Sarley: Exploring a few more good spring fishing spots

I believe I still owe you kind folks a few more suggestions for good spots that offer spring fishing in the area. I’m keeping this to places where an angler can reach the water on foot or where watercraft may be available for rent. People with boats generally know where they intend to fish.

It’s funny, but this time of year is better for bank fishermen than boaters, anyway. I get a kick out of seeing shore fishermen trying to cast out as far from shore as they can while boaters are casting into shallow water. The shallow water is where the action is happening so keep your presentations close to the banks these days.

Before I begin, reader Pete Krawczyk rightfully took me to task. “Let’s hope no one listens to your advice in the paper and fishes with “waxies or crappie minnows” as ‘All anglers on District sites are limited to only two fishing devices and the use of live bait (minnows) is prohibited.’ Oops! Thank you, Pete.

I hope the weather changes into more typical patterns or we may be missing our spring fishing altogether.

A real sleeper that I have never tried is the Des Plaines River in Lake County. I’ve never invested the time to find open public access but have read reports of large pike near shore on downed timber. I may have to finally give this a try and throw some spoons and spinnerbaits and see if I can come up with something.

I have fished at the Chain O’ Lakes State Park and have always enjoyed it. The official address is 8916 N. Wilmot Road in Spring Grove. Boats, with and without motors are available for rent, as are canoes. Fishing from shore is dicey because of vegetation growth and soft ground that challenges your footing.

It’s a short paddle or row to some of the best walleye spots in our area. There are some productive flats to the south and access to a good fish-holding bridge is close by. A simple lead-head jig tipped with a minnow or crawler has caught plenty of fish in this area over the years. Catfish in this area will also eagerly inhale a crawler rig, as well.

Another spot that I have neglected for a couple of years is the McHenry dam. It’s located in the Moraine Hills State Park between Routes 120 & 176, on River Road, which is on the east side of the Fox River. The McHenry Dam is a great place to fish. No matter what kind of fish you are in pursuit of, the dam can offer good action. It offers flathead cats, channel cats, stripers, walleyes, largemouth and smallmouth bass, the occasional muskie, walleyes, drum, monster carp and various other species.

Unfortunately, the water is exceptionally low right now. We really need some rain to activate the fish on our rivers. Then, after the inevitable rains, the water will probably be too fast for a day or two and we have to wait for it to calm down.

There is ample available space at the dam for shore fishermen. Boats are available for rent and boaters are the ones who do the best for walleyes and the big, big channel cats. Bait is available on site.

Moraine Hills State Park is also home to Lake Defiance. This is a 46-acre gem that I have not been to in quite a while but plan on visiting really soon.

Lake Defiance has a good population of largemouth bass and northern pike and is hardly fished at all. You cannot fish from shore because the shoreline is all a soft peat-like material and you would sink in to your knees if you attempted it. You can use a carry-in boat, canoe or kayak to fish. They have boats available to rent, too.

I think this would be an ideal place to hit once the thermometer hits the 60. I’d try spinnerbaits or chatterbaits.

Laker Defiance becomes covered with vegetation mats very early in the season and people tend to avoid it. I think it would be a really good spot to try surface fishing with frog baits when that condition arises. Punching through the mats with heavy jigs might be a good plan, too. We’ll have to try it and talk about that as the situation comes up.


Spring is coho time. Most people will tell you that the coho salmon is the best tasting fish that swims in Lake Michigan. Spring is the time when a good charter captain should be able to put you on a limit of fish in quick order.

If you're looking to get out on Lake Michigan early this season, there's no better way to go than with captain Caleb Weiner at Migrator Charters. Wiener's first charter is happening this week and he should be providing us with his first weekly Lake Michigan fishing report next week.

To contact Weiner, check out www.migrator or on Facebook. You can also call Weiner at 815-338-8093. I need to call him myself, but first I have to tell Mrs. Sarley to make plenty of room in our freezer.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The calendar says April, but Mother Nature says winter-like weather. The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville all have low water and we are in need of warm spring rains. Crystal Lake’s Three Oaks Recreation Area is a gravel pit lake and this water needs a couple of warmer weeks to get it going. The McHenry County Conservation District area, the Hollows, is the bright spot as Lake Atwood is a put-and -take lake stocked with trout. Saturday is opening day. Use small spinners, spoons or prepared dough bait for trout. For more info on Northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”


Wisconsin elk hunting: I was so happy about my support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation when I received the announcement that Wisconsin was issuing tags for its first elk hunting season in fall 2018. Imagine going from zero elk in the state to a population healthy enough to support a hunt, even if it is only for 10 tags. This is a terrific example of what can be done though the hard work of conservation groups and their members and volunteers.

Lake Geneva Fishing Club: All are welcome to attend the Lake Geneva Fishing Club’s next meeting on April 11 with refreshments beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting at 6 at the Cabela’s store located at 5225 Prairie Stone Parkway in Hoffman Estates.The speaker will be an excellent one, Mark O’Neill from and his talk will be on, “Adapting to the Ever-Changing Lake Geneva.” Nonmembers are assessed a $10 charge per meeting. The club offers a chance to learn about Geneva Lake through club outings and by fishing with members that have fished the lake for many years.

2018 licenses: Don’t forget to buy your 2018 Illinois fishing, hunting and sportsman combination licenses now from DNR Direct license and permit vendors throughout Illinois or online through the IDNR website at The new license year in Illinois began on April 1, and 2018 licenses are valid through March 31, 2019.

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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