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Outdoors: Ice fishing off to an uneven start

Updated: January 21, 2014 11:32AM



MOROCCO — Deep splits feather off my thumbnails, others more faintly split from fingernails. It’s that kind of winter: early, snowy and icy. It takes a toll on my hands. I am hitting the green can of Bag Balm (the dairyman’s secret) a month earlier than normal.

On Wednesday, I drilled my first hole of the ice-fishing season on the front at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area.

There’s something therapeutic in drilling a hole in the ice by hand, even through only 5 inches of ice, with my old StrikeMaster Mora. And something incredibly stupid. I heard the quick putter of power augers far out on “The Slough.’’ Power augers allow much quicker and smarter movement for ice fishermen.

In the hour I had, I was only able to test three holes: one I drilled, one old hole I augered out and one where I scraped skim ice off somebody else’s fresh hole. Somebody with a power auger could have done 15 in that time with ease.

It’s been a variable start to ice fishing at “The Slough,’’ which reopened to ice fishing on Saturday. There’s been some bluegill caught, primarily in the channels, and better in the farther back or from the access off Filbert Lane. Nobody was on the front with me, jigging for bluegill.

There’s been a good number of decent largemouth bass caught and a few northern pike on tip-ups. “The Slough’’ is known as the top spot for bluegill, but it is becoming a destination for big pike and bass action.

For now, access is from the front or Filbert Lane (off Patrol Road). Mormon Hill will be closed to ice fishermen, because of deer hunting, through Jan. 5, reopening on Jan. 6.

I am glad I got out Wednesday. Even then, I needed rubber boots because there was some slop on top.

I fear ice fishing will be taken out this weekend across the area. A significant weather event is forecast with the possibility of the equivalent of 2 inches of rain. The big question will be where the line between rain, ice and snow sets up.

Ice fish while you can before Sunday.

Waterfowl: The second duck season opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 29. But considering even the rivers and streams are largely iced over, there is not a lot of hope for duck hunters.

“We got some calls,’’ LaSalle FWA property manager Ken Bisacchi said. “I don’t know what this weather will do.. Right now, if we see any ducks, we are seeing a very small number. Not looking for a great season in last split. Last season, I think we killed like 90 the first day. I don’t expect a repeat of last year.’’

A big rain on Sunday could open up some hope for next week for duck hunters.

As for geese, it has been very limited at both LaSalle and Willow Slough, though dozens of geese are congregated enticingly around the aerators at the launch at Willow Slough.

Deer: The special antlerless deer season, where applicable, opens Thursday. At Kingsbury FWA, during the special antlerless season, Thursday-Jan. 5, the site is limiting the number of hunters (archery or firearm) to 100. With the weather, deer hunting has been slow. Muzzleloader season ends Sunday.

Hunting reminders: Pheasant season ends Sunday, as does quail hunting in the north zone.

Fishing: Ice fishing is the main story. ... But perch continue to be good on the Chicago lakefront, though it is tending toward ice fishing in the harbors now. Ice has been in and out at Navy Pier and the new spot at the slip north of 87th. When the ice is out or can be broken from shore, that slip at 87th has been the top spot. ... Some steelhead are in the streams, where accessible.



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