Friday, October 11, 2013

Des Plaines River Kayak Northern Pike Fishing

I decided to try for a species I'd never caught from the kayak on Friday, the northern pike.  I had read online that the Des Plaines River has a healthy population but I had never fished it so I didn't really know what to expect. Some recent reports from other kayak fisherman with 10-20 fish days gave me some confidence I at least wouldn't be skunked.
It was strange heading east from Naperville towards the city with my kayak.  The spots I regularly fish from my kayak are always south and west of where I live and I am used to seeing less developed land as I near my fishing spots, not more.  I was already beginning to second guess my decision to fish the Des Plaines as traffic slowed to a crawl on the Eisenhower when I heard on the radio that a body had been discovered the previous night in Thatcher Woods, which happened to be the forest preserve I was headed to.  Perfect.
I was half expecting to find the parking lot blocked off with police tape when I arrived at my put-in location off Chicago Ave.  Fortunately, the only sign anything had been amiss was a CBS Chicago van wrapping up a news piece.
The haul down to the river from the parking lot was a little more difficult than I was expecting, the treks always seem to look easier on satellite imagery.  The river was a pleasant surprise though, visibility was probably about three feet and my first few casts with the spinnerbait sent some small baitfish scattering airborne.  I paddled upstream a bit, the river really looked great, you'd never know you were surrounded by urbanized areas at this spot.

I started getting a few bites almost immediately on the spinnerbait fishing around tree laydowns but I was having trouble getting hooked up.  Eventually, I landed a small northern pike, unfortunately the fish slipped from my grasps before a could snap a picture.  A few casts later, I had a strong hit and then nothing, my line had been cut cleanly, a sure sign of another missed pike.  I paddled over to where I got the bite and could see my bright spinner bait on the bottom about 3 feet down. I rationalized that I've waded in worse and the river wasn't too cold with the warm October we've had thus far so I got in and grabbed it.
I started working my way down stream and started catching some more small pike, still missing about three bites for every hookup.
Typical sized "hammerhandle" Des Plaines River pike.
I tried out a new baitcaster for the first time today as well.  The H2O Xpress Mettle is on clearance right now through Academy for $30 and it worked great.  It was very smooth, no backlashes, and I was able to put my spinnerbait right where I wanted near the laydowns all evening.  Hopefully I'll have the chance to see how it handles some bigger fish later this year.
Putting the "pettle to the mettle" on a Des Plaines River pike.
I eventually worked my way down to the Washington Blvd bridge.  I downsized my spinnerbait from a 3/8 oz model to a 1/8 oz for a while and it seemed to improve my hookup ratio with the smaller pike. The pattern was to fish tree laydowns and log jams that had some decent current working through them.  My final pike was probably the biggest of the day.
This 18" northern came off a man-made stone wall.

I did have one nice pike that looked to be in the upper 20's follow my spinnerbait and take a swipe right at the kayak, so I'm sure there are some nicer pike than what I caught to be had in this area. The river itself is perfect for fishing from a kayak as the current is not so strong that you can't cover some distance paddling upstream if you want and there is plenty of structure to hold fish. I'll definitely fish the Des Plaines River again. I think next time I'll try farther north.

Fish Caught: 7 Northern Pike
Successful Baits:  1/8 to 3/8 oz spinnerbaits(chartreuse and white)
Weather: Mostly Sunny, SE winds 10-15mph, lower 70's
Water Temp: Unknown
River conditions: Semi-clear(~3ft), 160cfs(Riverside)


  1. I'm happy to see people fishing that uses the environment friendly fishing method or non destructive to our fishery resources would it continuous to do. Great!

    Fishing Tips

  2. Nice catches. I'll have to check out the Des Plaines River too. Thanks for the information.