Anglers targeting Fox River for trophy muskie
Outdoor with Mike Norris - April 12, 2002

Three years ago I joked to a colleague that one day we would see anglers throwing large plugs for muskies on the Fox River.

That day has arrived.

With Fox Chain O' Lakes muskies migrating through the locks of the McHenry Dam to lower portions of the Fox River, anglers are now specifically targeting Fox River muskies with oversized lures. The results are impressive.

I recently stopped at a public park along the east side of the Fox River about a half-mile downstream from the South Elgin Dam. Romeo Martinez worked a small spinner through an eddy formed where the river curved around a point. His fishing partner, Bud Tissus, methodically worked a six-inch jerkbait through the same eddy. Martinez was targeting walleyes. Tissus was searching for muskies.

"Some days the muskies are here, and others days they are not," said Tissus. "I live near the river and come down as often as I can. Every once in a while I hook into one."

Jerry Lally, a member of the Elgin-based Fox River Valley Chapter of Muskies, Inc., told me of an incredible stretch of muskie fishing he had on the Fox River earlier this year.

I first crossed paths with Lally on a snowy day last February while driving along the Fox River near Aurora. Despite steel-gray clouds and temperatures below freezing, Lally was standing waist deep in the Fox River in insulated waders casting an eight-inch jerkbait. I stopped to watch him, wondering all along what would drive a sane person to stand and fish in 40-degree water while snowflakes fell on his head.

"Low-light periods with snow seem to the best days to fish for muskies on the Fox River in the winter," said Lally, who has targeted muskies on the Fox River for the last three years.

Lally's results speak volumes.

This past January Lally caught seven muskies from the Fox River ranging in size from 33 to 47 inches. In February he caught one muskie measuring 35 inches. During that two-month stretch he hooked eight more muskies that got off for one reason or another.

Lally's 47-inch Fox River muskie, caught in an eddy formed on the back side of a Fox River island, fell to an eight-inch jointed Depth Raider on Jan. 16. The fish capped a three-day period of muskie fishing that would rival anyone's best efforts.

"I raised the fish on the 14th of January and caught a 43-inch muskie the same day," said Lally. "Then next day I caught a 43 1/4-inch muskie and raised the bigger one again."

With snow falling the third day he finally hooked the big one. But Lally, who releases his muskies, almost lost his chance to photograph the fish.

"I was fishing alone and steered the fish into shallow water," said Lally. "But once I got her into two feet of water she began thrashing back and forth and broke my 50-pound braided line. Fortunately I was able to get my arm under it and scoop her out of the water."

Before releasing the behemoth fish, Lally set his digital camera on top of his tackle box and set the timer for a delayed photograph. He then submitted the photograph to Muskies, Inc. and was awarded the organization's "Lunker of the Month" award.

I recently met up with Lally again and asked him about prospects for muskies on the Fox River for the remainder of this year.

"June and September are traditionally my two best months for muskies on the Fox River," said Lally. "But I may have to rethink that based on the January fishing I had this year."

The waters below the Montgomery and Yorkville Dams of the Fox River areas are two renowned muskie hotspots. Before a barrier net was installed along the face of the Shabbona Lake spillway two years ago, muskies regularly filtered over the dam into Somanauk Creek. Tiger muskies also escaped over the Lake Holiday spillway and into Big Rock Creek. Both creeks empty into the Fox River downstream from the Yorkville Dam.

Illinois Department of Natural Resource regulations generally require both Tiger and Pure Muskies caught in the Fox River which are under 36 inches be released. Site specific regulations require anglers release muskie under 48 inches caught in that portion of the Fox River north of the McHenry Dam and throughout the Fox Chain O' Lakes. The creel limit for muskie in Illinois is one fish per day.

Lally is a member of the Fox River Valley Chapter of Muskies, Inc. which meets at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Ramada Inn in Elgin. For more information on the club, contact Rich Gallagher at (847) 741-9771.

Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at