Posted by Andrew Ragas On March - 16 - 2010 0 Comment

My weekly report for the DesPlaines River watershed. Posted every Wednesday in the Chicago Sun-Times, and ever Thursday at Prairie State Outdoors.

March 15, 2010

For the most part, the river is a complete mess and in some places, unfishable. This may turn out to be a good thing for the Pike as they have prime access to the backwaters and any small ditches to complete their spawn – which should conclude at any time now as water temperatures are approaching 43-44 degrees.

At the moment, the river is flowing at 2800CFS, with gauge height at 5.80 as at this writing it indicates in Riverside. From my experience, the river really does not become tolerable for shore fishing unless the gauge drops down to a 4.5, and neither can you really safely wade unless the gauge height falls to a 3.5 to 3.8.

So right now, the options are limited.

However, some fish can still be caught if you know where to go.

Last time I reported, before this past weekend, the river water levels were on the rise and our fishing became limited to the shore, creeks and ditches, and backwaters. At this point, and if you can find access to them whether it be by trekking through the messy shore and flooded woods, I would still concentrate efforts around these areas, especially for Northern Pike.

Before all of this rain came, and one day after my first report of the season was made last week, some fat Pike up to 30-inches were being found – most notably by Dan Sims who caught a 30-inch fish on our flooded shoreline and backwater wade from last Thursday afternoon. Most catches of Pike are being reported in the west and southwest suburbs. A variety of baits have been working such as jerkbaits (x-raps) and smaller sized swimbaits. In addition, the trusty white and gold-bladed spinnerbait and slowly-retrieved  in-line spinner/bucktail with #4-5-6 blades have been scoring up some fish as well.

For most Pike action and numbers, but lacking in size, some anglers are doing alright on small hammerhandles (15-20 inch fish) by drifting shiners below a float through slackwater areas near current. Overall for most Pike, the mid-afternoon through early evening hours seem to have the best window of activity on fish of all sizes.

In addition to the Pike, some Sauger are finally showing up. Takes some searching, but fish up to 18-inches are being found around hard-bottomed areas with moderate current, and are taking jig and grub combinations swum through the lower water column. Once this water recedes to wading levels, the tides will be changing to Walleyes and Sauger because they will be in spawn mode and invading the rocky current areas – (they try like all other fish, but natural reproduction does not exist on the river, with little to no recruitment)

Lastly, from what we witnessed while Pike fishing, Carp are beginning to get very active in the shallow flooded areas of the river and are holding tight to shore in groups. The fishing might be easy for them if you were a Carp angler.

At this moment, I wouldn’t bother with the river until this weekend. But now at least you know that there are some possibilities and prospects for catching fish when the water recedes to safe levels.

See ya out there.


Dan Sims with a 30-inch Pike caught on Thursday, March 11, 2010 / Photo by Dave Mannion


Image of the DesPlaines River before this weekend’s rain. Thursday, March 11, 2010 / Photo by Andrew Ragas

Dave Mannion with a Common Carp that was caught from close to shore. Thursday March 11, 2010 / Photo by Andrew Ragas


A typical sized Sauger caught from high water on jig and plastic. Saturday, March 13, 2010 / Photo by Matt Coppolino

Have any photos or river reports to share? Feel free to submit your contributions to andrew@fishing-headquarters.com and we will showcase them here, and at my blog at Prairie State Outdoors.com.

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