Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Written For Outdoor Gazette
August 26, 2007

Land Signs Show Coming Of Fall
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

One of the things I have been taught to watch for clues as to what is going on with the fishing, is land signs. A typical example would be white bass being active around the time of the lilac’s blooming. That’s an easy one. The land signs that signal the start to the fall fishing are a bit harder to see. The first thing I usually see that tells me I should start locating groups of walleye in the river are giant aerial “balls” of barn swallows in the air. The ever changing shape of flying birds signal the first cold nights to the north and the onset of fall. Days are noticeably shorter now too, another signal to the birds and beasts of God’s green earth that fall is on it’s way. A look at the temperature gauge in the river shows this cool down also. The associated increase in precipitation that comes in the fall raises the water level and works with the cooling temperatures to draw more fish in to the system. It also signals the fish to begin feeding heavily in order to bulk up for the winter period of low food supply. That provides opportunity for anglers.

White bass are usually the first to show up in large numbers in the fall in the lower end of the river. Although not as consistent as to locations, walleye usually show up in the river somewhere between Fremont and New London in the early fall. It is my belief that the rising water levels draws both the walleye and white bass in to the system from the lower lakes. The resident walleye and new comers are pushed above the groups of white bass being drawn by the current in order to find areas of the river with less competition. The farther the white bass come in to the system, the farther up stream the walleye are pushed. The more water we get during this period, the farther up stream groups of fall white bass will travel. Again, although usually confined to the Fremont area and the lower end of the river, the white bass fishing can be outstanding anywhere depending on the timing and amount of water we get in the fall. We have had falls where the white bass and walleye are around in big schools all over the river in search of food.

But it’s not all migrating fish. The Wolf River actually has an excellent year round population of walleye. Many of these resident fish never leave the river their entire life. Arguably, these fish are easily determined by their dark coloring and dingier white belly. This is due, I believe, to the “tea stained” waters of the Wolf River caused by it’s flow through so many miles of forested lands. The fallen leaves and branches color the water but do not do anything to harm it’s natural cleanliness. In fact, due to the lack of dams and industry along it’s miles, the Wolf River is one of our nations cleanest, healthiest rivers. The waters of the lower lakes and Winnebago are not as dark due to the influx of so many feeder creeks and the filtering affect of the grasslands and marshes of the lower end of the system. In fact, many of these filtering marshes are being helped out with the addition of rock break walls. The walls are designed to protect the area from erosion caused by wave action but still let water flow through naturally. This barrier lets the natural marsh lands behind the walls filter water as they were designed to do and also create habitat for a variety of birds and animals.

Some of the birds and animals that use these areas are among the land signs I look for. I know when I am seeing the first groups of ducks and geese in the back waters, that the crappie have usually started to bite in the river. The more activity I see in the skies, the more activity there usually is for the crappie. Ample water levels are needed for the crappie fishing to be at it’s best. Although they are catchable while suspended in the deep water eddies but the best fishing is in the fallen trees that line the river. That’s why water levels are so important. Trees over deep water are best, but just about any good size tree or group of logs can hold fish. Some of the back waters even have enough depth to hold these fish, so don’t be afraid to explore if the most popular areas are crowded. Sometimes it takes a little motoring, but finding a school of active fish away from the crowds is always a possibility due to the amount of fish holding structure all along the river in the 32 miles between the mouth at Lake Poygan, and New London. I’ve seen dozens of boats crowded in one area around New London, the most popular fall crappie hot spot, and gone miles south of them and found crappie filled brush piles I could have to myself. The best schools of fish could be anywhere, finding them is the key. If you do, expect crappie with a wide back and nice piece of meat at even the low scale of “keeper” size but also expect some nice fish, even up to 17 inches.

So, watch your land signs and get in tune with what is going on this fall. It is amazing at how consistent these signs are from year to year. Wading birds can signal availability of bait fish and flocks of geese and ducks signal up coming changes in the weather. All signals that the fall fishing is about to start. Cat fish and small mouth bass are becoming more active too as water levels rise and temperatures drop. Northern pike fishing which has been good all year, could be phenomenal this fall as there are good numbers of big pike around. Time to do a little fishing.!

Joel “Doc” Kunz
For Outdoor Gazette


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