Variable summer weather dominated the past week, with regional heavy rainfall at times in the Lake Winnebago region. Summer is in full gear in Wisconsin, and heavy boating and fishing activities are occurring on area lakes.
Overall, Lake Winnebago is in mid-summer patterns, with slightly stained water, signs of an algae blooms, and significant weed growth. Generally, the water clarity has been clearing over the past 5 days; however, any wind event will create dirty conditions again. On calm days, bugs can be problematic in some locations.
Water temps have jumped significantly since the beginning of the month on the Winnebago system. The change in temperature has caused massive fish mood changes and movements. Water temperatures are 80 degrees in Lake Poygan, 78 in Fond du Lac, 79 in Oshkosh and 74 degrees in Neenah. On the Wolf River (New London) temps are chiming in at 78 degrees. By contrast on July 1st, many of these water temps were hovering around the 70-degree mark. Water temperatures are always one of the greatest determinants of fish activity and movement.
Since the beginning of the month, there has been heavy movement of walleyes from the upper lakes and rivers back into Lake Winnebago. As a result, the catch rates of walleyes have jumped significantly. These migrations would be like late May/early June movements in a normal year.
Heavy and consistent rains have given the rivers uncharacteristic water flow for this time of year. Anglers need to understand, 2017 will not be a “normal” year on the Winnebago chain. The increased flow has held fish in the upper portions of the system early in the season, and then pushed the fish back to the lake very quickly in early July when water temps became “uncomfortable.” The water current can suck walleyes back into the river system after significant rain fall.
Lake Poygan and Lake Winneconne have had an excellent walleye bite the last several weeks. Many anglers are targeting 6-8-foot depths, especially near Horseshoe Hole. Walleyes have been sitting on the bottom of the lake, and shooting up to attack lures which are run a couple of feet off bottom. Generally, Salmo hornets have been highly effective run about 20 feet behind the Off Shore Planner Boards. Best color combinations have been the old standbys of Viking, Dalmatian and blue/chrome.
On Lake Winnebago, during the last several weeks, it has been obvious on the electronics that the big schools of bait fish have dwindled. At points this Spring, bait fish schools were everywhere and would consume much of the water column on the graph as the boat drove overhead. Many of these schools have been partially consumed, and as a result, game fish have far less options for easy meals. This has been a contributing factor to the better bite for anglers occurring on Lake Winnebago.
All areas of Lake Winnebago are firing for walleyes currently. The mud bite has hit a peak for this year. Reefs continue to hold walleyes, and there is an emerging weed bite happening. The newly arrived walleyes are hungry, and food sources are less available than a month ago.
The mud bite has had walleyes moving through the water column during the day. Many days on Lake Winnebago, the walleyes have been influenced by the wind. On calm days, the fish tend to move toward the surface. Overall, many walleyes are tight to the bottom. Once pockets of fish are found, crawler harnesses can be very effective picking off fish from the school. Solid gold blades have been extremely productive this past week.
Crank baits have also been very productive on Lake Winnebago. It is very important to monitor your electronics/graph to determine where the fish are staged. Fishing below the suspended schools will yield poor results. During initial set up, try to vary the depth of your cranks to determine where the fish are staging. Always keep one lure high in the water column. I found walleyes and sheephead staged near the bottom and white bass in the mid column. This week, size #7 Flicker shads in firetiger produced the majority of our walleyes. Some of the Bay Rat lures were also productive in purple color schemes. Boat speed was not critical this week, with walleyes coming anywhere between 1.6 mph to 2.4 mph.
Reefs continue to produce mixed bags of fish. Walleyes, perch, white bass, small mouth and sheephead are common catches. Dragged jigs with crawlers or leeches has been highly effective, especially with wind. Slip bobbers and dead sticks have been producing nice perch on the edges of the reefs using hellgrammites for bait.
Using Jigging raps (ice fishing gear) on the deep edges of the reefs has also been very productive for larger walleyes.
Perch fishing has been solid off the Fisherman’s Road complex in the rock to mud transitions. Overall reports are indicating a slowing of catch rates vs. past weeks. These fish have been highly pressured.
Enjoy the Summer. Get on the water! firstname.lastname@example.org is my email for your reports.