If you love walleye fishing, there is no better place to head than Green Bay,WI. Last summer was my first time fishing this tremendous fishery. Disappointed? Not a chance! My first trip up last year was to pre-fish for an FLW event with my good friend Scott. We caught fish constantly, and not only that they where of tremendous size. To catch a 16 or 17 inch walleye on green bay is almost unheard of. I think the average size of a walleye caught on Green Bay is in the 22-24 inch range, if you are fishing the right areas, and following the massive schools of fish traveling through the bay area. This was defiantly the case this past weekend.
This past weekend I headed to the bay once again with my friend Scott to pre-fish. Only this time wasn't to help him pre-fish for an FLW event, it was to pre-fish for the both of us for a MWS walleye tournament on Sunday. MWS holds a few tournaments a year in the state of Wisconsin mostly, and is quite affordable to the average angler. Entry fee was $300 per team, or $150 an angler, with first place winners taking home a lump sum of around $4,000. It was our first time fishing in a MWS tournament, and my first time actually fishing in a walleye tournament. An experience it was, but a fun and enjoyable experience.
Friday night we loaded up the truck with gear and bait and headed north for the town of Green Bay. Chattering over a game plan on the way up, we decided we would make are pre-fishing start around Oconto Shoal pulling crawler harnesses.
Saturday morning came fast as we awoke around 4 am. We jumped in the truck and made a drive to the town of Oconto to launch the boat rather than making the long run from the Green Bay launch. We had the boat in the water by 5am and made a short jog out to the shoal and set-up in 25-30 feet of water, pulling are crawler harnesses as we discussed on the trip up.
Crawler Harness Set-up: Brief explanation on how we run our crawler harnesses. We where using 1 oz. in-line weights in front of the actual harness. In theory running the 1 oz. weight for every 2 feet of line you set out your bait should go down 1 foot. In example we ran our outside lines out 40 feet which had the actual spinner depth around 20 feet deep. Our hottest length of line out was 45-47 feet, which should have had are spinners running at about 22-25 feet deep. On Green Bay you are allowed to run 3 rods per angler. So we had a total of 6 rods running at a time which can be confusing at times to say the least. We always run our shallower baits all the way on the outside, and have our deeper running baits running towards the back of the boat. The key to running these six lines without getting all tangled up is by running yellow birds on each rod. So for instance on our outside lines we would run the line out 40 feet, then connect a yellow bird and run the line out another 40-50 feet so the bird runs far out to the side of the boat. Then you set the next rod. 2nd rod we would run out 45 feet connect bird and run another 20-30 feet of line out keeping that bird running closer to the boat then the previous one that was set out. Lastly we would set our inside line out 47 feet connect bird and have it pull just off the back corner of the boat. Seems confusing, but once you do it once or twice it all makes sense. Here is a brief image I threw together to help make sense of the description. The red lines represent fishing lines, yellow with the flag represents the yellow bird, and I also marked the amount of line run out behind the bird.
You may question why are we running that 40' length of line out if the hot lengths where 45-47 feet. Simply because the fish where scattered through the water column chasing bait fish. The 40 foot line would still pick-up fish just not as much as the ones that where run out a little farther. One important thing I have learned while chasing walleyes is that you want to try and reach a few sections of the water column and dial in exactly the depths that they are running at that current day and then make adjustments from there. Also the general speed you want to run your boat at is 1.0-1.2mph going with the waves if there are any. On Saturday there was a steady 1-2 foot chop.
Fishing: As stated above we started on Oconto shoal as we had heard that the huge schools of walleyes where moving further North everyday, and the previous weekend the fish where running somewhere off shore from Green Bay Shores State Wildlife Area. We set-up in 25 feet of water and trolled out to 35 feet of water marking a few fish. We did manage a fish on our first pass, but it was not the targeted species we where looking for. It was an average size sheepshead.
After our second pass on the shoal and nothing but sheeps and perch hooking into our baits we decided it was time to pack up and make a move south.
As we headed South we knew the fish where close as we approached about 100 boats in a small square mile area of water. We decided this had to be where the schools where and sure enough we where right on the money. We swiftly set lines and began our troll and in a matter of minutes we hooked up with the first target fish of the day, a 26 1/2" walleye. We threw the high five up and reset the line back out. We figured if we could get 3 of these sized fish for the tournament we would be looking at taking home a check. This went on all throughout the rest of the day.The hot depth for the day seemed to be 30 feet of water. We ended the day with a 2 man limit of fish with the biggest being the 26 1/2" all the way down to the smallest of the day measuring in at 22 1/2".. That is a pretty healthy bag of fish wherever your fishing. Of course I can't leave out the infamous Sheepshead that we caught during the trip as well. I believe the biggest one boated was in the 28-30 inch range and probably weighed close to 10-15 lbs. They are a fun fight, but when you are trying to dial in with only one day of pre-fishing, then they can become very frustrating fish. Unfortunately I forgot my camera in the truck and my cell phone died shortly after the above pic of the shepshead was taken. However we did keep our catch for the day and I snapped a quick pic before we filleted up the fish.
These where our 4 biggest fish of the day. 26 1/2", 25 1/2", 25", and a 24 1/2". These tasty little guys are going to be some great eating over the next few weeks. Stayed tuned as part 2 will be coming towards the end of the week with the results and some interesting stats from the tournament.