A steady weather pattern emerged in Northeast Wisconsin over the past week, bringing near normal temperatures and zero precipitation to the Lake Winnebago region. A persistent north wind was created stability on the system.
On Lake Winnebago, the ice is still solid in some areas, while in other areas along the west shore near Wendt’s, has open water. While the ATV bridges are still in place as of Friday out of Oshkosh, extreme caution must be used if hitting the ice. The inconsistency of the ice is a safety concern. With the warm temperatures over the weekend, it can be assumed the final ATV bridges will be removed from Lake Winnebago early next week, essentially ending the ice fishing season.
The Fox River is open in Oshkosh, and boat access is available for those anglers wishing to hit the open water. As of Sunday, from Sunset Point in Lake Butte des Mortes to the mouth of the river has open water. The rest of the lakes on the system are still ice locked but are breaking down slowly. Ice flows are common coming down the river.
Fishing on the Fox River in Oshkosh has been relatively slow. Low water currents are not holding the fish in this region, rather in the lakes under the ice. The migration has the fish partially up-river or still in the main lake. Perch have started to show up in the river and are preparing to spawn.
The main area of focus in Wisconsin is the Fox River in Green Bay and De Pere, WI. Better than 200 boats were packed into the river Saturday bouncing jigs up and down. The river has been backed up (current) for the last six days with north winds pushing water into the river, rather than out. The river, notorious for strong current this time of year, had nearly zero current this weekend.
As we explored the river on Saturday looking for fish schools, we found only a few fish from the Hwy 172 bridge to the mouth at Metro Launch. It was obvious there are limited amounts of baitfish in the river right now. Visibility is extremely clear and pushing over 6 feet. Water temperature at the mouth is one degree cooler than at the dam in De Pere.
While fishing is steady on the Fox River, it is still well below many anglers’ expectation for this time of year. Many of the walleyes in the river seem to have been there a while, and it appears new waves of fish have been limited due to the lack of water current and wind direction. Water temperatures have not improved and have stagnated at 38 to 39 degrees over the last 8 days. During that same period, discharge reports turned negative in the last week according to USGS.
Most fishermen were producing walleyes in the 18-21” ranges this week, with occasional fish in the 24-26” range. Tactics included vertical jigging, pitched jigs, snap jigging, trolling and casted crankbaits. We even saw some Wolf River methods in play. Minnows and plastics had equal success.
Night fishing has been better, with some larger walleyes being caught when winds are calm. It’s hard to speculate where these fish are during daylight hours, but some believe they are sliding in from the bay in the evening and back out to the bay during the day.
Whitefish have been thick by the island (near the dam) in De Pere and at Voyageur Park. At Metro Launch in Green Bay, the first schools of crappies have started to show up, but overall the bite remains light for the early season bite. Carp have started to become active in the main river flats especially north of the 172 bridge.
The Fox will remain the focal point for many anglers for another couple of weeks. When the Wolf River becomes viable for anglers, the pressure will lower in Green Bay. Additionally, when Peshtigo and other areas north of Green Bay become boat ready, more room will be made on The Fox River. In the meantime, bring a sense of humor, have patience, and enjoy your time with your new-found friends.
The Swamp Donkey “International” Walleye Tournament will occur on Sunday (March 25) out of the Fox Point (Dairy Queen) launch. About 100 boats will be involved in the event. Unless the weather, water current, and winds change – the tournament will be a grind for most participants. While I believe most anglers will produce limits (CPR format), the winning weight/length should be less than the previous year.
The rivers (Wolf, Upper Fox, Lower Fox) need rain very badly to get the walleye spawn to hit full gear. Get on the water or get on the ice. Either way stay on top!
My Fishing Partner