70th Fisheree could be pike paradise, bass bonanza

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It might take a really nice fish to claim the biggest largemouth bass or northern pike prize at this year’s Prairie du Chien Ice Fisheree because the hard water anglers have been hauling in some big ones in the weeks leading up to the big event. Local angler John Balk holds a 20-inch largemouth he caught on a recent day fishing with tip-ups. He also caught a 34-inch, 15-year-old (est.) northern pike that day. Balk and numerous others have caught bass and northerns about this size, which have been the norm on Gremore Lake as of late. Assorted panfish and some nice walleyes have also added to the excitement. No fish were harmed in the taking of this photo. They were released. (Photo by guide Gary Howe)

John Balk holds the 34-inch northern pike he caught on Gremore Lake recently.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce will welcome area ice fishing enthusiasts to Prairie du Chien for the 70th Annual Ice Fisheree on Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, with headquarters at the Crooked Oar Bar and Marina. Fishing is open to bodies of water in the Prairie du Chien area, with concentration on Gremore Lake. The fishing begins on Saturday at 7 a.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m.

Paul DeVoss, the owner of the Crooked Oar, said he expects an excellent turnout for the 70th fisheree due in part because anglers have been doing very well on Gremore Lake and other areas in recent weeks.

“Everybody has just been having a ball on largemouth bass out here on Gremore Lake,” Paul said. “There have been a lot of anglers, at least 40-50 every day. Many have been catching lots of big largemouth and northern pike. There have been good walleyes caught too. Some were in the 27 to 28-inch range. Fishermen have also been catching bluegills. Most of those were normal size.”

Paul said the excellent fishing may be due in part because of the relatively high and fluctuating water levels.

New this year for the fisheree will be a bait trailer parked in back of the Crooked Oar, said Paul. The trailer will offer all of the popular baits for ice anglers including shiners, minnows and wax worms to name a few.

Paul also noted that the Tiki Bar will be open outside and will have heaters set up for the patrons.

“We really appreciate all of the fishermen and women coming out for the fisheree and for coming in the bar after they’re done fishing,” said Paul.

The prizes for the fisheree seem to get better each year, and Paul said the goal is for a truck to be the grand prize at the 75th annual event.

Registration and raffle tickets for the fisheree are available at the Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce office, the Crooked Oar Bar and Marina, and Stark’s Sports Shop. Raffle tickets are also available at Zinkle’s Piggly Wiggly, and at Crawford County Tavern League establishments. Raffle tickets are $10 each.

Everyone is invited on Friday, Jan. 31 for the Friday Night Fish Fry and 50/50 Drawing held at the Crooked Oar. There will be live music from 8 p.m. - midnight by Mitch Laue and the Bar Flies. The 52-card gun raffle is happening Friday night and all weekend at the Crooked Oar. Call 608-326-2711 for more information.

The Grand Raffle prize is a CF MOTO 500 ATV sponsored by Prairie Motor Sports, Fillback Automotive and the Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce. Other great raffle prizes include a Masterbuilt digital electric smoker, fishing fire ring, $100 in Chamber bucks, fishing merchandise, weekend getaways and more.

The fisheree and registration begins at 7 a.m. Saturday with a delicious hot breakfast served at the Crooked Oar.

Fishing registration stubs will automatically be put in the door prize drawings for up to $1,000 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops-Cabela’s.

Everyone is invited to bring their children to the fisheree on Saturday, Feb. 1 for the Children’s Fishing Expo. The Expo will begin at 11 a.m. for kids 12 and under and will be presented by Dave Koonce. The first 20 kids who register for the Children’s Fishing Expo will receive a free Schooley’s spring bobber pole.

Saturday concludes with the band American Standard performing from 8 p.m. until midnight.

Sunday festivities begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. when the fisheree and door prize winners will be announced. First, second, and third place adult fishing prizes will be awarded, and cash prizes will be  awarded for the kids categories compliments of Frenchtown Sand and Gravel. 

Back by popular demand is the tagged fishing contest. Six species of fish will be tagged and released around the Gremore Lake area allowing participants the opportunity to win $15,000 at this year’s event.

The fisheree is sponsored by the Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council, Fillback Automotive, Prairie Motor Sports, the Crooked Oar Bar and Marina, Stark’s Sport Shop, Supreme Graphics, Bass Pro-Cabela’s and Frenchtown Sand and Gravel.

Visit prairieduchien.org for more information about this year’s event or contact the Prairie du Chien Chamber at 326-8855.

A look back

This being the 70th Ice Fisheree, we will take a little look back at the one that started it all. The first fisheree was sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and headquartered at Gremore Lake on Sunday, Jan. 28. There was a large turnout, but due to very cold temperatures and generally foul weather, the big event was extended to the following Sunday as well, giving the frozen water crowd an extra day not originally planned.

“Fishing, wishing and freezing are the big topics for the VFW fishing carnival Sunday, Jan. 28,” said a preview article in the Wednesday, Jan. 24, 1951 edition of The Courier. “Gremore Lake, site of the big affair, has excellent ice and the past snows make walking easier. Many fine awards have been obtained by the prize committee of the local Tyler-Portwine Post.”

“Competition will start at 10 a.m. central standard time and no cheating as during duck season will be allowed,” the story continued. “Holes may be opened any time before the signal gun sounds. No lines will be allowed until the official time. Fish will be weighed not measured so load them with shot and the judges will have to clean them for you to prove elimination. Don’t do it on the small ones though.”  

The story went on to say, “Hot lunches will be served in the warming shanty and river bottom anti-freeze for fish or man will probably be prevalent in the vicinity.”

“Awards for the heaviest game fish will be a rod and reel tackle box with assorted baits. Heaviest sunfish will take home a fly rod, reel and assorted flies. Catcher of the crappie tipping the scales the hardest will lug a minnow bucket, spud, hunting knife and some baits. Second places will be given in each division. The first fish pulled in will warrant a spud.”

The Jan. 31 article in The Courier stated, “A nice turnout braved the elements for awhile then headed for the warm-up shack for coffee and quarters next to the stove.”

“J.R. Hood of Patch Grove caught the first and biggest fish for the day. Nice fourteen inch largemouth bass of 1 lb., 7 oz. and not stuffed with shot either.”

“Dick Markham showed his dad George the right way by the use of the worm. His large sunny will take an award for sure unless they start bringing them up the size of plates.”

It was noted in the Feb. 7 edition that J.R. Hood took honors for the largest fish. Joe Costgriff of Interstate Power took several places in both game and sunny class. Chuck Kezel won the award for the nicest looking set.

In his regular column on Feb. 7, Bill Howe noted, “Luck was generally poor if you were one of those hapless chaps who chopped holes all day Sunday. Saturday the ice below the roller gates was opening up for a fair number of walleyes and sand pike. These Sabbath sportsmen worked hot and hard for the small catches taken anywhere. Gremore was poor and has been most of the season. Pickerel Slough was hitting on crappies though nothing to make headlines. The biggest congregation of men was at the dam as per usual. Counts ranged from 112 to 163 at different times during the day.”

All in all, the Sabbath anglers who partook in the first ever Prairie du Chien Ice Fisheree on consecutive Sundays in January and February 1951 obviously found it to be quite worthwhile, and thus, it has continued unabated for the past 70 years and counting.

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