Summerlike temperatures dominated the weather patterns with above normal temperatures and a prolonged period of no precipitation over the past several weeks in northeastern Wisconsin. The last several days have brought a strong cold front, with some rainfall. Lake Winnebago’s water temperatures have remained relatively steady hovering around 70 degrees. Water clarity is stained, with about two feet of visibility. Lake Poyagn ‘s water temperature is running around 73 degrees.
The algae bloom continues to be strong and is especially bad (pea soup) in stagnant or protected areas of Lake Winnebago. On the main lake, recent winds have mixed the algae into the water column, reducing top water slicks. Toxic blue-green algae remain in parts of the system. Overall, the main lake has limited algae slicks as of Tuesday.
Water discharge on the rivers remain very high for the season; additionally, water gage is declining but it is still abnormally high with more rain expected this week.
Although the calendar reads mid-September, the fishing bite is more reminiscent of a mid-August bite. There has been a general slowing of the catch rates for perch systemwide. Perch remain active, but a significant drop in baskets has been seen in the last two weeks. The perch have been moving in and out of rock structures but have been consistent in the depth ranges of 9-12 feet. One exception is the mud bite occurring in shallower water just outside the Fond du Lac River mouth (near Lakeside West/Stinky Point). There is a definite preference toward hellgrammites at this current time. Orange attractants were key this week just above the hook.
The walleye bite has been solid. The number of young walleyes in the system is amazing. Multiple year classes are dominating the walleye bite right now with many 7” and 12” walleyes on the end of the lines. Larger walleyes have been seen along the weed lines targeted with jigs and crawlers, with some recent upticks of activity near the river mouth in Oshkosh.
Post-Labor Day, less boat traffic has been seen as recreational boat traffic has diminished and many area sportspersons are now focusing on the open deer bow hunting season. This reduced traffic has resulted in less floating weed debris, allowing for trolling activities in select areas of Lake Winnebago. Trolling speeds can vary by the day, but generally, 1.9 mph produced the most walleyes behind the Off Shore planner boards. Yellow and oranges were key bait colors.
Normally the white bass have schooled on Lake Winnebago and the Fox/Wolf Rivers. This generally has not occurred yet, as water temperatures have not reduced significantly. White bass are active in all areas, but the monster schools just have not formed yet. I would expect to see larger schools of white bass chasing baitfish in the next two weeks based on the weather forecast. The Wolf River has seen moderate schooling and could be getting close to the fall run coming out of Lake Poygan and the Fox River.
Other areas of interest include the annual salmon run into the Lake Michigan harbors and tributaries. Warm water surface temperatures have resulted in a very slow start to the fall run. Port Washington and Sheboygan are reporting little to no activity. The harbor water is starting to clear up, so positive signs are starting to show up.
Short term weather forecasts indicate a sharp cooling trend. This could start to fire up some of the fall fishing bites including reinvigorating the perch activity on Lake Winnebago. Musky fishing should pick up on the Bay of Green Bay, along with the salmon run with cooler water temperatures. In the meantime, anglers will need to endure the slow conditions until the water temperatures fall.
As each passing week occurs, boat traffic will reduce exponentially. Be sure to make time for some of the best fishing opportunities of the season on all area waterways. We encourage your reports at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get on the water!