Sarley: New to ice fishing? Consider using a guide

That’s it, go ahead and call me a quitter. I am done with open-water fishing for the year. Man, winter really came hard and fast this year and also too darned early. At least it means we should see an early ice fishing season and one that lasts longer than usual, too.

I’ll preview the ice season in the upcoming weeks. It’s coming at us fast. Everyone always talks about how the first ice is the fastest bite of the season. I’m really not sure about that. Fish are easier to find during the first ice, to be sure. I think, however, that the fishing is highly successful because there are so many ice fishermen out there on the new ice as soon as it is safe to walk on. If you are an ice fisherman, you just can’t wait to get out there, can you? More fishermen on the ice means more fish being caught, right?

I hope everyone gives ice fishing a try this season. I’m a big proponent of hiring the services of ice fishing guides to see if you like the sport before going out and spending a ton of money on ice gear. Don’t get me wrong, you can get into ice fishing for very little money if you’d like to go that route. I think using a guide allows you to try out all the best equipment, to see how deeply you’d like to get into the sport.

Trevor James furnished us with an ice fishing report for this column last year through the entire season. For this season, his crew will be operating as Wet N’ Wild Outfitters. In addition to guided ice trips this season, they’ve expanded their rental business to include completely furnished fish houses. has up-to-date info and package information.

T-Bone Guide Service offers their services to people interested in attacking the ice. Chris Taurisano, Lincoln Buchanan, Andy Schiera and Matt Madlener know the Chain as well as anyone and are sure to offer a great day on the ice for prospective clients. To contact T-Bone, call 630-330-9090 or go to


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The ice season is approaching fast. The 10-day forecast calls for temperatures 10 to 25 degrees colder than normal. We could see ice next weekend on the backwaters and ponds. As with all first ice, safety is the priority. Always use caution when ice fishing. For information 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, “Fishing has been decent for panfish in the shallows with plastics and minnows. The bite has also picked up for walleyes. Watch your electronics, and if you are seeing fish, make sure to target them vertically. Muskie fishing has been tough but should pick up very soon.”


Archery deer hunting: Through Sunday, Illinois archery deer hunters harvested 27,635 deer, compared with 25,162 for the same period in 2018. The harvest to-date total has consisted of 56% does and 44% males. The proportion of males in the latest harvest numbers is rising with increased rutting activity. During the past seven days, males comprised 58% of the harvest. The top five counties for archery deer harvest through Sunday were Pike (796), Fulton (756), Jefferson (705), Adams (601) and JoDaviess (575). Some totals for selected northern Illinois counties are McHenry (244), Winnebago (240), Kane (119), Lake (114), Cook (46), DuPage (12), DeKalb (89) and Boone (58).

Fall turkey hunting season: Through Sunday, Illinois archery turkey hunters harvested a preliminary total of 388 birds. This compares with last year’s total of 405 and the five-year average of 368 at the same point in the season. Harvest totals had been slightly less than the five-year average all season, right up until Sunday. The reported harvest to date consisted of 49.9% females and 50.1% males. The reported age distribution of the harvest is 36.3% juveniles and 63.7% adults. The current top counties for turkey harvest were Jefferson (15), Knox (13), Marion (13), Cass (12), Adams (10) and McHenry (10).

Oh my gosh, McHenry County cracks the top five counties. Way to go, turkey hunters.

Muskies Inc.: The Fox River Valley Chapter of Muskies Inc. proudly presents Robert Wilke as its featured speaker at their next meeting Wednesday. The meeting takes place at the Schaumburg Golf Club, 401 N. Roselle Road in Schaumburg. Wilke successfully fishes the Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail with many top-three finishes, including the 2018 State Championship winner and the 2017 State Championship runner-up. Wilke fishes 12 months a year on the Fox River from Batavia to Millbrook. He has spent hundreds of hours mastering a great body of water and will share many of his secrets at the meeting. Meeting admission is $5 a person at the door, and it begins at 7 p.m.

Geneva meeting: All are welcome to attend the Lake Geneva Fishing Club’s next meeting Wednesday. Refreshments begin at 5:30 p.m., and the meeting starts at 6 p.m.. The new site for the club meetings is the Poplar Creek Bowl (enter via the Banquet Entrance) at 2354 W. Higgins Road in the Barrington Square Mall Shopping Center in Hoffman Estates. This meeting is the annual awards banquet with no speaker featured. The meeting is a great place to get together and talk fishing with a great group of guys. All are welcome to attend.

Chronic wasting disease testing: Illinois deer hunters are encouraged to allow samples to be taken for chronic wasting disease testing from adult deer that they harvest.

Check the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for locations that are serving as CWD sampling stations, taking samples from entire deer or deer heads through the end of Illinois’ 2019-20 deer seasons. Local locations include: All-American Taxidermy, Matt Kapraun, 1301 W. Diggins Road in Harvard (815-943-0300). Open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with drop-offs available after hours; Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy, 4419 Route 176 in Crystal Lake (815-455-2040). Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas; Wayne’s County Market, 801 W. Grant Highway in Marengo (815-568-2728). Open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• 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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