It’s Time…. With the bitterness of winter setting in, you’re either debating retiring to the south or you’re hitting “REFRESH” on your social media accounts to check the latest ice reports. Well, the ice is building, and local fishing clubs are posting like crazy and getting ready to put out “ice bridges” on the lake to allow vehicle traffic on the great Lake Winnebago.
Along with Lake Winnebago being a top tier destination as an open water fishery, it is also a hardwater bucket list as the home to the Midwest’s largest ice fishing tournament, “Battle on Bago”. We all know about Lake Winnebago’s world class walleye fishery; however, it also boasts a quality white bass, perch as well as the bonus eelpout and crappie fishery.
Yeah, it’s cold. But the best part about hardwater is that it’s the great equalizer. You don’t need fancy boats or equipment. All you have to do is walk/ski/drive out onto the lake, drill a hole, wet a line and catch fish. Okay…it may not be that easy, but you get the point. Anybody in an average ice year, can access all corners of this great lake. What makes this all possible are the many local fishing clubs that monitor the ice, maintain plowed roads, and place and operate many “ice bridges."
What the heck is an “ice bridge” you ask. Lake Winnebago is home to some serious pressure cracks; this is caused from the expansion and contraction of the ice. The great thing for us is that all the local clubs monitor these cracks and place “ice bridges” across them to allow access to all parts of the lake. Clubs that do this rely on club memberships and donations at the bridges to make this possible. However, as always, any travel on the lake via foot, ski, track, or wheel is AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Now there are many access points to Lake Winnebago, but the most popular is Merritt Street, operated by the famed Otter Street Fishing Club. Merritt Street access allows you the shortest access to the main lake basin referred to as “the mud” by the locals and a great starting point to find fish.
So…now that you’re on the lake, let’s get you fishing. To be successful on Lake Winnebago is to be a prize fighter, you must be willing to “stick n’ move”. This means stay on the move until you find the fish, then keep moving to stay with them as they roam the “the mud”. The bait of choice…. well of course… that’s always up for debate. However, here are a few local staples to get you started. You’ll want some version of a jigging minnow, Jigging Raps or Tikka Minnow. Jigging spoons are also a favorite: Buckshot Rattle Spoons, Swedish Pimples Spoons, and Kastmaster Spoons are just a few. Winnebago water can be dark at times and would be considered stained. Therefore, bright colors like chartreuse; orange glow; gold; red; purple; and a local favorite “clown”, are typically the go-to shades. Tipping your lure with a minnow, minnow head, spikes, wax worms and plastics can also increase your success.
Ice Fishing Lake Winnebago can be “like a box of Oak’s chocolates”. If you’re in the mud you never really know what you’re going to catch. Walleyes, Perch, White Bass and Crappie tend to roam together feeding on the same forage. One last thought for a successful day….be aggressive with your jigging routine. Use the lures flash and sound to help draw the fish in the stained water.
Here are some social media accounts to follow for the latest conditions and equipment.