Monday, February 28, 2011

Lake Winnebago Walleyes Preparing for their Spring Run

Its official, the Walleyes are beginning to stage in front of the Fox River in Oshkosh on Lake Winnebago in preparation for their annual spawning migration up the Fox and Wolf Rivers to the marshes they spawn in.  Each year hundreds of thousands of Winnebago Walleyes make the voyage from the big lake all the way to New London, Shiocton, Eureka, and some as far as Shawano! 

Lake Winnebago Sunrise
At the present time the fish are recognizing the longer days and are schooling up in the main lake, waiting for the next spring melt which will get the rivers flowing and thus drawing the Walleyes up river.  Fishing on Winnebago at this time of the year can be phenomenal if you can locate one of these massive schools of Walleyes. 
Last week I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of these schools and had the time of my life!  Thursday afternoon I managed 21 Walleyes in a few hours, without having to move once.  There was no fishing pressure on these fish besides the two of us, which allowed the fish to remain comfortable in the area.  The flasher was lit up with fish all over the water column, and at times there were 5 or more fish below the hole at once! 


Saturday was Battle on Bago, which is a large Ice Fishing Tournament that draws thousands of people every year.  The tournament increased the pressure on the lake, which caused the fish to somewhat scatter and move throughout the day.  I still managed to catch 20 Walleyes, all between 13"-19", as well as a few nice Saugers.  The key was to move to stay on the active fish.  It was almost like clock work after awhile.  Cut a hole, catch a couple fish, then move 50 yards and repeat.  It seemed like the fish were around right away when moving, and then after a half an hour they were gone.  This technique worked great, but it wasn't nearly as convenient as the fishing was on Thursday!

I also noticed that the schools of Whitebass seemed to be right behind the main school of Walleyes.  When you were in the right school you were catching Walleyes and Saugers, when they moved on you began to catch large Whitebass.  The Whitebass were your sign to move again.


The fish were caught on Swedish Pimples and Jigging Rapalas, the Blue and Chrome Rapala was good as well as the plain silver Swedish Pimple. 

The fishing is showing no signs of slowing down out there, but remember this time of the year the ice begins to deteriorate so play it safe out there, no fish is worth your life!  Good luck out there and be sure to keep moving until you find the motherload!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Battle on Bago this Weekend

The 4th Annual Battle on Bago Ice Fishing Tournament is scheduled for this Saturday, Tournament hours are from 6:00am-1:00pm.  Walleye, Perch, Whitebass, Crappie, Bluegill, and Burbot may be entered.  Ranking goes strictly by weight and not species. 

Clay Matthews of our Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers will also be attending the event, so don't miss out on your chance to meet the Claymaker!


Due to the poor ice conditions on Lake Winnebago this year, the tournament has been extended to all Wisconsin bodies of water.  Registration will still be at Menominee Park in Oshkosh, you must be in line with your fish by 1:00pm.  There will also be a raffle that is separate from the tournament that you can purchase tickets and have more chances to win great prizes.

Battle on Bago is unique because there are many "Random" prizes, such as a $1000 prize for the 100th place fish, a televised fishing trip with John Gillespie, and even a 5 day Muzzle Loader Hunt in Kansas!  Below are the full prize details for Battle on Bago 2011.

Details of Prizes for the 2011 Tournament

Fishing Prizes

Place Prize
1st $2,011
2nd $750
3rd $500
4th $250
5th $250
6th Frabill Ice Suit
7th Frabill Ice Suit
8th Frabill Conservation Series Net
9th H30 Polarized Sportsmans Sunglasses
10th Outposts 2-3 Man Hub Shelter - Frabill
15th Battle on Bago long-sleeve shirt (x-large)
20th 4 Hour Guided Night Bowfishing Trip Gar-get-R Bowfishing Charters
25th $250
30th Televised Fishing Trip for 2 with John Gillespie - Sponsored by Mills Fleet Farm
35th Marcum VX1P Performance Pack
40th 5 Day Pike County IL Gun Hunt
45th H30 Polarized Sportsmans Sunglasses
50th $500
55th Marcum VX1P Performance Pack
60th 1/2 Day Guided Fishing Trip on Lake Winnebago/Poygan - Capt. Rod Busching
65th Frabill Fish Net
70th Frabill 6 Man Headquarters Hub Shelter
75th $250
80th 3-pack Pro Thermal Tip-ups
85th H.T. Polar Escape Mag Shelter
90th 1/2-day guided fishing trip in Door County - Alexander Sport Fishing
95th Frabill Hiber-Net
100th $1,000
105th Marcum VX1P Performance Pack
110th St. Croix Custom fishing rod - Battle on Bago Edition
115th Frabill Hiber-Net (x-large)
120th 3-pack Pro Thermal Tip-ups
125th $250
130th 3-pack Pro Thermal Tip-ups
135th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
140th Jiffy Ice Auger
145th The Cyclone Panfish Scaler
150th $500
155th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
160th Frabill Bro Fishing Combo with Gloves
165th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
170th Frabill Ice Suit
175th $250
180th Frabill FXE Task Glove and Performance Hoodie
185th Marcum VX1P Performance Pack
190th 1/2 Guided Ice Fishing Trip in Door County - Alexander Sport Fishing
195th Frabill Ice Suit
200th $1,000
205th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
210th Frabill Task Glove and Performance Hoodie
215th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
220th Frabill Ice Suit
225th $250
230th Frabill Conservation Series Net
235th Marcum VX1P Performance Pack
240th Frabill Task Glove and Performance Hoodie
245th Frabill Ice Suit
250th $500
255th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
260th Frabill Task Glove and Performance Hoodie
265th Battle on Bago Fishing Package
270th 5 Day Kansas Muzzle Loader Hunt - Midwest Outfitters
275th $250
280th Frabill Task Glove and Performance Hoodie
285th Frabill Ice Suit
290th Battle on Bago Hat and Long Sleeve Shirt (x-large)
295th Battle on Bago Hat and Long Sleeve Shirt (x-large)
300th $1,000
301th Mathews Z7 Extreme Limited Edition - autographed by Matt McPherson

Good luck to everyone participating in this weekend's Tournament and remember to stay safe out on the ice!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lake Winnebago Ice Fishing Update

Spent the day on Saturday out on Lake Winnebago again, this time I was fishing rather than spearing.  Due to the deteriorating ice conditions, our Sturgeon shacks were pulled off of the lake mid week.

We began the morning driving on the lake at the Paynes Point Fishing Club ramp, only to run into some bad ice, which helped us to decide to turn around!  This proved to be a very good decision, as a truck went in a Sturgeon hole soon after out there.  Our next spot was Winnebago County Boat Landing which was just a couple miles to the south.  Driving on the lake from here was much better, so I felt better about being out there!

We began fishing for Perch in Cowling Bay in 6 fow with only 4" Perch to show for our efforts.  Next stop was an area of raised hard bottom out in the mud just north of Garlic Island.  This spot produced a nice jumbo Perch right away, and then nothing. 

Third stop was the mud off of Oshkosh.  During late ice, the Walleyes in Lake Winnebago begin schooling up in preparation for their annual run up the Fox and Wolf Rivers to their spawning grounds.  This makes the ice near the river the prime area to target Walleyes this time of the year. 

Once we cut in and began jigging, there were lots of marks on the flasher and we even caught a few.  I started with a nice Perch followed by a jumbo Whitebass.  I also lost another fish that felt heavy just below the ice.  A few minutes later I had a 14.5" Walleye on the ice!  This was the first Walleye I have caught on Winnebago since August!  The fish continued biting here but slowed down around 2:00.  Steve, my Walleye Tournament partner, came over to our spot once I told him what kind of action we were having.  Steve then filled me in on the hot Perch spot.

I had to check out this Perch spot once I found out Steve's buddies had their limit of 50 Perch and were on their way home!  We packed up shop and headed for the Perch spot, leaving Steve on the mud spot.  The Perch report wasn't a fluke!  Before I had the third tip up in the water the first one was up!  The fishing was fast and furious for the entire 2 hours we were there.  One out of about every four were keepers, but catching so many fish that fast was a blast!

Meanwhile, Steve was also having the time of his life on the other spot, landing 8 Walleyes, a Sauger, several Whitebass, and eve 2 Crappies!  Between 4-5:30 the Walleyes turned on and Steve capitalized!

It has been a tough winter for fishing on the Winnebago System, but if you keep at it, there are fish to be had!

On a side note, for everyone venturing out on the lake after this snowstorm, use extreme caution, and if at all possible follow someone or stay in someone elses tracks!  The old roads that had open areas and the Sturgeon holes that may only have an inch of ice on them are now covered with fresh snow, making thousands of mines all over the lake.  Remember, no fish is worth the loss of a life!   

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Scheels Exclusive Flicker Shads

Scheels continues to come out with exclusive new bait colors, this time it is three different custom colors of the Berkley Flicker Shad.  The exclusive colors come in both the 5 CM and 7 CM sizes.

The new baits are set to hit the store shelves sometime this spring, hopefully by the beginning of April.  The new colors include a Metallic Perch, which should be a prime bait wherever Walleyes have Perch for feed, since this color is very life-like.

Scheels has also come up with its Goldfish custom color, which originally came out in the Shad Rap.  The big differences between a Shad Rap and a Flicker Shad are the sound, material, and action.  The Flicker Shad has built in rattles which give the bait a wounded baitfish sound, helping feeding Walleyes narrow in on an easy meal.  The next big difference in the two is material.  Flicker Shads are made out of a durable plastic, whereas a Shad Rap is still carved out of Balsa wood.  The Balsa wood of the Shad Rap causes it to float on the pause, while the Flicker Shad will suspend when paused in the water column.  Lastly, the action of a Flicker Shad is similar to Shad Rap, but the wiggle is slightly tighter.  This subtle difference can make all the difference when the fish are negative!

Another must have color in the Flicker Shad is the Scheels Exclusive Blue Pearl.  This bait is ideal for open water situations when you are dealing with clear water.

All 3 of these exciting new Flicker Shad colors will be available before you know it, so remember to add them to your arsenal this spring to help put more Walleye in your boat!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lake Winnebago Sturgeon Season May Go the Distance

185 Pounder
 The 2011 Lake Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Season got off to a slow start when it comes to numbers, but not size!  There have been 43 Sturgeon registered in the first 3 days of the season that topped the scales at over 100 pounds!  The biggest of the season thus far was speared on Valentine's Day by John Genske of Sheboygan, WI.  The fish was taken along the East shore of Lake Winnebago near Brothertown.  Here is a picture of the mammoth Sturgeon!


Warm weather conditions in Northeast Wisconsin have caused a major melt down of the snow out on the Lake, which is causing lots of standing water on the ice.  Plowed roads have become puddles as deep as 18" in some locations!  High traffic areas, specifically landings, have been effected the most by the warm weather.  When venturing out be careful around the landings, crack your window, and keep your seat-belt off!


This is also not a good time to be crossing cracks.  With the warm weather the cracks tend to move more often, also the melt water tends to run down into the lake here, eroding the ice and making the cracks wider!  Be safe out on Lake Winnebago this week, not only because of the warm temperatures, but also because many Sturgeon Spearer's have already either moved or taken their shacks off the lake, leaving holes all over the place!  Spearer's are required to mark their holes when abandoning them, however, with the warm weather the stakes tend to fall over leaving the open holes unmarked! 


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tough Opening Weekend

video

The opening weekend of the Lake Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Season got off to a slow start, when compared to 2010.  There were a record number or licenses sold, but spearers only managed to bring in 39 Juvenile Females, 126 Adult Females, and 118 Males, for a total of 283 Sturgeon on opening day.  This number is substantially down from last years opening day where 515 Sturgeon were speared.


Despite the low numbers of fish taken, spearers were in high spirits and were welcomed with some above normal temperatures.  Water clarity lake-wide remains fair, but Sturgeon activity seems to be down.  Spearers on the north end of the lake are seeing lots of Shad and dying Shad in their spearing holes, but not much for Sturgeon.  There were only a handful of fish registered at Waverly Beach, despite hundreds of spearers in the area.  Stockbridge and just north of Stockbridge seems to be the most active location on the lake.


My cousin speared a 35lb. Sturgeon just off of St. Catherine's bay which is near Stockbridge this morning around 10am.   My cousin also talked to a friend that managed a 109lber. on opening morning at around 10:30 that came in 6 feet below the ice in 19fow!  He stopped by with the fish, what a beast!  The nose was touching one side of his truck bed and the tail was touching the other!  He said it was 68" long and if it would've had fully developed eggs it would've been pushing 140lbs!  I wish I would've taken a pic of that hog!

Opening Morning Sunrise

As for our group of 11 shacks, we zeroed on opening weekend!  We set up in 18fow a mile north of Quinney and a little over a mile out from shore.  The clarity was slightly dirtier than last year, but white PVC was still visible on the bottom as well as dead shad.  Shiner minnows kept my wife and I occupied, as they seemed to circle the hole all day long.  Besides the Shiners, we only saw a few dying Shad slowly swim through.

Minnows Down the Hole

The season is still young, so get out there and put some time in for a chance at the fish of a lifetime!  If you would like to get an idea of how we cut our holes in the ice, check out this video!



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sturgeon Spearing Right Around the Corner

Opening day of the 2011 Lake Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Season is less than a week away and spearers are preparing for what could be another record year.  The word on the ice is that clarity is once again really good over most of the lake.  There are some areas of cloudy water out from the river mouth as well as the south end, but for the most part it should not be a major factor in extending the season.

Here Fishy Fishy


The biggest challenge facing spearers this year will be snow, and lots of it.  Travel on the lake away from the plowed roads has been tough going to say the least!  I would strongly suggest traveling with more than one vehicle as well as having a shovel, tow rope, and cell phone with you at all times.  The drifts are really hard to distinguish from the normal snow cover, so be prepared to put the hammer down out there!

My New Decoy


On a brighter note, this weekend's forecast is calling for highs in the 30's, which should get the fish moving and also make for a comfortable experience on the ice.

I have taken the day off on Friday to haul the shack out onto the ice, cut in, and get the shack ready to go for opening morning!  I plan on taking lots of pictures of all the festivities, so I can show all of you just how unique and interesting the entire process really is.  Wish me luck this weekend and I will report back soon!

Last Year's Success


For more up to date information on this year's harvest numbers and a lakewide water clarity report check out the Wisconsin DNR webstie at http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/sturgeon/lakewinnebago/

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tragedy on the Homefront

Unfortunately for yours truly, my weekend started off with a bang!  On Friday I had planned to take a half day of vacation to get on the ice prior to a Bachelor Party where all the guys wanted to catch some fish.  On Thursday evening I stopped at Fleet Farm on my way home from work to pick up some bait, a couple new baits, gas, and a car wash for my salt covered truck.


Once I returned home, I then organized all of my gear, put the aerator in the minnows, and changed some hooks and leaders on my tip ups.  Everything seemed to be falling into place quite nicely.  I had everything ready for the weekend before my wife came home from work!

My luck swiftly changed on Friday morning, as I headed to work like I do every day M-F.  The only difference, I lost all of my ice fishing gear in the blink of an eye.  Everything seemed fine, until I stepped out of my truck and noticed my tailgate was open!  I quickly looked under my tonneau cover and couldn't believe my eyes!  I had to look twice before it hit me that my sled had slipped right out the back without me knowing!
As soon as I realized what had happened, I was backtracking my route praying my gear would be laying along the road waiting for me to retrieve it.  As I pulled into my apartment complex it hit, my gear was gone!  Someone had collected my gear and took off with it.  I had my name and number on several of the items, so I was confident that I would be getting a call soon.  My confidence began to fade as the hours passed and the phone remained silent.  It was gone, all gone.

Everything from my Hummingbird Flasher to my Ice Creepers, gone.  The more I thought about what had just happened, the more things I remembered that I had lost.  The gear that had taken me years to collect had been lost in seconds.

I wish there was a happy ending to the story, unfortunately for me there isn't, at least not yet!  The rebuilding process has already begun, Fleet Farm is enjoying my recent investments, and will continue to enjoy them for some time.