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Trolling Lake Winnebago

7/21/19 @ 10:20 PM
The Nenska
User since 7/21/19

After many years of unsuccessfully fishing Lake Winnebago, I'm looking for help. My home port is Calumet Harbor on the east side of the lake and every Regular I talk to seems to have the lake figured out. I read on lake-link about the walleyes others catch and I know I'm doing something wrong.

This is my first season attempting trolling, other than past attempts by cluelessly and without conviction, dragging a crank bait behind my boat. I have four planer boards and I'm beginning to be very comfortable with them. I understand working different depths of the lake--my outside board has a 2'-6' diver, my middle board has a 6'-12' diver and I'll drag rippin' raps straight out behind the boat. The only thing hitting is white bass on the rippin' raps and after hours of no walleyes, I just put rippin' raps on all boards. 

I had some success with walleyes in June on the east side but never my daily bag limit and it wasn't because I knew what I was doing. 

Everyone I talk to says that the walleyes are on the mud flats in summer. 

Where do the mud flats begin? My understanding is that the mud flats can be anywhere from 14' to 19' or deeper in the middle of the lake.

How do you target fish on the mud flats? I've trolled what I've understood to be the mud flats and it's a ghost town on the fish finder and a bunch of ghosts on my lures. 

A lot of people I've talked to who launch from Calumet Harbor say that they go north. Is there really no walleye action near Cal Harbor? How far north of Calumet Harbor do I need to go to find consistent action?

Is the east side of the lake even worth the time? My favorite perch spot is Abraham's reef on the west side and I understand the structure that's on the west side and what role that structure plays for all the fish in the lake. I trolled by that structure today in the mud flats with nothing but ghosts on my line. 

Does the choppiness of the lake determine where the fish will be? I understand that when it's choppy, the fish will seek the wind-blown side of structure. Even that doesn't work for me. If the lake is glass, where do I look for walleyes?

I have a million more questions, but hopefully someone can answer some of these initial ones.

Many thanks,

-The Nenska

2/26/20 @ 12:30 PM
User since 2/8/05

I usually fish the west shore... and can do the trolling thing.... but tend to cast cranks far more often.  Best days are with a decent chop crashing into shore.  Find the rocks and it is usually great fishing.  If trolling, always try running at least one bait up high.  Less sheep... and at times the best line for walleye of the three.

2/25/20 @ 9:23 PM
User since 10/10/17

Thanks for restarting this thread Surf.  

Another comment on crankbait running speeds.  Let about 5 feet out and watch your crankbait's action on the side of the boat per speed you are trolling.  Check it out per 0.1 mph on your GPS.  You should pick the speed(s) that give the best action.  That might be exactly 1.3 mph, 1.8 mph, and 2.4 mph.  

2/25/20 @ 9:04 PM
User since 12/26/07

1) If you can swing it get the Precision Trolling Data app for your smartphone.  I got it last summer and love it.

2) Line counter reels are invaluable, but they must be calibrated so the footage of line out is dead on.  Takes some time to calibrate 6 of them, but it's darn nice knowing almost exactly where your bait is running, for depth.  The line out footage is measured from where the line actually enters the water, not the rod tip.  See Youtube for some tips on calibrating LC's.

12/1/19 @ 11:46 PM
User since 6/29/01

On Bago the east shore is good in june with sw and w winds.  Troll shoreline areas from 5 to 9 fow with rock that usually ends at around 6ft.  Size 5 shad raps and flicker shads are good at about 2 to 2.5 mph.  Size 7 CD rapalas at 2.4 to 3 mph are good too.  If the weather then turns hot, muggy, and flat calm move out over the mud 12+ fow.  Same baits in the top 7 fow will catch the active biters.  If the mud bite is on there will be plenty of boats in areas with active fish.  

8/15/19 @ 11:22 PM
The Nenska
User since 7/21/19

Thanks again, I have gained a lot of perspective from reading all of your posts.

Does anyone use snap weights when trolling? If so, how many oz, how far back, how does that affect my crank?

Is anyone using salmo hornets instead of stick baits?

What size?

What size stick baits are you using?

Do you use different sizes throughout the year; i.e., size 5 in spring and size 9 in fall?

As far as fishing club goes, I want this thread to be my fishing club. You guys have been great.

8/14/19 @ 1:57 PM
User since 12/30/14

My 2 cents.  I have trolled Winnebago for 30 years.  Personally, I always have trouble with crawler harnesses and bottom bouncers getting tangled, so I seldom use them. If I do use them, I use Gulp worms which stay on the hook after perch, white bass, etc, grab them.  Primarily I use cranks and stickbaits--size 9 shadraps, large reef runners, walley-divers, rogues . One rule I follow, regardless of the type of bait, is always run at least one lure in firetiger.  Often the ft gets hit more than the others and then I switch to all ft.  For cranks, speed of 2.0 to 2.4 seems to work for me.  The more wind the better, especially if you can fish the downwind shore.  Mud is generally the middle where it is 16'+.  If I am by myself and can only run 3 rods, I stagger them from about 6' down to 12' down. With a buddy, running 6 rods, I always run one stickbait in the top 2-3'.  If the fish are really hitting, the shallow bait will get hit a lot and then I change deeper ones for stickbaits.  Linecounter reels are a plus.

8/13/19 @ 8:32 PM
User since 10/10/17

Nenska, first thing is to follow the boats.  If you see other boats trolling a spot, get in line behind them and follow them thru.  

Second, 2 mph is the max I would ever go for walleye trolling cranks.  Sometimes as slow as 1.3 mph.  

Third, my go to rig is crawler harnesses.  It is much harder to troll cranks when in 20' and you know that 110' of line out only gets me down 11-14 feet depending on my crankbait.  But with crawler harnesses and bottom bouncers, I can spell out my exact depth.  

As for sunny, calm afternoons.....good luck.  If you figure that one out please let me know how it's done.  

8/13/19 @ 4:25 PM
Go Fish N
User since 9/13/18

if you haven't had your questions answered. fire away. I'm an avid troller on bago and poygan. 

8/13/19 @ 8:53 AM
User since 8/24/07

Can't comment too much on trolling, but regarding the jigging and drifting, one thing you can do if you're doing that is to try a lindy rig and a small inline float to get your crawler off the bottom a bit. A few years ago we were drifting and my wife and daughter were dragging jigs while I used a lindy rig. They were getting sheephead pretty consistently, but I was the only one to get any eyes and very few sheep. 

8/12/19 @ 6:28 PM
User since 3/17/09

Well to start with you should learn several methods.

  Trolling, we always started in mid to late May, start with small shad style baits in natural colors, move to stick baits, as the water gets dirty, go to bright colors, run 1.0 to 1.4. Troll in a “S” pattern, pay attention to what boards get bit, adjust from there.   Harnesses same idea but slower, as the water warms you can increase your speed. Timing, start shallow in the beginning of the year.  Join a club or hire a guide, ask for help.

  Jig fishing, I’m a jig guy, a lot of fish never leave the lake. Learn where they spawn, where they go when done, learn a small part of the lake, learn it well. A jig with live bait is the most consistent bite on the system.

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