Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
For Wisconsin Outdoor News
Written October, 2009

Look To The Bay Now For Big Walleye & Smallmouth
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

We have a resource in Wisconsin that is once again producing trophy class fish in abundance. That resource is the bay of Green Bay. From it’s southern most waters to those of Little Bay de noc, “The Bay” will provide countless anglers with the fish of a lifetime this fall. Ten pound walleye are almost common place some days with giants of 12, 13 and even 14 pounds being caught quite often. Fish will feed heavily in the fall and with developing eggs, are at their heaviest this time of year. They also relate more closely with the numerous tributaries and off shore structure, which makes them easier to find then when they are roaming open water.

Same with the smallmouth. Rocky shorelines and off shore humps will hold fish in abundance as they group up to feed. One of the most exciting things I’ve done is to work red-tailed chubs on rock humps in 40 feet of water near the tip of Door County. Extended points and other structures that drop off in to deep water are all prime locations. Four and five pound fish are quite common with six and even seven pounders caught at times. Casting spinner baits, tubes and large grub tails will catch fish also. From Little Sturgeon Bay north to the tip of Door County, smallmouth bass fishing can be excellent. They are also likely to use the countless off shore shoals and reefs on the bay, so your trophy smallmouth could be anywhere.

Sturgeon Bay is a great starting point. I’ve learned a great deal about the fishery from Captain Dale Stroschein. One of Door County’s pioneer fishing guides, Dale fishes the entire bay. He holds a number of schools each year where anglers learn the fishery, techniques and locations for big fish, walleye and smallmouth. With good information experienced anglers with proper boat and equipment can ply the waters of the bay with high expectations for success. Smallmouth bass are mainly a daytime target with the chances for a big walleye increased at night. I enjoy trolling rocky Door County shorelines for walleye at night, concentrating on the break from 7 to 12 feet of water. Large crank baits, trolled rod in hand, keep the lure on the break where the fish feed. Once a fish is hooked, head to deep water and away from the potential danger of the rocks to land the fish. Of course, learning first hand from Dale makes repeating the process much easier. Stick baits such as Rouges and Husky Jerks are the baits of choice.

The Oconto area is another prime destination for big fish. Off shore reefs and shoals gather big fish looking to feed. Places such as Horseshoe and Whaleback shoal will see fisherman as will Green Island, University Bay and other well known bay of Green Bay hot spots. The lower bay also heats up as fish move towards the Fox River to eventually stage for spring spawning. Tournament fishing, GPS, lake maps on your fish finder and the internet have all made finding the fish much easier. Tactics and locations are shared on message boards and by networks of anglers who fish here regularly. For me, catching a ride with friend and occasional tournament angler Tommy Techlin is always a treat. Pulling crank baits behind planer boards is the tactic for big fish. Unlike the subtle falling back of the board from eater size fish on Winnebago, when a 10 pounder grabs the bait, you will know it. Planer boards can be pulled under water, starting a nerve racking process of landing a big fish. Take it easy and keep your rod tip up and you will most likely land that trophy.

Last but not least on the bay is the big fish opportunity for northern pike and muskie. From the Fox River at DePere north along the Wisconsin shoreline, there are numerous areas that hold pike and muskie. I’ve seen GIANT Muskie sunning themselves along shorelines as I came by working a spinner bait for smallmouth bass. For years I fished Door County harbors such as Fish Creek and Egg Harbor for pike in the fall. The ship canal in Sturgeon Bay and weedy areas that meet the channel are prime spots for casting, trolling or soaking a sucker or chub. I like the later, choosing to listen to the Badgers while watching a bobber move around, and eventually disappear. Pike numbers had plummeted, but are rebounding. I encourage releasing these fish to help to re-establish what once was a major trophy pike fishery. Muskie numbers are better then ever too, with trophy class fish over 50 inches an attainable threshold every time out.

If you don’t have a big water walleye boat, look to places such as the Fox River at DePere and the Menomonee River for big bay walleye. Fish will use the rivers up to the first dam and can be caught jigging or casting crank baits as shallow structure. So head to the big fish bounty of the bay of Green Bay this year for your chance at a trophy class fish. The best fishing of the year for big fish continues right until ice up.

Joel “Doc” Kunz for Outdoor News


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