament on the Chain is Blarney Bassmaster. Check them out at

Kankakee River
The river can be low or up depending on the rainfall. If it’s high and muddy, many will be waiting for the weekend to look for fish in slack water and quiet pools. Other anglers will start looking for smallmouths in the creeks just off the river. Water clarity is better in the creeks, and fish will be more active if the river is up. If river’s dropping, anglers will look closer to the shore for smallmouths. At the point where a creek, bayou or drainage ditch comes into a river, you’ll find fish holding and looking for bait. Try spinnerbaits, large minnows and CountDown Rapalas for gamefish here.

Fox River
Action below the dams looks good for May. If the river levels stay steady from spring rains, many fish will move up to the dams and below them for a half a mile. Catfish will be improving with the river water temperatures in the 60s. A jig and minnow and smaller crankbaits have taken smallmouths and walleyes while drum have taken nightcrawlers.

Crappies will have moved a little deeper now due to the warmer weather. Largemouths are in less then 4 feet of water and hitting baits to protect their spawning beds early in the month. Catfish will be steady on nightcrawlers. Weekends should be very good for shore fishing weather permitting.

Heidecke Lake
Walleyes are active in the shallows this month on jig and minnows or a crankbait bounced on the bottom. Hybrids will be improving on a jigging spoon or a chicken liver meant for the catfish.

Fishermen from shore and on boats are doing well now, and you should expect action to only get better. Bass can be and are difficult to locate now, but keep on trying. Sign up for the Exelon Fish for a Cure Fishing Tournament set for June 3 here, as $10,000 is guaranteed to be paid out to the top 10 spots ( We will be doing a live remote for Chauncey’s Great Outdoors right there from the event in the parking lot at Braidwood. Direct questions should be given to Communications Manager Peggy Warnick at 815-417-3184 or at

Smallmouths, largemouths, rock bass, stripers and catfish can be active at some time; just keep casting close to shoreline.

Illinois River
The river has been very high here, so be careful. Look for white bass willing to hit a minnow bounced along the edges of a drop-off. Catfish will be best on chicken livers, stink and cut bait.

I leave you with this Native American Proverb from the Apensuie Majawatt:
I Pledge
I Pledge Allegiance to the earth and all its sacred parts
Its water, land and living things and all its human hearts.
I Pledge Allegiance to All Life and promise I shall care to Love and cherish all its gifts with people everywhere.
Remember we don’t own the woods, the rain, the forest or the fish we catch. We are only borrowing them from our children’s children. Take care of the great outdoors. It’s the only one we have, and the only one they will have.