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

Hard Water Or Soft Water In Wolf River Country
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

If we get any real cold weather, the open water fishing on the Wolf River will end quite quickly this year. Most years we have open water available here for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after Thanksgiving. This year the low water levels and general lack of current will play in to a potential early freeze up. That could put walleye anglers out of their boats and on to their buckets in search of fresh fillets. Either way, anglers should be finding strong year classes of fish to catch and plenty of action from the mouth at Lake Poygan all the way to New London. Deep water is the key ingredient as the walleye will tend to stack up in eddy currents and along steep drop offs and outside edges. They choose these areas because they don’t need to spend a great deal of energy to maintain their position as food is washed to them by the river. But don’t expect them to stay put. They will often work the leading and descending edge of the hole and can even be found on long shallow flats, as long as they are close to deep water.

A jig and minnow is my #1 presentation of choice this time of year but I will often experiment with a “drop shot” type of rig. By that I mean I tie a small long shank hook on my line about six inches above my jig. I like to use a red hook and tip both the jig and it with a minnow. Sometimes I will use some GULP Alive on the jig if there are lots of small catfish or sheephead around. These fish tend to stay to the bottom while the walleye will feed above the bottom and hit the suspended hook. Other times I’ll use the GULP on the top hook, more as an attractor, and use the live bait on the jig. Point is to be versatile in your presentation as there are times when you may be catching mostly small fish. The drop shot, plastic / live bait combo gives you a chance to see if a simple change will make a difference. Quite often it will and you will find yourself catching more, and bigger, fish.

If you are using a boat, limiting the amount of water taken in to the boat is important. This time of year I usually plug “intakes” and put kept fish in a cooler or on a stringer instead of putting them in my live-well. RV antifreeze in the bilge is an excellent way to keep bilge pumps and other hoses from freezing or cracking. This is important as a cracked intake line can allow water to fill your bilge, a potential problem that is compounded during the cold weather period.

If it’s ice time, anglers should use EXTREME caution when venturing out on the river. Even after a solid freeze, river ice is never considered safe. A log or dark object can get stuck under the ice and work with the current and sunshine to create a soft spot. Snow cover can hide these areas making the potential hazard even greater. A good spud bar is a must for early ice travel as is a good knowledge of the area you plan on fishing. Understanding where the deep water and off current areas are, and knowing where you can safely cross the river to get to them, is important. A jig and minnow is a standard presentation as are tip ups, even in the deep water. During the hard water period walleye will tend to come put of the deep water and probe the nearby flats for food. That is why you will see groups of shacks along some of these shallow water areas and activity among them increase as the sun goes down. Mornings can be good also but generally it’s an evening or even night bite for these walleye.

So get your Christmas shopping done early and take a little time to catch a few walleye this fall. The Wolf River is loaded with them and the fishing is usually the best just prior to and after ice up. Also, please put March 13, 14 & 15, 2009 on your schedule as I present my 4th annual ICE BREAKER sports/fishing show again this year in Winneconne at Critters Sports. This FREE show is chocked full of expert speakers, guides and outdoor writers all talking about and educating people on fishing the Wolf River, Fox River and Winnebago system. Please also check out, a sister site to my long standing and a new cooperative effort with well known professional angler and educator, Daryl Christensen. A Montello native, Daryl has fished the Fox River all his life and brings a great deal of knowledge and information with him to the project. Providing more, and better information on fishing the Wolf and Fox River systems is our goal and we plan to do that with more articles, video and instructional information on both sites


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