Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Dick Ellis' On Wisconsin Outdoors - Submitted December 2009

Fishing Wolf River Ice
By Joel ‘Doc’ Kunz
Although not a destination fishery, many anglers especially locals, do quite a bit of fishing for walleye on Wisconsin’s Wolf River once it freezes. Back waters also offer opportunities for pan fish and pike. Those opportunities come first as river current keeps the main body unsafe for foot traffic for quite a bit longer. Crappies, bluegill and perch can be caught throughout the Wolf river system from the channels in Winneconne to the sloughs and bayous from there upstream. The Mill Bayou in Fremont by Larry & Jan’s Resort, is a popular early ice destination. Blue gills are usually the target but perch are often found also. Other places such as Pages Slough, The Big Cut, The Ox Bow and Old River are locations that anglers find crappie also. Early ice anglers looking for walleyes will often fish the edge of the current in places where deep water is available. Some of these locations can be very close to thin ice or even open water. I prefer to wait until the river ice is much thicker and target transition areas, current breaks and places adjacent to deep water.
Jigging is my favorite way of fishing for walleye on open water or through the ice. The feel of the hit on the short rod and light line makes catching fish all the more fun. The first and most important item is your hole. I start by drilling down a few inches and then restart with the drill on an angle downstream to the current. This will help you get the fish on the ice is most important when landing a big fish. Anglers fishing wolf river ice should not be surprised if they do catch one of a good number of large females in the system. These fish and schools of males are moving upstream this time of year and staging in many available areas of deep water especially those near spawning areas. School of fish will often move with fluctuating water levels and the availability of food. That makes a tactic pioneered by Don Cashmore, of The Little Shoppe of Bait in New London, a great way to catch fish. That tactic is known locally as long lining.
For long lining Don uses light weight jigs attached to a short monofilament or floral carbon leader. That leader is attached to the old style Dacron tip up line and spooled on a basic open bail real. The rods he prefers are of a medium heavy to heavy action. Don baits the jig with a minnow and positions himself along sand flats, and inside turns below deep water. In both these areas walleyes will rest in the bottom of subtle undulations waiting for the current to bring them the opportunity of food. Don finds the bottom with the minnow then lets out long sections of the Dacron line which flows downstream of the grounded jig. A tug on the line sweeps the jig downstream where it passes over these undulations. By letting out more line and repeating the process he can work a long area of river from a properly positioned hole. Don will explain this tactic to any angler who stops by or you can visit his web site at for information on long lining. It’s a great way to catch walleye through the ice.
For me I prefer a more standard approach, choosing to fish an Oddball jig along current breaks, in deep water and transition areas. I prefer the Oddball for a number of reasons. First, the large eyelet makes retying or changing colors easy on my aging eyes. Second, the wide gap and hook style allows me to hook the minnow deeply, with hook point protruding behind the head. This allows the minnow to remain horizontal when hovering and follow the jig to the bottom in “stand up” position. This also provides better hook set opportunities and I rarely use a “stinger” for this reason. I pay attention to minnow size as the fish can have a preference on any given day. Hits are often subtle but can be quite aggressive. I like to drill a number of holes and work a transition from deep to shallow as the sun sets.
Tip ups are also popular, with locally crafted box tip ups the preferred tactic. I don’t spend enough time on the ice to employ a set of box tip ups, but know a number of anglers who swear by their effectiveness. Walleye can be very line and light sensitive especially in shallow water. Although other tip ups also cover the hole it is thought that the free spooling ability of the box tip up is superior for catching finicky Wolf River walleye. Still anglers do well with traditional setups especially along flats and in deep water. A stop at your local bait shop or discussion with anglers on the ice will help you get set up properly. The biggest consideration is ice safety and good sportsmanship and hopefully you can enjoy some great tasting Wolf River walleye this year.

Side Bar
River Ice Safety
You’ll here it here, on TV, the radio and anywhere sportsmen gather, “NEVER consider ANY ice as safe.” That’s good advice for all ice anglers, especially those who are planning on venturing out on the river. On the river current can eat away at pockets of ice and put danger at any step. A small log or dead animal frozen in the ice can be enough to cause a boil that can keep ice from freezing properly. Some areas of the river have more current, are more open to wind and gather sun at greater levels then others. It’s important to know where the current is strongest and avoid those areas until well into the season.

Early ice anglers should use a spud bar testing every step as they go. If you are being adventurous, a line tied to shore, a good set of creepers, a PFD and a set of hand spikes are all good suggestions. Ice conditions can change quickly. Anglers who fish early morning should not assume the ice is safe upon returning, especially on warm days. Make sure to not get over confident about the thickness of the ice when going out the first few times. One warm day can change everything. Also, never assume that a snowmobile track is a good place to walk. A snowmobile can travel over areas of thin ice and even open water, and you can’t. Keep your cell phone in a zip lock bag, in an upper pocket and always let others know what your fishing plans are, especially if fishing alone. Dress warm, keep hydrated bring a few snacks to give your body something to burn and you are sure to have a good time.

Joel “Doc” Kunz is a 2005 “Readers Choice” Award winner and member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). Visit his web site at


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