By Mark Schram,

Early fall weather engulfed the Lake Winnebago (WI) region over the last week, with daytime high air temperatures averaging the low to mid 70’s.  The rain has been negligible; however, winds have been consistent and above average for the last few days.  Water temperatures on Lake Winnebago have dropped about ten degrees over the last 21 days, with Fond du Lac and Neenah registering 66 degrees on Sunday, and Oshkosh at 62 degrees.  Lake Poygan has current readings around 65 degrees.

The surface algae bloom has been broken apart with recent winds and is starting to diminish with the colder water temperatures.  Water clarity remains stained, with about 2 feet of visibility in most areas of the lake.  Floating weed debris is lessening with less boat traffic but is still problematic to trollers.  Over the last ten days, multiple bug hatches have occurred.

Many of the area boat ramps are wide open, even on weekend post-Labor Day.  While many of the larger pleasure vessels remain in the harbors, the cooler temperatures have discouraged their use.  Fishermen have also been fewer on the water.

Typically, the perch bite is white-hot this time of year, as they start to become a little more predictable in location, and more tightly schooled.  Recent reports of perch activity are indicating light catch rates, with a typical basket fewer than ten fish.  Best tactic has been hellgrammites tight to the bottom in 12-15 feet of water.  Some of the small rock humps (not reefs) have produced along the west shore.  Areas like Blanck’s Supper Club/Wayside near Fond du Lac, the Long Point complex, transition points near Garlic Island plus directly east out of the Neenah Lighthouse have been the best locations for perch.

Walleyes have remained scattered and are not schooled in the mud.  There is plenty of food within the system, and the newly hatched bugs are the main forage this week.

We had some nice action trolling the windblown sides of reefs this week and found larger concentrations of medium-sized walleyes.  The walleyes have been stacked on the edge of the reefs awaiting to ambush easy meals, especially bugs.  We would run small crankbaits like Salmo Hornets or size 5/7 flicker shads into the sides of the reefs, triggering reaction bites.  Not every reef had this DNA, so we would try multiple reefs until we found the active reefs.  Blues and purples outperformed most colors, with green also being productive.  Reef sides are also holding smallmouth bass.

Shallow weeds also continue to hold walleyes with the best tactic being light jigs and crawlers or mid-sized plastics.

A large Winnebago System Sheepshead caught by Tyler Schram

Reef tops were stacked full of sheepshead.  Heavy numbers of sheepshead were reported systemwide for the last several weeks and they do have the feedbag on currently.  The size of the sheepshead has been large while trolling.  Smaller sheepshead has been common while fishing for perch.  Catfish have also been found in deep holes.

Most years, this report would be talking about the white bass schools forming systemwide.  I put on many miles over the last ten days while breaking in the new motor on the new boat.  Nowhere on the system did I find those traditional schools of white bass.  While the numbers of white bass have been impacted by the large spring kill several years ago, I really don’t have an explanation as to not being able to locate these schools or why they have not formed yet.

No walleye tournaments to report on Lake Winnebago and none on the calendar for the next few weeks.  As football, hunting plus with the kids back in school/activities, the waterways become wide open for the anglers.  Enjoy the waterways as we approach the Fall season.  Get on the water! is my email if you would like to submit a report.

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