Record-breaking cold air temperatures (in the teens) and an extended winter has gripped the Lake Winnebago region over the past ten days. On some early mornings, skim ice has started to reform on the lakes in the harbors and bays but breaks down quickly as the sun and wind beat it into submission. There has only been one significant precipitation event since our last report, a snowfall of better than 6 inches in the area.
On Lake Winnebago, the ice sheet had been getting pushed around by the wind – floating from side to side of the lake. By Sunday, most of the ice sheet has broken down and Lake Winnebago is closing in on becoming boat ready. There is currently no fishing activity on the lake of any substance. Stockbridge Harbor is currently blocked with a massive ice shove.
In the Wolf River, considerable activity is occurring as walleyes continue to move out of the lower/upper lakes and into the rivers in preparation of the spawn. Water temperatures remain cold for this time of year with daily averages ranging between 34-39 degrees. Water current is very low and 2018 discharges are running less than 50% of historical averages for similar date ranges.
The cause and effect of the low water movement and cold water can be two-fold. 1. Walleyes move up the river effortlessly (with little water resistance) and are staged much further up the river than “normal years” based on water temperature. 2. Walleyes don’t have the warm water and discharge required to push them up the system and as a result, could spawn in the lakes or near the mouth of the rivers. While we are nearing the average spawn date on the Wolf River (April 15), both scenarios could play out in 2018 without some precipitation.
Fishing has been outstanding so far in the Wolf River. From Fremont to New London, strong walleye catch rates have been seen with a mix of mostly 14-18” males along with a few pre-spawn females. There are occasional schools of fish moving upriver, and the key is to get into those traffic areas to produce the best results. While drift jigging is effective, anchor positions have been more effective. With the low current, the deeper river channel has been outproducing the flats to date.
Fox River in DePere/Green Bay. 4/8/18 water temperatures are in the upper 30’s after peaking out last weekend at 44 degrees. Many of the same conditions observed in the Wolf River are been replicated in the Fox River in terms of fish movements and physical conditions. River current remains light, and the Dam in Depere had no gates open (but the spillway was active). Water clarity remains with about 4-8 feet of visibility.
At the mouth in Green Bay, much of the area adjacent to the Metro Launch is open water, but wind direction can cause ice sheets to blow back into the river. The Bay of Green Bay is approximately 60-65% ice covered.
While the Wolf River has fish staged in the main river channel, the Fox River has more walleyes staged in the 5-10 foot ranges, especially along the clam beds and rocky bars. There has been an uptick in the size of fish being caught the last several days, with more legal (over 28”) walleyes being reported.
There are moderate numbers of walleyes at the Dam, with larger fish coming in during the evening. On Sunday, clarity was outstanding and we could watch a few of the walleyes move thru the area.
Jig and minnows are always effective on the Fox River but do not overlook alternative presentations. Recently, some of our best walleyes have been coming on jigging raps, blade baits (Echotails), and Ripping Raps. Plastics have been productive, but maybe are being overused (due to air temperatures and not having to dip your hands in the minnow bucket).
About 20-25% of the walleyes this week were spawned out. The main spawn has not occurred and could happen at any time.
This weekend saw the first reports of action coming out of the Peshtigo River. While the reports have been limited, some larger walleyes are starting to move into the river.
The upcoming week has conflicting weather reports, but there appears to be some warming in the near future. This may be the trigger we need to pull the female walleyes into the spawning grounds.
Have a great week, and get on the water!
My Fishing Partner