A learning experience on Green Bay

By Dave Duwe - September 1, 2007
As summer winds down and Wisconsinites think of Green Bay, they are usually referring to the Packers. True Fishermen however, think trolling the bay for Walleyes. Every fall the walleyes again make their migration south from their northern haunts to areas by the mouth of the Fox River. Locations such as Geanos reef, 2 mile reef and the shipping canal.

A recent fishing trip to the Bay with PWT Pro Brad Davis, of team Skeeter/Yamaha, was a very educational trip on how to use a nightcrawler harness properly. It was an attempt to catch some of the resident walleye population in the lower Bay. The recent "hot" weather, from all reports had slowed the bite from the peak in late June and early July. Our trip was in late August. As we pulled away from the dock, Brad informed me that "we would catch fish" then he paused and added, " I hope their walleyes." Being my first time trolling the Bay, I didn't know exactly what he meant. When I pressed him further he laughed and said "we'll catch oatfish, freshwater drum sheepshead, yellow perch, white perch and maybe a few walleyes."

Our presentation for this day was trolling a three hook crawler harness (spinner rigs). The spinner rig consisted of a 2-3 ft long leader with 3 snelled hooks. Of course, with a spinner rig, you need a spinner, which was a Bait Rigs, AstroBrite Blades #5 Colorado or a Tommy Harris custom painted blade and a large quick change clevis with some orange beads. (Tommy Harris owns Anglers Edge tackle). In Green Bay, Brad prefers, bottom bouncers instead of in-line weights or snap weights. The reason is that there is an over-abundance of zebra mussels. We used the pro bottom bouncer also from Bait Rigs. The weights were 1 ½ oz- 3 oz. We ran the 3 oz version on or near bottom. The smaller weights were up in the water column. They were trolled behind off shore planer boards with tattle flags. We experimented all day with the distance off the board to determine where the active fish were in the water column. Most of the success this day, came right on bottom. The upper fish weren't active.

We started trolling 11 miles straight out of the mouth of the Fox River, just east of the main bouy line in 25 ft of water. We were covering 10 ft to bottom with our six poles. The blades were changed every 15 minutes to determine where the walleyes were feeding on this day. We weren't in the water for 5 minutes, when the closest pole to the boat bent down touching the water, and the fight was on. After a short fight, a beautiful 3 lb sheephead was brought on board. I was jokingly telling Brad to get the night the whole time I was fighting the fish. He, of course, didn't and we through the "junk" fish back and grabbed a fresh nightcrawler. At this point, Brad watched me put it on the 3 hook rig. I did not realize that there is an art to hooking a rig until that moment. The key to attaching the crawler is the straightness of the nightcrawler. The method Brad uses is this: The first hook needs to have just the tip of the nightcrawler, the second hook should go close to the ring or band of the worm and the third needs to be inserted by pulling the worm straight and sticking the hook in. After the short lesson, we were back in business.

An hour passed catching yellow perch, sheephead and white perch. We were constantly changing blade colors, depth ranges and trolling speeds to see what the walleyes wanted. The quick change clevis made changing blade colors very easy to accomplish. Suddenly, we hit the combination a 3 oz bottom bouncer right on bottom with a hammered nickel blade trolled at a speed of 1 mph. Our first walleye was what Brad explained to be a "small" Green Bay Walleye. It was roughly 22 inches and weighed 3-4 lbs. After a few pictures, it was promptly thrown back. We spent the next four hours trolling catching about 20-30 other fish and only a few other small walleyes. The highlight of the day for me was catching a personal best Sheephead! It was the size of a garbage can lid. We did catch all the fish that Brad predicted as we launched the boat.

Although late August is not necessarily the ideal time to try for Walleyes on Green Bay, it was a beneficial trip just to learn the proper methods. As the fishing improves as we head into fall, I won't have to struggle figuring out exactly what to do. Remember, not knowing the proper technique when the fish are active can take up most of the time in your trip. It is a far better use of precious fishing time to know what you are going to do when you get out on the lake or Bay in this case.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .