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Best Places to Ice Fish in Wisconsin: Lake Winnebago
Last Updated: 1/7/2014
Lake Winnebago, the largest inland lake in Wisconsin, allows navigation through the Fox River inlet to lakes Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan. Lake Winnebago’s self-sustaining lake sturgeon population is rated as one of the finest in North America. The traditional winter spearing season in 2004 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 Lake Map
For a more detailed lake map and up to the minute fishing reports connect with the Lake Winnebago waterway page on Fishidy.
Here are some tips for locating and catching fish through the ice on Lake Winnebago:
- Early Ice-up in the bays and channels on the west shore provides great walking opportunities to bag some nice early season panfish. Concentrate in and along weed edges where some “green” weeds still exist. As ice builds the panfish will begin to roam the deeper basin areas of these same bays. Use your flasher to locate schools of fish roaming the basin. Activity likely will come in spurts, moving a couple hundred yards can make a huge difference in putting some fish on the ice. Mobile fishing apps like Fishidy can help when pre-planning an ice fishing outing and researching a body of water.
- As winter progresses many Winnebago fish begin to roam the main lake basin. The fisherman willing to put in the effort of drilling holes and moving to stay on the roaming schools of fish will be rewarded with nice bags of perch, walleye, crappie and white bass. These big schools tend to stick together and when you get on a school you will catch several species out of the same hole. Jigging spoons/jigging raps are the bait of choice with copper and gold being some of the popular colors. Feel free to tip with waxies or a minnow head, but when the fish are active no tipping is needed.
- Don’t be afraid to stay away from the large groups that will form on the lake in the winter. Moving a half mile away from the big groups can bring big rewards. The main lake basin is huge and many large schools of fish exist. 2-3 miles off either the east or west shore are good places to start. Use extreme caution anywhere near and out from the mouth of the Fox River in Oshkosh. The south end of the lake offers several areas easily accessible by foot. Find some weed edges or slight depth changes and you will find a nice meal of perch or bluegill.
- Winnebago is a massive body of water and can be very intimidating for ice fishermen who don’t know their way around the lake. Success can be found in numbers, meaning the number of holes you are willing to drill. The fish have a great deal of places to go and will tend to roam, especially as the ice fishing season progresses. Be flexible in your presentation, sometimes the flash/noise lures work great, and sometimes a more subtle presentation is the ticket. Great opportunities exist for those who are willing to work and adapt to what the fish are telling them on Lake Winnebago.