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

Make This A December To Remember
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

The influx of fresh water that we got in late October and early November has the potential to draw large numbers of walleye in to the Wolf River system. At the writing of this piece, water levels are running slightly above average for this time of year. That is a trend I hope continues in to early December. If it does, fishing could be fantastic. Besides drawing fish, the greater amounts of current also help to keep ice from forming, another factor that helps to extend the open water season. There are a few basic things you should know if you plan on fishing this time of year on the Wolf or any of Wisconsin’s rivers.

First, ALWAYS DRAIN YOUR TRAILER OVER THE WATER, NOT ON THE RAMP. Watch as you pull out and pause once the trailer is out of the water. Let it drain for a good 20 to 30 seconds before proceeding up the ramp. You should also carry sand, salt, a shovel and tow strap. All it takes is one person pulling out too fast to make the ramp slippery. So, being prepared for anything is the mind set you should have.

Avoid using your live well and plug all water intakes. It’s also a good idea to pour a couple of gallons of biodegradable RV antifreeze in your bilge and your live well hoses. This will keep pumps, hoses and fittings from freezing and cracking. Cracked hoses or fittings can allow water to enter the boat, which can be catastrophic, especially in freezing temperatures. Use a stringer or put keepers in a cooler of ice. Minnows due well in a 7 gallon bucket. Just make sure to start with enough water.

Once you’ve left the ramp, make sure to lower your motor to vertical position and let it drain. There is no need to start it. It should drain completely in a few seconds. Do this prior to rigging for trailering. If you have not treated your bilge with RV Antifreeze, make sure to pull the plug and drain any water from the boat. If you are in a parking lot or area where others may walk, make sure to treat any puddle with salt prior to leaving. If you have a lot of water in your boat, check for a cracked hose, fitting or pump and fix it.

If there is ice at the boat ramp don’t use you boat or motor to break it out. A few tosses of the anchor will usually do the trick. Bring a long spud bar with you and go slow. Trailer lights and transducers can be damaged quite easy if you don’t. Be aware of people fishing down stream of you and keep your wake to a minimum. Ice jams can block corners and limit open areas. Ice chunks can also do damage to your motor or cause you to toss someone from your boat unexpectedly. Make sure you wear a life jacket also. December is no time to land in the water.

On the Wolf, expect walleye to be located in or near deep water. Chico’s Landing, downstream of Fremont, is a favorite December destination. There is usually good numbers of fish around and deep water is not far away. Sometimes you catch a lot of small ones, but catching a few keepers shouldn’t be a problem. There’s quite a bit of deep water between there and the mouth at Lake Poygan. Boom Island is a well known area as is the deep hole above the Rat River. The mouth of the lake can be good to, but ice can be a factor as the days and nights get colder. A jig and minnow is my go to tactic. Sometimes the fish will hit hard, other times they have to be “spoon fed”, especially in cold water. The fish will grab the minnow but won’t try to eat it right away. A soft tip rod will help when you have to wait for them to take it before setting the hook.

Don’t over look shallow water. I’ve often found schools of nicer size walleye spread out on a shallow flat below large schools of smaller fish feeding in the deep hole. Competition for food can also move fish towards the first drop on the leading edge of the section of deeper water. That could be 100 yards upstream of where the majority of the boats are fishing. Fish also like to work steep outside edges and can target just about any depth on that bank from top to bottom. Sitting near shore and pitching to the deep eddie current and working it back towards you is a great way to catch fish.

Give them the mustard! I know chartreuse, orange, green, glow and combinations such as “firetiger” are popular colors, but for Wolf River walleye in late fall, I like yellow. Actually, you may have trouble finding mustard yellow jigs. My favorites have small orange eyes but black eyes are OK if that’s all you can find. You can always add eyes to any jig with a magic marker if they don’t have them. Bright colors seem to work best, but don’t overlook black or red jigs as they work well some days. Most days color doesn’t make much difference, but some days it is the key to catching a lot of fish.

Once the Wolf freezes, I’ll be off to the Dells or another Wisconsin River destination until that freezes. The Nekoosa, Petenwell and Castle Rock dams all provide fishable areas and boat ramps that are usually usable well in to December. Make sure to call your local bait shop to get an up to date information on ice and boat ramp conditions along with a fish report. River’s Edge Resort in the Dells is a great destination with bait shop, boat ramp, great restaurant and a variety of lodging options from rooms to cabins. The area stays open to boat traffic well in to the pre-ice season and they always do a great job of catering to the die hard anglers who make the trip. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must due to the incline that leads to the boat ramp. Heck, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must this time of year anyway.

So take advantage of a nice day and go catch a bunch of walleye. I’ll be somewhere on the Wolf, say HI if you get a chance.

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. To keep up with Doc’s fall fishing adventures please visit his new web site


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