ABOUT LAKE WINNEBAGO
Lake Winnebago is the largest inland lake in the state of Wisconsin. The cities, of Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac have many landings and services for both the fisherman and the boater. Caution must be used when navigating close to shore and near islands. Shallow, unmarked reefs can pose hazards.
Also, check the weather before heading out on this body of water, as it can become very rough in a short period of time. This is because of the lack of depth in the lake. The average depth is about 15 feet, and the deepest spot is about 21 feet.
Lake Winnebago is about 137,500 acres in size; it is approx. 28 miles long and 8 miles wide. Lake Winnebago is considered a drainage lake, meaning that various rivers flow into the lake.
There are 88 miles of shorelines around the lake, consisting of mostly private lands. Supple Marsh is one of the important wetlands to this lake. This marsh is located near the city of Fond Du Lac.
The bottom of the lake consists of a rock rim to a depth of about 12 feet, Rock and gravel reefs are found mostly on the west shore, while the east shore has mostly sand and gravel bottom.
The middle of the lake consists mostly of a mud bottom. The water of Lake Winnebago is very fertile. It ranges from a stained color in early spring to a murky color in early summer. By mid June, an algae bloom usually comes along and turns the lake to an almost pea-soup color.
The lake has no thermo cline; this is due to the lack of depth in the lake.
Lake Winnebago Fishery
Lake Winnebago is one of the top fisheries in the state, and one of the top walleye lakes in the USA. The featured species of the lake include: Walleye, White Bass, Yellow Perch, Freshwater Drum. The lake also contains: Lake Sturgeon, Saugers, Small mouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Crappie, Bluegill, Rock Bass, Burbot, Carp, Pumpkinseed, Suckers, Yellow Bass and Musky.
Walleye are the most sought after fish on the lake. The population is mostly made up of fish ranging from 12 to 24 inches in length. Strong spawning years in the 1990's are the reason for most of the fish in the lake. The fish from the 1996 class is considered to be one of the best ever spawning years in recent history. These fish from 1996, should be getting near trophy size, While the fish from 2001, should be getting near good eating size. 2004 was a banner year for the walleye to spawn as well. 2005 should be an awesome year for fish in the 14-18 inch range.
Sauger population has declined, and these fish cannot be harvested on Lake Winnebago. Please make sure you can identify the difference. I would hate to see you get a fine from the DNR, because you could not tell the difference between a walleye and a sauger. The sauger population is making a slow comeback, which is awesome to see.
White Bass continue to provide huge numbers of fish, and are excellent eating throughout the year. Look for these species throughout the entire lake.
Bluegill and Pumpkinseed are present, with most of the fish being in the 7-9 inch size. Look for these fish in shallow bays, near aquatic vegetation. Leaf worms under a slip bobber; seem to be the bait of choice.
Yellow Perch numbers have decreased some over the years, but it still remains one of the most popular fish to chase on the lake. I like to use hellgrammites, under a slip bobber for these. Their sizes range from 4-12 inches generally, and I consider it a great bonus to get a few of these in a day of fishing walleyes on the lake.
Freshwater Drum (Sheepshead) is present throughout the lake and seems to eat anything you throw at them. These bottom dwelling fish are everywhere throughout the lake, and it is illegal, to kill these fish and throw them back in the lake. They are one of the only species that will eat Zebra Mussels.
Small mouth and Largemouth Bass are present, and seem to hold to the bays and near shallow aquatic vegetation. Small mouth Bass seem to out number the Largemouth Bass.
Northern Pike are present and are generally found near weedy vegetation, close to shallow water. The best time of the day for these fish seems to be early morning or right before dusk. Most of the Northern Pike reside near the South end of the lake.
Channel Catfish can be found near shallow water and reef edges. Channel Cats are mostly bottom dwelling fish. These fish range from 2-20 pounds in general.
Musky are present, but very rarely do I hear of anyone catching one.
Lake Sturgeon is protected except during the ice fishing-spearing season. These fish dwell mostly near the bottom, and eat red worms, which consists of nearly 3/4 of their diets. Most recently the population of Lake Sturgeon seems to be moving to the southern part of the lake, although I have seen them to the north also.
Burbot numbers seem to be on the rise. I have seen these fish as large as 30 inches or more. Look for these throughout the lake, but it seems they like to lurk around the reefs more often then not.
Crappie numbers seem to be on the rise. I do not catch too many myself, but when I do, it seems they are very nice in size. Look for these in some of the back channels on Lake Winnebago.
Carp and Suckers are found primarily in the shallows and the slower moving water throughout the lake. A popular spot for bow fishing is on the north shore in front of the North shore Country Golf Course. It is very shallow there, and there seems to be a good number of fish present.