Best Places to Fish in Wisconsin: Lake Winnebago
Last Updated: 5/19/2016
Lake Winnebago, the largest inland lake in Wisconsin, allows navigation through the Fox River inlet to lakes Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan. The Lake Winnebago system leads to the inlet of the Wolf River. This water boasts a large population of walleye, mostly in the 12-to 23-inch range. Northern pike, largemouth bass, perch and bluegill are present in good numbers. Winnebago is known throughout the country for its lake sturgeon spearing season. Lake Winnebago’s self-sustaining lake sturgeon population is rated as one of the finest in North America. The traditional winter spearing season produced a sturgeon weighing in at 188 lbs!
Ice fishing Lake Winnebago for walleye, perch, white bass and sturgeon is popular with anglers throughout the nation. Check with local fishing guides and marinas regarding pressure cracks or areas of weak ice around currents. Careful navigation close to shore and near islands is urged. Shallow unmarked reefs and sand bars can be hazardous. Rapidly changing weather should also be observed. Special fishing regulations apply to Lake Winnebago and connecting waters. Consult the Wisconsin fishing regulations for details.
Interactive Map: Lake Winnebago
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Lake Winnebago Fishing Tips
- During early spring, the shallow, rocky shoreline areas attract good numbers of walleye. Cast crankbaits or jigs with either minnows or bright-colored plastics such as Twister Tails, Munchies, Gulp! Minnows or Gulp! Grubs.
- During May, June and July, weed growth in bays and along shore can produce above-average walleye. Work open areas in the weeds with a small hair jig, 3-way rigs pulling flies, or cast crankbaits. Spoons such as Mepps Syclops and Dardevles or floating Rapalas are productive.
- The rock reefs along the western shore attract walleye anglers during May and June. Troll deep-running crankbaits, including Deep ThunderSticks, Reef Runners, Wally Divers, Mann’s Stretch Minus 5’s and Shad Raps around the perimeter of the reefs to locate active fish. It is important to use baits that run close to the bottom and have a tight action. Patterns with blue, purple, chartreuse, orange or a natural presentation (perch, pike, shad) are suggested.
- Periods of reduced water clarity and increased wave action draw numbers of walleye to the rocky crest of the reefs. Anchor in deep water and cast jigs tipped with live bait or plastic grubs into the shallow portion of the reef. Walleye are mobile and locating active fish often requires trying many different areas.
- The primary break along the east shoreline is an excellent producer of walleye. Troll deep-diving crankbaits at a speed that allows them to periodically bounce bottom. During low-light periods and windy conditions, walleye move into the shallows. Bottom-bouncer live bait rigs and nightcrawler harnesses are popular. Use rigs with number 5 or 7 blades, in nickel or blue finishes, with a quick-change clevis and nightcrawlers.
- In a typical year, walleye leave the reefs and shoreline areas by mid-July and suspend in the main lake basin. Use electronics to locate schools of forage and feeding walleye. After fish have been found, troll the area with deep-diving crankbaits. Troll with lures that run 8 to 12 feet deep, such as Bomber Long-A’s and Rebel Fastracs. When trolling use planer boards to baits away from the boat. Vary trolling speeds from 1-to 3- miles per hour.
- Shoreline areas and shallow reefs are favorite perch locations during spring. Early season perch fishing is best in the southern third of the lake. During summer, perch activity tends to be on the reefs. When a school of perch has been located, anchor and use an egg sinker and hook tipped with a hellgrammite, wax worm or piece of nightcrawler. Another good choice is a slip-bobber rig.
- Northern pike, largemouth bass and bluegill are present in the shallow bays and boating channels. Work those areas during spring, before boat traffic and weed growth become heavy. Spinnerbaits are excellent presentations for active fish during spring and early summer. Bluegill anglers are successful with slip-bobber rigs and live bait.
- Ice fishing is extremely popular on Lake Winnebago for walleye, perch, and lake sturgeon. Prime ice fishing areas include the primary break along the east shore, reefs and rock humps. Just after freeze-up, shoreline fishing is productive. Later in winter, walleye are more often caught over the flat bottom of the main lake basin. Walleye fishing is best during periods of mild temperatures. Extreme cold weather generally shuts down the walleye bite.