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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

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.

8/12/19 @ 6:01 PM
The Nenska
User since 7/21/19

Many thanks to everyone who responded to my post. 

My first many efforts (years) on Lake Winnebago were dragging jigs while drifting and I was never able get a hold of all the walleyes that others said they were catching with this method. I now consider myself a veteran jig-dragger, having spent many 8-hour days catching 35 sheepshead to one 6"-8" walleye, and I'm finished trying this method. I want to target the fish I intend to catch and bring them home. 

I am committed to trolling. 

I went out yesterday out of Calumet Harbor; the sky was overcast, the temp was in the 70s and the lake was choppy. I was marking fish at every depth but I couldn't bring them in the boat. 

I believe that I was trolling too fast. 2.6 mph and sometimes at 3mph.

After investigating dive curves of the baits I was using, I realize that 2mph is ideal. 

Does everyone who trolls, troll at 2mph?

Does anyone have different color crank baits that they use for each month of summer? After spring, does one change it up?

Does anyone troll with the same bait all spring, summer and fall long?

When does one start with the fire tiger flicker shad? or the pink lemonade? 

I feel that I have the right equipment, but I'm using it wrong--wrong time of year, wrong speed (obviously), wrong depth...

I also realize that I'm trying to glean many decades of experience from experienced, successful trollers, so that I don't have to go through those same travails. 

Thanks again for your responses. 

7/25/19 @ 1:53 PM
User since 6/20/01

I didn't start 2 do good out in the mud till I got line counter reels.Its all about repeatability.lets say u have 6 rods out all with #7 bait on, u catch your 2nd fish on 1 rod at 70ft out.u then put 4 rods out 70ft out.also make sure baits are tuned, they must run straight down.check them after u catch a fish as it can get out of tune.hope this helps some.

7/24/19 @ 9:26 AM
User since 1/24/02

I don't troll on bago but I do on some of the impoundments on the Wis river. Took me about 3 years to figure some things out. I also got some great tips from a number of guys who fish the various impoundments frequently, some are guides. Those tips really helped to put some things together for myself.

First, you need to commit to trolling. Not trying for an hour or two and then going back to something else. Sounds like you are committed. What works for some may not work for others. I've been doing it for about 10 years now. I have a system that works me. Others I know who may be out on the same day same body of water catch fish doing things I don't. That's fishing.

Match the baits to what the fish are feeding on. On Lake Wis the forage is mostly shad. I do well on baits that match that profile and color. Upsizing as season progresses, the forage gets bigger.

Speed. Make turns as you go. Inside and outside boards may get hit consistently telling you to speeds up or slow down.

How deep are you. Active fish are typically higher in the water column and you may not detect them on your electronics. I'm usually running in the top 6 fow in 10 to 12 feet. Stager your presentation until you get bit. I see a lot of guys who are just running too deep.

Change it up. If you feel you are on fish and not getting hit make a change. Color, bait size and profile, Deeper shallower, faster slower.

It's all about dialing in what's working that day, patterns can and do change by the hour. Every contact you make, weather you get the fish to boat or not, should give you a data point on what's going on that day.

Trolling is a lot of work. Pay attention and focused on what's going on. It's not as easy as many think it is. I used to hate trolling. Once I started to apply myself and learn things started to turn around for me.

If you've been at it for "years" I might suggest a half day guide trip. Sometimes you just need a nudge in the right direction to put it together. It helped me.

Good luck!

7/23/19 @ 5:28 PM
Bowhunting Guy
User since 5/22/18

Just food for thought- do you ever try pitching jigs? I know many will think I’m insane, but personally I hate trolling. I know it’s effective out here but just not my cup of tea. If you want to build some confidence on Bago, run across the lake to the NW or W end on one of the many reefs and try pitching crawlers. It took me a while to learn the program, but one I did limits come fairly easy. Move until you find them. 180,000 acres of water is daunting. Just need to break it into small pieces and you’ll find success. Godspeed!

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