Lake Winnebago’s summer which seemingly never started – now just won’t quit. Record high air temperatures, pushing into the 90’s, have spiked water temperatures across all area lakes. Traditional fall fishing patterns have not emerged, and many of the fish locations resemble those of May as opposed to the end of September.
Lake Winnebago water temperatures have jumped to 78 degrees as of Sunday PM in Oshkosh, Neenah at 72, Fond du Lac at 74 degrees, and 80 degrees on Lake Poygan. The varying water temperatures can be contributed to water clarity, related to the recent heavy rains which were inconsistent across the region (some areas had 4.2” of rain, while other areas received no rain).
The algae bloom, which had receded in past weeks due to cooler weather, fired back up this week. On calm days, the algae can be clumped up and less than pleasing to the human spirit. On windy days the algae clumps breakdown, and become part of the water column. Overall water clarity is compromised due to the algae.
The Winnebago system is firing on all cylinders right now, except for the mud. Walleyes, perch, bluegills, white bass, black bass, catfish and sheephead are all active and being caught with regularity.
White bass had started staging at the Fox River’s mouth and in Fond du Lac. These fish have pushed deeper after the nearly 10-degrees increase in water temperatures. Typically, these fish are schooled heavily across the lake at this time, and are feeding heavily on the remaining shad in the shallower ranges. It will take some cool temperatures to get these fish back on track. However, positive reports are consistently coming in from both the Fox and Wolf Rivers. The heavy rain created abnormal current, which resulted in pulling more fish into the rivers.
I had some excellent luck dragging jigs across rocky reefs this week, and would pick up several walleyes each pass. Orange and blue seemed to work the best for jig color. On calm days, the walleyes moved off the reefs, and were hanging high in the water column off the reefs. Short lead trolling methods, under 20 feet behind the Off Shore Board, were effective on calm days.
Trolling has been solid in the 8-12-foot ranges. Speed did not seem to matter much, but larger walleyes were coming at slower speeds for me (1.7 mph). White bass liked speeds over 2.2 mph’s. The Oshkosh area was especially productive for walleyes.
Walleyes continue to reside shallow on Lake Winnebago, and some cases really shallow (under 4 feet). Both crawlers and plastics were effect for walleyes stacked in the weed beds. There is an unusual number of green weeds remaining. The walleyes are hanging in those weeds for extra oxygen, protection and easy ambush opportunities. There is no doubt – the weed walleyes are inhaling the baits. No matter the method, walleye limits have been very common the past several weeks. There are a lot of second-year walleyes in the system currently, as evident by the number of 6-9-inch walleyes being caught.
Perch fishing remains very good. Depending on the wind direction and specific reef, there seems to be a preferred presentation the perch are seeking each day. I found the best activity revolving around the 6-10-foot depths, often on the wind-blown side of the structure. It is best use both a dead stick presentation, mixed with a slip bobber presentation to determine what these perch want (this can change by the hour). On Saturday, I did well dead sticking on Abraham’s Reef, and couldn’t catch a perch on the Third Reef an hour later on the same set up. The Third Reef was a slip bobber only bite when I arrived. Be versatile and try both methods until dialed in. Red beads, above the hook, took many of my fish. Average baskets were 10-20 perch. It is critical to understand that the perch will move thru in waves, so it is important to get the baits right back in the water when you catch a perch.
Sheephead have been thick on Lake Winnebago’s reefs, and a nuisance. Catfish were also being caught along the weed lines or tight to the bottom in deeper water. Schools of bluegills can also be found off the weed lines, and are essentially roaming.
When this warm weather breaks, likely later this week, anglers can expect more seasonally trends. The weeds will die off quickly, the algae will dissipate (hopefully) and the game fish will move toward normal fall haunts.
Recreational boating should conclude in the next two weeks, and many pleasure boats have already been put into storage. If you need a final professional boat cleaning – Mr. Detail in North Fond du Lac is the place to go. He has booked up quickly this season, so you will want to make a reservation fairly soon. Call Travis at (920) 913-3300 or use the online scheduler at https://www.fdldetail.com/. Many of the auto dealerships in Fond du Lac rely on Mr. Detail to get their cars/trucks ready for sale.
Have a great week, and enjoy this hot and steamy weather before it is gone until Spring.
My Fishing Partner