By Dan Johnson

Wisconsin’s legendary Lake Winnebago system is a traditional favorite for ice anglers seeking a variety of species, and so far this winter the chain is starting out true to form by producing solid panfish action.

“Just last week we began walking out on shallow, sheltered bays on three to four inches of ice, and the bluegills and perch are both biting pretty well,” reports local hardwater expert and Lindy pro staffer Jason Muche.

Top destinations included Lake Winnebago’s Asylum Bay, just north of Oshkosh, and Skipper Bud’s Bay on Lake Butte des Mortes. “On both lakes, a Lindy Toad has been one of the hottest tickets for big bluegills, while the perch are hitting Lindy Slick Jigs,” says Muche, whose favorite tippings are waxworms and spikes.

“We did get some warm weather last weekend, which softened things up, but with more cold temps on the way this week, I’d say by Thanksgiving weekend we’ll be walking out again,” he notes.

As expected, weeds have been key to panfish location. And while depths vary, Muche cautions anglers not to overlook extreme shallows at first ice. “On Butte des Mortes, we’re catching them by sight-fishing in just three feet of water,” he says. “The trick is targeting pockets of open water within the weeds, such as blow-out holes in boat slips.”

While the main body of Lake Winnebago is not passable to date, Muche expects typical walleye and offshore panfish patterns to take shape once the icepack stiffens. For now, plucking plump pans from sheltered shallows remains a top option on this legendary system, as it does on countless similar waters scattered across the Ice Belt’s midsection.