Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Midwest Outdoors September 2009

September’s Signals
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

So what do fuzzy black caterpillars and frogs have to do with fall walleye action? Well, like flights of geese, busy squirrels and large gatherings of blackbirds, they are all land signs. Signals from Mother Earth that seasons are changing, promoting instinctive responses in all of nature. Those responses are evident in many of our own reactions to the changing seasons. After all, we are all creatures of nature. Many are drawn to the woods, passionately hoping to take a deer with bow and arrow. For some, September brings the simple thought of a day of squirrel hunting, the opening of ruffed grouse or thoughts of black bear and fall turkey hunting. For others it’s crow hunting, morning doves, cottontail rabbit or the early September Canada Goose season. But for me, it’s find walleye or sauger and catch lots of them if I can. It’s also time to catch a few white bass and take the grand kids fishing if I get the chance.

One thing that makes this a fun process for me is my proximity to numerous walleye and sauger fisheries. The Fox River, Wisconsin River and Rock River are all on the list of stops. Each one progresses towards the cold weather period at different rates and have varying make ups. The Rock doesn’t have a great deal of deep water, but has a good deal of current and fish out of Lake Koshkanong can be in the river at any time. The Wisconsin is deeper and starts in the northern reaches of the state. Each pool has different characteristics allowing for good targeting of active schools of fish. All I have to do is gather some good current information and head to the area where I have the best chance of success. Of course, I’d rather fish my home waters of the Wolf River. Here I have a section of river where I have caught September walleye that is 40 miles long. Some years I’ve found them near the mouth at Lake Poygan, other years it’s places miles north of New London. Factors such as summer location of the “lake fish”, numbers of “resident walleye” and fall rains are what determines what part of the system to target. A jig and leech is still the best combination this time of year, although I will start to use a few minnows. Transitions to deep water and places where there is a difference in bottom makeup are key locations. Eddie currents and steep outside banks that are washed with current will also hold fish. I also like to work any windfall trees laying in deep water. Heavy line and Lindy Timbr’ Rock jigs tipped with a leech have helped me catch some dandy fish. Sometimes the walleye will feed in the shallows at night and can often be caught by casting small crank baits at shoreline cover. You’ll be surprised by some smallmouth bass too.

September shorter days and cool nights also signal the white bass to return to the Wolf River, something I am greatly looking forward to this year. A tough bite this spring and large schools of white bass in the system could provide for a memorable fall season. That is if Mother Nature gives us the current we need to draw the fish in to the system. With water levels this summer approaching record lows, any additional water that flows in to the system will help. Wolf River Country and the entire watershed that feeds it has been in drought like conditions for most of the summer. That too could help set up a banner year for white bass IF we get enough rain to replenish the system to average levels. That much flow would draw the bulk of the white bass into the river where anglers could once again reap the benefits.

A jig and minnow is my favorite way to search for white bass. Sometimes they will stack up in small areas on outside bends with steep banks. It’s not uncommon to be catching fish as fast as you can bait a hook while a boat just a few yards away is catching only a few. This is because the school of white bass is using the current and structure to herd minnows in to small areas in order to feed. Small changes we can’t see in the bank and current provide the dynamic that creates the “spot on the spot”. When anchored, I like to use a Wolf River rig with a small streamer fly on the snel. I’ll bait it with a small shiner or fat head minnow and fish it directly below the boat. At times I’ll use a jig as the weight instead of the bell sinker, bait both presentations and often catch white bass two at a time. This also works for fall walleye when they stack up in the deep holes.

Don’t forget the great Wolf River crappie fishing. September starts what is widely known as a great time to catch crappie here in Wolf River Country. Find just about any tree in the water from Boom Island to New London and you are almost sure to find some crappie. They also suspend over deep eddie currents to feed and we catch them quite often drifting and jigging for walleye. With good year classes of fish in the system, decent water levels are all we need to have a good year.

If it makes sense that fish feed hard in the fall to bulk up for winter. Then it makes sense that human beings would attempt to use that bounty to also stock up for the winter. But the day and age when those instincts were forged into our makeup have long gone. In this day and age, grocery stores can provide fresh walleye fillets whenever one wants them. That being said; there is no excuse for the over harvesting done by some greedy anglers. Not even tough economic conditions. In places like Wolf River Country we are fortunate to have several species of fish that anglers can target, but there are rules. There is NO LIMIT on white bass but the crappie and walleye that are so popular with fall anglers have daily bag and possession limits. If five walleye isn’t enough meat for the day, go catch some crappie or white bass. If you have more then TEN walleye per licensed angler in your freezer, you are violating. Crappie limits on the Wolf River are 25 a day. Jeepers, if that’s not enough, then you deserve the ticket and the fine. But the biggest greed I see is when the walleye really start stacking up in the fall. Anglers changing boats or running to shore to drop off fish happens much too often. If you see someone double bagging, dropping off fish to friends with coolers or bragging about filling their freezer past the 10 fish possession limit, please help protect our resource and call the DNR tip line at 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847-9367)

Joel “Doc” Kunz is a field editor for Midwest Outdoors and 2005 Readers Choice Award Winner. He is also a member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. For more from Joel “Doc” Kunz visit his new web site


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