My fishing season officially closed with the first ice-fishing reports. I am not an ice fisherman, but a lot of my friends are, and every year they try to get me out on the ice – to no avail. For those of you who do like to ice fish, I have had reports of strong early ice on the Fox Chain producing some great catches of 9- to 10-inch bluegills this past week, with an occasional walleye and crappie as a bonus.

Be careful this early in the year, and be sure to test any ice before venturing out. I have no reports from the Forest Preserve lakes yet, or from the Lake Geneva area.

As ice fishing gets under way here, I’ll be spending my time making some new fishing lures and jigs for next season, as well as shopping for lures at my favorite tackle stores. This is also the season the sports shows come to the area. The Chicagoland Sports and Fishing Show at McCormick Place usually takes place in January, and later on there is the Chicago Boat Show at Rosemont. These shows, especially the one at McCormick Place, provide a great look at all the new tackle, equipment and boats that are or will be available straight from the manufacturers. The shows offer some good deals on fishing gear and boats and a chance to ask the pros how all the electronics and high-tech gear works.

A lot of resorts show off their facilities at the shows, too. This is a great time to look for family vacation spots – or destinations for trips with fishing buddies. Expect to find information about Canadian fly-ins near the Arctic Circle, marlin fishing in the Florida Keys and casting for peacock bass in Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as hundreds of spots in between. If nothing else, the shows are a great way to dream away a cold Chicago winter day.

Enjoy the holidays and the coming winter weather. I’m off for a few months doing seminars, making lures and planning my 2009 fishing trips. Until April, keep a tight line.

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