This past week, a variable weather period engulfed the Lake Winnebago region, with multiple patterns creating constantly changing lake conditions for anglers. From strong winds to dead calm conditions, rain and sunshine, heatwave to a cold front, Lake Winnebago saw it all in the last ten days.
Water temperatures have remained steady during the period with Fond du Lac registering 77 degrees, Oshkosh at 71 degrees, and Neenah at 75 degrees. Water clarity remains clouded in most areas but has become very stained on Tuesday on the south end with the strong north wind. The thick algae of weeks past have been mixed into the water column and currently is not problematic.
Overall, weed growth has been slow to develop all season but has become well established in the last month. Weed debris, from boat traffic, is less than usual, maybe due to a substantial downturn in boat traffic in 2020. In 2020, Lake Winnebago reduced the walleye bag limit to three walleyes per angler to better manage the system. As a result, many anglers have headed north to the Bay of Green Bay, where the bite is on fire with several mature year classes plus a five-fish limit for walleyes.
The south end of Lake Winnebago has the most fishing action, with healthy numbers of boats seeking perch in the Fond du Lac area.
The perch bite has been weak to date in raw numbers, but the size has been excellent when you weed out the undersized fish. I have had multiple reports of some perch exceeding 12” in the last week. An average bag currently is about 3-8 perch with a limit of 25. Slip bobbers have been a better choice than dead sticking along the break lines of the reefs or rocky humps. Most of the boat activity is centered near the Third Reef outside of Fond du Lac, in the sand to mud transitions.
The walleye bite has been sporadic, as the fish are scattered across the mudflats, reefs, and weeds. Many anglers, targeting perch, have been producing walleyes. There is a strong year class of 14-16” walleyes showing up currently. The trolling bite has been slow due to the dispersed schools of the walleyes. There seem to be adequate food sources in the lake for walleyes, including a small lake fly hatch that occurred this week. This has also hindered the walleye bite. I had the best luck this week pitching and retrieving crawler chunks on small jigs to produce walleyes on rocky reefs.
The most recent Winnebago Walleye Series tournament saw a lot of zero’s on the board, with only one team breaking the 10-pound mark on five fish.
Sheephead are overly aggressive in all areas of the lake. Reefs have had an abundance of sheephead feeding on the high points.
Saturday, I had one of the most unusually days of perch fishing on Lake Winnebago in my lifetime. I hooked up with four separate sturgeons in a couple of hours of perch fishing. While I did not have the test line strength or a large enough net to land these fish (nor was I targeting them), it was a rush having these ancient fish on the line. The power and grace of these fish are astounding. My guess is that these fish were feeding either on red worms or pre hatched lake fly larva on the bottom of the lake. I have heard multiple reports over the last week of other reefs having the same active sturgeons.
While the fishing on Lake Winnebago is solid, it is not gangbusters. The perch bite usually starts heating up at the start of August and continues to mid-September. The fall feeding frenzy of white bass annually gets started by mid-September, along with the initial schooling of walleyes. There are still a lot of opportunities on Lake Winnebago in 2020.
Nearly all tournaments are complete on Lake Winnebago for 2020. The NTC championship remains in late September. We have qualified for this event and look forward to showcasing Lake Winnebago for a nationwide audience.
I encourage your reports at email@example.com. Hang in there, we have hit the dog days of August. It will only get better from here! Stay safe and get on the water.