Multi-species bonanza: shallow, fertile Coon Lake
By Glen Schmitt
At more than 1,200 acres in size, Anoka County’s Coon Lake is one of the area’s larger bodies of water. It’s also a relatively shallow and fertile fishery, which are key ingredients for its various fish species to grow a bit faster than they do in other East Metro lakes.
Panfish, largemouth bass, and northern pike are primary targets for anglers who frequent this East Bethel lake. According to T.J. DeBates, DNR east metro fisheries supervisor, it’s always kind of been that way, even though a fishable population of walleyes exists in it as well.
“Historically, Coon has been a good bass lake during the summer and always a solid panfish and pike fishery in the winter,” DeBates said. “It’s not unlike many lakes we have in this area – it’s another one of those traditional metro panfish, bass, and pike lakes.”
The lake’s bluegills and crappies do receive a fair amount of fishing pressure, and as DeBates stated, there’s an emphasis on winter fishing activity for them. Its proximity to larger metro cities also draws quite a few anglers from beyond the East Bethel area.
What they catch are nice panfish, not slab-sized bluegills and crappies, but respectable fish that are big enough for the table. The most important factor when it comes to Coon Lake’s panfish, is probably that there’s a lot of them.
During a 2019 DNR survey, the majority of ’gills sampled were between 5 and 7 inches in length, with a few fish over 8 inches present. Trap nets averaged 93 bluegills per set, up from 30 per net in a 2015 survey.
Crappies are less abundant than bluegills, but their overall numbers remain strong. You can expect a whole bunch of crappies around 7 inches long and plenty of fish to keep at, or slightly over, 9 inches in length. The largest crappie sampled in 2019 measured 11 inches.
“We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary for panfish in the last survey,” DeBates said. “For an east metro lake, numbers and mean length for both (bluegills and crappies) looked pretty good.”
With an abundance of vegetation, most of it in less than 15 feet of water, there’s no shortage of locations to fish for largemouth bass. Local bass anglers are drawn to Coon Lake for two reasons: good numbers and plenty of room to fish.
While this lake likely won’t kick out many trophy-caliber bass, it does provide the opportunity to catch a wide range of sizes. DNR electrofishing work in 2019 yielded 21 bass per hour with fish up to 19 inches in the mix.
“Coon has excellent bass habitat and with it being a larger lake, it’s appealing to anglers because you can spread out,” DeBates said. “There are nice bass in there. A good chunk of them are between 15 and 19 inches in length.”
The lakes northern pike population crept up a bit from the last survey with gill nets averaging almost 11 pike per set in 2019. But that’s still in the ballpark with long-term averages for this type of lake.
Average size was just shy of 22 inches, but pike over 30 inches were present. Coon is one of those lakes that produces plenty of northern pike numbers and a few larger individuals.
Walleyes are stocked annually with some combination of yearlings, fingerlings, and adults. DeBates prefers the larger ’eyes for stocking purposes due to the abundance of pike.
There’s also a 17-inch minimum length limit on Coon Lake that anglers need to be aware of. It’s been in place since 2009.
“You’ll hear an occasional report of decent walleye fishing out there,” DeBates said. “Those stocked fish provide some opportunity, with windows of better (walleye) fishing.”
Nearest town………..East Bethel
Surface area……………1,250 acres
Maximum depth………….27 feet
Shore length……………….16 miles
Water clarity……………………7 feet
AIS present…………..Eurasian watermilfoil
Fish species present:
Bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, bullhead, yellow perch, white sucker, common carp, bowfin (dogfish).
DNR area fisheries office (651) 259-5770, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind.