Area report: Anglers on The Move to Find ‘Keepers'

February 08 , 2007
By BOB LAMB / Tribune Outdoors Editor

Ice thickness isn't a concern anymore, but finding enough fish for the fry pan has anglers scratching their heads.

Panfish are being caught throughout the Coulee Region, but anglers are forced to move from one area to another to find “keeper size” bluegills, perch and crappies. Obviously, the best spots are attracting lots of angler attention despite harsh weather the past several days.

“As of last Sunday, there was 14 inches of ice in the bay area of Lawrence Lake and about 12 inches on the north end,” said Donna Boser, at Lawrence Lake Marina & Bait Shop, in Brownsville, Minn. “Full-size trucks are driving up there now.”

Boser sponsored a family ice fishing derby on Lawrence Lake last weekend and despite the wind and cold, she said anglers enjoyed themselves.

The winners were Jason Reggin, with a 10-ounce bluegill, Chuck Kreibich with a 14-ounce perch, Kevin Schroeder with a 2-pound, 13-ounce northern pike and Clayton Hanson with a 1-10 crappie.

“The bluegills were very good over the weekend,” she said. “We also had a few perch caught. It seems as though the northern and crappies are slowing down here, but the bass are biting again.”

Boser encourages anglers to find a 4- or 5-foot basin in the center of the lake or along the weed line edges for the best bite.

Another fishing derby was held on Lake Onalaska last weekend and Tony Christnovich, at Schafer's Boats and Bait on Brice Prairie, said the ice has certainly thickened and is very safe.

“We had about 70 cars and trucks on the ice for the fishing derby,” he said.

Fishing success has slowed, according to Christnovich, but he added that the derby still produced some nice-sized crappies, bluegills and perch.

“No northern were caught, but we did have some bass,” he said.

Blackdeer's, a popular ice fishing spot off Brice Prairie, is producing some larger panfish. Christnovich said red worms or wax worms have been the best bait.

Christnovich said Round Lake in Trempealeau is a good spot to try tip-up fishing for northerns and bass.

“Shiners have been the best bait for northerns, but do not set the shiner to deep. I have found that placing the shiner at about 18 inches below the ice is best,” he said.

Christnovich offers several other suggestions to anglers fishing for northern with tip-ups.

“Let the fish run twice. It's the second run when the northern has the shiner deeper in its mouth,” he said. “Many times, on the first run the northern will drop the shiner and then pick it up on the second run after it has had a chance to turn the shiner around.”

Christnovich also recommends using a steel leader because a northern's teeth will cut through regular line. Steel leader isn't necessary for bass fishing. The hook can also be set on the first run.

Meanwhile, sustained sub-zero temperatures and additional snow cover are having an effect on birds, according to Karen Perry at Wild Birds Unlimited in Onalaska.

“Feeding the birds is even more critical as we experience these extremely cold conditions during which a supply of food can mean the difference between life and death for a bird,” she said. “Ideally, birds should have food available during late afternoon to survive the cold nights, and early morning to replenish their energy supply.”

Food loaded with fat and calories is the best. The best seeds for providing high energy levels are black oil sunflower, striped sunflower and safflower, according to Perry. She said that suet is also a high energy food.

Perry also recommends providing water for birds. Heated bird baths often attract flocks of birds.

The Great Backyard Bird Count, co-sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, is scheduled Friday, Feb. 16, through Monday, Feb. 19. Perry said thousands of individuals, families, schools and organizations are invited to count birds at birdfeeders and in backyards, local parks or other locations. Those tallies are then reported online through the BirdSource web site at This data helps define bird ranges, populations, migration pathways and habitat needs.

“As a sponsor of the Great Backyard Bird Count, we have checklists to help individuals get started counting birds

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