We Got Ice! Ice, Ice Baby! Those are just a couple of the jubilant exclamations heard around the Lake Winnebago Region this week. A solid stretch of cold weather, with light snow typified the last several weeks. As a result, the first activity of the 2017/18 ice fishing season has been seen.
Area wide, water columns are very stained/dirty especially on Lake Poygan and Lake Winnebago. Visibility is extremely limited, often less than three feet.
Ice is never 100% safe, and individual judgements will always need to be made on each fishing trip.
On Lake Winnebago, the southern end of the lake is ice covered. The ice is thin at best, and no activity was seen on Saturday/Sunday past the ice shoves. The ice shoves run along the southern and eastern shore, typically several hundred yards from the shore line. Height of the shoves/cracks are minimal, generally under 3 feet. ATV and snowmobile traffic is currently not advised.
While most of the north shore of Lake Winnebago just froze over, it was the region which took the longest to freeze in 2017. Ice depths are assumed to be negligible at best. There appears to be an open water pocket near Stockbridge based on satellite images.
The feeder creeks, back bays, and protected bays on Lake Winnebago have reports of 2-6” of ice. Anglers have been venturing out in these areas, especially in the Oshkosh area. Reports at Asylum Bay indicated about 5” of ice with strong numbers of small to averaged sized white bass present.
Other bays are reporting small bluegills and small to medium sized perch being caught. There needs to be considerable sorting to find a decent meal. By far, metallic or white lures worked best in the dirty water tipped with a waxie or spike. Traffic has been heavy in the bays. Look to low light times to find the best results. Skipper Buds (Lake Buttes des Mortes) has had sporadic activity and small bluegills are the most common catch here.
The Chaparral in North Fond du Lac is holding fish, but they are mainly shad/bait fish, and the panfish have not been present. The Big Hole (harbor at Lakeside Park) in Fond du Lac has a similar mix of fish. Beware: there are some soft spots, especially near several of the docks and the inlet to the channels at the Big Hole. The channels in Fond du Lac and Oshkosh have been kicking out perch and crappies.
Lake Poygan has consistent ice, and may have the best ice in terms of depth on the system. Reports out of Noffkes Bait/landing have indicated depths as much as 7” near the launch. However, open holes were still found on the lake on this past Friday, and extreme caution needs to be used. Most areas of the lake have 4+ inches. The water is dirty, and visibility played a major role in catch rates.
Early in the past week, walleyes were active high in the water column on Lake Poygan. As angler traffic picked up, the bite diminished as the walleyes scattered or held tight to the bottom. Most anglers were heading northwest out of Noffkes Landing or to Horseshoe Hole. While traffic was heavy on Poygan including some 4-wheeler traffic staying close to home, catch rates were outstanding over the weekend with walleyes, white bass, perch and crappies the most common catches. Non-peak times (weekdays) will produce more fish, as many of the fish will become negative with overhead noise during peak periods. The walleyes are heavily schooled currently. Smaller jigging raps and rattle spoons are working best.
Early ice is predictable in two ways: One: fish mood can change quickly. Two: Conditions can change quickly. Be aware of the weather forecasts, shifts in wind and shifting ice. Get on the water, stay on top and send your reports to us. Happy Holidays!
My Fishing Partner