The Outdoor Connection

It’s January and outdoor show month is here. In December, I didn’t know what happened. Daytime temps in the 50s, then cold and thin ice. Some places it was very thin and then gone. But, maybe we will see some with January being here.

I know one place it’s going to be exciting is one of the many Fishing Sport Shows that come to our area. You can purchase your 2019 subscription to MidWest Outdoors magazine and get a free gift, also.

Every year, I also have a surprise for you when you purchase your subscription to MidWest Outdoors. Bring your receipt to my booth at the show and I will have a special gift for you. If you have not bought your subscription before the holidays, you can still do it online. But, remember to use “AM 1000” in the promo code.

Also, if you have not bought tickets to some of the local outdoors shows, you may have a chance to win a pair by listening to Chauncey’s Great Outdoors on ESPN radio AM 1000 on Saturday mornings from 6 to 7 am.

I’ll be at the The Chicago Boat Show Jan. 9-12; All Canada show Jan. 11 -13; the Muskie Show in St. Charles Jan. 19-20; and the Chicago Fishing, Travel and Outdoor Expo in Schaumburg Jan. 24 -27. Plan on coming out and seeing me, and let’s have fun!

January is a hard month for some anglers that don’t ice fish, but there is open water. I hope to touch on those locations. Ice anglers, there is no excuse not to go out this year.

Lake Michigan (Chicago/Indiana)

Anglers are fishing through the ice and in open water off the piers in the harbors for perch, with Montrose Harbor holding the best ice for walking on sometimes, always check for safety. But you must check it out. Warm weather will melt ice from the bottom up. Most fish are small, with spikes and wax worms being the best bait. At Navy Pier, if the wind blows from the west, the floating ice cover usually blows out away from the pier and fishing is easier. If not, many anglers will break through the ice by using a heavy object on a rope and dropping it down on the ice from the pier and then picking it up again and dropping it till it breaks through. You now have an open hole to drop your bait in. You will also find anglers at the 87th Street Steelworkers Park and some in boats in the Calumet River are finding perch. They found perch all December until loose ice floats in with an east wind. When it opens up, get there!

Lake Michigan (Winthrop Harbor)

At Winthrop Harbor, an occasional northern pike has been taken. Wax worms and spikes are your better choices for panfish, while a larger minnow has taken a few smaller pike. Brook trout are also taken from time to time, so have your trout stamp with you.

Cook County Forest Preserves

Four inches of solid ice is recommended. Remember, the Forest Preserve District does not go out and check ice thickness anymore, so please check for safety. The lakes open to ice fishing, conditions permitting, are Arrowhead, Axehead, Beck, Belleau, Big Bend, Bode South, Bullfrog, Busse Main, Busse South, Flatfoot, Green, Horsetail, Ida, Maple, Papoose, Powderhorn, Saganashkee Slough, Sag Quarry East and West, Tampier, Turtlehead and Wampum. Ice Fishing during the winter season, permitted on these designated District lakes, is on a “Fish At Your Own Risk” basis. Ice fishermen should check ice thickness before going out on any frozen body of water. A minimum of four inches of solid ice over the entire lake is recommended before individuals attempt ice fishing. Hours: Sunrise to sunset.

DuPage County Forest Preserves

Ice fishing is permitted on any preserve lake when the ice is at least four inches thick. Ice conditions are not checked by rangers. Anglers should make their own checks of ice thickness before venturing out onto any frozen waterway. Remember, for your own safety, no ice should be considered totally safe. A free, 40-page booklet produced by the District’s Public Affairs Office that contains detailed information on all the fishing areas in DuPage forest preserves, along with rules and regulations for fishing in District waters.

Kane County Forest Preserves

Ice fishing is at your own risk and is permitted only at Hampshire South Forest Preserve (Hampshire) on Lake Patterson within Oakhurst Forest Preserve (Aurora) and on the two ponds within Paul Wolff Campground (Elgin).

Lake County Forest Preserves

Ice-fishing shelters must be removed at the end of the day. Only two poles allowed. Holes must be drilled 8 inches or smaller. A 4.5-inch layer of ice is needed for ice fishing. At Independence Grove, ice fishing is permitted in the south bay. At Lakewood Forest Preserve, ice fishing is permitted on Banana Lake only and at Van Patten Woods. Ice fishing is available on any part of Sterling Lake when conditions allow.

Chain O’ Lakes

If ice conditions are decent to good on the Chain, bluegills, yellow bass and a few walleyes will have been taken from Marie. Fair to good action was reported on Pistakee and the south end of Channel Lake. Due to current flow under the ice and some springs, you can go from 5 inches to 1.5 inches in just a few feet on some lakes.

Kankakee River

I’m expecting the river to be still low and clear, but more shoreline ice and ice in the backwaters is forming now. Walleye anglers In Illinois are trying east of Momence and below the Kankakee and Wilmington Dams. Go with a minnow, Mr.Twister Keeper Hook, and a twister tail. Northern pike seem to hang around the state line and Aroma Park Area. A large minnow or spinner is still your better choice. Crappies normally can be found at mouths of ditches, bayous with a pinkie jigs or minnows, even in the cold. Backwater locations have been yielding fish, but always check the ice thickness.

Fox River

The secret in fishing the Fox in the winter is to fish the warm-water outflows from pipes that are dumping water from storm drains or water-treatment plants. The water below the pipes is warmer and draws fish onto them like a magnet. Small walleyes are hitting minnows on a single hook with a split shot set 18 inches above the hook just outside of these current areas. The longer you keep your bait close to the edge of the current below the dams, the more action you should see.

Mississippi River

Ice in the backwaters from Savanna north has been good, but water levels can be low. Bluegill and northern pike have both been improving in deeper pockets, while crappies are slow.


Ice anglers are now walking out to the deep trees in the main lake, looking for walleyes and bass. Bass were active in the north cove near the campground on tip-ups dressed with large minnows. Crappies and bluegill were hitting small, live bait or a jigging minnow.

Illinois River

Saugers are taken near Utica, Peru and Henry this time of year, but fishing pressure was very light. A jig and minnow worked along the bottom is best.

As air temperatures moderate into the weekends, heavier fishing pressure should find a few more saugers on a jig and minnow on the edges of the deeper holes or main river channel. If you find an open boat ramp, I would recommend getting out now!

As you know, I am a 12-month outdoorsman. Should you take your friends and family out, maybe I will see you in the great outdoors of Illinois.