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Fly Fishing the Oconto River in Wisconsin

Oconto River summary

Oconto River is a fly fishing location in Wisconsin. This destination has an elevation of approximately 627 feet. Please view the pinpointed location for Oconto River on the Google Map to the right. If you'd like directions to this destination, please click here for directions (provided via Google Maps).

Oconto River reports

Tim Landwehr (tytlinez) reported - 1 - Excellent fly fishing: For those of you that have been yearning to chase steel, the time is here. The tributaries from the Sheboygan to Oak Creek already have steelhead present in them, but some of the rivers are too high and muddy to be fishable. Check the USGS site and be safe and smart. For example, the Milwaukee River should be flowing at about 600 to 700 c.f.s. this time of the year and as of an hour ago, she was at almost 4,500 c.f.s. Not only unfishable, but potentially life-threatening. The smaller tributaries will usually flush out and fall sooner than the larger ones. From the Sheboygan to Door County, rivers are starting to break up and are finally being freed of the ice that has had them locked tight since late November. The bay-side tributaries such as the Oconto, Peshtigo and Menominee are still harboring good numbers of hold-over migratory browns that are starting to eat. The lake-side tribs are seeing early pushes of steelhead as well as the hold-over browns. Look for fish in deep holding water, pools and current seams. By the end of this week, expect most runs to be open and even more fish in the rivers. The water temps need to be near 40 degrees to initiate any kind of spawning activity. Just because you don’t see fish sitting on spawning gravel doesn’t mean they’re not there. Steelhead may enter a river system and “hang out” for up to a month before they start spawning. You’re best bet is fishing deeper water and covering lots of it. Nymphs, such as stoneflies, hex and caddis pupa fished in tandem with a small egg fly under an indicator are deadly on spring-run steelhead. The browns will take a nymph or egg as well. Fish the tail-outs of runs and the soft inside edges of the faster water. For those that wish to swing flies, it’s a great way to cover water and find players. String leeches, buggers, egg-sucking leeches, sculpin patterns, Skagit minnows, marabous and a variety of tube flies all will take fish this time of the year. Use a sink tip if necessary to get down to the fish and work methodically through runs, taking a step after each cast. Until the water warms a bit, fish may not be willing to chase a fly very far, so it’s important not to skip too much water between casts. People are often surprised at just how early steelhead enter some of our rivers. They’d rather not take a chance and wait for the “hot” report. Just remember, someone had to make that hot report by taking a chance. When it comes right down to it, early or not, it’s hard to catch fish from your couch. This is a great time of the year to have a lot of river to yourself… in another couple weeks the rivers will be bustling. Call or stop into the shop for fly recommendations, river conditions, or to let us know how your outing went. Good luck and Tight Lines!
(03/23/09)
Tim Landwehr (tytlinez) reported - 1 - Excellent fly fishing: Spring Steelhead on the way!




Spring is undeniably the best time to catch steelhead in Wisconsin. These big migratory fish will come up tributaries large and small from the southeast part of the state all the way up the coast to Door County. The key to successful steelheading in the spring is timing. This is crucial. The fish will not ascend the rivers until there is enough water flowing from the mouth. This is a particularly important factor in some of the smaller creeks in Door County. Many of the tiny tribs get choked with ice or have little water flowing out of the mouths. The only thing that will make these smaller rivers fishable is an influx of water. If the water doesn’t come up, the fish can’t make it in.

In a typical spring, the fishing starts to get fairly good sometime in the last couple weeks of March or the first part of April. The most effective way to catch spring steelhead is with a double nymph rig consisting of an attractor nymph as the point fly with an egg pattern trailing behind. Fish this rig through the same type of water that you would find inland trout holding in (i.e. deeper runs and pools). The key to effective nymphing on the tributaries is often as simple as getting the fly down in the zone quickly and keeping it there as long as possible. To do this, use a strike indicator that allows you to achieve a 90 degree rig, such as a foam ball-style indicator. Small diameter tippet with high breaking strength, such as 1x fluorocarbon, can also help get the flies down quickly. Weight the rig with split shot until you are occasionally bouncing bottom. If you do not hook a fish in a likely spot, try adjusting your weight and/or the position of your strike indicator. An adjustment of a couple inches can be the difference between success and failure.

If nymph fishing is not your game, streamer fishing can also produce. Woolly bugger variations are always a good choice.

Fly Patterns:


Rag Hex size 8
Glimmer Stone size 8
Kaufmann’s Stone size 6
Mysis Shrimp size 10
Crystal Egg chartreuse, orange size 10
Estaz Egg orange size 10
Glo Bug orange, chartreuse, peach size 8, 10
Clown Egg size 8, 10
Egg Sucking Leech black, purple 6, 4
(02/13/09)
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1 comments
Paul Loehlein (riptidehd)
This place has a nice variety of little pan fish. There area always a lot of people up on the bank. If you are hoping to get your spot every time, don't plan on it :0( Other than that, it's nice. You will see cranes (the birds) here around Memorial Day. (1/19/13)
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Nearby destinations

Oconto River (North Branch), Wisconsin 16 miles away
Beaver Creek (North Branch), Wisconsin 19 miles away
Oconto River (South Branch), Wisconsin 19 miles away
Lower Peshtigo River, Wisconsin 21 miles away
Peshtigo River, Wisconsin 21 miles away
Menominee River, Michigan 28 miles away
Eagle Creek, Wisconsin 35 miles away
Kewaunee River, Wisconsin 38 miles away
Lily River, Wisconsin 50 miles away

Nearby cities

Abrams, Wisconsin 4 miles away
Oconto, Wisconsin 6 miles away
Lena, Wisconsin 6 miles away
Oconto Falls, Wisconsin 7 miles away
Little Suamico, Wisconsin 8 miles away
Sobieski, Wisconsin 10 miles away
Green Valley, Wisconsin 11 miles away
Krakow, Wisconsin 12 miles away
Coleman, Wisconsin 13 miles away
Suamico, Wisconsin 15 miles away

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