Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Midwest Outdoors October 2007

For The Love Of Fishing...........The Wolf River
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

Sounds like a great movie title doesn’t it. For The Love Of Fishing....The Wolf River. One can imagine Kevin Costner or Sean Connery as lead character. I can see our leading man floating the river in and old Jon boat or sitting anchored doing the “Wolf River Shuffle” telling stories with the river rat next to him. The walleyes would be biting in my movie too. Fast and furious. Nice chunky males for the frying pan with a big female or two mixed in for pictures. There would be eagles in the air along with a crispness that is typical of walleye time. I can see our weather worn star reminiscing of days gone past when the fishing for white bass was out of this world. Fall fishing stories including conquests of large northern pike, baskets of crappie and talk of big cat fish being on the feed would be a part of every gathering.

Well check your script and prepare to be your own lead character, some of the years best fishing is just around the corner. September starts a cavalcade of activity here that can be some of the best fishing of the entire year, here’s why. As the river level begins to rise from summers ultra low water period, fish are once again pulled in to the system. This in part due to the current and in part to the cooling of the water which puts them on the search for food. For white bass this brings the fish out of the lakes and back in to the river for a short period of time. The availability of food in the river this time of year is the key. Large schools of fish pretty much decimate the bait fish population in the lakes during the summer months. As this food source dwindles, minnows and young of the year fish that spent their lives to this point in the shallow waters of the river system become the main target. This forage base moves from the shallows as the water cools because the rise in water moves their food source to the main river also. It’s a natural cycle that provides for the strong fishery we have and another reason why the Wolf River is called the “nursery to the Winnebago system”. Now that October has arrived, anglers should be starting to catch lots of the fish that started their way towards the river during Septembers cool off. In fact, October can be some of the best white bass fishing of the year, rivaling spring catches.

Walleye will start showing up also. Schools of fish will move up and down the river as water levels rise and fall during the fall period leading up to ice up. OK, it’s probably not right to be talking about ice up in a September article, but it is that event which drives the action. Even now there are enough factors in place such as cooling water and shorter days that tell these fish winter is on the way. Also, knowing what the fish in the system like to do once ice up gets here, helps an angler know what to do as that event approaches. Put that in place with a general knowledge of the structure of the river and you are pretty sure to do very well all fall long.

When I’m talking structure of the river I’m not talking trees and rocks. I’m referring to the make up of the river as it falls towards the Winnebago system. For instance, the river only drops slightly from Fremont to Lake Winnebago but drops about six feet in it’s fall to Fremont. There are long shallow areas of the river and places where there are numerous deep bends. There are actually a few old rapids, now covered with sand and areas of the river that at one time were mostly marsh. Knowing that the walleye will need to be near deep water this time of year helps eliminate some sections of the river, except for those shallow areas that are above large areas of deep water. Walleye will use this shallow water to feed when water levels and competition for food are rising. Understanding that a river is not just a single piece of water and that it is actually a number of “pools” will help you. Each ultra shallow part of the river provides a boundary of sorts. Once above that point, walleye will use the deep parts of that stretch of river. If water levels drop, they will be spooked past that shallow point to the next deep area of the river. That is unless the fish feel that there is enough deep water in a pool to stay all winter. How the fish determine that make up of the area of the river they are in I don’t know. But I do know that rising falling water can take an area of the river once full of walleye and move them. Rising water can pull them UP stream and falling water usually moves them down stream. That makes for some running and gunning during October, but usually finding a pocket of fish is no trouble. It’s just finding the schools of bigger fish and staying away from the juvenile males that can be the toughest task.

October is Northern pike time too. For those looking for some quality fishing for pike, Wolf River Country has it. Fish over 40 inches are not rare with fish over 36 inches actually quite common. Small mouth bass fishing can also be outstanding with hard fighting river smallies over 18 inches something commonly talked about. And don’t forget the crappie. A sunny October day and the right tree can make for limits of dandy Wolf River crappie with fish approaching 15 - 17 inches always a possibility. Because of the popularity, we see fewer fish growing to this size, but they do exist, I’ve caught plenty.


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