SARLEY: Everyone asks, where are the fish?

I’ve spent a lot of time this open water season talking about ways to catch more fish. The question everyone wants an answer to seems to be, “Where the heck do I catch them?”

The simple answer, and one that will anger a lot of you is, “It depends.”

There is no magic answer. It depends on many factors, including your status as to being a boater or being shore-bound. It depends on what you want to catch, what time of day you’d like to go and your willingness to travel.

For me, the easiest way to catch fish is to head to the local housing development or industrial park retention pond. I haven’t ever found one that had decent depth to it, that didn’t have some bass and bluegills.

It doesn’t matter how clear the water is, so don’t walk away from ponds that have stained water. As a matter of fact, these brackish ponds can produce easier success than crystal-clear water.

It’s hard to fish in a pond that has all of the characteristics of a soup bowl. Fish like changes. They like bottoms that go down at irregular paces. They like when two different bottoms meet, like gravel and mud or sand and muck. They like points and bays.

They like when sun meets shade, so a pond with no shore cover can be less productive than a pond edged with a tree or two. Fish like hiding places, so objects in the water often can become ambush points for predator fish. I used to cast to an abandoned shopping cart in 4 feet of water at my local pond and often caught a nice largemouth bass.

Ponds are productive. Try one out and keep your eyes open. A good pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses allows you to see into the water. Look for fish. Look for little breaks on the surface that can either be signs of minnows or feeding fish. If you locate little ones, you can be sure there are big ones around.

As summer gears up with high temps, the fish will move into shore in the early morning and in the evening to feed. Did you ever wonder why you see the shorefishermen casting as far as they can toward the middle of the lake while the boat fishermen cast toward shore? Hmm. I guess that is an example of the old “grass is greener” adage.

The fact is that the shore guys can really do a lot more than the boaters because early and late, the predator fish are feeding just a few feet from the shoreline. Once, I was at a pond and noticed another angler watching me. I was catching quite a few bass. He came over to me and asked what lure I was using. I was throwing something that ran shallow and was casting perpendicular to the shoreline.

I gave him an identical lure to use. He tied it on and began to cast toward the middle of the pond. Ten yards away, I continued to cast close to shore. He was watching me but never seemed to realize that the fish were on the shoreline. He came over and handed me back the lure and said, “This one looks the same as yours, but it must be different.” It wasn’t the lure, it was the location.

Here’s a tip: The most under-fished waters are those managed by the local forest preserve districts. Both, McHenry and Lake counties offer great fishing at their preserve waterways. If somebody tells you that these waters are overfished, don’t believe a word of it. We’ll discuss this more next time around.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The heavy rains have the Fox River very high, fast and muddy. Most fishing gets a little harder under these conditions. Bass can be caught on a Buzzbait and catfish on stinkbait or cut bait. Use an egg sinker so they do not feel the weight when they pick up the bait.

“Bow hunters, it is time to take a few shots every week and get out your trail cams. There are only 95 days left until Oct. 1.”

As of Tuesday, the Upper Fox River, Lower Fox River and Fox Chain were open to boating with no restrictions. For up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River, go to or call 847-587-8540.

Lake Michigan: Captain Bob Rossa of Migrator Charters (, “Fishing on Lake Michigan has continued to be slow this past week. Some Cohoes, kings, steelhead and lakers are being caught, but not in great numbers. Moonshine’s RV Wonder Bread spoon has been a good king and Coho lure. Green and white Spin-N-Glos fished tight to the bottom behind chrome dodgers have taken most of the lake trout. Perch fishing will close for the month of July in Illinois.”

You can call Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Fishing Hotline at 414-382-7920 to hear the latest fishing information for Lake Michigan and its tributaries.

Walleyes Unlimited (Wis.) to host ‘Boat Night & Fish Fry”

Walleyes Unlimited, with about 450 members, is one of the Midwest’s most popular fishing clubs. It runs two meetings a month. In Wisconsin, the group meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Root River Lanes at 7220 W. Rawson in Franklin, three miles west of I-94 on County BB. On July 10, it will host the annual “Boat Night & Fish Fry,”and the meeting will be at M-W Marine, 11901 W. Janesville Road in Hales Corners. “Boat Night & Fish Fry” is one of the most attended and popular of all club activities and is open to all club members and their family members regardless of where they reside. The club starts serving food at 7 p.m., but feel free to arrive early and visit with other club members. The group also wants you to show off your boats, new or old, fish-catching or not. There will be plenty of space and this is the best time of the year to gather them in a group for all to see.

In Illinois, the group meets the last Wednesday of the month at the Gurnee American Legion Hall at 749 Milwaukee Ave. in Gurnee, two miles east of I-94 off Grand Ave. On July 31, there will be a change of venue for the big, “Social Night.” The event will be at the Fox Lake American Legion at 703 N. U.S. Highway 12 in Fox Lake. The fun starts at 7 p.m. and soft drinks are provided and hard beverages are available for purchase. for more information or send an email to club president Keith Hahn at

• Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. Sarley also runs a website for outdoors enthusiasts, He can be reached by email at 

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