A transitional week of weather has pushed the Lake Winnebago region from mid summer temps to late fall conditions. Normal years have us deep into the throws of Fall; However, 2017 has seen above average temperature and the peak of the fall foliage color change in mid-October. Area anglers have been reluctant to winterize their boats due to the unseasonable weather and activity remains above normal on area lakes. Mid week the weather became more Fall like, with much colder temperatures and the suggestion of snow flurries. It’s that time of year where you cut your lawn and prep your snowblower on the same day.
Lake Winnebago had water temps consistent throughout the main lake between 56 and 58 degrees. This is nearly a nine-degree temperature drop in the last several weeks despite the warm air temperatures. By Thursday morning, water temperatures had further declined to 53 degrees with air temps in the mid 40’s.
Water Clarity on Lake Winnebago is generally stained as winds have been consistent throughout the last several weeks. Floating weed debris from dying plants, is common on the wind-blown side of the lake.
While the boat traffic is heavier given the time of year, overall traffic remains minimal. Many anglers have been lining the river banks and public shorelines targeting white bass. Reality is that many boats will go into storage this weekend based on the weather forecast.
The white bass bite on Lake Winnebago has been on fire in recent days, with many of the fish uptight to the shoreline. On days with less wind, look for the boils along the shoreline where feeding white bass are active. Another key indicator is dive-bombing seagulls attempting to capture the shad which are being push to the surface by the hungry white bass below.
There has also been a nice influx of white bass into the Wolf River. From Lake Poygan, which is just full of white bass, to the upper reaches of the Wolf river the fish have been moving quickly up river. Vibration baits, like Echo tails and zip lures, are extremely productive. Another favorite is a medium sized Mepps spinner.
The Wolf River is also full of feeding crappies. Like all Winnebago system crappies….They are very large!
When fishing deeper waters for white bass, it is not uncommon to have walleyes just below the white bass school in the water column. Often the walleyes are feeding on stunned bait fish which filter down to the walleyes. Try a heavy jig to get past the white bass with your bait, to get down to the walleyes.
Some anglers have been running flies (like spring) on both rivers. This has been productive, and additionally producing mid-sized walleyes in the Fox River in Oshkosh. Many of the bridges in Oshkosh are playing host to huge schools of white bass.
Choice of live bait is critical right now. We are at the tail end of the night crawler bite, and when water temps plummet a few degrees, the live bait choice will be minnows. A seasonal die off of shad is occurring on Lake Winnebago and the Fox River in Depere. This means less food for the hungry fish.
Perch fishing has been hit and miss on Lake Winnebago. Sunny days have been best with minimal winds. On Lake Winnebago there are a significant number of crappies moving into the harbors and shorelines. There is a solid mix of recent strong year classes of crappies, which are slightly undersized.
More reports as conditions warrant, or around first ice. The late summer (or non-existent Fall) will make the change to winter much more abrupt. There are numerous trophy fish opportunities left in the open water season if you are willing to deploy hand warmers. It is never too late to winterize your boat! Get on the water!