Lake Winnebago and the surrounding region continue to move through the “Dog Days” of August. Near normal temperatures and limited precipitation created pleasant conditions for outdoor enthusiasts. With just several weeks left prior to Labor Day, anglers hit the area waterways in big numbers this past week.
On Lake Winnebago, water temperatures rose mildly, but overall remained consistent over the past week. Fond du Lac registered 72 degrees, Neenah at 71, Oshkosh at 73, and Lake Poygan came in at 75 degrees. The water clarity on the other hand, has been highly unstable. Portions of the main lake in the northeast corner have visibility at near zero with heavy algae blooms, while the west shore has clarity beyond 3-5 feet.
While mid-August typically produces soft results in most years on the Winnebago system, this year has had remarkable success with walleyes and perch. Nearly every tactic is credible, and most community spots are holding quality fish. It’s nice when the fish are where they are supposed to be!
Walleyes have been scattered over the mud flats for nearly a month now. The large bait schools have largely diminished, and walleyes are actively chasing baits. Given the mild water temperatures, the walleyes have been scattered throughout the water column in the flats.
Too often, anglers target from 13 feet deep to the lake bottom on their presentations for walleyes. Granted this is a critical concept always when fishing walleyes; However, especially on calm, cloudy days, look to the top 7-10 feet of the water column for larger feeding walleyes. This was particularly true the past week.
There are some major mud “schools” which I found with the electronics this week. One school is just north of Stockbridge, and is stacked with the right kind of marks. However, water clarity was so compromised, that this area was slow over the weekend. Multiple schools out of Oshkosh were much more active, mainly due to better visibility.
While trolling hard baits, the key triggers seemed to be 90-125 feet back with shad style baits in the mud. While I had multiple reports of blues and purples working well, ultimately, I found white as the best color. I used a mix of Flicker Shads, Bay Rat lures, Shad raps and even weighted Salmo hornets. Harness trolling was also successful, with several fish coming just 15 feet behind the board with a ¼ ounce weight (up high). Slower speeds were needed to offset clarity issues in some areas of the lake.
If you don’t want to play in the mud, a significant transitional zone bite is occurring for trollers. Weeds and weed debris will be problematic, but worth the effort.
Reef and weed fish are active with the right conditions, and should always be in your thought processes this time of year on Lake Winnebago. This week slip bobbers did very well for perch and walleyes. This slow/still tactic successes may be a result of water clarity, and the fish’s capacity to find the bait.
The majority of anglers are targeting perch across Lake Winnebago. While some consider 7-inch perch a nuisance this year, it is a good sign for upcoming years, assuming those fish are released. Stockbridge has had excellent catch rates, along with Garlic Island and Fisherman’s Road. There has been quite a bit of activity out of Fond du Lac, but I did not receive any reports as to catch rates there.
The Bay of Green Bay is also on fire for big walleyes and massive perch. It is no secret the annual walleye schools have formed in the Shark Fin area near Geano’s reef. The fish are loosely schooled, and tend to scatter over the course of the day. These fish are receiving a lot of pressure, and overhead noise can turn them inactive and will drive them deep. Low light conditions have been best, so get there early or get there late for the best results.
Nearly all anglers are trolling with crawler harnesses. Color has been a major factor to catch rates. Once a trend is established, I would be aggressive on getting more of that specific color onto your lines.
My experience was that green or gold were the only two colors which netted fish this weekend. Large blades were a critical component this week, especially over-sized willow blades. Like Lake Winnebago, the largest walleyes are feeding up and in the middle of the water column. My largest walleye (29+”) this week came 15 feet back with a one-ounce weight. However, there are good numbers of walleyes and catfish tight to the bottom.
Additionally, The Chambers Island area in the north (upper Door County area) is also producing large walleyes. While the population numbers are limited, the size has been trophy class. Oconto has been pumping out some quality perch, some more than 14 inches.
With just a couple of weeks of Summer left (by the tourism standard), it’s time to get on the water! In a few weeks, anglers will have the lake to ourselves, as the pleasure boats will start to head to storage after Labor Day and when the Glorious Green Bay Packers start their regular season. Now if I could just get a satellite dish and large screen TV on my walleye rig, I’d have it made for Packer Season! Have a great week.
My Fishing Partner