By  Mark Schram,

Lake Winnebago and surrounding areas have seen seasonal temperatures plus rainfall over the last several weeks.  The end of the recreational boating season is near the completion with the Labor Day weekend, leaving the lake mainly to area anglers moving forward.

Lake Winnebago has seen declining water temperatures over the last week, with an average drop of about 6-10 degrees systemwide.  Over the weekend, water temps were 69 degrees in Fond du Lac and Neenah, 65 degrees in Oshkosh, and Lake Poygan registered 67 degrees.  The long-term forecast is for a below-average weather pattern (air temperature is predicted to be 20-degrees below average, with a consistent wind), so water temperatures will likely decline quickly.

Water clarity is an issue after strong winds during the past week.  Visibility was less than a foot this weekend on Lake Buttes des Mortes and Lake Poygan.  Winnebago had visibilities between 1-2 feet in most areas.  Weed debris from the holiday boat traffic was a nuisance for trollers.

Fishing for perch has been the headline.  The past week has seen healthy activity in and around Lake Winnebago’s transition zones for mixed bags of perch.  Most anglers are producing partial limits, weeding through smaller fish to get to the “eaters.”  Red worms are the critical attractant, with hellgrammites (if you can find them) and crawler chunks as solid choices.  There has been an equal success with dead sticks and slip bobbers.  Many days, one method will provide better results, so be willing to try both methods on each trip.  Additionally, Little Lake Buttes des Mortes has also seen an uptick in activity for medium-sized perch.

Sheephead have been active systemwide, especially on the reefs.  Considering they took a major hit several years ago with VHS, their numbers are substantial again today.

Walleyes:  I have struggled targeting walleyes the last week or so.  While I was able to produce some walleyes, they were not consistent on method, location, or depth.  These fish are scattered throughout the systems (Mud, weeds, reef, river systems, etc.).  Anglers need to be persistent on the lake to produce baskets of walleyes.

Many of the walleyes being produced are related to perch fishing, where the eyes get mixed into the catches. Ultimately, a walleye or two can be expected on a trip, but a full basket of three fish over 15” is uncommon.  Many of the walleyes have been in the 13-14” range.

Catfish have been active in the river systems; Carp were observed near the cane beds on the upper lakes. Overall, I did not mark many fish in the Fox River in Oshkosh.  This may have been a result of heavy boat traffic over the weekend. A few smallmouth bass have also been active on Lake Winnebago’s shallow points and rocky humps.

The September white bass schooling has not been evident to date, but with the cold temperatures on the way, they should be schooled up by the end of next week. This is an enjoyable bite, typically found on Lake Winnebago’s far north and far south shores. Follow the birds…as the white bass will push baitfish to the surface, where the birds can dive into the water to capture their meal.  Running a medium-sized flicker minnow or some type of spinner will net all the white bass you can handle.

On a side note – Bait shops are indicating they no longer can get leeches for the rest of the season.

Overall, the system is noticeably quiet, outside of the perch fishermen.  As the hunting seasons open, the fishing traffic will further diminish.   In the coming weeks, many lakes will be impacted by the annual turnover.  Lake Winnebago does not experience turnover due to its shallow water and lack of water temperature stratification.  Yet, there are plenty of opportunities on the system to have outstanding days on the water in 2020.

Get on the water!