Christopher Smith

Kankakee River Smallmouth Fishing

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I’ve been hearing a lot about Kankakee River smallmouth fishing so I thought I would highlight this fishery in today’s blog post.

The Kankakee river is a popular fishing destination for anglers looking to catch smallmouth bass.

The Kankakee River is a tributary of the Illinois River, approximately 133 miles (214 km) long,[1] in northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois in the United States. At one time the river drained one of the largest wetlands in North America and furnished a significant portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Significantly altered from its original channel, it flows through a primarily rural farming region of reclaimed cropland south of Lake Michigan. Source

Kankakee River Smallmouth Fishing

A 14-pound walleye that has been the state record since 1961. An Illinois record five-pound, 15 1/2-ounce smallmouth bass in 1974. A 20-pound, two-ounce northern pike in 1983. It sounds like a fishing report from a hotspot in northern Canada, but actually it’s a list of trophy catches that have come from the Kankakee River that flows through northeastern Illinois and Will and Kankakee Counties before joining the Des Plaines River to form the headwaters of the Illinois River.

The best smallmouth action occurs in early spring and fall. Spinners, crank baits, jigs and similar artificials are good on the spunky fish, but minnows, worms, frogs and crayfish also can produce. Riffles, creek mouths and fast water below dams are good for “bronzebacks.” Original source

Here are some excerpts of old reports to give you some places to start in fishing the Kankakee:

At the Kankakee River State Park the Smallmouth Bass are good on minnows, plastics and crankbaits.  Try around Nature and Timothy Islands.  Source

 For smallmouth bass along the Illinois stretch of the river, Mullady suggests trying from the Indiana-Illinois stateline through the bends at River Isle, and from Glorydale through Momence.  Source

Momence Area: Smallmouth Bass good on *crankbaits *Mepps #2,3 Spinners *live minnows *Chug Bugs.

Aroma Park section: Smallmouth Bass fair on *minnows *Tiny Torpedo *crankbaits.

Kankakee Dam thru Johnson Fisherman’s Park: *Smallmouth bass good on *Rattlin’ Rogue *Sluggos *Streamer flies *minnows.

Kankakee River State Park: Smallmouth Bass: Good on above mentioned baits.

Wilmington Area: Smallmouth Bass good.  Source

The Kankakee also extends into Indiana and has some good smallouth action there. If you have had experience with Kankakee River smallmouth fishing, please share your experiences here.

5 Responses to Kankakee River Smallmouth Fishing

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  2. Gordon November 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I grew up on the Kankakee River, there is no other like it, it isn’t a tributory of the Illinois, it flows in to it from Indiana vie the Dupage river, it is one of few rivers in the world that runs from the south to the north. If you fish small mouth bass make sure you also include tubes in your arsenal. I take small mouth on them more than any other baits next to a meps or Rooster tail as well as chug bugs and Heddon torpedoes as well, but number one to me is the tube!…I have caught over 50 small mouth over 3 pounds in to 4 pounds in 2012 alone on the tubes alone.

    Reply
    • Christopher Smith November 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Gordon, thanks so much for your input and sharing your experiences on the Kankakee.
      Love the spirit of helping other anglers succeed!

      Reply
  3. Mike Finley June 4, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Where is a good place to go on the kankakee with access, like public boat ramp, gas station, etc?

    Reply
  4. John Miao September 22, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I had a good day floating and fly fishing with Capt. Will of bigriverfly.com

    Biggest was 18″ on one of his crawdad flies. It was a blast on my custom fiberglass 7wt fly rod.

    Good fishing!

    John
    xcaliburrods.com

    Reply

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