Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Midwest Outdoors April 2008

Walleye, White Bass & Good Times In Wolf River Country
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

April is a great time of year here in Wolf River Country. Walleye fishing is in full bloom even if the flowers aren’t and the boat ramps are full with activity. In early April the walleye are still in pre-spawn mode with some fish still pushing up the system and others already near spawning marshes up river. That can make for some hit and miss fishing, which usually continues until the majority of the spawning activity has ended. Water levels and temperature play the most important role in drawing fish in to the system, when and where they spawn. Fish that moved up river under the ice are not as affected as those from the lower lakes and Winnebago. The record snow pack in the area should help initially but it’s snow UP river and spring rains that draw the bulk of the walleye out of Winnebago. If there is no current to draw them, those walleye will spawn in the big lake itself. Although the majority of the fish like to spawn on flooded marsh grass, the Winnebago system has a population of walleye that prefer to spawn on rocky and gravel structures much like most walleye throughout North American. Some of these fish use Wolf River tributaries such as the Little Wolf, Waupaca and Embarrass Rivers to spawn. Others use the numerous wave swept rocky shorelines and reefs of Lake Winnebago to perform their yearly ritual.

This diversity in population and habitat is what helps make the Winnebago system such a long term success story for walleye fishing. It is also why some walleye spawn early and head down stream, while others are still pushing up the system. This “up-down” run usually happens over a short period of time as we near the middle of the month. If temperatures fall back and we get more rain, spawning activity can be put on hold for the majority of the fish. Those already in the process of dropping eggs will finish and return to the river. Some marshes warm quicker then others too, which plays an obvious role. Because the females leave the marsh first, post spawn fish will be headed back to the big lake while males continue to look for eggs to fertilize. Late arriving fish will be using the bottom of the river and staying away from the effects of the warming water as they move up stream during the middle of the month. I still like shallow places off the current line, and night fishing, to catch the majority of my fish this time of year.

The 2 way street of spawning highway ends as the water warms well in to the 40’s, which usually happens just after the middle of the month. By the last week in April the bulk of the fish have finished spawning and are headed back to the lower lakes to recoup and feed. Large numbers of walleye have been staying in the Wolf River the last few years due to the abundance of food in the system. Another factor has been that groups of walleyes have been going up river as far as the Shawano dam to spawn. With plenty of food around, good water levels keep them in the river until well in to the summer. But the majority of the fish return to the lower lakes within a few days. That brings the lower end of the system in to play and puts early arriving white bass on the end of the line of many anglers. Walleye will spread out on flats and probe shorelines for food as they return. Anglers have to be aware whether the middle of the river, or shoreline is the place to be fishing. I’ve watched countless anglers go by drifting and jigging the baron depths while I pitch Lindy No-Snagg jigs or small crank baits at flooded shorelines to catch fish. Sometimes I’ll anchor directly on a shoreline that has current coming off it and catch fish tight to the shore on jigs. Evenings can be a great time to drift with the river and cast shallow flats for walleye too. All in all, April is a great time to fish here in Wolf River Country.

Smart bass anglers are also starting to catch fish as April wanes toward may. I’ve caught some dandies over the years fishing sand points on inside corners while walleye fishing. Most of the smallies I’ve caught this time of year I catch by accident, but when I’ve targeted them, I’ve done very well. So come out and go fishing here in Wolf River Country. With a good snowpack to start us out and strong year classes of both walleye and white bass, odds are you will find good fishing here in Wolf River Country.


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