Fond du Lac will host the Mercury National Walleye Tournament (a.k.a Walleye Weekend) on Saturday and Sunday. The walleye tournament will feature a field of 300 teams made up of the top walleye anglers from across the country. Walleye Weekend also offers a three-day festival, with numerous activities and bands.
The Mercury National tournament boundaries include Lake Winnebago, Lake Poygan, Lake Winneconne and Lake Butte des Mortes. Also included inside the boundaries are the Wolf and Fox Rivers, so there are hundreds of miles to fish.
Anglers will be restricted by the many no-wake zones which are posted in Oshkosh and Winneconne making travel time up and down those river systems risky. For those anglers willing to make the trip, the outcome could be all or nothing, as half of their potential fishing time could be used on travel to and from the upper lakes and rivers. Many of the post-spawn female walleyes have not made the journey down to Lake Winnebago just yet, as the water temperatures have not climbed high enough to push those fish down to the main lake.
The majority of the field is expected to fish on Lake Winnebago, with most boats staying north of the river in Oshkosh.
I would expect winning weights to be similar to 2012, when 45.12 pounds was the winning tally. What may be different is that many teams will struggle to get ten 15” or larger fish registered between the two days. This may result in an overall decline of total fish weighed in 2013. There are anglers finding pockets of larger walleyes, but they are not in the majority.
Currently, Lake Winnebago has a high population of walleyes in the 10-14 inch classes. None of these fish will be eligible for the scales due to the 15” minimum size restriction. Recent tournaments from the last two weeks have shown that 15-25% of the fields are bringing in five fish limits; with about the same percentage bringing no fish to the scales. Anglers will catch walleyes, but the real question is how many they will be able to weigh.
By contrast, in 2012, 79% of the Mercury National tournament field registered ten fish over 15 inches. Only two teams registered no fish in 2012 (0.006%).
Another factor which could inhibit 'the bite' is the weather. Forward looking forecasts indicate a cold front for most of the week leading into the tournament. Water temperatures are in the mid 60s and expected to decline; whereas water temperatures were in the mid 80s in 2012. In essence the system is still in the late springtime phases, rather than the mid-summer patterns of last year.
The Mercury National Walleye Tournament is one of the best run team events in North America. Be sure to stop out to experience the excitement of the weigh-in on both Saturday and Sunday. Weigh-in begins around 3 p.m. each day, under the shadow of the Lighthouse in Fond du Lac’s Lakeside Park.
Learn more about Lakeside Park in our Wisconsin Day Trips video series.
Mark Schram is an avid tournament fisherman, focusing most of his efforts on the Winnebago System in East Central Wisconsin. Mark's blog will focus on the current fishing conditions and selected topics related to the Lake Winnebago region, outdoor sports and life in general. As an angler, he ultimately strives to educate new and established fishermen on the joys of nature. Mark is the founder of www.myfishingpartner.com, a published outdoor writer and an active member of many fishing organizations including the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA #182).