Green Bay dominates Lake Michigan’s western shoreline. Ranging from 10 to 20 miles in width and 120 miles in length, it covers some 1,600 square miles and offers a variety of habitats that attract and hold walleyes through the open-water season.
In fact, Green Bay is so expansive that even veteran walleye anglers are sometimes daunted by the many options it presents and the fishing choices it demands.
Team Northland member Adam Rasmussen doesn’t shy away from playing the sprawling system or reaping its rewards. He operates Rasmussen Outdoors Guide Service and has years of fishing experience on the big bay and is tuned in to its seasonal cycles.
1. In early spring, open-water walleye action begins around the river mouths of Green Bay tributaries. Fish that have moved out of the rivers after spawning hold near the mouths and anglers who pay attention to water temp readings will find them, says Rasmussen. “Make loops with the boat and where you find the warmest water, that’s where the fish will be.” Focus your search downwind of the mouth and cast a 1/8- or ¼-ounce Slurp® Jig tipped with an Impulse® Paddle Minnow or Jerk Minnow in 6 to 12 feet of water. Early in the day let it fall to the bottom and rip it 10 to 12 inches on the retrieve. Later in the day, as the water warms, you can move it 2 to 3 feet at a time. Action first heats up on the south end of the lower bay near the Fox River and gradually moves northward to the Oconto and Peshtigo rivers on the western shore.
2. In May and June, shoreline areas from the Fox River to the Peshtigo become more productive. Rasmussen advises trolling a nightcrawler on a Baitfish Spinner Harness along new weed growth. Start with weightless rigs in 6 to 12 feet of water and use trolling boards to take them away from the boat. As water temps rise into the 60s, focus on 12- to 20-foot depths and add enough weight to keep the rigs just over the weeds at 1.1 to 1.3 mph. Look for subtle humps, spots that rise from the bottom a foot or two, as they are likely to attract walleyes. Green and gold blade colors usually work best.
3. During the July and August midsummer period, and indeed well into mid-September, numbers of walleyes can be found on the many rocky reefs and points along the bay’s western Door County shoreline. Try trolling Baitfish Spinner Harnesses over likely spots in the 10- to 30-foot range. Good starting points include the shoals southwest of Sturgeon Bay as well as Monument Shoal, Strawberry Island, Horseshoe Reef, and the Sister Shoals farther to the north. Clearer water here calls for blades in more natural hues—golds, silvers, and purple.
4. Anglers begin focusing on the upper bay, from the Cedar River up to Escanaba, Michigan, and Big Bay De Noc during October and November. They typically troll stickbaits on lead-core lines, looking for walleyes on structure and breaklines in the 20- to 40-foot range. Once you find a concentration of fish, Rasmussen suggests slowing down and cleaning up by switching to a spinner rig baited with a redtail chub. Cisco Purple is the blade choice now.
5. Late November and early December bring a migration of walleyes back into the Fox River. Rasmussen recommends slipping the current while vertical jigging a 3/8-ounce RZ Jig tipped with a live minnow or Impulse® Smelt Minnow along the channel edge or current breaks in 10 to 20 feet of water. You can catch fish all along the river, but the dam in De Pere is a good place to start.
Map courtesy of Navionics. For more information, visit navioncis.com.