This is normally the time of the year to discuss holiday shopping for the fisherman on the gift list. However, the weather has been so mild that fishermen are still busy enjoying their sport and are finding it hard to think about shopping. The warmer weather has brought improved fishing conditions, with the bass, bluegills and crappies all feeding up for the coming of the hard water days ahead. And with weeds all but gone, lures are not getting tangled and are running better. The reports from around the area have been really exceptional. In most bodies of water – even the Skokie Lagoons, which were pretty quiet this season because of the weed growth – the weeds are now down, and catches of nice largemouth bass have been really great.

Reports are that the bass are hanging at the edge of the drop-offs in 5-7 feet of water, mostly on the windswept shoreline. Beck Lake in Glenview is still producing some nice bass catches, with the average size fish at 15-17 inches. The guys at Beck Lake said the most successful lures were chatter baits, which the fish were chasing very aggressively. Busse Lake has been reporting numerous catches of nice largemouth bass on shallow diving crankbaits. The bass were reported to be biting aggressively but not showing much fight after the catch, probably because of the colder water.

The Fox River is alive and well, and reports of large catches of nice bluegills have been coming in, with the hot baits being maggots and wax worms. This is unusual, because normally the best bait this time of year would be minnows. The reports are saying that the good spots are producing 30-40 fish in an hour, not bad fishing. Lake Geneva has slowed down quite a bit, though some catches of smallmouth in deeper water are still being reported.

Just a bit of advice for those who are still dropping a boat in the water at a boat ramp: This time of year the air temperature can change rapidly over the course of the day, and winds can pick up as well, so a damp boat ramp can become an ice skating rink in short order. One recommendation is that fishermen carry a supply of sand and rock salt in their tow vehicle so they can actually get up and down the ramps when they want to. We will try for the holiday shopping list next time. Until then…keep a tight line.

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