Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
For Wisconsin Outdoor News
Written March, 2008

Winnebago System Spring s To Life
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

The recent warm spell has done its job in breathing life into the Wolf, Fox and Winnebago system. Ice anglers are venturing out on the last vestiges of fishable ice, mostly confined to backwaters at this time. Some anglers in the New London area may still be pushing boats out to the few remaining ice fields but open water seems well on the way here too. Some back bays and channels may still see some ice action in the Winneconne area and on the lower lakes, but access is going to be difficult due to rotting shore ice. The high water level has lifted the ice allowing the water underneath to interact with the warming shoreline. Usually a long plank is all you need but the high water and sunshine has rendered that remedy useless in most areas. Same with many areas on Lake Winnebago where late ice anglers usually find success for perch or walleye. There may be fishable ice, but getting to it is the trick. This is the time of year when we usually hear about someone getting stranded on an ice field or falling through. The lure of late ice may be the good fishing, but in this old man’s book, it’s not worth the potential bath. If you go ice fishing this time of year you should make sure to carry proper safety equipment, wear a life vest and carry your cell phone in an upper pocket sealed in a zip lock bag. Never go out on the ice alone and make sure to leave an itinerary with friends or family.

By publishing of this article anglers will be out in boats in the Fremont area as the river is pretty much set to open up from Gills to the mouth at Lake Poygan. The warm sunshine along with strong current for this time of year may make ice fishing the local bayou’s, Partridge and Partridge Crop Lake nearly impossible. In early April it is common to see ice anglers fishing the “mill bayou” in Fremont while boats drift by catching walleye. Actually, when ice conditions are favorable, I’ve seen anglers perched on buckets at the edge of the current there pulling walleye through a hole. Bluegill and perch are often active in the backwaters this time of year and there is often a good late ice bite for crappie that is over looked. Partridge and Partridge Crop Lake are both potential hot spots for late ice crappie action but once again, safe access is the key.

The Fox River between highway 41 and Lake Winnebago is getting more angling pressure each year, and for good reason. Obviously all the walleye that leave the big lake and head toward the Fox or Wolf River system must pass through this area. There is also a great deal of structure and spawning habitat that attracts a percentage of walleye and is used by the perch in large numbers. That makes this stretch of river a good place to fish all season long, including right after ice out. Rainbow park offers excellent access and there is a well known bait shop nearby where anglers can get good, current information along with their live bait. With all the focus on the walleye in the spring, the perch fishing can sometimes go un-noticed until the hot bite draws boat loads of anglers. Those in the know will be there prior to that and should see some excellent fishing this spring.

There is always need to exercise extreme caution when boating this time of year. Ice chunks are often only partially visible and can contain large pieces of wood, metal or rock. In high water years I’ve sen picnic tables, set of steps and large trees floating just under the surface. Even in a large “tournament package” type fishing boat, an angler can be thrown into the water should you strike any one of these at high speed. Those in small fishing boats are even more exposed to this type of danger. Even at low speeds a large log or chunk of ice can capsize a typical fishing boat. For this reason, everyone in the boat should be on the lookout for floating debris when traveling. Communication should be direct so that the boat driver and passengers know what to expect from each other. I like my passengers to simply point at anything they see and if it’s big or unavoidable, to make sure I know about it. Another thing I see quite often is a passenger in a small boat riding on a seat that is higher then the gunnel of the boat. This is dangerous even on a short ride. I have seen people riding like this thrown into the water after hitting another boaters wake, saved only by quick action and the wearing of a life vest. Another no-no this time of year is anchoring sideways in the middle of the current. Even inside bends off the current line are not totally safe but the middle of the river is NOT the place to be. “UP run” walleye are using the off current areas anyway but even if the fish are there, dropping a hook in the middle of the river in early spring is dangerous. Even when anchored in a proper spot, a sharp knife should always be ready to cut the anchor rope should something get lodged on it. Even a chunk of ice the size of a garbage can lid can cause a boat to capsize if caught on the anchor rope. Anchoring sideways this time of year just makes it more dangerous. If something is long enough to get caught on both ropes, you have seconds to react.

So think safety, dress warm and find the fishing action you are looking for in Wolf River Country and Lake Winnebago system. Late ice panfish and open water fishing for walleye should be your options.


© Copyright 2009 - 2011 ~ Joel "Doc" Kunz - All Rights Reserved
No Use Or Copy Of The Material In This Website Allowed Without Written Consent By The Owner
Web Site Hosted By The Big Palm