MIDWEST REGIONAL

Quail in Oklahoma, Red Lake Crappies in Minnesota, Fox Chain Icefishing in Illinois, Plenty of Lake Trout in Michigan and more.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Truman Lake
Early-season game plan
**Missouri **Until water temperatures reach the mid-50s, pre-spawn bass will stage on main-lake cove mouths.

Target channels carved into cove bottoms by the impoundment's tributaries. A good lake map will identify the best channels, which will feature 45- to 60-degree slopes and nearby rock and gravel. Go with jigging spoons on heavy line, up to 25-pound-test, in three to eight feet of water where channels swing close to banks. A good alternative is to "walk" stickbaits from shallows into deeper water along channel slopes near timber. Blue/black is effective now. Rig with 15-pound-test. As waters warm, or rains raise levels, bass will move deeper into coves. Add spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and tubebaits to the repertoire then. Contact: Fred Baraks Guide Service (660-438-2011; www.bassnedge. com/baraks). -John Haughey

Higgins Lake Trout
Go deep for twenty-pounders
Michigan February is the Holy Month for lake trout fanatics like Dave Jackson. Owner of the Sports Barn in Roscommon, Jackson divides time between his tackle shop and nearby Higgins Lake. The 9,600-acre lake has a solid reputation for producing hard-water lakers and Jackson chases them whenever he can.

"It's not an easy lake to fish," he says. "But there are fish over twenty pounds out there. The average laker weighs about eight pounds. People who put in their time can get into some nice ones." Jackson looks for lakers in deep holes ranging from 75 to 135 feet deep. "You can catch some perch, too, if you stay a little more shallow," he says. "If you want just lake trout, fish deep."

Jackson likes to watch a tip-up while jig-fishing. (You are allowed two lines.) He rigs his tip-up with 20-pound-test Dacron line tied to an egg sinker, then runs a section of mono (8-pound-test maximum) from the sinker as a leader. Baitfish, like gray shiners, on treble hooks are the medicine on Higgins.

Jig-fishing is catching on in popularity on Higgins, according to Jackson. "A pearl- or iridescent-colored Swedish Pimple about three and a half inches long tipped with a shiner can be good. The best color jig depends on the day and who you ask."

Contact: The Sports Barn (517-821-9511). -Scott Bestul

Fox Chain Icefishing Action
Options abound within an hour of Chicago
Illinois Less than 50 miles from the Windy City, Fox Chain O'Lakes is northwestern Illinois's most diverse winter fishery. Several species including walleyes, pike, bass, panfish, yellow bass and catfish all are possible catches through the ice in February and March.

A network of connected impoundments and natural lakes along the Fox River in Lake and McHenry counties, the Fox Chain includes nine major lake basins linked by a series of channels. The system's epicenter is 2,793-acre Chain O'Lakes State Park in Spring Grove. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline in the park, it provides the best public access. Different lakes in the chain offer different challenges.

Channel, Marie and Petite lakes are best bets for walleyes with live bait on tip-ups or jigging sticks near weed edges and pockets on flats. The bite is generally better at night, but walleyes can be caught anytime by cold-footers fishing current eddies in channels between lakes. The more mobile you are, and the more ice you cover, the more likely you are to score.

Marie Lake, with its 400 acres of gravel bottom, provides outstanding winter walleye habitat. For yellow bass, go with small jigging Rapalas and bladebaits off Bald Knob Point on Pistakee Lake and in Minneola Bay on Fox Lake.

Contact: Chain O'Lakes State Park, Spring Grove (847-587-5512); Greg Dickson's Triangle Sports & Marine, Antioch (847-395-0813); Chandler's Bait & Tackle, Inc., Round Lake (847-526-8217); Jim's Bait andackle, Fox Lake (847-587-4588); Larry's Bait & Tackle, Beach Park (847-872-0805). -J.H.

** Red Lake Crappies**
Being mobile is key to your limit of fish
Minnesota The booming crappie population on Red Lake is no longer the Midwest's best-kept secret, but that doesn't stop fishermen from making the trip. Drill a hole in the right spot, and you could catch a limit of 15 fish on any given day. Eric Bieberdorf is proof; the school teacher from Bemidji has been known to make the one-hour drive to the lake after work. "That puts me on the ice just before sunset," he says, "which is about perfect timing."

Icing Red Lake crappies is all about location, according to Bieberdorf. "The lake is like a big, shallow bowl with very little structure. You need to move around until you find fish. When we locate a good area, we mark it on our GPS so we can return."

Bieberdorf uses jigging rods rigged with 6-pound-test monofilament. "Glo-jigs in pink and lime green work well," he says. "You hold them up to a light source and they glow for a while. Jigging spoons and lures like the Swedish Pimple can also be effective. Also, power augers are a must; the ice is very thick and you need to move around until you find fish."

Contact: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (651-296-6157). -S.B.

Sooner Quail Country
The winged wonders are still plentiful in the northwest
Oklahoma With more than 8 million acres of grassland, it's not surprising that quail find northwestern Oklahoma to their liking. Although numbers of bobwhite, blue and scaled quail have declined statewide in the last decade, game-bird populations in Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woods, Dewey, Woodward, Ellis and Roger Mills counties remain stable and continue to provide good hunting opportunities, especially for those willing to hit the prairies for midwinter action before the season closes February 15.

Oklahoma's best quail hunting is found north of I-40 in the Panhandle and northwestern stretches of the state. The best public lands are the mixed-grass and sand-sage uplands on the western end of 16,775-acre Canton Wildlife Management Area in Blaine and Dewey counties, and the rolling sand hills and river bottom on 5,500-acre Fort Supply WMA in Woodward County. Perhaps the state's best quail shooting can be found in the wide-open short-grass prairie of Cimarron County on the western end of the Panhandle. The best public-hunting bet here is 15,240-acre Rita Blanca WMA. Nearby Cibola National Forest and Rita Blanca National Grasslands offer additional opportunities, while Lake Carl Etling on Black Mesa State Park provides some of the state's best winter fishing for stocked trout.

The daily bag limit for quail is 10, with 20 in possession for the season. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation produces a map booklet with illustrations and descriptions of public-hunting areas. This atlas is available for $10 at the Oklahoma City office or may be obtained by mail for $15 by writing to the department.

Contact: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (1801 North Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4998; 405-521-2739); Canton WMA (580-541-5346); Rita Blanca WMA (806-339-5175); Fort Supply WMA (580-334-0343). -J.H.

Spring Snow
Watching the weather
** South Dakota** March can bring blizzards-great flocks of snow geese-to South Dakota. So gear up for the conservation order hunt designed to trim their numbers. "Peak migration is typically between March 10 and 20," says Spencer Vaa, state waterfowl specialist. "The migration follows the snow line, so the weather has a big effect on when the birds arrive and how long they stay."

Vaa says the eastern third of the state offers the best hunting opportunities. "If you draw a line from Yankton north to the towns of De Smet, Clark and up through Aberdeen, then hunt anywhere within seventy-five miles east or west of that line, you should be into birds."

Electronic calls and large decoy spreads are very effective. Scout diligently to locate active feeding areas. "Pass-shooting and sneaking up on feeding flocks can also result in birds, but it's really important that hunters clearly identify their targets. Snows, blues and Ross's geese are the only legal species in the light goose season," Vaa notes.

Daily updates on the migration progress are posted on the Game and Fish Web site. Contact: South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (605-773-3485; www.state.sd.us/gfp). -S.B.

**Illinois **
Lake of Egypt Open-Water Crappies: This cooling lake south of Marion off I-57 rarely freezes, providing year-round opportunities for open-water bass, catfish and crappies. Your best bet now through late winter is with fuzzy-tail grubs dangled about four feet below a float on north-side coves near buoy lines. Contact: Cooksey's Marine Sales & Bait, Marion (618-993-3366); Dunn's Sporting Goods, Marion (618-997-3626).

Snow Geese: Action heats up as the birds head north from Louisiana and Texas. Concentrate on the Central Zone, where a string of power-plant lakes draw waterfowl. There are many private daily-fee lands to hunt with limited public hunting areas throughout the region. Contact: Banner Marsh, Canton (309-647-9184); Marshall Fish & Wildlife Area, Lacon (309-246-8351); DePue/Donnelly FWA (815-447-2353); Shelbyville WMA (217-665-3112).

Key Dates
March 31: Conservation order snow goose seasons end statewide.

Indiana
Marsh Bluegills: Fish the north end near the inlet, focusing on current breaks and island structure for bluegills to 10 inches on this Steuben County lake. Rig up a bobber, yellow 2-pound-test and a clear leader with tiny jigs or flies tipped with spikes or mousies. The lake is on Marsh Lake WMA so it has great access and parking. Combine your trip with a hunt for red or gray foxes. Contact: District 2 fisheries biologist Neil Ledet (219-829-6241); Lonnie's Bait & Tackle, Elkhart (219-264-6169); Fremont Bait Supply, Fremont (219-495-5701).

Patoka Crappies: Offer No. 2 or 3 Rapala ice jigs for crappies on this 8,800-acre impoundment in Dubois, Orange and Crawford counties. Use fingernail-size slip bobbers and tip ice jigs with wax worms, mousies, golden grubs and pieces of worms. The lake is heavily stocked with striped bass and walleyes, but most icefishing is focused on red-hot crappies. The state operates four recreation areas on Patoka. Small-game hunting is permitted. Contact: Fisheries biologist Brian Schoenung (812-279-1215); guide Tim Gibson, Paoli (812-936-3382).

Key Dates
February 28: Red and gray fox ao the towns of De Smet, Clark and up through Aberdeen, then hunt anywhere within seventy-five miles east or west of that line, you should be into birds."

Electronic calls and large decoy spreads are very effective. Scout diligently to locate active feeding areas. "Pass-shooting and sneaking up on feeding flocks can also result in birds, but it's really important that hunters clearly identify their targets. Snows, blues and Ross's geese are the only legal species in the light goose season," Vaa notes.

Daily updates on the migration progress are posted on the Game and Fish Web site. Contact: South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (605-773-3485; www.state.sd.us/gfp). -S.B.

**Illinois **
Lake of Egypt Open-Water Crappies: This cooling lake south of Marion off I-57 rarely freezes, providing year-round opportunities for open-water bass, catfish and crappies. Your best bet now through late winter is with fuzzy-tail grubs dangled about four feet below a float on north-side coves near buoy lines. Contact: Cooksey's Marine Sales & Bait, Marion (618-993-3366); Dunn's Sporting Goods, Marion (618-997-3626).

Snow Geese: Action heats up as the birds head north from Louisiana and Texas. Concentrate on the Central Zone, where a string of power-plant lakes draw waterfowl. There are many private daily-fee lands to hunt with limited public hunting areas throughout the region. Contact: Banner Marsh, Canton (309-647-9184); Marshall Fish & Wildlife Area, Lacon (309-246-8351); DePue/Donnelly FWA (815-447-2353); Shelbyville WMA (217-665-3112).

Key Dates
March 31: Conservation order snow goose seasons end statewide.

Indiana
Marsh Bluegills: Fish the north end near the inlet, focusing on current breaks and island structure for bluegills to 10 inches on this Steuben County lake. Rig up a bobber, yellow 2-pound-test and a clear leader with tiny jigs or flies tipped with spikes or mousies. The lake is on Marsh Lake WMA so it has great access and parking. Combine your trip with a hunt for red or gray foxes. Contact: District 2 fisheries biologist Neil Ledet (219-829-6241); Lonnie's Bait & Tackle, Elkhart (219-264-6169); Fremont Bait Supply, Fremont (219-495-5701).

Patoka Crappies: Offer No. 2 or 3 Rapala ice jigs for crappies on this 8,800-acre impoundment in Dubois, Orange and Crawford counties. Use fingernail-size slip bobbers and tip ice jigs with wax worms, mousies, golden grubs and pieces of worms. The lake is heavily stocked with striped bass and walleyes, but most icefishing is focused on red-hot crappies. The state operates four recreation areas on Patoka. Small-game hunting is permitted. Contact: Fisheries biologist Brian Schoenung (812-279-1215); guide Tim Gibson, Paoli (812-936-3382).

Key Dates
February 28: Red and gray fox a