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Chase walleye, perch and pike on Chicagon

3/11/2005
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    IRON RIVER, Mich. — No, this lake is not named after Chicago or any people from Chicago. "Chicagon" is a Chippewa word meaning, approximately, "place of trout."

    The Chippewa traveled here during the late fall to get away from the strong winds and bad storms in the Lake Superior area.

    Oh, and they fished for lake trout and other species.

    Their burial grounds are in nearby Pentoga Park, a camping site.

    Today, lake trout are still here in modest numbers.

    However, last fall the DNR planted thousands of lake trout in the 10-inch range and larger, so we'll be looking to more and larger fish in the near future.

    But lake trout are not the most popular species swimming in this 1,100-acre, 115-foot deep, gin-clear lake.

    Walleye are the most popular species, followed by good populations of perch, pike, smallmouth bass and musky.

    Walleye

    "Walleye are present in good numbers and average 18 to 24 inches," said Lance Luckey of Luckey's Sport Shop (906-265-0151).

    He goes on to say that shiners or fat heads work well as bait under tip-ups.

    The locals like to use a heavy Dacron line, something like 30-pound test. Yes, like the kind they use for musky fishing.

    Attach a swivel and 3 feet of mono. Tie a small treble on the end, and hook the treble behind the dorsal fin of your minnow.

    That's the only tip-up you can use should you choose to use a jig pole. Only two lines are allowed in Michigan.

    Fishing out of a portable shack is suggested because of the windy condition that could arise on this big lake.

    It runs north to south, so staying warm will keep you on the fish longer.

    Our gang of locals use a jig pole with large eyelets that don't freeze up in cold temperatures.

    We also use 4-pound test Fireline, which has 10-pound strength.

    Then no leader is needed and you have a low diameter line to fool these wily walleye and good strength to haul up the hole.

    Use a small chartreuse jig or a No. 16 treble hook. Hook on a fathead minnow and you're ready to catch fish.

    The use of a slip bobber is optional, but I like to use one because then you can set your line to stay just above the weeds or rocks and leave it at that depth all day and all night. Saves time.

    The first best spot to try is the golf course reef.

    From the boat landing, travel down the left side of the lake until you hit the first large point. Go left again and stay out from shore. A bay opens up.

    You'll be in 40 feet of water, then up to 20 feet. Look for the spot where shallow water appears on your locator, up to 10, then 5 feet.

    You should mark fish.

    We don't fish on top of the reef; we back off into 8 to 15 feet of water.

    Look for weeds. Drill holes along this ledge and around the inside turn of the ridge if you can find it.

    You should find walleye, perch and pike in this area. Best time is from 4:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., even longer if you can stay warm.

    What keeps you warm is running for þags and lifting up nice walleye in the shack, lot of action on this reef.

    The most popular spot on the lake is where you'll probably see ice shacks. Best time to fish this area is during the week.

    Just move north until you see an A-frame on shore. Move out from this spot and look for a finger to move out towards the middle of the lake.

    With your locator you'll be in 40, then 20 feet.

    Now drill holes when the bottom starts moving up. Put tip-ups along this finger. Cabbage weed will still be present, so look for that and rocks. S

    pread out between 5 and 20 feet and fish for walleye. You'll also have a chance for pike here, too.

    Ask locals or Luckey where the two reed beds are on Chicagon. Of course, you can't see them in the winter.

    OK, one last spot for walleye. This spot is best as you move into March, sometimes April. Don't drive out with a truck anymore.

    Use snowmobiles or 4-wheelers to go to the back end or north end of Chicagon.

    Fish in 3 to 7 feet, spawning will be going on near here, so there will be plenty of action as the water warms.

    Be careful, but when you see open water slightly away from the shoreline, jump over and enjoy the bite.

    Lots of little ones but some keepers will be there too. A legal walleye is 15 inches.

    The best method of fishing here is to move the portable shack along as you follow the schools.

    It's fun, but be careful. Ask around at the bait shops first or use your binoculars.

    Use a spud to see if you have 4 or 5 inches of ice to walk on — solid ice, that is.

    Perch

    Might as well be comfortable when you're out on the ice.

    Nothing like being able to study the behavior of fish while you're fishing for them.

    The dark interior of a portable ice shack allows you all these amenities and warmth too.

    Find a place where you're catching perch and drill two holes apiece.

    Once again, nothing like a slip-bobber and a one-sixteenths-ounce jig or, my favorite, a No. 18 treble hook and a few small sinkers.

    Tip with perch or crappie minnows and you're all set for action.

    OK, now where are our striped friends? From the boat landing, look to your right at the Pentoga Park area.

    It'll be all white now, but you'll see the buildings. Go about 150 yards north and begin drilling holes in 4 to 12 feet, depending on how heavy the weed cover still is.

    Walleye and northerns hang out here, so you know there are perch here too.

    Last ice is a great time for jumbo perch. The locals believe that this is the year for larger perch to be caught.

    Try the area in the back bay, in the far west end of the golf course reef bay, just north of Wagner Creek.

    Also, see if you and your locator can find an inside turn or finger out from the A-frame we discussed earlier.

    It's a 5-foot area surrounded by 10 and then 20 feet of water. This is a super perch producer.

    Of course, there are perch on and off the edges of the finger also. That's what the walleye are looking for.

    Moving up the west side of the lake, you'll see a small bay. Don't go into it all the way.

    Fish the edges of it by working the þat weeds in 5 to 7 feet, and don't forget to work the little point that sticks out.

    Northern pike

    Last year, at the end of February and into March, a couple of "fishbrain" buddies and I just walked out on the ice from the landing.

    We drilled holes in 6 to 20 feet of water and caught northern pike all afternoon.

    Tip-ups with shiners as bait worked well; we had þags all day long. Keep them up 4 feet from the bottom.

    After that, I would try the edge of the cabbage weeds north of Pentoga Park where we just discussed the perch bite.

    Finally, just fish in the locations already discussed, mostly the walleye areas. Look for weeds and you will have northerns.

    Lake trout

    Boy, I'm not a big lake trout fisherman.

    However, once again, look for them in 15 to 20 feet just off the two reed beds and along the east shore where the deep water hugs the shoreline.

    Spread your tip-ups along or west, from 10 to 100 feet. A piece of sucker meat or a big shiner on a Swedish Pimple is very popular.


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