Lake Winnebago and surrounding areas have been stuck in a cold weather pattern, more reminiscent of early Spring, with low air temperatures dipping in the 30’s and 40’s at night. Most days have featured highs into the upper 50’s with a few days spiking near 70 degrees.
Water clarity on the north shore is very clear, with visibility beyond 7-feet. Additionally, the rest of the lake has been clear, with some pockets of dirty water associated with runoff from the recent rains. Water temperatures have remained constant on Lake Winnebago for the last 14 days, with readings in Fond du Lac showing 55 degrees, 54 in Menasha, 52 in Oshkosh, and Lake Poygan around 57 degrees.
The system has stagnated in the post-spawn phase of migration, with walleyes scattered throughout the system, with no strong concentrations anywhere. The cold water has held walleyes in early season feeding modes, with preferences to slow presentations.
Live bait has been the best option for many of the key locations for walleyes. Three key meat choices are all in play – with minnows, leeches, and crawlers working well. Anglers will find the preferred bait to be changing from day to day or even hour to hour. Slip bobbers have been particularly deadly on reefs and shallow water areas.
The east shore has featured an evening bite (annual) for walleyes coming into feed just after dark. Look to slip bobbers in 3-4 feet of water to attract these hungry walleyes.
On the reefs: slip bobbers, rigs, and dragged bait can also be productive.
Trolling of shallow water flats (under 6 feet) was sub-par for me this past week. Deep water trolling in the 6-12-foot ranges had mild success. The mud bite has not developed just yet as the water is too cold. If you are trolling, be sure to restrict your speed. With the cold water, the fish are less likely to chase food.
Along the east shore, strong numbers of smallmouth bass have been present. The smallies are also showing up in larger numbers on the points of the west shore and several of the bays, where weed lines typically are present.
Crappies have been highly active in the channels, harbors and feeder creeks. This has been an excellent opportunity for the shore fishermen to take some nice baskets of large crappies. The crappie class is very strong in 2019, with some nice sized fish being taken. The crappies will eventually push out of the channels with some water warm and will soon be out to the first reefs/points outside the protected bays.
White bass fishing has really picked up in recent days in the Wolf River. Large numbers of mid-sized to large white bass have been found in the Wolf. Seasonally, we are several weeks behind normal trends for this run. Just to be clear, not everyone is loading up on the white bass. The fish are highly concentrated, so either you are on them or you aren’t. Flies, crankbaits, vibration blades, and spinners have all been productive.
With all area waterways, be careful when getting around the lakes and rivers this early season. There has been a lot of flooding, drawing debris into the system. The area around the mouth of the Fond du Lac River is especially bad after the city flooded about a month ago. The Wolf and Fox rivers also have debris moving through the system periodically.
Sheepsheads are becoming more common this past week. While they have not fully pushed up to the reefs to date, this can be expected in the very near future as they prepare to spawn. Perch activity has been limited to non-existent.