Plenty of great fishing found at Lake Defiance

I recently told the tale of my day on Lake Defiance. I didn’t talk about the fishing but merely related the tale of how a “big-boned” AARP member almost caused himself a trip to the emergency room because he talked himself into believing he was qualified to row a boat around the lake all day. Well, now, let’s talk about the fishing.

Lake Defiance is part of the complex that includes the McHenry Dam. It is located in the Moraine Hills State Park between Routes 120 and 176, on River Road, which is on the east side of the Fox River. For information, call 815-385-5921 or visit “Fish Tales Concession” on Facebook. You need to check in at the concession stand at the McHenry Dam in order to get a boat for Lake Defiance, or for the dam, for that matter.

The concession stand is run by Travis Schreiber, a 21-year-old McHenry resident. Five years ago, the young entrepreneur heard that the contract for the stand was up for sale. Travis thought that it was a good, viable business opportunity.

He had the knowledge and the drive to believe he could make a go of it. The only thing he lacked was the financial resources needed to buy the business.

He laid out a business plan to his father, who believed enough in him to put down the cash to make Travis’ dream come true.

I got signed up for a boat and was given oars, an anchor and a flotation device and drove over to Lake Defiance. I shoved off and rowed a few strokes down the shoreline. I picked up a medium-weight spinning rod that had a Fish Head Primal Spin Spinnerbait tied onto my line.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that Fish Head is a new advertiser on my We Fish ASA podcast. That said, I had wanted to try Fish Head’s products and bought a few with my own money. There were no freebies here. The lures are a lot like traditional spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and chatterbaits with an additional blade attached. They cast long and run quite true and do not twist on the line.

My first cast produced a northern pike. It was nothing to write home about, but it was a fish. Because the weather had turned unexpectedly foul that Saturday morning, I didn’t really expect to catch anything, to be quite honest. The pike was a pleasant surprise.

I rotated rods between the Fish Head Primal, a silver-and-blue Rat-L-Trap and a Defender jig. The Primal was the only lure to produce any interest. I caught another small northern pike and two small largemouth bass.

Studying a lake map, I concluded that the obvious spots to fish were the mouth of an inlet that is across the lake and to the left if you look straight out from the launch and also an area where shallow water comes up from a very sharp drop-off across the lake from the launch. I caught my other fish along the shoreline near the inlet mouth.

I was excited to see a really large number of beds that largemouth bass had built. Beds are circular areas that are bare-bottomed. The bass clear the areas to lay their eggs. The areas were clear, but the bass had not yet taken temporary residence on the beds. By the number of beds I saw, I figure this lake to be well-populated with largemouth.

I finished my outing very pleased. I caught fish on a day that was anything but promising. I learned about a new bait I had never used before, and it worked successfully.

I have been told that the very fertile Lake Defiance gets covered with weed mats early in the season and can be tough to fish. Well, throwing plastic frogs over the mats is one of my favorite ways to fish, so the thought of going back out when the vegetation grows rampant does nothing but excite me.

I think you may be seeing a lot of me at the McHenry Dam and Lake Defiance during the open water fishing season of 2018.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville are seeing smallmouth bass hitting small crankbaits and spinners. Smallies are catch-and-release until June 15. Catfish can be caught on nightcrawlers or stinkbait.

“McHenry County Conservation District property, Lake Atwood in the Hollows finds their bass are on the beds. If you catch a bass, it should be released as quickly as possible to return to the bed. Bluegill are everywhere and easy to catch. Crystal Lake’s Vulcan Lake at the Three Oaks Recreation Area, fishing has kicked in quite nicely there. This is a no minnows and catch-and-release area. Drop-shot rigs, small crankbaits and stick baits are working well. The Defender jig is also working for bass. For more info on Northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”

Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service ( – 630-330-9090) sends word, “Walleyes on the Fox Chain have picked up well on jigs and on cranks. Panfish and bass are in spawning areas and active. Muskies are coming off their spawn and becoming more active.”

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan Fishing Report is provided by Captain Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters. “The fish are showing up in big numbers. The Migrator departed at

5 a.m. Sunday. At 7 a.m., we did a fish count, and we had 22 coho salmon in the box already. Lots of baitfish, including alewives have shown up, and where the bait goes, the fish follow. The coho seem to be all over the place. Good catches of coho can be found from 10 to 50 feet. However, good numbers are also being caught out in the depths of 160-feet-plus.

“The best rods have been pulling Little Red dodgers with Peanut flies, especially a two-tone. The best spoon for us on a sunny day has been the RV Moonshine Crabface. With the massive amounts of bait showing up, more fish should be showing up as well.

“Fishing is getting hot. If you are thinking of getting out fishing, it’s looking to be a great season. For information about charters, give us a call at 224-234-3704 or check out our website at”


A wildlife reminder: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding Illinois citizens to leave baby birds and wild animals alone.

It is the breeding season, and many well-meaning people believe they are helping by taking possession of young wildlife such as young rabbits, fawn deer, baby birds and other animals that may appear to have been orphaned or abandoned. In nearly all cases, the birds and animals still are being fed and cared for by their parents, which likely stay away from nests or dens if people are present.

It is against the law to keep wild animals as pets, or to raise wild animals believed to have been abandoned.

To learn more about potential wildlife conflicts, and keeping people, pets and wildlife safe, visit the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website at

Some additional reminders about wildlife in Illinois:

• Birds often leave the nest before they can fly. These birds, known as fledglings, will live on the ground for a few days while they grow flight feathers, and you may hear them making noises calling for their parents. They do this so their parents will continue to feed them, and it doesn’t mean they are in trouble. Keep children and pets away.

• Do not attempt to rescue fawns. Fawns stay very still to conceal themselves until they are old enough to keep up with their mother. The mother will not stand near the fawns for fear of alerting predators to their presence. Leave fawns alone, and the mother will return once you leave the area.

• It is illegal to feed wild deer. When deer congregate, it can facilitate the spread of disease and cause other unintended consequences.

• Wild birds and animals can become habituated to people when they are provided food. Do not leave pet food outside at night, clean up under bird feeders, secure the lids on garbage cans to keep raccoons and other wildlife out and don’t feed Canada geese in urban or suburban areas. Nuisance animals can become dangerous to people.

• Handling wild animals can result in the handler being bitten. According to the Centers for Disease Control, wild animals that bite a person must be euthanized immediately to be tested for rabies.

The IDNR urges everyone to enjoy wildlife by observing, but not interfering, and by leaving wildlife in the wild.

• 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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