How To Fish Green Bay and the Fox River (WI) in Early Spring

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Fox River Walleye

Spring is here! Well, not really…
 

We got a foot of snow last night, but the Green Bay tributaries are starting to open up! Each year hundreds of thousands of walleyes make their way from the Bay to all of the surrounding rivers and feeder creeks to spawn. This bite has become more and more popular with each passing year.
 

Green Bay gives anglers the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. Each spring the Bay puts out 14 pounders. Below I will touch on what is happening now and what is to come with our walleye fishing.
 

Fox River Casting Walleye

Fox River

 
The Fox is the largest tributary we have in Green Bay — it runs from the southern part of the state and flows north into the bottom of the Bay. This is the first river to open up due to the size and flow created by spring run off.
 

A large population of walleyes run 6 miles up to the De Pere Dam to spawn. Along the way fish stage on flats, river channels, and deep holes waiting for the 43-45 degree water to spawn. Fish can be caught during all hours of the day either from a boat or shore. Flats provide a great place for walleyes to slide up and look for warm water.
 

I feel the shallower the fish, the easier they are to catch. Pitching jigs with fatheads or tuffys can be a killer tactic. Artificial baits such as ring worms, swim baits, hair jigs, blade baits, and the fan favorite Rippin’ Raps also catch fish. Green Bay walleyes are very sensitive to color and size. I myself tend to lean towards greens, orange, purple, and golds.
 

Fishing the lightest jigs possible while keeping good bottom contact. Snap jigging / rip jigging is the preferred retrieve — covering water and eliminating water until you find a pod of fish.
 

50 fish days are not uncommon ranging in size from 15 to 30+ inches. Using your electronics and side imaging is key but don’t be fooled, as there are a lot of species in the river at this time and not everything you see are walleyes.
 

Night trolling has become more popular in later years and for good reason: you can catch big fish.
 

Slowly trolling stick baits at night can be straight-up deadly. With Wisconsin allowing 3 lines per person you can cover an incredible amount of water. Eliminating bait size, style, and color happens much faster with a larger spread. I Like to run 8 lines on planner boards with 2-3 clients and have someone run a flat line out the back of the boat with the a slow pump of the rod. Increasing and decreasing speed of the bait can trigger a strike and also give you insight into whether or not you’re trolling too fast or too slow. 0.6 – 1.5 SOG (speed over ground) is the range I troll in this early in the season.
 

Shoreline casting is also very popular and can produce some giants casting stick baits at night. Fish slide up shallow at night and can be caught in as little as 2-3 feet of water. A headlamp, waders, and a hand full of stick baits are all you need.
 

As far as the bite right now we are catching 20-40 fish a day casting with one day pushing 60. Night trolling has been good with both pre and post spawn fish being caught all over the river. A couple nights ago my friend and I had 55-60 fish with a post spawn 29 that was tagged and a hefty pre spawn 10 pounder. A lot of 24-27 inch fish in the system.
 

Ocanto Walleye

Oconto / Peshtigo River

 
The Oconto and Peshtigo are two of the four major tributaries on the west shore of the Bay. Made famous in recent years by TV shows, yet has been guided by the top anglers on the Bay for years prior. These rivers have just started to open up but have another 10-14 days before I believe the surrounding shorelines will be open. The majority of the fishing is done between the two rivers on the bay itself.
 

Small feeder creeks put in warm water to the Bay, and on low runoff years, larger amounts of fish will be found in the Bay vs. in these two rivers. Warm pockets of water are key. Find the water, find the fish. The smallest change in temperature can mean the difference between a fair and a truly memorable day on the water.
 

Once again, Side-Imaging and electronics are needed to eliminate water. The western side of the Bay is very flat, and small changes in depth can hold fish — we’re talking as little as a 6 inch change.
 

Artificial baits account for 95 % of fish caught. Rippin’ Raps, plastics, blade baits, and hair jigs are the go-to. Same cadence as the Fox — ripping and snapping — looking for a reaction bite. Trolling can also be very effective. Similarly to the Fox: slow speed stick baits with a wide spread looking for an active pod of fish. Smithwicks and Husky Jerks are a staple, yet new baits such as Scatter Raps are coming on strong.
 

Rippin Rap Walleye

Equipment of choice

 

Rods
6’10 – 7’ (spinning) Medium extra fast for live bait fishing
7’-7’6’’ (spinning) Medium fast for artificial baits
7’6’’ – 8’6’’ (trolling) Medium action
 

Reels
2000-4000 size spinning reel (casting/jigging)
Line counter reels (trolling)
 

Line
#10-#20 braid with 4-8’ fluorocarbon leader #12 (casting/jigging)
#12 mono (trolling)
 

Baits
3/32-3/8oz livebait short shank jigs
#6 and #7 Rippin’ Raps
3″-4.3″ swimbaits on 1/8 – 3/8oz head
Ringworms 3″-4.5″ on 1/8 – 3/8oz head
Smithwick Rouge, Super Rouge, Pro Rouge, Rattlin Rouge
Perfect 10, Husky Jerks (#10, #12, #14), Scatter Raps
Flicker Minnows and Flicker Shads.
 

If anyone would like to experience this World Class bite, you can contact me for a fully-guided trip. I work with some of the best guides on the Bay with Alexander Sport Fishing. Full time guides such as Bret Alexander, Kyle Tokarski, and myself are on the water everyday!
 

Doug Wegner (262) 719-9533
Bret Alexander (920) 851-4214
Kyle Tokarski (715) 340-2288
 

Editor Note: Make sure to follow Doug on YouTube for some Make sure to killer musky videos!
 

Oconto Trolling Walleye

Species:
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