| ||Lets start with Lake Winnebago up through Lake Poygan starting with Spring and ending with Freeze up. Spring time on Winnebago system gets very exciting because by now we all have cabin fever and can't wait to get that new boat on the water for the first time. In fact, usually this becomes somewhat of a contest to see who will have their boat on the water first. This is when we all try out all equipment to make sure everything works! Then comes the Spring Walleye Run. This usually starts at ice-out. Usually I will start right here in downtown Oshkosh, Wi.. The fish that make the trip up-stream have already left back in Oct-Feb to make the long run up the river. Most people believe that all fish make this trip, but I believe that only about 50% of the fish actually leave the lake to make this trip, with a % of these fish falling by the side in Lake Butte des Morts, some entering the Fox River at the upper end of Lake Butte des Morts, the rest of these fish migrating to Lake Poygan and the Wolf River. This is what everyone calls "THE SPRING WALLEYE RUN".
If you ever have the chance to take a airplane ride in the Spring, by all means take it. I had this chance with a retired DNR pilot by the name of Ken Corbet. This was one of the most interesting findings I ever saw. We could see just how the lake was opening up,do to the current flow. As we all know, the current flow dictates where these fish will stage waiting for the waters to warm for spawning. This is very critical when looking for the BEST STARTING SPOT IN THE SPRING. Use this example for checking out your home waters and places you are planning to fish this spring or next. What you are looking for is: where the lake is opening up close to a river or creek. Have a map with you and mark them down. Sometimes you will be surprised, because the lake actually opens different then what you thought. I ask this in seminars and I get 6 different answers from 10 different people. Try it, see if it improves your fishing in the spring and fall, I know it Will.
How do I fish these spots in the Spring and Fall: I would start with a simple n'g such as a jig&minnow. Drift along the "Shallowest breakline and work your way deeper until you locate the fish. I have a tendency to fish the North side early in spring, as this is where the sun will shine and warm the water first. If there is a good current, you can drag a jig or a live bait jig UP-STREAM against the current. This will give the fish the best advantage in locating your bait and the most time in front of their face.
As we get into Late Spring and Early Summer these fish that have made this long trip become very easy to catch on their way back. This is a good time to be up on the Wolf River. Same presentation with the jig and minnow. Keep in mind that on the Wolf River you "CANNOT TROLL", so just use the jig&minnow and drift the current down stream. As the water temp starts to climb toward the 55-60 range, you can start looking on the "FIRST FLATS" out from rivers mouth. This is where the fish stage to regain their strength. this means they will be hungry! Also check out the "FIRST REEFS" OUT FROM THE RIVERS MOUTH. This is when I would switch over to crankbaits to cover more area to locate the fish. I prefer to use Storm's Baby Thunderstick,or Junior Thunderstick. Check out the waters in the 4- 1 Oft depth. Once you locate you can anchor up and Slip bobber these fish or pitch jigs, whichever you prefer.
By "Mid - Late Summer" you can move out to the "@". This is what I call the large portion of the lake that is located about I mile of shore and makes up the greater portion of Lake Winnebago. On the Upper Lakes, like Butte des Morts,and Poygan this feature covers most of the lake. The Upper Lakes are much shallower than Winnebago, so they will normally warm up faster. Their depths are in the 4-8ft, with a small area on Lake Poygan reaching 9-12ft. This is when I bring out my Wille Sideliners and Storm Lures and put forget about live bait. This is when you let your electronics tell you "What Depths" to fish. Always remember to keep your lures running above the fish. Usually at this time of the year, the fish are very active. I use my 15hp Electric start Mercury kicker to run my Yar Craft 1895 Storm at about 1-1.5 mph. Sometimes I will kick it up to 2-3 mph to try to trigger a strike. This is usually the time of the year when the fish are suspending and relating to either water temps or baitfish, again let your electronics tell you the story.
By "Early-Late Fall" you can go back to area close to the rivers and creeks, where the fish will eventually start to stage. Once you locate them, they will be here till ice-up. Baitfish will play a big part as to where these fish will hold until they repeat their annual run up the rivers for the Spring Migration. Remember, not all fish leave a system to make this annual run up rivers and creeks, a good population stay right in the lake to spawn. This holds true in most systems that have rivers and creeks that empty into them. Check with your local Fish Manager, he is your best source of info.
"WINTER" Ice fishing on this system can be fantastic. At first ice, you have to check with local clubs, such as Otter Street Fishing Club(920-233-6101) or Tew's Two Sport Shop (920-233-3557, ask for Ed), these places will give you good advise on lake conditions, fishing, bait, and most of all SAFETY. Follow their advise on all of the above and you will have a good time. On the UPPER LAKES, you can contact: Fox River Bait&Tackle (Dick Sickenger-920-233-7409). You will get a straight and honest answer from all of the above, not like some who will tell you "the fish are biting," just to get you here. Good luck!
Keep a Tight Line,