Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MWS Winneconnie Quickly Approaching

We are just 5 days away from the beginning of the 2011 Midwest Walleye Series, which begins on the waters of the upper Lake Winnebago System this Sunday, May 1st.  The boundaries for this tournament will be the Northport Bridge in New London to the train bridge at the mouth of the Fox River at Lake Winnebago.  As of now, the fish are on the move, migrating from the Wolf River where they have completed spawning, back to the lakes of Poygan, Winneconnie, Butte des Morts, and eventually Lake Winnebago.

There are several tactics that could produce the winning basket of fish, including; trolling the upriver lakes, jigging rock piles, pulling flies, vertical jigging, or even casting crankbaits.  Weather will play an important role determining the winning pattern.  Wind, rain, high water, and strong weather fronts prior to the tourney will present a challenge to all anglers competing this weekend!

I will be fishing this tournament in hopes of catching a big bag of Winnebago Walleyes, and plan on pre-fishing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so hopefully we will be able to dial the fish in for Sunday!  I will probably wait to give an updated report until after the tournament, so remember to check back and see how Steve and I place in the MWS this Sunday!  If anyone would still like to get in the tournament you can check out the MWS website at http://www.fishtfm.com/.  You can download the entry form, fill it out, and bring it with you to the rules meeting on Saturday at 4:00 which will be held at Critters Sport Shop in Winneconnie.  The fee is $275 per boat, and the first place team is fishing for $4,400!  Sign up for your chance at taking home some cash and also some really nice plaques!

I would also like to take some time to let everyone know that I have changed the message board to a more user friendly version I think you will all like!  Please take a few minutes to setup an account with a username so we can get some discussions going here rather than sites like Lake-Link!  I will be posting updated reports and pictures there as well, so make sure to check it frequently!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fort Fremont Walleye Classic

Soaked but still smiling!
The spring weather in Wisconsin can be truly extreme, and this spring is certainly no exception!  One day it is 75° and there are tornadoes, and just 3 days later it is 40° for the high with wind, rain, and even snow!  Despite these crazy conditions, I spent half of the day Thursday and a good part of Friday on the Wolf River pre-fishing for the Fort Fremont Walleye Classic that was to be held on Saturday April 16.
River Flooded into the Woods
Thursday afternoon my dad and I decided to fish way upriver towards New London in hopes of getting on a hot post spawn bite for big female Walleyes that were flushing out of the marshes and in search of an easy meal.  When we launched however, we were greeted with extremely high and fast water which made presenting your bait to the fish properly super tough. 

We fished for four hours and were only able to catch 4 Walleyes between 13-17 inches and all males.  These are not the fish that can win the tournament, which told me we had to move on.

Friday's weather called for 30 mph winds and rain in the afternoon with highs in the lower 40's.  There are two ways to look at everything, and I chose to look at the conditions as an advantage to me.  There were far fewer boats on the river than a usual Friday during the Walleye Run, which also helped the bite.
Fort Fremont Plaques

Our first spot produced 3 fish from 16-19 inches in just 3 drifts, but by 9:00 there were over 15 boats fishing the same area, with many of them pre-fishing for the tourney.  I decided to look for another spot since I knew that this one would be thick with boats on the day of the tournament.

I found another spot that had nice current and a fairly deep channel that gradually came up to 10 feet.  First pass through the spot yielded a 20.5" spawned out female Walleye that absolutely crushed my jig!  This was a great feeling, especially considering there was only 1 other boat within sight of us!  We continued making passes through this area catching a fish or two, then nothing for a pass or two, and then more fish.  The fish would come in waves and you just had to wait them out. 

By 2:30 we had caught 12 Walleyes in this spot, with a 23"er being the biggest and having 7 of them over 20"!  I entered waypoints where I caught each fish that would be used during the tournament to help us drift the proper area and stay on the fish.  At this point I felt good about the tournament, but also knew that there would be some big weights to compete with on Saturday!

The tournament began at 6:00 in a light rain and temperatures in the mid 30's.  By 10:00 the rain switched over to mainly snow, which was actually a relief since the snow allowed my fingers to stay dry and begin to function properly again!

My fishing partner Steve started the day off with a bang by catching a 21" Walleye on the first pass, within the first two minutes of fishing!  I had just gotten the net out and was still baiting up my jig when he yelled fish on!  This was about as good of a start as I have ever had to a tournament!  We continued fishing our area and would catch a fish every other pass or so. 

By 9:30, we had 5 fish over 20 inches, but nothing over 21 inches!  We knew that it was going to take a kicker fish for us to win the tournament.  We stuck to our game plan in hopes of getting that big bite, but a fat 22"er was our biggest fish of the day.  We ended up weighing 5 fish for 16.35 pounds, which was good enough to place us 3rd out of the 75 boat field. 

Third place was good for $450 and a cool plaque.  We certainly didn't strike it rich, but we came close to a win and had a great time catching some nice fish while competing against some of the areas finest fisherman!

The weigh-in was quite unique as well, each team had to walk their fish from the dock (which was under 8" of water) to shore, in a weigh bag.  This was a little nerve wracking, since the river current was flowing over the dock and the edges of the dock were tough to see in the dirty water.  Luckily everyone made it down the dock and weighed their fish!

 Denny Fox ran a great event and I plan on fishing this tournament again next year!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wolf River Report 4/15/11 Nasty Weather, Solid Fishing

Spent half the day yesterday and 7 hours today in some of the nastiest conditions mother nature can throw at a guy this time of year.  Between the 35 mph wind gusts and flood stage water levels, most would not even bother fishing!  With a tournament tomorrow, I needed to get out and find a pattern to use during the tournament.

That is exactly what we did!  Fishing started out strong with 3 fish on three drifts.  The only problem with our success was the fact that other fishermen were watching!  Our area quickly became flooded with boats and our next 3 drifts resulted in no fish.  I decided that I had already learned what I had needed in this spot and moved on to another good spot nearby. 

Our first drift in the next spot resulted in a 15" male Walleye that was still milking and heading upriver.  The second pass started out with a bang as I landed a 23" spawned out female.  The fish absolutely crushed my jig and minnow!  The beauty was released after a couple quick photos and it was back to fishing/fighting the wind!  The wind in this spot was pushing the boat towards shore with each gust, making it tough to stay vertical with our jigs.

We made several more drifts down this spot catching a fish or two each drift, until we ended up with our limit of 10 Walleyes and 2 throwback females.
Flood Waters Inching Closer

Despite the crappy conditions, the fish were flushing out of the marshes and on the lookout for some food!  We were lucky enough to find a few biters and will be enjoying a fish fry from this trip soon!

I hope to let everyone know how the tournament goes, but if anyone would like to watch the weigh-in, it will be at 2:00 at Fort Fremont Marine, which is along the Wolf River just south of Fremont. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wolf River Walleye Spawn Update

Here is a report from Ron Bruch, the Upper Fox-Wolf Fisheries Work Unit Supervisor with the DNR.  I find this information interesting and helpful for tracking down those migrating Walleyes on the Wolf and Fox Rivers right now, I hope you do as well!

April 6 2011

It's starting to happen.........the walleye are starting to move on to the marshes on the Wolf and upper Fox Rivers for their annual spawning ritual. We worked last week on the upper Fox and were able to get 30 fish surgically implanted with 3 year sonic tags below the Eureka dam. The upper Fox is always about a week or more ahead of the Wolf and fish are probably spawning this week on the upper Fox.


We've moved to the Wolf this week and will spend all of our time on there from this point on. We started looking for fish on a few Wolf marshes in the New London and Shiocton areas on Monday this week with our electrofishing boats, and we set nets on a marsh in each area as well. The numbers of fish on the marsh is pretty low at this point although we expect that number to build exponentially over the next few days. So far after two days shocking (Monday & Tuesday) and 1 day lifting fyke nets (Tuesday) we have tagged about 600 fish (mostly from the nets so far) and have surgically implanted sonic tags in 36 fish (finished 20 in the Shiocton area, and have done 16 out of 20 in the New London area so far).

The temperature on the Wolf mainstem and in the marshes is up to 38.3 degrees F and the walleye need temps in the 40s to do their thing. The weather forecast is calling for highs around 50 or more for the rest of this week and in the 60s this coming weekend. This will definitely make things happen and we expect to see walleyes spawning in earnest by the weekend and early next week; with the fish pretty much wrapping up the majority of their spawning by the end of next week (unless the weather gets really cold next week which would extend things). In any event there should be fish coming off the marshes pretty well making their run back to the lakes by the end of next week - which will initiate the real fishing opportunities for anglers on the river.

Wolf River Cam

We will be tagging fish this year as usual from New London up to Shawano on the Wolf River. As most of you know we are doing some extra studies this spring comparing our catch rates between fyke nets and our shocker boats to see which is the most efficient gear for catching walleye for our spring tagging studies, and to see if there is any difference in the angler tag return rate of net vs. shocker caught fish over the next year. We will also be completing the initial surgical implants of 100 three year sonic telemetry tags into 50 adult male and 50 adult female walleye. As I mentioned above we are making good progress on this part of our planned work. We will be finishing putting tags in fish in the New London area today and will putting tags in 20 fish up near Shawano and 10 fish on Lake Winnebago (once the ice goes out on the lake and the fish start spawning there). Our walleye spawn not only on their traditional spawning marshes on the Wolf and upper Fox Rivers (on grass in old oxbows with flow going through them in spring), but they also spawn every year directly on gravel beds in the rivers and along the rocky shorelines of Lake Winnebago. I've even seen them spawning on sturgeon spawning sites in the Wolf River (such as Bamboo Bend) in years when the water flows were very low in spring and fish could not get into any marshes.

Speaking of spring flows - things look pretty good this year. There is nice flow going through most of the Wolf floodplain, marshes and bottom-land swamp maple stands along the Wolf. The fish will use all of these areas for spawning providing there is flow and grass or old leaf litter that they can lay their eggs on. The rain we got last weekend helped a lot and if the forecast is right it appears we should get enough rain over the next week or so to keep things going. Keep your fingers crossed. We are due for a good flow year. The last good spring flow year we had was 2008, which produced one of the largest year classes of walleye we have ever measured on the Winnebago System. As we expected, we are seeing a lot of males from this year class (making their first spawning run, at 13-15") in our sampling this spring. The females from this year class are not mature yet and won't show up in force for 2-3 more years. Regarding spring Wolf River flows and temperatures, you can track them on line at the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/uv?dd_cd=01%2C02%2C14&format=gif&...

So - so far so good. We'll be putting in long days over the next couple of weeks to capture and tag the 10,000+ walleye we need to tag every spring to ensure we can stay on top of this great fishery. Long days - but days my crew and I look forward to every year.

Don't forget - if you capture one of our sonic tagged fish, please release it so we can continue to track it for the next three years (I've attached our sonic tagging study flyer again which shows how to identify these fish).

Also if you capture one of our regular floy tagged fish (one of the 10,000+ we will be tagging this spring with our normal yellow plastic dart tag inserted along the base of the back dorsal fin), please send the tag along with your name and address, the location and date of capture, and the tag, to the address on the tag (DNR, 625 E Cty Rd Y, Suite 700, Oshkosh, WI 54901).

Thanks - we greatly appreciate your cooperation and help with these tag returns. They are critical to our Winnebago walleye management program.

Till my next report..........


April 11 2011

The walleye are spawning in earnest on the upper Fox River, and just beginning to spawn on the Wolf River. We have been tagging fish captured via our shocking boats and fyke nets as planned this spring and as of the end of day yesterday (Sunday 4/10) are up to around 6700 fish total captured, tagged, and released (4700 shocking, and 2000 netting). Our goal is to tag at least 5000 with each gear and then compare the tag return rate over the next year of fish originally captured from the two gear types.

This year's spawning stock is, as we predicted, dominated by the males from the 2008 year class (the last year that we had good spring flows and lots of water in the river and spawning marshes). These males are the large number of fish between 13 and 16 inches anglers have been and will be seeing this spring. The females from this year class are not mature yet and we don't expect to see them making their first spawning run for a couple of more years. I've inserted a length frequency chart below that shows the size distribution of this year's walleye spawning stock on the Winnebago System.

The walleye will likely finish their 2011 spawning by the end of this week. Once these fish come of the marshes and out of the flooded woods where they are spawning, they should provide some excellent fishing opportunities. I would look for the best fishing beginning later this week and running for most of the rest of this month. Usually the best post-spawn walleye bite on the rivers is at the same time that the sturgeon are spawning. I expect to see the sturgeon start spawning within the next two weeks.

That's it for now - more later this week.

Ronald M. Bruch, PhD
Upper Fox-Wolf Fisheries Work Unit Supervisor
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
625 E County Rd Y, Suite 700
Oshkosh, WI 54901 USA
phone: (920) 424-3059

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wolf River Walleye Report 4/7/11

Took an afternoon trip to the Wolf River between New London and Fremont in hopes of tangling with a few pre-spawn Walleyes moving upriver towards their spawning marshes.  On the trip over to the river, my brother set a goal of catching a 20 incher.  I told him it was possible but not probable, considering the majority of the females are already further upriver awaiting the proper conditions to spawn.  That didn't seem to phase him, he was still gonna catch a 20 incher!  We launched at 4:00 and headed straight to one of my favorite spots.
Catch of the Day

To our satisfaction, there were no boats fishing the area!  I didn't waste any time when we reached our destination.  I had a minnow on my jig, trolling motor in the water, and a bite before my brother even had a minnow on his rod!  He about flipped when I said get the net while he was netting himself a minnow!  I wasn't kidding either!  I had to hold the fish in the water while he scrambled to fetch the net, then I gently glided my first Wolf River Walleye into the net.  It was a solid 17" male Walleye that quickly went into the live well so I could get my jig back in the water!

We continued our drift, vertical jigging in deep water, when I watched my brother set the hook.  The fish escaped after two cranks of his reel, but it was a good sign that we were on to something!  Our next pass resulted in 3 solid bites, but none of them stayed hooked long enough to make it to the boat.  Stinger hooks would've been a good bet, its too bad I left them in the truck!

We kept with our program and continued to bang a fish on every drift or two.  On one of the drifts, I had just stopped the boat and sent my jig down, when my brother yelled "I got one"!  I turned around to see his rod doubled over and sent his drag screaming.  I looked at him and said, "I think this may be your 20 incher!"

The fish stayed down and ran several times before showing itself.  It was a 20 incher alright!  He guided the fish towards the net, a plump 28" Northern!  Grant pulled the fish out of the net and held it up for a picture, that is until the fish had other ideas.  The fish flopped out of his hands, bounced off the side of the boat, and plopped back into the river. 

Oh well it was back to fishing for Walleyes!  My brother had caught his 20 incher, which he was pumped about!  The fish in our area had slowed down after about 2 hours and 5 Walleyes, so we headed to another one of my favorite spots.

This time we weren't so lucky when it came to other boats.  There were 8 boats anchored along this stretch that can be dynamite right now vertical jigging.  The anchored boats were catching a few, so I can just imagine how many we could've caught if the spot was open! 

The spot was full, so we tried a couple other spots just downriver from there.  We had a couple short bites but were unable to bring anything to the boat.  With about an hour of fishing left, we decided to head back to our starting spot and try and catch a few more before darkness set in.

This proved to be a good move, as I popped a nice 15" Walleye on the very first drift and Grant lost one half way up a minute later. 

The first trip of the season on the Wolf River was a success, resulting in 6 nice Walleyes and a Northern!  I will be taking the weekend off and then getting back out a few times in the next week, as the fish should finish spawning and be heading back towards Lake Winnebago in search of an easy meal!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Algoma Spring Brown Trout

April 2nd isn't exactly "early" for spring Brown Trout fishing, but this year it was the first opportunity to get a 19' boat in the water due to the unusual cold and snow that we have been hampered with over the past two weeks.  We launched the boat in the Ahnapee River and headed towards the big lake. 

The weather was ideal for trolling for Brown Trout, an offshore breeze, light in the morning and blowing pretty good by the afternoon.  Temperatures were in the mid 30's when we launched, and climbed into the mid 40's by the time we called it a day around 1:00. 

Since the 3 boats ahead of us had all went north of the Harbor, we decided to head south in search of some warm dirty water and hungry Brown Trout.  We set up about a half mile north of the pump house, which is about 2 miles north of Kewaunee and began trolling south.

Within 20 minutes we had our first fish on!  Unfortunately the fish came unhooked within seconds, starting our season off with a swing and miss.  We weren't discouraged, and kept on trolling.  Water temps were 36° to 37° for the longest time, then it began warming up and getting some color to it.  Just as we noticed the water conditions improving, a board yanked back and I yelled "Fish On"!  This fish made its way to the net after a two or three minute battle. The fish, a 4 pound Brown Trout, hit on a Purple #11 Floating Rapala.

After trolling for another half hour in the warmer water with not another hit, we made the decision to head south to fish in front of the Kewaunee River.  It soon became apparent that we had made the right decision!  Our first pass through the gap was quiet, but the second pass resulted in a brief hookup with a nice Rainbow that jumped several times before throwing the hook, and then a 3 pound Brown Trout that came on a Clown Husky Jerk.

Just as we had finished the pass, two other boats showed up and began fishing the same area as we had just had the action in.  We continued fishing the area, despite being pushed off of our spot twice by the same boat that moved in on us.  Lake Michigan is the second largest lake in America, but sometimes guys feel they need to be right where you are in order to catch fish! 
Catch of the Day

We stuck our spot out and continued getting bit or catching a fish on just about every pass we made through the spot.  After an hour or so , the other two boats had seen enough and gave up on the spot.  This allowed us to get back to our proper pass and catch some more fish!

We ended the day going 6-10, which is a good start to a hopefully great season on the big pond!  If we would've ran down to Kewaunee first thing in the morning I would bet that we would've caught twice as many!  Oh well, I am just glad we found the fish when we did!  All of our fish were cookie cutter Browns that will taste great on the grill or in the smoker! 

This time of year is tough for me, since there are so many different fishing opportunities happening at the same time.  Trolling for Browns is good, the Steelies are in the rivers, the Walleyes are making their spawning runs, late ice Panfish are on fire, and the Brewers are back at it!  Get out and enjoy the outdoors, as this is one of the busiest times of the year for fishing opportunities!

Friday, April 1, 2011

DNR to Place Sonic Tags in Winnebago Walleyes

This spring Oshkosh DNR fisheries staff will be surgically implanting 100 walleye of various sizes on the Winnebago system with sonic tags. We’re asking anglers fishing the system to be on the lookout for these fish and to release them unharmed if they should catch one. The sonic tagged fish are recognizable as they have two or three blue monofilament sutures on their belly. We will also be putting a second tag on the fish in addition to the numbered Floy tag we commonly use. This second tag is a 3-inch long piece of yellow nylon located several inches behind the Floy tag (see photos).

This $32,000 project was entirely funded by 17 local sporting clubs and organizations around the Winnebagoland area with sportsmen’s dollars! The tags have a battery life of approximately 900 days. This should allow us to track the implanted walleye’s movement on their downstream migration this year and for 2 more years of both up and downstream spring runs, IF that fish doesn’t die or get harvested. That’s where your cooperation is vital to keep as many of these implanted fish swimming as long as possible. We believe that Winnebago system anglers will cooperate and release these fish, not only because they will find the information from this study very interesting, but also out of respect for the club’s donations of hard earned money toward this project.

The purpose of implanting the walleye with these tags is to better understand the timing and movement patterns of walleye in the Winnebago system. For many years, anglers have asked us questions about when the walleye leave the lake, how long does it take for them to get to the spawning marshes, how long do they stay up in the rivers, how fast they come back to the lake, etc. These sonic tags will give us some great information to better answer those questions.

Walleye will be tagged on the Fox River at Eureka and in the New London, Shiocton and Cty Rd CCC areas on the Wolf River to characterize movement of walleyes collected from various locations. In addition, spawning fish captured in Lake Winnebago will be implanted to see if they stay in the lake or eventually migrate upstream. The implanted walleye will range in size from 16 – 26 inches this spring. The tags are similar to those used on sturgeon and catfish in the system and the existing network of 27 sonic receivers will be used to track the movement of these walleye. Data are downloaded from the receivers in June and September.
If you do end up harvesting one of the sonic tagged fish we’d really like to get the transmitter back. At $320 each they’re too expensive to waste!! We can implant it in another walleye and maximize the info we get from each tag. So please call me at 920-424-7880 and we can make arrangements to return the tag. If I don’t answer (and it’s highly likely that I’ll be out on the water tagging walleye and sturgeon for most of April!) just leave a message on the voicemail with your name and number where I can reach you and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

The clubs/organizations that have contributed to this project are Battle on ‘Bago, Otter St. Fishing Club, Lake Poygan Sportsman’s Club, Walleyes for Tomorrow, East Shore Conservation Alliance, Fisherman’s Rd Fishing Club, Sheboygan Walleye Club, Lower Cliff Fishing Club, West Shore Fishing Club, Payne’s Point Hook and Spear, Quinney Fishing Club, Berlin Conservation Club, Outdoor Conservation Club, Brothertown Fishing Club, Butte des Morts Conservation Club, Twin City Rod and Gun Club and Oakfield Conservation Club. On behalf of the Department and the contributing clubs, I look forward to your cooperation in this great project and sharing the information from it a few years from now. As always, and be safe and courteous on the water, and good luck fishing!

Kendall K. Kamke Senior Fisheries Biologist – Oshkosh