Kenosha County, Wisconsin
By Ken Poor
Southern Wisconsin has so many good lakes to fish that it would be a tough call to pick “the best one”. If I did, certainly Lake Elizabeth in Kenosha County would be close to the top of my list. Lake Elizabeth, also called Lower Twin, has a strong population of largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. Walleye and smallmouth bass can also be taken, but they are less abundant and present more of a challenge than some of the other species. Fast action and the uncertainty of what will hit your lure on the next cast makes this a very exciting lake to fish.
Lake Elizabeth is located in southwest Kenosha County on the Wisconsin/Illinois State line. The very southern tip of the lake is in Illinois. Highway 50 is about 15 minutes north of the lake and Route 173 is 5 minutes south of the lake. County Road EM (also called East Lake View Drive and Lake Shore Road) runs along the east side of the lake.
The business district in the Village of Twin Lakes is located on the northwest side of the lake. Throughout the summer months there is a strong influx of tourists, pleasure boats, and water skiers, to the area. Most of the recreational activity centers on Lake Mary (Upper Twin) and for this reason Lake Elizabeth (Lower Twin) is normally a better choice for fishermen, specifically on week days.
Plant growth, bottom composition, and water clarity are all important consideration when fishing 637-acre, Lake Elizabeth. Maximum depth is 32-feet and the water is relatively clear. The clear water allows deep light penetration and as a result there is a good variety and quantity of plant growth in the lake. Plant growth is the primary fish holding cover on the lake.
The south end of the lake has a combination of sand, peat, or muck bottom and is a large, shallow, heavily vegetated flat. The north and west shore has numerous weed beds separated by patches of sand, gravel or muck.
Bottom composition along the east shore is primarily gravel and this stretch of shoreline has sharper drop-offs than most other sections of the lake. Weedbeds are also plentiful along this side of the lake.
Inside weed lines are practically non existent in the south half of the lake and only a few small ones can be found in the north or east end. Deep weed edges generally follow the 10 to 14-foot contour line and a good pair of polarized glasses is all you should need to locate them. Numerous patches of low growing plant weed beds extend out from the deep weed edges and this is a very important fish holding area.
Typically, this low growing vegetation reaches a depth of 14 to 16-feet, but in a few places along the northeast side of the lake you can find it as deep as 20-feet. The easiest way to locate this deep plant growth is with a fish locator.
If you don’t have a locator try working different sections of the lake with a deep diving crankbait. Often times I will use this method to check bottom composition, determine the type of plant species in an area, locate deep cribs or brush piles, and to verify what I am seeing on my locator.
The launch ramp is located at the Sand Bar and Island Grill on the southeast side of the lake on County Road EM. For additional information about the launch ramp call the Sand Bar and Island grill at 262-877-9500. Parking for vehicles with trailers is in available and there is a fee for use of the facilities. Boats, paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and wave runners can be rented at the launch ramp. For additional rental information call 888-251-2628.
A second public launch ramp is located on the west side of the lake, but parking is very limited and the ramp is more suited for launching a car top carry-in or a canoe. I would not recommend its use for launching a boat from a trailer.
The Illinois/Wisconsin border crosses the extreme south end of the lake and if you cross the border you are required to have the correct state fishing license. Part of this area is also a private hunt club and should be avoided unless you are a member.
When operating a boat on Lake Elizabeth, pay attention to the Warning Buoys. Several places on the lake are marked with these buoys as No Wake Zones and Navigation Hazards. Lake restrictions and fishing regulations are posted at the launch ramps. If you are not familiar with Wisconsin boating or fishing regulations and would like information about them, contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at 1-888-936-7463.
Largemouth bass are the primary game fish during the open water season, but other species such as bluegill, northern pike, and catfish deserve mention. During the ice fishing season anglers catch good numbers of crappie in the north end of the lake.
Every year Lake Elizabeth produces several “wall hanger” bass, northern pike, and an occasional big walleye. In my opinion, the real strength of this lake is the “fast action” it provides on a variety of medium and small game fish.
The following list is my evaluation of the various species found in the lake and is based on my personal observations, conversations with anglers who fish the lake on a regular basis, and data provided by the WDNR.
Largemouth Bass – Good Size – Good Numbers
Smallmouth bass – Good Size – Good Numbers
Walleye – Fair Size – Fair Numbers
Northern Pike – Fair Size – Good Numbers
Catfish – Excellent Size – Very Good Numbers
Crappie – Good Size – Good Numbers
Bluegill – Fair size – Excellent numbers
Rock Bass – Fair Size – Fair Numbers
Perch – Good Size – Good Numbers
Panfish will hold along weed edges and in the deep weed pockets. Good areas to check include, outside the channel entrances on the west side of the lake and lily pads in the south end of the lake. Work these areas with slip-bobbers and small ice fishing jigs tipped with grubs, pieces of night crawler, or crickets.
Largemouth bass will take a variety of surface and deeper presentations. Small (3 to 4 inch), silver/black, floating minnow imitators such as a #7 Rapala, twitched on the surface close to weeds is a very effective early morning or evening presentation.
Midday (9 AM to 3 PM) concentrate your efforts along the outside weed edges and the low growing deep weed patches adjacent to these areas. Perch colored, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inch, wide body, floating crankbaits with rattles are a good choice for this type of action.
When selecting your crankbaits for this technique it is normally a good option to start with a deep diving model that will reach a depth of at least 14-feet. Try a variety of different retrieves including pause-pull, fast, slow, or ripping it through the weeds.
Crankbaits can be worked on spinning gear, but my recommendation is a 6-1/2 or 7-foot, medium/heavy bait-casting rod with a soft tip. Spool your reel with a high quality 14-pound test (or heavier) monofilament line or a comparable braided line. Normally I will use a snap or snap-swivel with crankbaits. If you prefer to tie your line directly to the lure, either remove the split-ring or check your line for nicks every few cast.
Smallmouth bass action is best early mornings and late evenings. Cast small, straight shaft, black/yellow spinners parallel to deep weed edges and control the speed of your retrieve so that it is just above the tops of submerged vegetation.
Most of the northern pike I catch on this lake are incidental fish taken on bass presentations. Lake Elizabeth does produce some big pike, but most of these fish hold in deep, open water and can be tough to locate.
One of the techniques I have found effective for bigger northern pike, on Southern Wisconsin lakes, is vertically jigging large light weight silver spoons in or just below schools of suspended bait fish. A fish locator is the most efficient way to locate the schools of bait-fish.
Walleye and catfish hold on or close to the low growing weeds just off the deep weed edges and are most active at night. Drift these areas with a slip-sinker rig, on the bottom, dressed with a leech or night-crawlers. A medium action, 6 to 7-foot spinning rod and a reel spooled with 8-pound test line is a good choice for this type of action.
The techniques and locations I’ve mentioned in this article are intended to get you started fishing on Lake Elizabeth. Experience will help you refine these methods and locate the most productive areas. The first time you feel one of Lake Elizabeth’s heavy weights on the line, you’ll call it time well spent.